Tag Archives: Berlin

a pastor, a Rabbi, and an Imam walk into……. hey, is this the beginning of a joke?

from the Independent

It has been dubbed the “Wonder of Berlin”. And if a Protestant pastor, a rabbi and an imam can realise their shared dream, the world’s first house of prayer for three religions will open its doors in the German capital in four years’ time, with the building costs being paid for by donations.

The unique project is called the “House of One”, and its aim is to provide a place of worship and contemplation for adherents of the world’s three main monotheistic faiths, although the building will also be open to all. It will house a church, a synagogue and a mosque under one roof.

“Berlin is the city of wounds and miracles,” said Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin, one of the three behind the project. “It is the city in which the extermination of the Jews was planned. Now, the first house in the world for three religions is to be built here,” he added.

The fundraising drive was launched this week, with a symbolic handing over of the first brick. The House of One’s backers hope to raise the €43.5m (£35m) needed to construct the hexagonal-shaped brick building, on a site next to Berlin’s central Museum Island, entirely through sponsorship. Anyone can donate money online. A single brick costs ¤10.

The idea was born in 2009, when archaeologists excavating a section of ground on Museum Island unearthed the remnants of Berlin’s earliest church, the Petrikirche, and the city’s Latin school, which dates back to 1350.

“We quickly agreed that something visionary and forward looking should be built on what is the founding site of Berlin,” said Gregor Hohberg, the Protestant pastor who initiated the project. He was convinced that multicultural, multi-faith Berlin was the right city in which to open a house of worship for three religions.

“Berlin is the city of the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful coexistence of believers from different faiths – they yearn to understand each other,” he said.

Imam Kadir Sanci, the House of One’s Muslim leader, said he wanted the project to encourage a conscious dialogue between different faiths and cultures, which would help prejudices against Muslims to evaporate. “We want our children to have a future in which diversity is the norm,” he insisted.

The plans for the House of One indicate that while the building will contain a separate synagogue, church and mosque under one roof, there will also be a large central area, in which members of the three faiths and others can meet and contemplate. Last Tuesday, the House of One construction site on Berlin’s Gertraudenstrasse was still a vacant building lot, with little more to show than a recently felled plane tree and dirty, grey sand scarred with the tyre tracks of lorries and excavators.

However, the desolate scene did not deter the pastor, the rabbi and the imam from symbolically burying their shoes in the sand at the centre of the site.

“One has to have a great deal of faith in God to imagine that a wonderful building, unique in the world, will stand on this site in just a few years,” Mr Hohberg told a congregation from different faiths at a service a little later.

He added that building work could commence in 2016, providing donations to the fund of €10m had been raised by then.

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Sex, Rainforests and the C of E

 Friday 28 June 2013

Evangelical sex activists are no better than religious moralists

Eco-sex campaigners Fuck for Forest and atheists who look down on ‘the religious’ will not save us any more than the C of E

Fuck for Forest

The documentary about eco-sex activists, Fuck For Forest, follows the campaigning group from the streets of Berlin to the Amazon rainforest.There is a wonderful, sad, silly piece in Der Spiegel about a group of earnest young people in Berlin who make idealistic erotic films. They are almost all foreigners, mostly Scandinavians, and they make earnest videos of themselves whose proceeds are meant to go towards saving the rainforests. A Polish filmmaker has in turn made a documentary film about their campaign. The Der Spiegel article says:

“The film Fuck For Forest shows the eco-porn hippies as they cruise the streets in a bid to convince total strangers to engage in spontaneous sex in front of the camera; how they use small camcorders to zoom in on their unshaven genitalia and bushy pubic hair; how two of them penetrate each other in front of an audience in a Berlin basement while the others make appallingly bad music and spur them on with songs of encouragement. Theatregoers hear Leona and Tommy talk about how the world needs to be healed and how the spirit and soul of humanity must be liberated. And they see how other people in Berlin shake their heads or turn away in disgust when the FFF followers proffer their naked breasts, tattoos, slogans and music. During the “slutwalk,” which aims to raise awareness of sexual violence, the eco-porn activists are gently escorted away by Berlin police.”

When the activists finally get to the Amazon, their money is rejected by the forest dwellers, who would much rather have a shiny new German chainsaw.

But the belief that sex is somehow an escape from selfishness, and that what goes on in bed (or in the rainforest) has nothing to do with power relations, just will not die. Here in Britain, my own local group of atheists hosted a lecture this week on “How to Fuck”. Who could resist instruction on such an important subject? The upper room was packed. The lecturer was enthusiastic and attractive. Her talk had all the intellectual content of an Alpha course.

We learned that good sex would “do wonders for the general state of mental health”; that widespread contraception and access to abortion would solve “poverty, war, and global warming” – as if the countries contributing most to global warming, China and the US, were distinguished by their huge family sizes – that “the reality is that you can choose what you want your relationship to be” and – my favourite – that “200 years ago, the church was still teaching that women had no souls”. Because, of course, the only thing keeping us back from this paradise of free love and free money (and free dope and free music, as the Jefferson Starship added in 1970) was “the overhang of religion”.

But picking at the intellectual incoherence of this talk is really missing the point. What held it together was an emotional coherence, an attitude compounded by snobbery, self-righteousness, and good-hearted ignorant energy. “The religious”, along with Daily Mail readers, were there to be despised. The lecturer used those words much as my grandmother, the judge’s wife, used “common”: as a condemnation from which no appeal was possible. If people like us do consensual BDSM, that’s wonderful, and a tremendous blow against the forces of repression. But an internet site for Christians who do it and pretend that it’s biblically mandated is just another demonstration of how strange and perverted “the religious” are.

Alas, there was not much practical instruction on the subject of her lecture: everyone has to talk all the time to show they’re communicating, which made me think of an old joke about the sexy optometrist – “Is it better like this? Or like this? Or like this?”

But I think my most perverted thought all evening was the last one. As she talked on and on about sex, I began to think of the Church of England. Fifty or 60 years ago, she would have been a perfect evangelical: her enthusiasm for rescuing prostitutes, her utterly conventional opinions combined with a belief that she was terribly daring for having differently conventional opinions to her parents’, her view of history as one long stream of anecdotes to illustrate her prejudice and her concern for the distressing morals of the lower classes would all have fitted her perfectly for synod membership. In fact, I can think of lots of women of her mother’s generation who ended up like that.

But something has changed irrevocably in the last 50 years. Not being “religious” became what “C of E” had been before – the default position and class marker of the middle classes. And an established church that can’t cater to the vices of conventional middle-class women really has no future at all.

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