LONDON (CNS): Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken of his “passionate” conviction that religious faith can transform humanity for the better.
Mr Blair, 54, a former Anglican who was received into the Catholic Church just days before Christmas, said he wanted to promote the “idea of faith itself as something dynamic, modern and full of present relevance”.
He told 1600 people gathered in London’s Westminster Cathedral on April 3 that faith had a “major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world and can and should be a force for progress”.
“But it has to be rescued on the one hand from the extremist and exclusionary tendency within religion today and on the other from the danger that religious faith is seen as an interesting part of history and tradition, but with nothing to say about the contemporary human condition,” he said.
“I see faith and reason, faith and progress, as in alliance, not contention.”
His remarks came in a lecture on the subject of “Faith and Globalisation”, the first in a series of six speeches hosted by Westminster archdiocese on “Faith and Life in Britain”.
Mr Blair, now the Middle East peace envoy for the quartet of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, said many British people shared the notion that “religion is divisive, irrational and harmful”.
“For years it was assumed that as humanity progressed intellectually and matured morally, so religion would decline,” he said.
“But in fact at no time since the Enlightenment has religion ever gone away.
“It has always been at the very core of life for millions of people, the foundation of their existence, the motive for their behaviour, the thing which gives sense to their lives.”
Faith is not in decline, he said: “It isn’t disappearing inevitably under the weight of scientific and technological progress. It is still here with us, not just surviving but thriving.”
Mr Blair said the world’s religion could transform and humanise impersonal forces of globalisation and shape the values of changing economic and political relationships of the early 21st century.
He said power was shifting rapidly from the West to the emerging superpowers of China and India, and the role of faith was vital in the struggle for a world of peaceful co-existence.