The Very First Post - Jay B. Gaskill
Developments in the 21st century will determine the future of major religious institutions for a thousand years. Specific institutions and practices will wither, but spiritual practices and beliefs will always endure in some form, because they are driven by needs central to the human condition.
Institutional religion itself will arrive at a critical moment when its very survival is at risk. Our species’ religious institutions remain relevant and robust only to the extent that they continue to serve their primary functions. Religions exist to provide safe and vital places for the sacred, authoritative centers of moral wisdom, and vital supporting communities united in common spiritual practices. If they do that well in the new millennium, they will thrive. If not….
Increasingly, there is a free market in religion. That trend will accelerate. Most European have already voted with their feet. Chapels, churches, cathedrals, and temples, largely empty of worshipers, have become de facto museums.
We can hope to see a powerful convergence of two currents. A humanism of renewed depth and reach, grounded in ultimate authority (which may or may not be understood or expressed in theistic terms) that will join those branches of religious and spiritual practice which are equally universal in depth and reach. This convergence will take place – if it does – because our species desperately needs secure moral foundations, the kind of moral authority that transcends mere human conventions. We need the large scale critical morality of the prophets: the kind that applies with equal force to ruler and ruled.
I can spot hopeful outlines of this convergence-in-the-making already. But we can also see the shape of the countertrend in the attraction of superficial secular hedonism and spiritual hedonism.
A New Age narcissism may temporarily fill the God shaped hole in the human psyche, but the moral ground then turns into thin ice.
The competing trends will eventually resolve. The catalyst for resolution may prove to be the latest common threat, militant Islam.
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June 4, 2007