religion 2.0

In response to abuses that have been perpetuated in the name of religion, attacks on religion are common today. However, I believe a more constructive response is to contribute to the reconceptualization and renewal of religion.

For instance, one thing we can do is move away from the plural notion of competing religions and adopt a singular conception of religion. Religion, in this sense, is as a single, cross-cultural, trans-historical phenomenon that reflects the universal human aspiration for a transcendent meaning, purpose, and direction in life. When this universally shared aspiration degrades into sectarian conflict and competition it is no longer worthy of the name religion.

In this context, it is possible to think of religion as an evolving system of knowledge and practice that, in partnership with science, must strive to become increasing attuned to reality over time. When this evolving system of knowledge and practice degrades into sectarian dogma and doctrinal orthodoxies, it is not worthy of the name religion.

At the core of this evolving system of knowledge and practice lies a commitment to cultivating the latent human potential for cooperation, reciprocity, altruism, and commitment to the common good. Learning how to do this more widely, more systematically, and more effectively is one of the primary challenges facing humanity at this critical juncture in history – when almost 7 billion people must learn how to live together on an increasingly crowded planet. Any belief system that is not contributing to this process of cultivating our higher human nature should not be confused with religion.

Also at the core of this evolving system of knowledge and practice is a commitment to applying spiritual principles – such as the principles of unity, justice, equity, trustworthiness, and compassion – to the betterment of society. Learning how to do this more widely, more systematically, and more effectively is another one of the primary challenges facing humanity at this critical juncture in history. Again, belief systems that are not engaged in this process should not be confused with religion.

Finally, at this critical juncture in history, it seems obvious that religion must serve as a unifying force that empowers humanity to address, in a coordinated and mature  manner, the increasingly complex global problems we collectively face. Belief systems that abdicate this responsibility, by dividing people and antagonizing “others” who are different, are surely not worthy of the name religion.

Humanity is one. Reality is one. Religion is one. Perhaps it’s time to agree that any belief system that fails to recognize these simple truths is not true religion – even if it pretends to be.

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7 Comments»

  Marvin Holladay wrote @

This is one of the most intelligent descriptions of what Religion is and is not. The fundamental basis of all religions were, precisely the onenesses you identify. Unfortunately, each of these Revelations became, over time, corrupted by those who were in power with respect to that religious teaching, or order, creating the “us” vs. “them” orientation that advanced their power over their followers. As you say that orientation is not deserving of being called a religion.

  mahsa j wrote @

“Religion is..the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions” Karl Marx

  Aaron wrote @

Great post. You’re description of what religion isn’t is very enlightening. It’s a travesty what passes as religion today. Are you familiar w/ James Carse? Some of your ideas really resonate with his…especially his take on Finite and Infinite games. href=”http://j.mp/1BdFkw”

  Michael wrote @

I’m not familiar with Carse, but I’ll have to look into his thinking.

  Aaron wrote @

Specifically your article called ‘The Paradox of Protest in a Culture of Contest,’ which I enjoyed reading a lot, reminded me of Carse’s game/play framework, which defines infinite games as those games not played to win but, instead, played to keep playing.

  Religion and authority | Jeune Street wrote @

[...] may fragment while the phenomenon of religion steadily grows. Michael Karlberg has an insightful post over at Agency and Change on the theme of universal religion: …one thing we can do is move [...]

  Praveen wrote @

it is high time to re conceptualize the notion of religion , a global discourse on this is the need of the hour .


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