“If they [other religions] see things differently then they must be wrong, mistaken in some way.”
Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, delivered the Morrell Memorial Address on Toleration, an annual event held to increase the “understanding and appreciation of toleration as an idea and as a practice”.
Harries is renowned as a maverick: As well as nominating gay vicar Jeffrey John to become a bishop and siding with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins against creationism, he vocally supported Blair on the invasion of Iraq and was made a life peer upon leaving the Church.
The lecture, entitled “Can Religions learn to be Tolerant?”, angered some as being labelled ‘non-believers’. Lord Harries cited the importance of letting people “define themselves in their own words” in order to allow tolerance between belief systems.
In Britain, Harries referred to tolerance as a civil problem, where the most religions do is to knock on your door or send you mail. What he failed to address, however, was violence in other countries, where people are still persecuted for refusing to convert.
The base of the problem, Harries suggested, was “when there is an alliance of religious conviction and political power”. Harries is a member of the House of Lords and sat in the Lords for 18 years as a Bishop, but seemed happy to put that aside For the sake of his argument.
Harries finished by saying that the seeds of intolerance are sown when people believe that their religion alone portrays the “way things are.”