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Respecting our differences


Dear participants at Workshop 12 of the International student festival in Trondheim (Isfit) 2005.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend a few hours together with you on Friday 18 February! Seeing the fellowship that had developed between you during the few days of Isfit made quite an impression on me. It is not the first time I have seen people of different ethnical, cultural, and religious backgrounds discover that they have a lot in common, and that in spite of our differences we can love and respect each other. Even so, I have several strong impressions of you that I will keep as dear memories for a long time to come. Thank you for being a great audience, and thank you so much for your openness and willingness to share!

If you look around here at HonestThinking.org, you will, as I “warned” you, possibly find things that provoke you. If so, please keep in mind all the things I told you while visiting the workshop; I meant every word I said. If you find this hard to reconcile with the contents of HonestThinking.org, please read the following words of explanation.

The Western and Muslim worlds currently have (and certainly not for the first time in history) serious problems in relating to each other in a respectful and constructive way. Moreover, it is my sincere conviction that both civilizations have some problems of their own, and that each one has something to learn from the other.

Such a learning process is however unlikely to take place unless we allow for criticism. So, yes, at HonestThinking.org we are indeed criticizing Islam. If you are offended by this, keep in mind that our criticism of the West is even stronger.

I am skeptical with respect to the possibility that the Islamic and Western worlds can be made into a single culture or civilization in a mere hundred or two hundred years. Sure, we should love each other, and learn from each other. Even so, I believe we need to respect the profound differences between us that will most likely remain for a long time to come.

If we try and create near-total isolation between the Western and Islamic worlds, the result would probably be disastrous. If we go to the other extreme and attempt to merge the two during this or the coming century the likelihood of failure would be significant, and with potential consequences that I would rather not consider.

At HonestThinking.org we believe that there are some fruitful, albeit challenging, compromise solutions that can be found between the above outlined extremes. However, finding a reasonable balance between the many conflicting interests seems to be highly non-trivial. This, in my opinion, is one of the major challenges of the 21st century.

Those of you who are interested in understanding why I dismiss relativism, please read the HonestThinking manifesto. You should also read prof. Richard Dawkins excellent piece Postmodernism disrobed, which very nicely illustrates, with real world examples, how relativism in the end leads to plain baloney.

You may also want to browse around here at HonestThinking, in which case I guess our list of recommended literature would be of particular interest.

For some material that I collected while working in particular on the issue of evolution vs. creation (including more recommended literature), please visit my old faith and science page.


Please feel free to contact me via ole at honestThinking.org (replacing ' at ' with '@').