Berry Liberman on Rachael Kohn
Religion and God are tricky topics for me. I understand community, tradition and ritual. Those are things that bond people together in tough times and can make the day-to-day feel special. I’m also aware that for most of the planet, religion and faith preside at the centre of all belief and belonging. For me, so much harm and violence has occurred in the name of God and faith that I find it hard to understand its purpose in modern life. Despite my personal, ideological struggles, or perhaps because of them, I am drawn to listen to ABC radio’s The Spirit of Things—a program hosted by the gentle and curious Dr Rachael Kohn.
If you were to pick the most perfect voice to speak on questions of spirituality, you would pick Rachael’s. Every Sunday she conducts her program, that melifluous voice floating into your car, your home and your consciousness, inviting a moment of repose. Rachael speaks with global spiritual leaders from all faiths, hunting for wisdom and eager to share it with the world. She speaks about religion in a way that invites a conversation.
Born to Holocaust survivors in Canada in 1953, Rachael grew up asking the question, ‘Why?’. How did it happen that a whole world went mad and educated people turned against their neighbours? The 20th century was not a great one for the human race; much was discovered yet so much was destroyed. For Rachael, the things that drive us and that can lead us to act from our better nature can be found in the study of religion. Rather than focusing on our worst impulses, with regards to faith, she highlights the joy and wonder to be found in ancient texts.
Can a secular person think about religion? What I learn from Rachael is that religion and spirituality have been the predominant arenas in which meaningful exploration of life’s most challenging questions has been going on for a few thousand years. In them lies a richness that can nourish us all—if we care to look.