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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2011 no3 (Posted November 2011)


Global Insecurity || Higher Education || Religion, Ethics and Values || Women's Issues

Religion, Ethics and Values


The Dome in Christian and Islamic Sacred Architecture
Theresa Grupico, lecturer, Department of Art and Design, Monmouth University

This paper will focus on the dome in Christian and Islamic sacred architecture in the pre-modern world, including examples ranging from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to the Ottoman mosques in Istanbul and Baroque Chapel of the Holy Shroud in Turin.  An examination of the structural designs and decorative schemes of the various domes points to a common cultural heritage and cultural exchange in both directions. Such examination additionally highlights both Christians’ and Muslims’ historic interest in geometry on a sacred as well as scientific level, particularly through use of the circle as a symbol of heaven, the square as a symbol of earth, and the octagon as a link between the two.  Their decorative schemes reinforce that the domes were visual metaphors for the spiritual journey and communion between human and divine realms that the architectural spaces were themselves intended to encourage.  The domes therefore testify not only to Christians’ and Muslims’ shared cultural history, but to their common spiritual goal


Peace Among Religions: Hans Küng’s Analysis of Christian and Muslim Paradigms  of Social Justice in Search of a Global Ethic
Richard H. Morgan, Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University

This paper is intended to explore theologian Hans Küng’s work over the past thirty years to promote world peace by seeking to establish peace between the world’s major religions.  Peace among religions must start with an exploration of the common ground that already exists between the religions in matters of ethics: the establishment of a “Global Ethic.”  Küng’s argument for the need and the nature of a global ethic required as the minimal starting point of peaceful coexistence between cultures in an age of global awareness will be explored.  This will be followed by a focus on Küng’s analysis of Christianity and Islam and the contributions that these great prophetic/monotheistic traditions can make to the program of a global ethic and the search for world peace.  The Declaration Toward a Global Ethic that was passed by the Parliament of World Religions in September of 1993 based on Küng’s work will then be reviewed along with a brief indication of some of the reactions of Christian and Muslim leaders to the document.  Implications for Christian and Muslim mutual understanding and dialogue will be explored. 

Muslim-Christian Cooperation and Conflict: Lessons from the Case Study of Lebanon
Barry Preisler, Adjunct Professor, Sonoma State University

The small state of Lebanon has a history that can teach us a great deal about both the potential for conflict between Christians and Muslims but also about the possibilities for cooperation and accommodation between them.  From 1943 (Lebanese independence) to 1975, relative sectarian harmony, however imperfect, characterized the realm of political interactions in Lebanon.  Then, beginning in 1975, a horrible civil war, based (apparently) on the sectarian divisions of society, made Lebanon a synonym for civil bloodshed and national self-destruction.
            In this presentation, I will argue that the standard explanations of Lebanon, both of its period of civil harmony as well as the explanations of its breakdown into civil strife, have been flawed and ultimately inadequate. I will present an alternative explanation of both Muslim/Christian cooperation as well as strife that helps to suggest new perspectives on the possibilities of ethnic-religious accommodation, whether it be Muslim-Christian or any other divide.


Religion, Politics, and American Foreign Policy in the Middle East
Robert A. Sedler, Distinguished Professor of Law, Wayne State University

In the United States, religion and politics are intertwined. This entwinement helps to explain America’s strong and unwavering support for Israel. Jewish-Americans, virtually across the board, are strong supporters of Israel, despite strong disagreement  over a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The influence of Jewish-Americans on American foreign policy in the Middle East is primarily by way of Jewish strength in the Democratic party. Not only do Jewish-Americans strongly support Democratic candidates in all elections, but all but one of the disproportionately high number of Jewish Senators and Representatives in Congress are Democrats.
The Republicans are also strong supporters of Israel, because many conservative Christians, an important component of Republican voters ,believe that Jewish control of the “holy land” will bring about a “second coming of Christ.”.”Finally, the overwhelming majority of Americans, religious and non-religious, support Israel, because it is a democratic state, and because they have a favorable opinion of Jewish-Americans, and at best a mixed opinion about Arab-Americans and Moslems. in general.
The main thesis of the presentation is Jewish-American support for Israel, combined with their support of the Democratic Party, can  help President Obama in his efforts to achieve a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Jewish-American members of Congress, and the liberal part of the American-Jewish community that favors a solution can provide a degree of cover for the President. This degree of cover, reflected in assuring the Jewish community and the rest of the Nation, that the President is a “strong supporter of Israel,” may serve to deflect criticism of the President from those from the conservative part of the Jewish community and from Christian conservatives, and may make any solution that the President succeeds in bringing about politically acceptable to the American public.     

Beyond Ethical Codes: A Call For Critical Thinking In Religious Culture
Isidoro Talavera, Lead Faculty, Department of Humanities & Communication Arts, Franklin University

A salient matter feeding many longstanding world conflicts along religious fault lines is the mistaken idea that what is right (or wrong) may be found in a code of values.  Religious groups aspiring to promote their respective notions of what is right (or wrong) have historically made one of their foremost concerns the promotion of a code of ethics.  And such a code of ethics supposedly guides choices and actions and determines the purpose and course of the believer’s life.  Unfortunately, this may engender conflict because what is right (or wrong) depends on the individual who does it (usually manifesting a passion or commitment born out of doctrinal certainty) and where it is done, and whether or not a certain religious community approves.  In all this, the more fundamental concern of misgivings about a code of ethics has been largely ignored.  The primary reason for this might be the confused belief that we can actually appeal to a code of ethics.  Specifically, given some significant misgivings about codes of ethics and some underlying pitfalls of the ethical (or moral) doctrines of absolutism and relativism, religious culture cannot hope to do right things by appealing to ethical codes (although it may merely do things right).  To hope to do right things, we must go beyond ethical codes and think critically about the ethical issues that may confront us.



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