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Religious pluralism and the Ford Foundation

In 1997 the Ford Foundation launched a program to study religious traditions in order to build more equitable, tolerant societies. The Winter 2002 issue of the Ford Foundation Report has a cover showing someone reading the Koran with the heading: "Islam and Human Rights" and a quotation from an interview with Abdullah An Na'im. He is a young scholar at Emory University, and the interview with him is the first of three devoted to religion. The second deals with Catholic folk religions being studied in Newark, NJ, while the third, by Elaine Pagels of Princeton, entitled "The Good Book" explores the origins and omissions of the Christian Bible. Islam gets first place in both senses, while the Christian Bible is dissected in a scholarly way. The article by Elaine Pagels is illustrated with an engraving of St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who burned early gospel texts. He was a pretty intolerant fellow. The Minister of our Anglican Church in England, a scholarly advocate of ecclesiastical power, one Sunday replaced the Nicene Creed with the Athenasian Creed, which condemns to perdition those who do not believe it. After the service, I protested to the Minister, who simply said "Pretty strong stuff!", but that, thank God, was the last time it was recited. It pushed me further into the study of higher criticism, of which Elaine Pagels article is an example. As for Islam, I dislike the sharia law and the stoning of women to death. I try to be balanced in my dislikes.

Ronald Hilton - 4/1/02