“This is exactly like talking to my father”
A glimpse of the conference Religion and Political Thought, Copenhagen 24 – 25 September 2010.
By Kristian Mejrup
Late at night in a smoke-filled pub in the inner city of Copenhagen, between jazz and White-Russians a debate starts again. The Italian sociologist and the Croatian philosopher engage in the dispute. Is one to render homage to Karl Marx as a political thinker or not? Other urgent questions occur and amplify their disagreement: what about gender equality, what about religious symbols in public space, integration etc? Every word is spoken in the Babel-language: English. Political, sociological and philosophical terms are tossed at one another. It all reaches its climax when the young, Italian career woman exclaims: “this is exactly like talking to my father”.
The late night events followed a conference on religion and political thought, held at The University of Copenhagen. 25 people from 15 different countries were gathered.
The conference begins Friday morning. There is a smell of coffee around the oval-shaped table where all the participants sit. In a debate over Marxism and religion a professor from Beijing confesses to be a member of the Chinese Communist Party. He prefers a secular background for religion and political thought. “To hide one’s capacity” is, according to the professor, an adequate expression for this. The detailed information about his membership of the Communist Party makes people smile. Only the Croatian philosopher has a critical remark.
After the morning program the participants are off to lunch in one of the old cellars of the University. Meat hocks hang down from the low, vaulted ceiling, a relic from the time when the room was used as a storeroom for food. The conference starts again. A debate among bible scholars over the political significance of St. Paul prolongs the first day of the conference.
The French professor from Paris is elegantly dressed. His lecture on Prometheus, Christ and democracy is the only one not in English – it is in French. It takes time to translate back and forth. The participants take the debate with them to lunch. Debate turns to discussion and the question concerns Marxism and religion. Is Marx’s critique of religion relevant for us today? The answer of a younger Italian sociologist is “yes”. The answer of the middle-aged Croatian philosopher is “no”. And this was the beginning of the debate which continued long after the conference ended – and eventually found its way to a Pub in Copenhagen called – “Det hvide lam”, The White Lamb.