The Insight Club held a lecture titled “Re-questioning Faith,” in the Hisham Jaroudi Auditorium on Monday, October 23. The presentation was an introduction to the academic premises of discussing the religious, with a special focus on legislation.
The event was preceded by a stand and interviews around West Hall a week before, which intrigued passersby with related questions.
The guest lecturer for the evening, Amir Soubra, obtained his doctorate degree from the Faculty of Religious Studies at the University of Saint Joseph, and currently works on social development programs in several non-governmental organizations.
The event opened with a video of the interviews that took place at the West Hall stand. The lecturer then began by pointing out the importance of the issue at hand, especially in Lebanon, before emphasizing the question which is at the heart of Insight’s campaign: would you abide by a law solely because it is divine?
The details of the issue give rise to various other questions and hypotheses, some of which were collected for the speaker in a box, also at the West Hall stand.
“Morals are fixed, legislation is not”, “Lebanon’s dilemma is religion”, “I prefer to think for myself”, “God’s words are truth”, and “What makes it divine?” to list a few.
He pointed out the importance of revisiting rather than echoing the different opinions to push the ongoing debate out of its deadlock.
“We need to be true to each other,” he said. “A university is supposed to help a student advance beyond his [or her] society. [A university student] is not supposed to be a repetition of his society’s illness.”
Soubra then spoke on the use of comparative religious studies when discussing religious issues. The objective of the discipline, he said, is to seek the truth within the religious issue at hand. One needs to frame the religion within the origin from which it claims to understand the issue, then to evaluate. Afterwards, one must know the other through the other, not through the television channel which one picks. This is to be done objectively, not defensively, to draw conclusions.
To answer the question raised, Soubra stated that the legislation itself must be studied, alongside the human which is the subject of its regulations.
On that note, Soubra spoke on human nature as a subject of debate. From a religious perspective, Soubra explained, a human has powers which are more than a collection of material elements. This is what the religious refer to as a “spirit”, which gives rise to the human will.
After identifying the necessity of laws, Soubra differentiated between two types of legislation: anthropogenic and divine. Locally produced legislation rules adapt to the society and changing times but are subject to the same weaknesses of humans, making them susceptible to amendments, he explained, using electoral laws as an example.
Soubra outlined the process of legislation formulation, which starts from the background of beliefs as set by the school out of which values, principles and rules are devised, drawing on a study conducted by Dr. Edgar Haibe, Director of the Center for Christian Studies.
Religion does not only provide the base set of beliefs, but also indicates their hierarchy, according to Soubra. The need for this hierarchy is highlighted by issues that bring up a conflict of two or more values, such as euthanasia; should the director succumb to the patient’s request of mercy killing, honouring freedom of choice, or preserve the sacredness of life instead?
“It’s true. There are 4,200 religions, but four claim to be divine, out of which only two are open for others to join; open to all humanity,” said Soubra.
Beliefs and values are fixed, it is how humans perceive them to set laws that are subject to change, Soubra added. The one who is qualified to conduct a study must have a background in both law and religious studies.
“It could have been sent 1,400 [or] 1,500 or 1,600 years ago. We were in winter and now it’s [fall]. The Sun was created billions of years ago and still doesn’t need an update. It is still addressing the human in the same universe,” the lecturer concluded.