“Questions about God”: Navid Kermani on his new book | NDR.de

As of: 01/25/2022 3:38 p.m

It sounds like an invitation: “Everyone should come one step closer from where they are”. This is the title of a new book by Navid Kermani. In the interview he talks about it.

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7 mins

Mr. Kermani, this new book is also aimed at younger readers – “Questions about God” is the subtitle. It came about in conversation with your twelve-year-old daughter. How do you have to imagine writing this book in practical terms?

Navid Kermani: The situation described in the book, which is also literary, is not exactly my real situation, even if there are autobiographical references and I also have a daughter of the same age. But the reality is that I am a father and, like other fathers or mothers, I try to pass on to the children some of the tradition that was passed on to me.

It’s a meaningful book. Because from “questions about God” follow answers, in some form. But that’s actually an impossible undertaking when it comes to the subject: You can’t explain what is basically not verifiable. How did you deal with these questions and answers?

Book cover: Navid Kermani - Everyone should come a step closer from where they are © Hanser Verlag

“Everyone should come a step closer from where they are” was published by Hanser Verlag and costs EUR 22.00.

Kermani: In principle, not so different from a quantum physicist, who also deals with things that transcend his own reality and finds words and formulas for them. The words and formulas found in religion are poetry, they are images, they are metaphors. And yet the things you talk about are just as real. Religion isn’t something that happens in heaven – religion, creation is something that happens in every delivery room. Transcendence is what ideally happens in love, in sexual rapture. Devaluing is something that happens in death. These are all things that have to do with real life. And this heaven is not above us, but within us. And hell too. This is perhaps also the mystical view of this life, that we don’t look for God somewhere in books or in heaven, but if we do, then it all takes place here on earth. “Let there be light”, with which creation begins, is a very real experience of every human being who comes into the world. This could be related in a similar way to many other events that are described in the religions.

A sentence from your book goes very well with this: “What worries me is the religious ignorance that is spreading.” What worries you about that?

Kermani: I believe that knowing religion is part of freedom, including the freedom not to believe. What we take away from our children when we don’t give them a religious education is the very freedom I or other people had to choose not to have religion. If you don’t know them, then you can’t decide against them. And the other aspect is: whether we are religious or not – we are deeply shaped by religion. Our entire culture, especially German culture, literature, classical music through to architecture and language, has many religious roots. If we no longer know religion, if we don’t know all the references, then we no longer understand a lot about ourselves, about why we are the way we are. In this respect it is a kind of ignorance against our own culture. That doesn’t mean I regret atheism. No, everyone is free to do and believe what they think. But what worries me, as a political citizen, is when we don’t understand the roots of who we are, the roots of our culture, our literature, properly, because we don’t understand all the references anymore.

You are a Muslim yourself. But it is not a book about Islam being the only and best religion. You also name difficulties that come with a religion, including Islam. At one point you write that Islam needs “road service”. What would the road service have to clean up?

Kermani: If you look at the news and at all the events, you see all the catastrophes and it doesn’t get any less as you look closer. But the book isn’t called “Questions about Islam” but “Questions about God”: What is a religious attitude anyway? What does a term like “God” actually mean? The children’s questions help a lot because they are not satisfied with what we adults just take for granted. No, the child asks these questions and asks again if not satisfied. And that forces you to keep pursuing what you sense, what you feel.

What new insights did you gain from this conversation with the child?

Kermani: I can only describe that within the book. The daughter is very skeptical – certain similarities to real people cannot be ruled out – and she is also very scientifically oriented. It’s not enough for her when her father says: “Look at nature, this leaf on the tree or the sunset.” But she wants to know exactly. This forces the father time and again to contribute scientific knowledge. In this respect, this book is the first by me in which I also deal in detail with natural science and find, like many authors before me, that faith and natural science do not have to be a contradiction, but rather different approaches to the riddle of nature, the world, the to trace creation.

The conversation led Andrea Schwyz

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NDR Culture | diary | 01/25/2022 | 18:00

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