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Former British prime minister Tony Blair (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Former British prime minister Tony Blair (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)


Interview: Tony Blair, on his faith and religious ideology Add to ...

Blair: I don't know really. Faith plays a far greater role in political leaders than you might think, actually. And it's interesting when I have talked to other leaders about faith, some of them, you wouldn't have thought were people with a religious conviction at all but turned out to have. I dont know that I would pull one figure out actually. I mean I was going to talk about Gandhi but then on the other hand, it's always unclear as to exactly what role religion played in his political life. No, I think there are lots of leaders I admire but I don't think there's someone I would pick out particularly for religious conviction.

Geiger: You mentioned you do a lot of reading of religious materials. Is there something that you would fall back on as being central to your thinking?

Blair: There's nothing I would say that I've read that has kind of changed my entire perception but there's a lot that I have read that has been a fascination and education to me. So you know there a wonderful set of books about Islam, which have been very interesting to me. There's a book I've read recently that was written about the Prophet Mohammed but based on all the contemporary sources about him which is a very interesting book. There's a book I've just finished, I think it's called Faith actually, which is about the history of the Christian church. And Rowan Williams, who's Archbishop of Canterbury actually, wrote a biography of Arias. It's the Arian heresy that gave rise to all the controversies of the 4th Century. It's a fascinating book to read.

So I tend to read more because I'm interested in knowing, I'm interested in knowing about scripture. I read books that are lot about the history of the church and the history of religion. Karen Armstrong's written some wonderful books about religion.

Geiger: I'll just have one last question and that is, the concept of redemption is at the essence of Christianity. What is it that you seek redemption for, is it something in your own life that you believe that you...

Blair: There's no sort of particular thing that I would pick out but I think that one of the things that I think religious faiths does do, or should do for you, is to have some sense of humility about yourself, your own failings, your own shortcomings. Now it's perfectly possible to have that without religious faith, obviously, but I think it is the one of the disciplines religious faith imposes on you. So redemption, I don't think about something specific when I think of that, but I think about the degree of which I fall short from the best that I could be, which I guess is the same for most of us. And you know, to say what about the foundation, which is operating now, we have university program which McGill is a part of and then I've got this schools program -- there are many Canadian schools that are now joining up to this. You know, I think, as I say, this issue of religious ideology is the defining issue of the 21st century. And I would say that even if you're not the slightest bit religious you can't really understand the modern world unless you know something about the faith community. And the great prediction that was made when I was growing up and at university that as society developed, so religion would fall away, has proven to be one of the many wrong predictions that were made.

The truth is religious belief is still very much with us and very alive. And how we analyze its importance and how it we understand and are educated about it is a big challenge.

Geiger: Well, thank you very much for your time.

Blair: My pleasure.

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