This evening sees the opening of the week-long Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne. On Sunday I’ll be giving the following presentation there:
Both Remedy and Poison: Religious Men and the Future of Peace
In one of Plato’s dialogues between Phaedrus and Socrates, we are faced with the paradox of the “pharmakon.” The pharmakon is alternatively or simultaneously beneficent and maleficent; it is both remedy and poison; at once fascinating and abhorrent. I find Plato’s pharmakon a useful tool in understanding how men and masculinities function in all religions, both in their histories and futures.
Without a doubt, in the name of numerous divinities, men have wrought great turmoil on the world: on women, children, less powerful men, animals, and the earth on which we live. Yet at the same time, many of the most peaceful and divinely inspired individuals of all religions have been men. Clearly, there is nothing inherent in men that demands destruction; clearly there is something in men that also seeks peace.
The future of peace requires the mobilisation of men in all faiths who reclaim what is naturally peaceful about being a religious man. It is a process of healing within each faith, between different faiths and with those who choose no faith. And it is not simply men’s work, but a partnership between men, women, children, less powerful men, animals, and the earth on which we live.