Blair – religion to be as important as 20th century ideologies

May 29, 2008

Tony Blair with a model of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, 11 Dec 2007/pool“Religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st Century as political ideology was to the 20th Century,” Tony Blair said on Thursday in a statement before Friday’s launch in New York of his new Faith Foundation to improve understanding between different religions and fight global poverty by mobilizing people through faith.

Blair is not the first person to talk about how important religion is and will be in the 21st century. Decades ago, the late French writer André Malraux reportedly went so far as to issue a wonderfully Gallic sweeping statement: “The 21st century will be religious or it will not be.”

Even if British understatement isn’t what it used to be, Blair’s comment is really quite bold. The main political ideologies of the 20th century were communism, Nazism and fascism. They rallied huge masses of people, justified totalitarian regimes and imposed skewed views of the world on whole populations. When communism collapsed across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union following the fall of the Berlin Wall, millions of people felt that they had been liberated.

I’m sure Blair doesn’t mean to evoke this negative aspect of the political ideologies that gripped the 20th century. He’s clearly thinking of the positive power of faith, as he explains in this interview in Time. Isn’t it clumsy, then, to compare religion to the ideologies of the 20th century?

38 comments

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I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss a negative message in Blair’s words. Religion has been the cause of much discrimination, warfare, and strife over the last several centuries, and the 21st is no exception. Indeed, the concern over potentially explosive religious conflict may be the driver behind Blair’s efforts to “improve understanding” between religions.

Posted by Keith Harrison | Report as abusive

Stalinism aside, doesn’t it feel somewhat dishonest to say that “real existing” “democracy” (compare with “real existing socialism”) is all that there is? Blair has done a great job defending the domination of the corporations and perpetuating the last century of imperialist war. As a political ideologue might say, he is a “bourgeois politician” and it is perfectly suited to him to consider the “skewed views of the world” that religion offers as a solution to “class consciousness” of the realities of capitalism. Come to think of it, the old ideological terminology seems much more appropriate than the terminology of the future; “evil-doers” “axis of evil” “islamic terrorists” “islamic terrorist childrens” and etc. Unfortunately, in reality the position post-modernists assume is no less a skewed political ideology than any other. The 20th century does have lessons to teach and there is a reason why so many were moved (mistakenly or otherwise) by Stalinism and Fascism. I could go on, but Trotsky has already done so, so I refer to him.

Posted by Roy Fairbank | Report as abusive

How does Mr. Blair know?

This guy is a typical out-of-office politician who is presuming himself to still be relevant. He reminds me of the likes of Mr. Kissinger as a matter of fact (recent Reuters article)…only younger and a lot more years of not being relevant yet left to live. Just because these guys have been in the bubble, they think that they have the corner on pearls of wisdom. They don’t. Mr. Bush will soon be joining them. There are others as well. In with the new and out with the old. Love…and new blood…make the world go round.

Jack

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2008  /05/27/kissinger-iraq-and-indias-muslim s-a-new-domino-theory/

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

The thought of a century of ‘religious significance’ on the scale that political ideology was in the last is a scary thought.
For all those who have fought for personal freedoms, and the right to democratic rule against the tyranny of facism and communism, it is with extreme dread that we look forward to a century marred by the return to significance of ancient structures of social control.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

If Blair wishes to believe in the supernatural and superstitious ritual then that is a matter for him. Many people in the UK, however, would prefer to see him in jail for war crimes.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

Blair gets religion! Feeling guilty perhaps over 100,000 dead iraqi muslims? By the way, where were those weapons of mass destruction? Lets all pray for a miracle to see the grasping Blairs give away all their properties and ill-gotten gains to the poor.

Posted by Graham | Report as abusive

Oh dear. As I style myself a spiritual atheist, please the last thing we want is more Churches, religious hierarchies and all that nonsense. The world is moral and awe inspiring without degrading it with religious nonsense and its inherent intolerance.

Please, Tony, just go a pray quietly on your own and leave the rest of us in peace.

Posted by Richard Andrew Jefferies | Report as abusive

I think the man is absoloutley right, religion will be far more prominent in this century than the last, or at least the clash of religions. There is a lot of fear about this, and dialogue and talking is a good start to diffusing this, however I don’t think its that simple, but I don’t think anyone has a magic answer.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

It’s nice of Blair to want to try to improve understanding between the insane.

Posted by Sane | Report as abusive

People keep saying that many wars have been caused by religious differences throughout history. Looking through history the actual causes of these so called “religious wars” were predominantly for very secular reasons e.g. money, land and political gain and not for religious superiority. Unfortunately people can drag their religious faith into a secular political stife which gives the impression that it was the religion itself that was the root cause. There is no way that Jesus Christ, the foundation of the Chruch, was remotely concerned with political secular gain, and neither should be anyone who professes to be Christian. Its time that we showed the world that Christian faith is a viable answer to world peace now that it is free from negative secular influence.

Posted by G Brown | Report as abusive

There you go, you have been foretold that’s what you’re having for the 21st the same as before and history will know just how fitting it is in saving the word right! The Sumerian text seems to be more convincing as already points too all religions having come from this one, stories from clay prints over 6500 thousand years ago exactly point to the planets and stars with perfect understanding, more that what we have now, remember a few hundred years ago that the world is flat and all the universe rotates round the Earth is this the 21st catholic religion to farm the people and change there views in the name of God? I would prefer to make my own spiritual mind up as should others and not be afraid to speak out on Evil that we see every day of our lives, as far as all churches go they are nothing more than a building with dangerous power, tax your very soul.

Posted by Nigel | Report as abusive

Well, what were the really significant political ideologies of the 20th century? Nazism and Stalinism must be up there. They’re pretty comparable to religion in its impact on the world, so yes, Blair is spot on for once.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I imagine, with all the deaths the man has on his conscience, he’s trying to appease his wife’s God, before it’s too late. Problem for Tony et al is, it was too late the day they went to war, killing thousands of civilians with ‘precision ordnance’ – if they’re that accurate, it only tells me you meant to kill them. Typical butcher gets religion before death. pah! – your hypocrisy is as complete as it is abhorrent, Mr Blair.

Posted by pete simpson | Report as abusive

The importance of religions is a fscinating story, and I think this is a good question; on the one hand, tendency to superficialize, consume, and view everything as disposable, marrying less, and generally not thinking outside the money box, is unarguably growing, there is no denying, as it has been through the XXth Century.
On the other, this very attitude(in what do we still believe in quality? No; the importance of politics/social power? No; values? Hem… but the need for money? Yes) does generate a void of beliefs, which we need as humans to keep sane and maintain relative order.
So it looks like we have two options: either a comeback to religions as said in the article, but which would totally upset our 21st Century way of life, or a more humanistic belief system where belief is amended to suit our current and future lifestyles. But of course different parts of the world will react differently, so the only sure thing is it will be interesting.

Posted by Elise | Report as abusive

It never ceases to amaze me, that Blair, Bush , et-al are all fervent Christians, yet between them are the instigators for some of the most appalling incidents in the last 10 years. I wonder if his ‘faith’ consoles him, and thereby justifies it, at least to him.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

Rather than religious faith, I beleive it will be one specific religious ideology that will mar the coming decades, spiced up with brute nationalism.

These two ideologies will increasingly become political instruments to manipulate the surpressed, disenfranchised and poor. And as increasing numbers of the poorest will reach a level where information begins to matter, they will become easy prey for the hypocritical, power hungry men. These men will continue to incite bigotry, and they will lay claim to past greatness as if entiteled to the inheritance by a natural force. They will claim victimhood of western decadence and imperialism, when in fact it is the social structures in which they operate and thrive that victimise the people.

And politicians in the west will try to be tolerant and understanding, will enter into dialogue and accomodate, through false guilt of some obscure past and our lack of ability to make a positive difference. Some may turn to their god in despair, and one may wonder if mr. Blair is not psychologically projecting his personal inadequacies onto the rest of the world.

We may be inclined to focus on the positive aspects – just as we do during a financial booms despite subconsciously knowing that the foundations are not sound – and we may delude ourselves thinking all is well and under control. But if we think we can ride out this gathering storm on an Ark of peace, we are delusional.

But I guess that is what being religious is all about … being delusional.

Posted by N. Monrad | Report as abusive

Blair or anybody who believes in a personal God is a fool.

Blair can’t let go of his irrational bedtime story because he has been brainwashed since a child and his brain simply won’t allow him to deny it.

It would with some persuading presumably but having seen Blair discuss faith, I think he’s too far gone.

Yet another deluded individual basing their lives and their ludicrous belief of our moral foundation in a book of translated myths.

What an idiot.

Thank God I’m an Atheist.

Posted by Nick Sullivan | Report as abusive

Also, Blair if you want to squabble his life away in nonsense that’s up to him but don’t try force it on the rest of us you irrational idiot.

I would like to add though that a comment in this article saying it was clumsy for Blair to compare religion to 20th century ideologies was clumsy in itself. Even though I completely oppose his views, it’s quite obvious he’s simply comparing the power of attention and significance.

It’s not the same as saying Religion will be like Nazism in the sense that we will rule and indoctrinate our beliefs, although I think subconsciously Religion tries to do this anyway. As most of the people who believe in it, deep down, know it’s rubbish so need other people to support them to fund their insecurity and doubt.

Posted by Nick Sullivan | Report as abusive

Foundations like this are preposterous.

Those with faith/religion who want to get along and help each other already do.

Those who don’t, never will. And there isn’t a foundation in the world set up by anyone, least of all someone who is somewhat regarded as an staunch ally in the ‘War against Islam’, is going to convince them otherwise.

As the old saying goes, ‘You’re preaching to the converted’.

Posted by Johnny | Report as abusive

This reminds me of that saying:

“when one person hallucinates a phantasm it is insanity, when ten do it is a cult and when a thousand do it is a religion.”

We need a revival in reason.

What a worry ! Thanks to his religion we ended up with a war in Iraq.

I’m reminded of an American comedian who recently said the best thing you could do with all the world’s religious leaders was to line them up on a cliff and push them over the edge together – and leave the rest of us to our lives.

Posted by BARRY | Report as abusive

You criticise Malraux for making a “sweeping statement” and then go on to assert that “The main political ideologies of the 20th century were communism, Nazism and fascism.” Er.. really?

Isn’t democracy an ideology? What about capitalism and globalisation? The term may have been invented by socialist thinkers but does that mean that ideology must forever be taken as a byword for corrupt communist regimes and – through some bizarre association – fascism?

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

I would rather he dedicated the rest of his life eradicating religion globally. I also feel that no-one with such strong religious beliefs should be allowed any position of consequence.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

I can think of nothing more frightening than all these superstitious maniacs getting together and ruling the world. Superstition already causes most of the world’s conflicts, we don’t need any more.

Posted by greg | Report as abusive

Tony Blair says his Christian faith gave him the strength as prime minister to take tough decisions.
Isn’t faith in a God just some convenient mythological concept on which to offload guilt?
“God made me do it!”
Pity him, should his faith waiver and he sees the enormity of the carnage he has wrought.

Posted by Fred | Report as abusive

Must have a book coming out! Idiot.

Posted by Rick Hough | Report as abusive

I think religion will become a focus but not for the reasons Mr Blair would like. With global communities ever more aware of each other, there will be a good deal of questioning as to the purpose of individual faiths and how they coexist. This isn’t new and has been going on for centuries but it will be exacerbated by the spread of education and access to the media. The key difference will be the how much politicisation of religion(s) people will accept going forward.

Posted by M Bryan | Report as abusive

Blair had nothing constructive to offer when he was Prime Minister and has nothing now. Why is Reuters touting his new “project”?

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

Jim, my remark about Malraux was more a wry comment on his style than a fundamental criticism of its content. My point was just that the French were prone to sweeping statements like his while the British tended to be more reserved. As for democracy, it’s a form of government rather than an ideology per se. It takes different shapes according to other political ideas it is applied with, for example laissez-faire capitalism or welfare state socialism. The political ideologies of the 20th century combined certain political and social policies, economic systems and forms of government in distinctive ways that applied wherever they came to power. After the Anschluss, Austria was reorganised along the lines of Nazi Germany. After World War Two, Eastern Europe was reorganised along Soviet Communist lines. Democracy comes in so many forms that it can’t be called an ideology all by itself.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

I think Tony Blair is absolutely spot on when he states
“Religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st Century as political ideology was to the 20th Century,”

Belief systems and the mind-set of individuals who feel
compelled to force those strongly held beliefs on others definitely needs addressing.

Lets hope Mr Blair your noble intentions are not misinterpreted as more evidence of Western European double standards.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

Seriously though; this century will indeed be about religion.. Bravo sir for recognizing that. You only have to look around the world to call that one. What you are failing to tell people, is that the last couple of times that Muslims were mad at Christianity, And the catholic church was making a “comeback”; How many people were killed over this “Religious revival”. Maybe Mr. Blair should kick off the next round of crusades.

Posted by bobby bobberton | Report as abusive

I see nothing of worth in this its just another extension of globalism.

Instead he liek many other so called leaders face reality on this earth now and see that the biggest threat to life and the future of all idelogies and religious ones is OVERPOPULATION and so slow extinction of life

God wont stop that Mr Blair

Posted by tony trebilock | Report as abusive

does tony blair have a licence if so who gave it to him

Sadly the intention of uniting ‘faiths’ under Mr. Blair’s ‘Foundation’ will be a foundation of sand, as in the parable told by Jesus in Matthews Gospel.
It is impossible to unite opposites! Any attempt to try and achieve this can only mean dishonesty on the part of any who think they can ‘play’ in this dangerous game.
“For there is One God, and One Mediator between man and God, the Man Christ Jesus……….. “

Posted by andrew fairhead | Report as abusive

Religion is a crutch that we do not need.

If God existed – would, for example, God really stand by and watch children being horribly murdered and do absolutely nothing when indeed God is supposed to have an almighty power?

God cannot exist: if God existed then God is incredibly quilty of criminal inaction.

If I had the power to stop someone from being murdered, etc., I would do so – not stand watching.

My message to the world is that we are on our own – and we must all get real and treat each other with respect, dignity and politeness at all times.

Forget about God!

Posted by The Truth Is... | Report as abusive

if i may be permitted to comment further on this matter. Sadly, no one seems to want to declare the Christian message and relate it to this situation. The popular declaration of the 3 monotheistic religions, is a spin too far! (TRUE)Christianity, based upon The Bible, is not a religion, it is God revealing Himself, supremely in Jesus Christ(Hebrews 1:1-3)) Jesus is the ONLY way to God(John 14:6) This is anathema to Islam, and an offence to the Jew. We need to move away from the caricatures of what Christianity is or isn’t, and return to a Biblical understanding. Then it will be clear that there can be no smudge. There is only ONE ‘foundation’ and that is Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 3 to be very careful how we build upon it/Him.
We need great discernment to sort out the rights and wrongs of what so called ‘religious’ people are saying. It’s a whole lot better when we use the Bible, as our only guide, and put our trust in the One who is central to its message-Jesus! -The way, the truth, the Life! He is the One for life here and for hearafter!
Thanks for your time in reading this…….please dont be ‘taken in’. Turn to the Ultimate authority!

Posted by andrew fairhead | Report as abusive

Just to counterpoint a few observations other people have made so far:

*There is no link at all between Fascism and even classical Stalinism. Fascism is a severely pro-capitalist ideology (Churchill the ubercapitalist for instance praised Mussolini’s “Roman Genius” and was a great admirer) based in complex racism, nationalism and a kind of deranged voluntarism which was also very complex. Stalinism on the other hand is a perversion of Revolutionary Socialism, which also, in different conditions, spawned Blair’s own party and his tendency of Social Democracy. They were both changed into what they were by reactions and failures in the movement, but they drew on the urge for change in people that inspired the Russian Revolution. Stalinism systematically destroyed the legacy of the Russian Revolution, but they could for a long time draw on the progressive ideals of Bolsheviks . During WWII Stalin partly restored the Orthodox church and stroked nationalism as well (“motherland”).

*”Democracy” does have an ideology, Liberalism. Obviously this doesn’t match up with the common use of “Liberal,” though it is recognized by whomever coined Libertarianism, because Liberalism really is the correct label for capitalist ideology. Liberalism is freedom from all impediments to individual profit (usually in the broad sense), property relations that allow complete private ownership of the means to produce, and a state of capitalist consensus, (originally just land-owners could vote in the US you have to realize, but now the same effect is accomplished by fund-raising barriers and lobbying, so it is actually even more an effective government of capitalist consensus). This ideology isn’t always advertised, but it spoken of very broadly by some of the bolder spokesmen.

Posted by Roy Fairbank | Report as abusive

The only things religion has brought politics are bigotry, prejudice, condemnation, persecution, victimisation, war, violence, torture, wholesale theft, money extraction and murder.

Religion is the distillation of man’s control freakery compulsion.

Posted by The Truth Is... | Report as abusive