Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions.

Symbol of the three Abrahamic religions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A rabbi, a sheikh and a canon walk into an auditorium….

This evening saw the first Public Lecture organised by the Chaplaincy at Nottingham University, on the subject “Is there such a thing as British values – a religious perspective“.

The speakers were well qualified: Revd Canon Dr Nigel Rooms (Director of Ministry and Mission, Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham),  Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski (Senior Rabbi, University Jewish Chaplaincy) and Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra (Assistant General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain).

Three contributions, from three different faiths – and three engaging speakers, with different approaches; the Muslim who reflected on his experience as an immigrant, becoming English and British; the Jew, identifying the history of Judaism in developing values, and the centrality of the creation of mankind in the image of God as the basis of shared human vales, and the Christian wondering about the paleness of some British values – such as tolerance – alongside those of religion – such as love; and whether talk of values eliminated talk of virtues.  As I’ve said before, it is perhaps the role of the established Church to be the gentle critic of the nation.

Yet overall a remarkably common view: a gentleness but a strength; a sense of humanity – and a debate conducted amid the very British values under discussion.

It’s a pity the question the chairman clearly had up his sleeve in case questions dried up was not needed (he revealed it at the end): is there now a countering set of secular values at work in Britain?  For it is tempting, if the three Abrahamic religions can show such comforting unanimity, to ask whether these are not in fact universal values, rather than anything specifically British, or specifically religious.  Indeed, it is one of the frequent assertions of atheists: that there is no need for God in morality – that these things can all be simply human.

Coincidentally, I  had also noticed today an article in The Conversation: “Bankers have a moral compass, it just may not look like yours“.  In the absence of a core set of values and morals, people do in fact make up their own.  Our values are perhaps not as common as we may have thought…