Thursday, February 21, 2013

Looking into the Future and the Roman Catholic Church. Part II.

Obviously, I would (and do) dream of a world where religion is an artifact in museums and studied in history books, sociology texts and psychology classes.

No, I am not smoking something good!

Reality, however, has a way of intruding rudely into our dreams and smashing our most heartfelt desires into tiny, infinitesimal pieces.  By that I mean that I do realize religion isn't going away.  It will, however, be transformed.

We live in a period of intense unrest and extreme instability.  We see tension between the very rich and the very poor, indeed, in the US, even the middle class is getting into the ring!  Religious tensions around the world, not only the US' "War on Terror", but also in Europe between the native, largely secular populations and the newly immigrated Islamic groups from the Middle East.  Even worse tensions in Britain between a growing secular population, the traditional Church of England remnants and a growing Islamic immigrant population often eager to bring their sharia traditions with them into their new home.

The immigrants in Europe are also symptomatic of the growing tensions in the Islamic world.  They flee because they are part of a growing segment of muslims who are less and less conservative and even include many secular converts, all of whom are at risk of violence or death at home.  These are mixed with conservative muslims who have fled to Europe for political reasons or to avoid their own threatened death by rival conservative groups, who are trying to import their own version of conservative Islam into their  new homes to thwart the more secular groups.  Economic issues as poor immigrants don't make the situation any easier.

In short, Islam is a mess right now, and it isn't going to get any better in the foreseeable future.  In fact, the whole world is in turmoil, religiously, and I would make the claim that most of the unrest and violence in the world today is a result of those religious tensions.

In Part I, I introduced you to a man named Matthew Fox, an ex-priest and theologian hounded from the RCC by Ratzinger.  He claims to have an idea of what Christianity could look like and how he sees it moving (at the behest of the Holy Ghost, no less!) as time goes on.

I am a bit surprised by some of his thoughts, as they seem  But, on the other hand, many of the remarks made on Facebook by some of my friends there are remarkably in tune with his vision of what Christianity should be.
Utterly, religion is something very simple.  It is about the heart being turned on, to be generous, and to be just, and to be courageous enough to pull that off; and to be compassionate, and to celebrate. 
This remarkably similar to the feelings and beliefs of many of the secular folks I know.  The...atheists I mean.

Religions all over the world provide one thing that is inherently non-religious:  Community.  People of similar beliefs, feelings and culture tend to gather together for mutual support, for social interaction, for marriage and for business.  The ties that bind are not always religious, and indeed, I think that the religious ones are probably the weakest.  We tend, at least in the US, to avoid too much religious discussion outside of formal ceremonies or classes, and do a lot of socializing.  I've seen churches where the after church rituals of gathering the families, talking on the way to the parking lot and such often take as long as the formal ceremony did!

Unless some form of religious dogma gets in the way, people in the US have often ignored or dismissed sex scandals, alcohol use (in denominations that officially frown on it) and other indiscretions of a religious nature, providing long standing cultural traditions aren't violated.  Americans have always had a tradition of coming together as a community with an amazing amount of generosity when disaster strikes and helping people get their lives back on track.  Americans have always had a tradition of fairness, of having a sense of justice.  And don't even ask about how we love to celebrate!

I believe that in the future, these elements will be a big part of Americans' growing sense of communal spirituality.  Of coming together as a people, as a community to celebrate our humanity, our togetherness and our joy of life.  Demographically, Americans are becoming more progressive.  Religiously, I think they already have been to a large degree.

I don't see folks from other countries being much different.  They are as human as we are, and humans have evolved to have a sense of community, or cooperation against the elements in favor of survival.

Progressivism, is, at its core, a return to the caring and the communal support of our tribal past, a belief that society has an obligation, for the good of human survival, to ensure the survival of all its members. I think that the future of religion will be a return to these roots, an acceptance of the basic goodness of humanity and our communal spirit.

The younger generation, the first to come of age in the 21st century, is a very informal group.  Formal organizations are just not important to them, and their relationships tend to be more fluid.  Virtuality, in the form of various online service such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., are more important to them, and reflect a wider interest in the world beyond the immediate physical vicinity.  It is easy for them to use Google to find information, and they are often quick to debunk falsities and lies.  Community, for many of them, is just as far away as their iPhones!

I won't try to predict exactly what form future religion may take.  I believe it will embrace science and reason, and will take in a much wider audience than a simple local congregation of today.

In the meantime, buckle up, the transition is going to be rough.

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