11 August, 2022
ALL THE COLLOQUIUM TALKS HAVE NOW BEEN UPLOADED TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL:
GUEST FEATURE THIS ISSUE:
PROF MATTHEW OGILVIE ON EDUCATION AS A BULWARK AGAINST TERRORISM
Does the recent killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri mean the end of that terrorist movement? I think not, given that Al Qaeda remained a serious threat and cursed the world with the Islamic State movement.
Religiously motivated terrorism, whether it claims an affiliation with Islam, Christianity, or any other faith, relies neither on strength of numbers nor on individual leaders, but on powerful ideologies. That point was made very clear to me when I watched an interrogation of a failed suicide bomber and listened to an experienced CIA agent. When he was asked how he felt about his mission, which was to kill innocent women, children, and men, the suicide bomber’s chilling response was, ‘I knew it was wrong, but my commander told me it was the will of God.’
At one level, this terrorist needed a good dose of Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae on conscience. At a deeper level, the terrorists’ ideology reveals sharp contrasts between their concepts of God and humanity and a more authentic perspective.
With regard to God, the terrorists follow a God who does not value human life. This God is ruthless and treats his followers as disposable and without inherent dignity, and believes that the lives of unbelievers are worthless. The other perspective is that of a loving God who values all human life, who calls his followers to ‘choose life,’ a God who says that he who saves a single life saves the world entire.
Terrorists hold to a God who knows truth, while humans cannot know truth for ourselves. They exaggerate quotes such as ‘Allah knows but you do not know.’ They also hold to a God who is voluntarist and not committed to reason. A more authentic view sees humanity created to follow a God who is reason itself, and who blessed us in his own image, able to know truth for ourselves.
The terrorist perspective sees people as incapable of forming a dignified and worthwhile conscience. Such followers must rely on others to make their moral decisions, even if those decisions seem repugnant. The other perspective is that God has blessed us with a conscience that can guide us to a knowledge of what is right or wrong and that we are personally responsible for our actions.
We may take it for granted that I am talking about Islamic terrorism, but I have seen the same defective theologies and misanthropies in ‘Christian’ terrorists and those in other faiths.
So if ideology is the problem, how can we end the war on terror? I admired the response of the CIA agent. He said that, in the short term, we can fight terrorists with bombs and bullets, and have some sort of temporary success. But, in the long term, he said that we should go to the nations that foster terrorism and establish liberal arts colleges in them. He knew that terrorism’s real power is not in weaponry or tactics, but in ideology.
In that light, what will end religiously motivated terrorism is an education that promotes a concept of God who is reasonable, loving, and good and the truth that we are created in His image and likeness. That is, through a more positive view of God, through affirming our ability to personally know truth, and appropriating confidence in our ability to distinguish right and wrong for oneself and to do good, it is through these things that terrorism will be defeated.
In short, after a classic liberal arts education in the Catholic intellectual tradition, it is hard, if not impossible, to fall into the clutches of terrorism. However, this should cause us to reflect seriously on our own culture. If the liberal arts tradition is so important to ending terrorism, why has our own culture been so eager to abandon it in our own universities? It may be one thing to point out that a loss of faith in God and humanity has caused so many problems in the world. It is another thing to realise the enormous damage being done to our own culture by the same lack of liberal arts education.
Matthew Ogilvie is professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame Australia. He has a longstanding research interest in religiously motivated extremism and terrorism. In 2008 Professor Ogilvie was made an academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which enabled him to travel to Israel to study counter-terrorism. He has taught a university course on ‘Religion and Terrorism’. He has made presentations on the topic to civilian and military audiences. He serves on the Defence and Foreign Affairs policy review subcommittee of the WA Liberal Party and is also deputy chair of its Education Policy Review subcommittee.
ABORIGINAL OPPOSITION TO EUTHANASIA
Julian Leeser MP argues here that the promotion of euthanasia in Australia’s Northern Territory is contrary to the mind of the Aboriginal people. Some highlights:
‘…these remnants of the life-affirming culture are disappearing inch by inch and soul by soul.’
And this from Dylan Thomas:
‘Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’
SETBACK FOR STONEWALL
This report from The Guardian: Alison Bailey, dismissed for her ‘gender critical beliefs,’ wins her case in a UK employment tribunal against Garden Court Chambers.
George Will has this clever piece on what he calls ‘a debased intellectual Darwinism: survival of the briefest‘.
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM
This debate on the topic ‘what does the Qur’an say about the crucifixion?’ deserves respect. There are two Muslim speakers and two Christians, one of the latter being Rev Samuel Green who spoke to the Dawson Centre two years ago.
SUMMER SCHOOLS JANUARY 2023
The Dawson Centre will once again offer three summer schools. A FULL DESCRIPTION OF EACH COURSE IS AVAILABLE HERE.
16 – 20 January
THE WESTERN TRADITION: AN OVERVIEW OF 2000 YEARS OF HISTORY, LITERATURE, PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY AND ART.
23 – 27 January
NEW TESTAMENT GREEK: AN INTENSIVE INTRODUCTORY COURSE FOR BEGINNERS.
‘The Holy Church has cultivated and kept in highest honour the source texts of this wisdom, and especially the Greek and Latin languages, as if they were a sort of golden robe clothing Wisdom itself.’ (Pope John XXIII)
9 – 13 January
MEDIEVAL AND LATER LATIN: A READING COURSE IN SACRED AND SECULAR POETRY AND PROSE FOR PEOPLE WITH SOME PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE LANGUAGE.
‘The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of our fathers which were our glory for centuries. (Pope Paul VI)
Each school extends from Monday to Friday inclusive. Bookings can be made directly by email, or shortly on Eventbrite.