Importance of the British Social Attitudes Survey – 34

The latest British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) reports that the percentage of people who describe themselves as ‘not religious’ is at its highest since the survey began. In 2016, 53% of respondents said that they did not belong to any particular religion. Back in 1983 that figure was 31%.

A significant headline from the survey is “While across the board religious groups are more conservative in their views than the non-religious, they have become increasingly liberal in their views”

This highlights the growing need to need to draw into the interfaith discussion people with no declared religion but none the less have equally important insights on the moral, ethical, philosophical issues at the centre of interfaith dialogue.

The Indian Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

Blind Men and the Elephant – A Picture of Relativism and Tolerance

The Blind Men and the Elephant is a famous Indian fable that tells the story of six blind sojourners that come across different parts of an elephant in their life journeys. In turn, each blind man creates his own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective.

Blind Men and the Elephant – A Poem by John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL,

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!