Meacham, Quinn Launch Religion Feature

More than 50 prominent religious leaders, scholars and activists will participate in On Faith, an online discussion of religion and its impact. Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post writer Sally Quinn are the moderators of the new feature, which launched this morning.

Nobel Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels, are among the members of On Faith's extraodinary panel of contributors. Each week, Quinn and Meacham will pose a question on a religious or spiritual topic, and panel members as well as readers will be encouraged to weigh in.

Religious faith is "perhaps the most pervasive and least understood force in human affairs:", said Meacham and Quinn in welcoming readers to the new feature. "...we think that the online world, with its limitless space, offers us a unique opportunity to carry on a fruitful and intriguing and above all constructive conversation about the things that matter most."

Meacham, who was named Newsweek's editor in October, is the author of this year's bestselling American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. Quinn, a longtime writer for The Post, is writing a book on religion in Washington.

On Faith is the second collaborative commentary feature published jointly by washingtonpost.com and Newsweek. The first, PostGlobal, is a discussion of international issues moderated by Washington Post Columnist and Associate Editor David Ignatius and Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria.

Caryle Murphy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: The Egyptian Experience will edit On Faith.

-- Hal Straus, washingtonpost.com Opinions and Community Editor

By Hal Straus |  November 15, 2006; 9:46 AM ET  | Category:  Journalism
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Can we discuss why the most religious people in the world are the least tolerant and most likely to espouse hate and bigotry of others and are responsible for the most death-by-man?

Yes I mean fundamentalists of every faith.

Can we publicly all agree that those who do such things are ungodly?

Can we chastize those who say it is good and right to hate or kill another person for their choice of religion?

Posted by: Joel | November 15, 2006 07:32 PM

It's a great time for this discussion. Peace is needed throughout the world. To understand other religions (I am a spiritual person raised as an Prostant in the Anglican Church) is our duty and pleasure. It's all one God, it just takes different forms depending on the culture you were brought up in. I am so glad we have a new Bishop that is a woman. An exciting time to be a part of our church.

I will look forward to following this group. So glad Sally Quinn is involved and Newsweek too. Thanks for all the sponsors joining in.

Melissa Worrell Hoiland 952-404-2658

Posted by: melissa worrell hoiland | November 16, 2006 10:02 AM

I hope discussions like this raise public awareness about America's need to understand Islam and the Muslims. With 82% of America saying they consider themselves Christian, and radical Islam engaging us around the world, it's time to earnestly try to understand who they are, try to create relationships with those here in the United States, and build bridges that allow dialogue. I'm a multi-published, award-winning author currently working on a book written for lay people that explains the Muslim culture, why they hate us, and how we, as a Christian nation, have given them reason to. We all need to educate ourselves about Islam. The Muslims are part of the world we live in. Demonizing them only polarizes people. Christ died for them too.

Posted by: Nikki Arana | November 16, 2006 12:09 PM

I notice that the discussion members are all members of a popular faith, in one form or another. What about the people in the world, (albiet a smaller percentage), who are non-religious? Don't they have something to add? Sam Harris wasn't invited, was he?

I agree with Joel - can we chastize those that speak of hatred, intollerance, or straight bigotry towards those of other religions? Homosexuals? Single mothers? The list of people who are excluded from religion due to their lifestyle and or life circumstance is fairly large.

I disagree with the premise that "perhaps the most pervasive and least understood force in human affairs:" - it's not that it isn't understood - its completely devoid of any offer of proof of god. And there isn't one god for all to follow; all the major religions claim their own idea of what god is and should/should not be.

Religion is pervasive in this world because of custom, tradition,
'brainwashing' of our children, and the need for most people to have a crutch to lean on in times of trouble - not because it represents truth in any shape or form.

Posted by: Where are the agnostics and atheists? | November 16, 2006 02:53 PM

And who purports to speak for America's Christians, Rick Warren? I think not.

Posted by: Steve | November 16, 2006 04:00 PM

Indeed, the voices of faith listed in the announcement are limited and limiting. They seem to invite discussiion among christians. The rest of us are told to shut up and listen so we can understand them; what interest do they have in understanding us? None, I dare say.

Posted by: D.Heretic | November 17, 2006 08:12 PM

"Can we discuss why the most religious people in the world are the least tolerant and most likely to espouse hate and bigotry of others and are responsible for the most death-by-man?

Yes I mean fundamentalists of every faith.

Can we publicly all agree that those who do such things are ungodly?

Can we chastize those who say it is good and right to hate or kill another person for their choice of religion?"

Sure, as long as you're only talking about Islam. Tell me, what other major faith has as some of its mainstream teachings that those that don't share their faith must die? Didn't think so. End of debate, end of discussion.

Posted by: Mike | November 18, 2006 01:49 PM

It makes no sense in all religious diversity, that anyone's real God would want one to kill, persecute, or proselytize others because of differences and obviously we haven't learned that because we are trying to push "our democracy" where private, not public interest controls all the aggendas in spite of their cost to less powerful uninformed individuals or citizens." If basic government at any level doesn't protect their citizens from wanton exploitation by business, and government then who will?

Posted by: tommy chamberlain | November 19, 2006 01:05 AM

I can see the pervasive and intrusive "pop ups" with their constant presence are going to lessen my enjoyment of this site/conversation/commentary.

Posted by: croghan27 | November 19, 2006 11:22 AM

Let's have a forum for atheism too. We can discuss how we got over thinking that lightning is Zeus's thunderbolts crashing down on Earth, that Methuselah lived 900 years, and that the world is perched on top of a stack of umpty-ump tortoises.

We can ask, what position Christ would take on the Iraq war. We can ask why it is that self-proclaimed holy men like Ted Haggard and Jim Bakker and Ralph Reed (and women, like Amy Semple McPherson and Tammy Bakker) behave no better on the average than the rest of us.

BTW, Sally Quinn is noted for many things, including a puff piece on Jonas Savimbi in The Post that helped persuade the U.S. government to support UNITA's atrocities in the Angolan civil war for a quarter century, and a childish boast of how much she fears flying.

Posted by: donnolo | November 19, 2006 06:46 PM

I find this new "feature" to be an unwelcome annoyance. I read the Post to get reliable, courageous coverage of important events. Now I find myself presented with thoughtless smarmy drivel, like that piece about how evangelicals are really misunderstood, wonderful people who always do good things for America. If you guys stoop even lower and hire John Stossel, I'm sure he'd say "Give me a break !"

Posted by: Jeff | November 20, 2006 11:55 AM

Looking For A Religion:

I am looking for a religion I can join. I was raised a Roman Catholic and gave it up years ago when I was a teenager. I believe I made the right choice then given all the things that have been written about the misdeeds of the clergy. In addition, when I look at the leaders of the church all I see are old white men in expensive uniforms that have no real attachment to the world we all live in.

I have been considering the Episcopal Church but it looks like they are going through some difficult times because of the "gay" issue (I am not gay but believe that those folks are "wired" a bit differently than the rest of us and I do not think that constitutes a sin).

I have heard that the Unitarian Church is pretty inclusive off all kinds of people and that are not very dogmatic. I am looking for a religion that is not guilt-based, not money-hungry and believes in the teachings of Jesus.

However, the Jewish religion is not out entirely. But I thnk I would have to spend alot of time studying their teachings and I just do not have that amount of time to do that.

Does anybody have suggestions regarding an easy going religion for a person who is starting to become more spiritual?

Posted by: Chuck | November 20, 2006 03:36 PM

"...Sure, as long as you're only talking about Islam. Tell me, what other major faith has as some of its mainstream teachings that those that don't share their faith must die? Didn't think so. End of debate, end of discussion."

Posted by: Mike | November 18, 2006 01:49 PM

Did you ever make the original poster's argument. How pompus. How dismissive.

Just because a religion's tenets don't include the killing of non-believers, doesn't stop its adherents from twisting their "Holy word" to meet that end. If anything, the Christian crimes against humanity over the past two millennia stand in stark contrast to, and in refutation of, its core philosophy. It's amazing to look at the affluent, war-mongering Americans who claim to be followers of Jesus.

Contrary to popular dogma, our nation was not founded on Judeo-Christian concepts or belief systems. In fact, a cursory reading of the founder's debates on this topic clearly shows the opposite to be true. This country was founded on the principles of enlightment.

Enlightened Athesim is the only true path to spiritual wellness.

Good luck with your blog.

Posted by: smafdy | November 20, 2006 09:26 PM

I hope they answer the age old question of why the religious seem to argue that having faith makes them more moral or better people than the non-religious, yet the data tend to suggest they are more violent and apt to break the law than the non-religious. You get those theologians to answer that question and I'm sold.

Posted by: Pat Hughes | November 22, 2006 03:16 PM

Jon Meacham? I didn't realize he was a theologian or even a serious student of religion.

Does Sally Quinn still tote around her N95 mask? Has she given as much thought to spirituality as she had to risk management?

Sorry, I think I'll be passing on this feature.

Posted by: cab91 | November 22, 2006 04:11 PM

Meacham once wrote: "The uniqueness--one could say oddity, or implausibility--of the story of Jesus' resurrection argues that the tradition is more likely historical than theological."

That's the logic of theism in a nutshell: Crucifiction.

Posted by: Phil Studge | November 22, 2006 04:31 PM

That's awesome the boss's wife gets her own religion forum. You're a lucky, lucky girl Sally! Ben, you da man!

Posted by: ibc | November 22, 2006 05:27 PM

Isn't this the paper that once took a President to task on the US Constitution? Drop the fads, do what you do best, JOURNALISM!

Posted by: Claven | November 22, 2006 07:17 PM

I eagerly await the addition of an agnostic and atheist perspective to this forum.

Posted by: Evan | November 22, 2006 08:14 PM

I have no belief in a sentient god. One word sums it up: Auschwitz.

The fact of Auschwitz devestates every argument for the existence of a deity - or at least a deity with any concern for humanity.

Either god knew of Auschwitz and did nothing, or god didn't know of Auschwitz, and therefore is not omnipotent.

Pick your poison. Either way, this is not a being deserving of worship.

I prefer the simpler solution. Rather than try to reconcile myself to a sociopathic god, I would rather dismiss the notion of god altogether.


Posted by: Jim Carlson | November 24, 2006 11:40 AM

I hope The Brights are included in this discussion. www.the-brights.net

Posted by: Sadie | November 25, 2006 05:52 AM

the ever-increasing emphasis on religion and faith in this country shows me that more and more people realize they have less and less control over their lives. even if they have made an effort to work for a better life for themselves and those around them, they feel rightly thwarted by an administration that cares not a twit for the american people, except to get their vote so they can have power. an administration that totally fails to respond to most of it citizens.

and religions, gifted by corporate leaders, are playing right into this, serving put an intoxicant to provide a feel-good hallucinogenic "spirituality" while numbing their brains so they don't suffer reality.

as a result of seeing so many efforts rebuffed, many have lost the desire to even make the effort now. they feel beaten as america drowns into a primarily 2-class system, with a small 3rd class for the professionally trained: the very well-to-do and a lower class that can barely provide for itself.

privileged and insulated by their wealth, i doubt either ms. quinn or mr. meachem can even begin to see the truth of what is happening in the world they need not come near. this is just another way the richest and the most powerful try to placate the masses into thinking they care.

the closing of more and more companies as they take their businesses overseas, the loss of jobs. the declining economy, the fear of loosing one's home and financial independence, to say nothing of not being able to afford health care.

meanwhile the primary desires of the administration and its sycophants are to more and more control and invake our individual lives while giving all benefits and deregulating industry after industry. industries that more and more are damaging and starving their own employees, while shipping the better paying jobs to countries that provide cheap labor.

and religion in america is playing right into this...big time.

most american-based companies no longer have any loyalty to its employees or the nation..only to the bottom-line...and yet they are pampered by the government.

many people are increasingly feeling helpless, hopeless with greater angst, so with no place else to turn, they go to religions that provide them with emotional narcotics and more instructions about how to live their lives succumbing to an increasingly controlled country.

at this rate, in the long run, we will have the bulk of people walking around as religious zoomies living in a fascist state.

religion, rather than offering REAL hope, a REAL future, is just serving as an innoculation that numbs them to their increasingly terrible plight.


Posted by: ROZ | November 25, 2006 05:01 PM

If Jon Meacham has anything to do with this religious discussion it will be worthless. He is a rigid Christian with no understanding of how tenuous Christian beliefs really are.

Posted by: candide | November 25, 2006 06:06 PM

Try the Quakers Chuck

Posted by: AJ | November 26, 2006 06:37 PM

Again,as in past related items of the series, your item is a gross presumption to your readers intelligence. It's like the stage play 'The End of the World, With a Seminar to Follow'. Was it Oscar Wilde who said...'the blind leading the bland'. Why not write about the real meaning of the Pope travelling into the lions den of Turkey. There's religious belief.

Posted by: Steve | November 27, 2006 09:52 AM

...crickets chirping...

Posted by: smafdy | November 28, 2006 12:47 AM

Thank you god-or whoever! Dialogue is surely needed in this globalized, techological world where science has outrun reason. My hope is that dialogue between the world's leaders will result in an international policy that makes it mandatory for all preaching of religion based on a god will be preceded by a disclaimer stating that God cannot be empirically proven and that what is said is based on Faith and not fact. The legality of the disclaimer will be the same as the yelling of fire in a crowded theate when the yelling is a falsehood or not based on fact. I would hope this would prevent the making of suicide bombers to a large degree since I don't believe most people will give up their life to go to a paradise they know they don't know exists. I don't believe Faith can be dismissed but I will admit I am not afraid of anyone's god who needs them to kill me. I am afraid of them and thus want to put reins on the runaway horse now on the globe.

Posted by: Stephen Borkowski | November 28, 2006 01:44 PM

"I have no belief in a sentient god. One word sums it up: Auschwitz.

The fact of Auschwitz devestates every argument for the existence of a deity - or at least a deity with any concern for humanity.

Either god knew of Auschwitz and did nothing, or god didn't know of Auschwitz, and therefore is not omnipotent.

Pick your poison. Either way, this is not a being deserving of worship.

I prefer the simpler solution. Rather than try to reconcile myself to a sociopathic god, I would rather dismiss the notion of god altogether."

Or God gave us all freedom of choice, even to the point of letting us make horrendous decisions about how we treat other human beings. Do you really want a God that forces you to do what he wants rather than make your own choices?

As for "Enlightend Atheism". HAH. Atheistic regimes such as Stalin's Russia, Mao's CHina, the Khmer Rouge and the decidedly UNCHRISTIAN Nazis caused the deaths of MILLIONS. Far more than Christianity has ever even come close to, especially since the European Enlightenment. Not...Even...Close.

Posted by: Mike | December 2, 2006 08:36 AM

what a jewish scholar thinks of the difference between milan micci's "Christ Code" and dan brown's "da vinci code"

i have been a student of the jewish traditions and the kabbalah for most of my life. it began at the knee of my father, a rabbi. now i teach physics.

when you ask me what do i think of the difference it is oranges and apples. they are completely different. dan brown is an entertaining novelist. micci studies are as a researcher, astronomer, archeologist , astrophysicist, anthropologist , and israel antiquities authority. can she write a novel? who knows? one of the first i ever encountered was years ago about the ark of the covenant
highbeam.com/doc/1P1-2365803.html
She made Graham Hancock look like a idiot. Now i heard she is coming out with a star trilogy "The Christ Code" the book is about a star apocalypse , knights templar , ancient legend , and sacred Holy Book mysteries from moses to modern times. i for one, am on the advanced purchase list. i have liked every article she has written. she writes very carefully not to take sides or offend. here is the link. www.thechristcodeofficial.com

Posted by: "The Christ Code" by Milan Micci | December 5, 2006 06:28 PM

what a jewish scholar thinks of the difference between milan micci's "Christ Code" and dan brown's "da vinci code"

i have been a student of the jewish traditions and the kabbalah for most of my life. it began at the knee of my father, a rabbi. now i teach physics.

when you ask me what do i think of the difference it is oranges and apples. they are completely different. dan brown is an entertaining novelist. micci studies are as a researcher, astronomer, archeologist , astrophysicist, anthropologist , and israel antiquities authority. can she write a novel? who knows? one of the first i ever encountered was years ago about the ark of the covenant
highbeam.com/doc/1P1-2365803.html
She made Graham Hancock look like a idiot. Now i heard she is coming out with a star trilogy "The Christ Code" the book is about a star apocalypse , knights templar , ancient legend , and sacred Holy Book mysteries from moses to modern times. i for one, am on the advanced purchase list. i have liked every article she has written. she writes very carefully not to take sides or offend. here is the link. www.thechristcodeofficial.com

Posted by: isaak shahak | December 5, 2006 06:30 PM

In reply to: "Or God gave us all freedom of choice, even to the point of letting us make horrendous decisions about how we treat other human beings. Do you really want a God that forces you to do what he wants rather than make your own choices?"

The freedom of choice argument is a pretty good one. And, of course, Auschwitz was an example of people of free will acting badly.

Not god's problem, I suppose, if we kill each other. But I prefer - and expect - a higher moral standard from god than is attainable by man. I honestly don't know of many people who would not intervene to protect the weak and the helpless from harm. I do know that a person would receive universal condemnation from others if they stood by and watched as someone was tortured and killed. Our laws, as flawed and imperfect as they are, recognize the moral responsibility of bystanders to intervene in such situations.

And, yet, god, who is posited to have infinite goodness and justice allowed Auschwitz to occur (and China's Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's killing fields, Stalin's purges, Darfur's genocide, etc.).

Again I ask: Is this a being worthy of worship?

My conclusion that there is no god is more satisfying (to me). It's easier than trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance between a god of love and a god of indifference.

Posted by: Jim Carlson | December 6, 2006 09:26 AM

The problem with the organized religion is the followers have vested interest to magnify and glorify their God in order to get others to follow their religion.

Jesus Christ died for our sins and hence he is worshipped as a god, as preached by many shades of Christianity. In this day and age, sacrifice by someone with his own life for our freedom is for a far worthier cause than sacrifice by someone with his own life for our sins. Afterall our freedom is far more important to us then our sins in this day and age. Does it mean that a soldier dying in Iraq for our freedom as claimed by Bush is dying for a far worthier cause than a christ dying for our sins 2000 years ago? Does dying for a worthy cause entitle one to godhood? How does one define a worthy cause? Does the definition of 'worthy cause' change with time and place?

Should that soldier be worshipped as a god just like christ? If not, why not? Just because a soldier got paid for his service whereas a christ died voluntarily, does it mean that soldier's sacrifice is not on the same level as that of a christ?

If history is any guide, more people are killed in the name of religion than any other ideology.

Posted by: suresh sheth | December 11, 2006 12:23 PM

I look forward to Sally Quinn's epistle on adultery.

Posted by: truth | December 31, 2006 11:37 AM

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