From the point of view of many global onlookers, most of Western and Northern Europe might seem an oddly secular, even religion-less place. Despite a history of (ofttimes violent) religious upheaval during the Christian era and a relative growth of Islam in the present day, there is no denying that religion, and more specifically the expression of religious sentiment, has little to no place in the public sphere in many European nations. As such, even simply discussing religion, and especially Pagan and magical ones, isn’t something nearly as self-evident as in other regions, like North America, where a similar degree of religious freedom is the law of the land. In such a context, the experiences of individuals who might want to experiment with various spiritual paths are rarely if ever publicized or talked about. Yet under this veneer of secularism lies a dynamic and ever-changing religious landscape that has much to offer to those willing to get real with religion.
Large interfaith gatherings can often be fraught with long-simmering tensions, just ask the folks who put on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, but it is generally thought that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. That getting leaders and clergy of the major religions in the same room to find common ground and common understanding will bring dividends of lasting peace (or at least bring about greater tolerance). Yesterday, in Assisi, Italy the Catholic Church sponsored a massive interfaith gathering, the third such gathering to directly involve a sitting Pope (hence, “Assisi III” in Catholic circles), and the 25th anniversary of the first such meeting. In his address to the gathering, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that Christianity has used violence to achieve its ends, and that this is against the spirit of his faith.
“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith.