Contemporary issues such as globalization and the erosion of human dignity, are made worse by humanity and not religion, Lord Alton of Liverpool said in the second St Thomas More Lecture last week. In his lecture, given on 28 November, Lord Alton reflected on the call to action in the Pope's first encyclical 'Deus Caritas Est' and cited St Thomas More as an example of how engagement and action could be carried out. He quoted Cardinal Newman who said: "a man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well no one could find fault." Lord Alton suggested that encyclicals since 'Rerum Novarum', written in 1891, have called people to action. Lord Alton said that it was not enough to be anti-abortion or anti-euthanasia, "we must be truly pro-life and counter cultural". He also pointed out that while life begins at conception, it does not end at birth. "There are three billion people in the world living on less than $2 a day. Part of our call to engage with the world is to respond to this abject poverty. The growing disparity between the rich and the poor is an offense to the dignity of the human person. Conflicts cost African countries on average $18 billion a year. This is money that could be spent on healthcare, education and development." Lord Alton suggested that St Thomas More provides an example of how we can act. True social justice can be achieved by developing the virtues in government. At the same time Lord Alton reminded the audience that we live in a democracy so we do not have the right to impose our views on other people. We do have a duty to engage with politics and to spread the word of God to bring about change. Religion he said, can contribute to intolerance and bad acts, but so too can other ideologies. He quoted historian Eric Hobsbawn as saying there have been 185 million deaths through secular ideologies. This statistic, Lord Alton said, demonstrates that it is not religion that is the problem in the world. "It shows that we should not ask where God is, but rather where is man? At the heart of the problem is the human heart." The St Thomas More Lectures are organised by The Diocese of Westminster's Allen Hall Seminary and provide an opportunity for prominent Catholics to tackle issues of historical, political or social importance. The inaugural lecture in 2006 was given by Prof. Eamon Duffy. Lord Alton of Liverpool was a Member of the House of Commons for 18 years and today is an Independent crossbench life Peer. He is known for his support on human life issues and his work on human rights. He established the successful lobby group for human rights, the Jubilee Campaign in 1987.
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