Islam, Atheism and Christianity for Lunch

Anneke and I had lunch at a small restaurant near the museum.  We visited the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen today. I met Anneke at the train station, as she traveled from Amsterdam to be with me.  She just completed her masters degree in religion from the University of Amsterdam. The thesis is entitled “Faith on the Screen: Christian Traditions in the Network Society”. I first met Anneke several years ago when she became a participant in the Friends Meeting in Second Life, a multi-user virtual environment.  I am a fairly active participant in that unprogrammed meeting there. Anneke was researching religious communities in Second Life for her undergraduate thesis.  She has now gone on to complete a graduate degree and is considering next steps, career-wise.

At the museum, we saw painings by many European artists, included Rembrandt, Rubens, Dali, Van Gogh and Max Ernst. Anneke was able to give me some background and context about the art and artists.  During our walk in the rain and our tour of the museum, and over lunch, we spoke about a number of topics.  I learned that there is a growing “angry atheists” movement in the Netherlands that is lashing out at the rise of Islam here.  As Immigration increases from Turkey and other nations where Islam is the predominate religion, the visibility of Islam grows in the Dutch media and in public conversation.  Anneke, who is herself atheistic, is concerned about the stereotyping of Islam and the characterizations of Moslem people as monolithic and fundamentalists.  It was interesting for me to hear about this growing concern.  Indeed, one opportunity that Anneke considers for herself is writing about this issue, in an attempt to help people of all faiths, or no faith deal with pluralism in a constructive way.  I thought about the clashes between religious people and a-religious people in the United States and how Christians are often stereotyped in similar ways by secular people in America, as well as atheists branded with derogatory labels by Christians and other people of faith.  A primary difference in our two countries, as I have learned from Joop and Anneke, is that for most people in the Netherlands, religion of any kind is a non-issue.  That is, those who identify themselves with any faith, or would say that they are an attender at a religious service is a small percentage, much lower than in the U.S.

Both of my Dutch friends, in different times and different ways, have acknowledged to me that they do recognize some other side of life that goes beyond reason, a spiritual side, if you will.  On my last visit, Joop explained to me that for many Dutch folks, art is an example of how people get in touch with this spiritual side.  Anneke confirmed that to me today as I posed that question to her.  She also suggested that admitting that mystery is a part of life is an acceptable way of living, but that the Dutch in general would not label that mystery in a spiritual or religious way, though they might say that they have their own spirituality.

I thoroughly enjoyed my lunchtime conversation.  I hope to learn more from my friends soon.  Margo and Joop just returned from their performance and we will go for dinner now.  I’ve started my phot albumn for this trip here.

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2 Comments on “Islam, Atheism and Christianity for Lunch”


  1. I really love this post. And send greetings to others who also have found the Quaker meeting in SL of value — and thanks there to Scot surely too.

    I am fascinated about how much stereotyping goes on across religions and across those religious and not. I wonder why we aren’t just curious in a kindly way about such differences — and worry that sometimes my own curiosities may appear disrespectful too.

  2. sheadley Says:

    thanks, Katie, its so good to see you here. I look forward to our continued conversation about this subject.


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