Professor Talks Role of Religion in Europe
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 00:10
Protestant theologian and professor at the University of Munich Friedrick Wilhem Graf spoke about the role of religion in Europe at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs Friday.
Jose Casanova, a professor in the department of sociology, moderated the discussion, which was titled “The Religious Situation in Germany and Europe Today.”
Graf first discussed the different perspectives of Europeans.
“I am a German European. More precisely, I am a West German European, and I was born in December 1948,” he said. “It was the first generation of younger Germans after the second World War who grew up as a new Democratic state,” Graf said. “This is my perspective. This is my point of view.”
He said that the existing and emerging divisions in Europe are fundamental to the continent’s identity.
“For nearly 200 years, scholars of very different disciplines have asked themselves what distinguishes Europe from other cultures,” Graf said. “The decisive answer is Europe’s specific political, technological and scientific dynamic is the consequence of productive tensions. Europe has always been a continent of extremely great elementary differences.”
Though many people see Europe as containing one common Christian culture, Graf pointed to the divisions in European religion, especially noting the schism between Orthodox and Western Christianity.
“Many among us Western intellectuals are not well acquainted with the Eastern Orthodox Christian creed,” Graf said. “For most of us, [it] represents a very distant and mysterious religious culture.”
Graf also drew connections between Europe’s legal systems and the status of religion.
“Great religious diversity can also be observed on the institutional level,” he said. “In the legal status of relationship between the state, the churches and other religious communities … most European countries maintain secular states with constitutional guarantees protecting the freedom of religion for both individuals and groups.”
Graf’s audience was receptive to his lecture.
“It’s great that you can get a real international perspective,” John Taylor, a member of the State Department’s Office of Religious Freedom said. “I’ve found that, in the State Department, we tend to be very formal, and our events are often someone standing at a podium, reading a script … so I very much so appreciated this format.”