Life Seen as a Continuous Question

Atheists, Christians Come Together in Court of the Gentiles

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By Jesús Colina

BOLOGNA, Italy, FEB. 17, 2011 ( Life is a continuous question and a search for that truth that is never comfortable, opined a speaker at the Court of the Gentiles last Saturday.

Ivano Dionigi, rector of the University of Bologna, offered this reflection when he spoke at the so-called Court of the Gentiles a forum for dialogue between believers and non-believers. The court is being created by the Pontifical Council for Culture, at the prompting of Benedict XVI. The name refers to the space in the ancient Jewish Temple that was open to non-Jews.

The presentation at the University of Bologna preceded the international launching of the forum, which will take place March 24-25 in Paris. Some 1,500 people attended the event, presided over by Dionigi and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

In his intervention, Cardinal Ravasi reflected on what could be described as the spirituality of the atheist. He spoke of atheistic thinker Emil Cioran (1911-1995), a Romanian writer and philosopher who lived a good part of his life in Paris.

The cardinal spoke of this author as one who «lived with the sleepless anxiety of following the divine mystery,» describing himself as one who spied on God, having been unable to invoke him.

Cioran was an atheist and agnostic yet he managed to suggest a particular «aesthetic» way to demonstrate the existence of God, the cardinal explained. He wrote: «When you listen to Bach, you see God being born … After an oratorio, a cantata or a Passion, God must exist … And to think that so many theologians and philosophers have wasted nights and days seeking proofs of the existence of God, forgetting the only one!»

For the writer, «man makes you lose all faith, he is a sort of demonstration of the non-existence of God.»

«However, fortunately, and this is the great contradiction, as we said earlier, Bach also exists,» Cardinal Ravasi noted.

One organizer, Gaia Zanini, spoke to ZENIT about the spirit of this initiative, saying that «today more than ever the Church feels called to a dimension of confrontation, of openness, of constant revitalization of her fundamentals, precisely through that inexhaustible recourse that is dialogue.»

And for dialogue to be fruitful, she said, it is not necessary just to find adequate language, or the depth of the arguments, but also to have «fidelity to one’s positions — continuity and renewal.»

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