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Forget Progressive Religion, Be Progressive About Religion

In a Religion Dispatches essay that deserves more attention than it is likely to get, Ivan Petrella argues that "progressive religion isn’t good enough for our nation. Instead, we need a shift in paradigm. We need to become progressive about religion." What does that mean? He explains:

Being progressive about religion requires rescuing the best of atheism and progressive Christianity while discarding their mistakes. From atheists, I’d rescue the commitment to reason. Like them, I’m unwilling to abdicate the use of my rational capacity in the name of faith. Unlike atheists, however, I don’t believe religions are false. Billions of people practice religions; in that sense they’re true. Billions of people believe in God, in that sense God does exist. Religions are true, but they’re not sacred. We need to be as self-reflective and critical of religion as we are of any other part of life.

From progressive Christians, I’d rescue the commitment to progressive understandings of faith and politics. But I’d reject their reliance on the Bible and Jesus. Here they are no different from the religious right, picking and choosing what suits them while ignoring what doesn’t.

It would be a relief to see the national discourse over religion shift to the rhetorical space Petrella is offering up here, if only because he offers a starting point that is firmly rooted in the realities of religious life in the United States. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, authors of God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the Worlddeclare secularization theory dead in a recent piece for the Fox Forum:

Today it is secularization theory that is dead rather than religion. Religion continues to flourish in the United States. Megachurches across the country are full to overflowing. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold almost thirty million copies. Granted, the latest religious surveys show a rise in the number of non-believers, to around 15% of the population. But that is a tiny portion by European standards. The reason why so many atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have written books attacking God is that they feel on the defensive. You do not engage in battles that you think that you won years ago.

Sources: Religion DispatchesFox Forum 

lar
8/23/2010 12:57:06 PM

WOW! What a naive approach to faith! It's like let me have my cake and eat it, too! Let's have religion, but gut the heart and soul! Now I think I see what it means to be truly open-minded! So open-minded that one's brain falls out! ! !


jon shafer
8/21/2009 12:03:10 AM

I confess that I take a more Pantheistic view of God, that the entire universe, all that exists...is God. We are part, a miniscule one at that, of a never-ending process. I'm more of a philosophic type who tries to see science as giving clues to the existence of God, Allah, etc. For example, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover's book, "Cracking the Bible Code," spends some length discussing quantum mechanics and its relevance to the existence of the Creator. And the February 2004 edition of Discovery whose feature article asked, "What existed before the Big Bang?" In it are the fascinating themes of what theoretical physicists think and postulate about existence, one of them being that perhaps our universe collides with a parallel universe of some kind, in another dimension. In it Alex Stone observes: "A radical new cosmology proposes that our universe is just a tiny fraction of a vast, higher dimensional realm and that the Big Bang is one step in an endless cycle of creation...flapping in the breezes of an actual 10-dimensional cosmos." To me, this of course seems a more consistent view of an "eternal God" or Creator who always was, and always shall be, the Alpha and Omega concept. We and our universe are mere specs of time in its continuing expansion and evolvement. A new book, The God Code, by Gregg Braden, gets into the blueprint of God written into our very DNA and genetic codes. A Bulgarian chemist and scientist, Lubien Piperov has written a lengthy article, "From Genesis to Genetics and Back," which further dovetails into how the values of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet coincide three-diminsionally with our DNA codes, and the Bible Codes of which Satinover and others speak....a convergence of science and faith in the strangest new ways as we learn more from quantum mechanics and string theory, from subatomic existence and DNA to black holes in space, "waves of active intelligence" pe


richard d. stacy
8/20/2009 5:36:19 PM

There was no mention of agnosticism in the article. The main credo of agnostics is "I don't know, and I don't think that anyone does." Their belief lies between total atheism and total faith in a deity (or deities) and is a valid, reasonable and logical construct.


evans pmcg
8/20/2009 12:58:53 PM

Throw out the Bible and Jesus? So no longer be Christians or followers of Christ? Give up on the error of religious belief because enough (more than a billion) people believe in God? So no longer be atheists or deniers of God? Getting progressive about religion should not be about uniformity or jettisoning our beliefs for the sake of getting along with each other. To me, it means being willing to admit that we might be wrong, that are understanding of both faith and reason is limited, that nothing is for certain. Hopefully by maintaining our beliefs while giving room for others we will foster harmonious diversity in unity, rather than monotonous uniformity.


kit kellison
8/19/2009 1:22:57 PM

The reason people flock to gatherings where people are urged to throw away their reason in order to be accepted into the broader community is that they need community more than they need reason. People also need story, fantasy and escapism. I see no reason to deny people their needs, but how fabulous it would be to enjoy a community of people who can have all these without rejecting science and reason.