Q&A with Anton van Harskamp
Anton van Harskamp, Professor, Social and Cultural Antropology, VU Amsterdam
Club of Amsterdam: The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), as the main human dimension institution of the OSCE is responsible for fostering the implementation on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. What are the key conflicting areas when dealing with cults and sects?
Anton van Harskamp: It is by no means clear what comprises a cult or a sect. The definition of a cult or a sect is in the eye of the beholder (and that eye, when it belongs to a ‘normal’ modern person, often designates in advance a sect as a frightening, absurd and dangerous group, which almost ever is a prejudice). Moreover, when we define a sect as for instance a religious, high demanding group, in which by authoritarian leadership a strict and ‘strange’ doctrine is taught, the number of that kind of groups in Western Europe is not high. Neither is the number of adherents. Even if one thinks of ‘new religious movements’ and if one includes self-development groups and small congregations in mainstream religion, the total number for e.g. Great Britain does not exceed the 1000. And when we could see recent figures about the membership of sects in for instance Germany, we’ll see figures like: 350 devotees for ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 500 for the Divine Light Mission, 600 for the Unification Church, 20 for the Family. Also the 5000 ‘members’ of Scientology do not form an impressive number. Nevertheless, strict religious groups can sometimes harm individual members. The key conflicting area can concern individual freedom. According to an American specialist in religious studies (Charles Kimball) there are five warning signs for the corruption of all religion, which also are signs indicating that things can go wrong in a religious group: when absolute truth claims are brought forward, when blind obedience is demanded, when the group anticipates on the ‘real’ time, when the group teaches that the end justifies any means, and when the group is prone to declare a Holy War. As far as I’m able to see, at this moment there are no religious groups in Western Europe, which meet all these criteria.
What is the value of spirituality for a European Society?
Anton van Harskamp: a) Spirituality has its value in itself; when it must have a value for e.g. the well-being of a person or a society, it will have no ‘Spirit; b) It will be a good thing when people are aware of mystery in reality, or when they for instance know of empty spaces in the networks of political society.
Is our society in need for new religions?
Anton van Harskamp: Western societies, which are collective bodies, are not in need of new religions. Western societies are in need for people who know about the invisible religions and quasi religions, which actually are functioning in these societies (the market, sports, ‘Experience’/Erlebnis).
about the future of Culture & Religion
Secularization in a Context of Advanced Modernity
by Liliane Voye
As described by Dobbelaere (1981), secularization – considered as a process on the macro-level – is in general still an unquestionable fact in Europe. Functional differentiation is persisting; the organized world is based on impersonal roles and on contractual patterns. The privatization of religion signifies not only that institutional religion loses its capacity to exercise an impact on public affairs but also that religion is considered as a matter of personal choice. This choice is enlarged by the numerous opportunities which have appeared in the “religious market” and, among other things, by the development of New Religious Movements. Such a context stimulates the relativization of religious messages, and their acceptance appears to be more and more oriented to a “this worldly” end, to the immanent level of everyday reality.
The Challenge of Multiculturalism after Westernalization
by Dae Ryeong Kim
While the history of culture might be as long as the history of human civilization, it was during the nineteenth century that the word, “culture” began to be circulated in its modern sense. Expanding the modern civilization to the world, and facing the strong resistance from traditional cultures throughout the world, the Europeans began to recognize the reality of the diversity of culture. While the Enlightenment had been the force to motivate the Westerners to expand the western civilization to the rest of the world, it was, ironically, this very process of westernalization that has trigged the reaction of the multiculturalism in the western societies in postmodernity.
News about the future
World’s Smallest Guitar
Imagine playing the world’s smallest guitar, with a laser for your guitar pick. Some nanotechnologists are strumming tiny strings this way – but there’s no jamming going on.
Physicists at Cornell University have created a nanoscale “guitar” about as wide as a single red-blood cell.
EU needs to set renewable energy targets for 2020, EEA head says
The European Union needs to set renewable energy targets for 2020 to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and give energy markets long-term investment security, Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA.
“Lack of security for investors in renewables could lead to delays in retiring older fossil-fuel power stations, making it more difficult in turn for the EU to meet its commitments to cut emissions that are contributing to climate change,” Prof. McGlade said.
Bioenergy at Wageningen University and Research Centre
Bioenergy at Wageningen University and Research Centre
Bioenergy is produced from biobased resources. These are derived from biological origins within biological time such as plants, animal waste, and food processing residues. Biomass is a replenishable resource, this is in contrast with fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) that are derived from biological sources but in a geological timeframe (millions of years). By offsetting fossil fuel use and increassing the cultivation of carbon-fixing plants, a strong biobased products and bioenergy industry will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.
Wageningen UR has extensive research experience in the field of biobased products and bioenergy, including production, collection and storage of biomass, conversion to biofuels, and economic and environmental aspects of biomass utilisation. This experience enables Wageningen UR to deal with political, social and industrial topics related to biomass and bioenergy. To attain sustainability the approach taken at Wageningen UR is three-dimensional or “triple-P”, integrating Planet (environmental aspects), People (socio-economic impact), and Profit (commercial viability).
Four key research themes built up the research infrastructure of biobased materials and bioenergy at Wageningen UR:
Sustainable Biomass Production
Research on biomass production at Wageningen UR is known world wide because of its profoundness. It integrates multi-functional land use and economics of biomass crop production. Examples are the development of switchgrass as an energy crop in Europe, introduction of Willow, Miscanthus and Hemp as energy crops, and combination of land farming with willow.
Biomass Logistics, Pretreatment
At Wageningen UR, research on collection and storage of biomass boosted the quality of biofuels. Development of rapid analysis methods to assess storability, quality and energy yield, as well as simulation and optimisation of the logistics of bio-energy chains play a keypart. Pre-treatment of biomass is a major challenge in utilizing biomass for the production of monomeric sugars, the starting point for production of bio-fuels such as ethanol. A combination of chemical and physical steps is used for size reduction, modification of the plant matrix to facilitate enzymatic hydrolysis. Challenges include the production of sugar-destructing inhibitors, the regeneration of stock chemicals, and the efficient utilisation of inorganic waste streams.
At Wageningen UR, research discloses biomass conversion routes producing solid, fluid or gaseous bio-fuels that meet the requirements of industrial partners. The research ranges from metabolic engineering of microbial pathways, fermentation, product recovery, process development to research on implementation strategies. Examples of projects includes the production of ethanol and butanol for the automotive industry, value-adding to organic waste streams, production of solid biofuels from energy crops (e.g. switchgrass), and the production of bio-hydrogen for fuel cell applications.
Bioenergy Chain Aspects
At Wageningen UR, policy research includes socio-economic impact of biofuel productions, public perception and ethical aspects of biomass utilization, as well as chain management. The sustainability of alternative fuels are studies form ‘cradle to grave’ (Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)).
The Beginning and the End of ‘Religion’
What is the subject of theology? These fourteen essays argue against the view that “religion” is the name of one particular territory that we may consider or ignore if we feel so inclined. That “religion” is a subject quite different from others, such as politics, art, science, law and economics, is peculiar to modern Western culture. But Professor Lash states that the “modern” world is ending, and in the consequent confusion is the possibility of discovering new forms of ancient wisdom that the “modern” world obscured from view. Part I explores the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. Those essays in Part II (six were published between 1988 and 1994, and five are unpublished) consider relations between theology and science, the secularity of Western culture and questions of Christian hope or eschatology.
Supporter of the Club of Amsterdam event about ‘the future of Healthcare & Technology‘ on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 is:
Q&A with Joep de Hart
Joep de Hart, Scientific Worker, Social and Cultural Planning Office
Club of Amsterdam: What is social capital and how does it relate to religion?
Joep de Hart: Social capital refers to the capacity to work together in finding solutions for collective problems. The quality and quantity of social interactions are crucial for this. Religious communities contribute strongly to the building and preservation of social capital. International research has shown over and again that especially churchgoing people, among other things, donate more to charitable causes, are much more often active as volunteers or givers of informal care, subscribe stronger to pro-social values and give more importance to transferring these values to their children. It is not, incidentally, the content of people’s believes which appears to be the determinant factor, but rather the simple fact that they meet each other regularly; which gives them opportunities to appeal to each other for these kind of activities.
Is the separation of state and church a must for a future Europe?
Joep de Hart: The draft text of the European constitution is clearly a compromise. It contains no explicit reference to the Jewish-Christian legacy, but it does state that Europe is inspired by cultural, religious and humanistic traditions. That way it expresses that the Union has not just a economic identity, but that it is also a community of values, with religion as one of its important sources. Neither more nor less. And what’s more, it’s a point of view which is biblical: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”
The richness of Europe consists in the variety of ethnic, cultural and religious traditions. How does the new Europe affect the role of the churches and religious communities?
Joep de Hart: It is difficult to give a general answer. Clearly the future situation will be more like that in the Netherlands (or the US) than in for example Italy or Denmark. Countries will differ in their reaction to this, but not just countries, there will be differences between religious traditions and faith communities too. There are established churches and national churches (the Church of England, the Lutherans in Sweden), there are churches with worldwide pretentions (the Roman Catholic Church), and there are faith communities which have been familiar with an open religious ‘market’ for ages (for instance the Calvinist churches in the Netherlands).
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