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Foreword
William A. Christian

This issue of Quaderns-e is an expression of the growing interest in Catalonia in religion. It is not surprising that this interest should arise in what may well be the most areligious city and region in Spain. Current events demonstrate that an understanding of spiritualism and religion are vitally important for the Mediterranean, the West, and the world at large.

Respect for the beliefs of others, including atheism, indifference and geeIdunnoism is not yet part of an everyday education. Desecration is just as human as consecration. The tragic history of early twentieth century Spain was preceded by centuries of state-enforced religion and decades of anticlerical publications, especially in Valencia and Barcelona, with caricatures of astonishing ferocity. The murder of the Jews of Central Europe was preceded by an equally ferocious campaign of antisemitism in newspapers, magazines, passion plays and film. Serial mass murders in the Balkans have had an important religious component. Religious pluralism is not a natural social state. It is an attitude that must be learned and a set of rights that must be vigilantly protected; it entails limitations on any particular religion.

Understanding how others can arrive at and configure their lives around beliefs that seem to an outsider improbable if not ridiculous is one of the greatest challenges of the human condition. Because of course it is easy to see others' beliefs as strange, but difficult to understand why others would see one's own beliefs that way. Religions configure ways many people organize their lives, consider space and see the world. When people turn away from the religion of their parents and find new ways of living, these new ways of living in turn, become crystallized in churches or rituals (the case here with Spiritists, New Age, Jehovah's Witnesses and East German Communists).

As in the decades prior to the Civil War, Catalonia's religious diversity is accelerating, now not only because of the creativity of the children of the indifferent, but also because of the new religious traditions brought by foreign immigrants. Many Catalan households are testimonies of this diversity with a remarkable potpourri of images, amulets, objects that bring luck, quartzes, holy cards and mandalas. Understanding the global religious bazaar begins with listening to each other. But it also involves understanding how systems of belief work in general, how they connect with events in the life cycle, how they provide pleasures, consolation and practical help, and how they can create and maintain community in times of rapid change.

Quaderns-e Nº 07, 2006/a

 

 
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