Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Religion Rising

by Staff


Tags: Religion, Religious Conflict, Climate Change, evangelical, Islam, ,

CoexistPundits of all political stripes have pondered the effect that religion is currently having in the world, and what that means for the future of the planet. The rise of radical Islam has right-wing commentators up in arms, while the popularity of evangelical mega-churches in the United States has caused plenty of hand wringing on the left.

The fears of both sides are unfounded, according to Alan Wolfe, writing for the Atlantic. “Most of the religious revivals we are seeing throughout the world today complement, and ultimately reinforce, secular developments,” Wolfe writes. “They are more likely to encourage moderation than fanaticism.”

Taking a page from the playbooks of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Wolfe writes that material wealth makes people less religious. As countries get rich, their citizens will turn away from religion. The United States would seem to disprove that rule, since its citizens are both religious and wealthy, but Wolfe discounts that, calling American religiosity, “as shallow as it is broad.” Also, the current popularity of American evangelicalism, according to Wolfe, is owed in part to the religion’s embrace of secular values and lifestyles.

Throughout the world, Wolfe writes that “religious peace will be the single most important consequence of the secular underpinning of today’s religious growth.”

Not everyone, however, shares Wolfe’s optimistic vision of the future. Philip Jenkins writes for the New Republic (subscription required) that the looming crisis in climate change will exacerbate preexisting religious tensions throughout the world. In the future, as crops wither and icecaps melt, Jenkins warns that “ethnic cleansing in the name of resource protection” may become the norm.

On the other hand, climate change could lead to greater cooperation between people, Cynthia G. Wagner writes for the Futurist. Wagner acknowledges the probability that global warming could lead to conflicts, but also posits that the coming ecological crisis could lead to “economic change, trade, technological and social innovation, and peaceful resource distribution,” rather than simple religious strife and fighting. God willing.

Bennett Gordon

Image by naughton, licensed under Creative Commons.

earon davis
3/23/2008 5:18:37 PM

I resonated with most of the postings here, especially the points about religion being unrelated to spirituality in many cases and about the challenges of global crises. I'm writing about human nature these days, and how our ignorance of humans as being a species of primates may be part of what makes it so difficult for us to live sustainably. Any "systems" approach that does not include the nature of the observer/participant may not be helpful to achieve effective change. To date, our environmental "solutions" do not incorporate an understanding of human nature because the illusions promoted by religions, ideologues and economists presuppose that we are headed towards divinity/perfection - and not just an advanced species of primates with bloated egos. Religions which teach that there is only one way to live - are part of the problem. We have both major and minor branded religions competing for our money and our allegiance, and using any and all marketing tactics to enhance their marketing objectives. Please contact me if you are interested in more of my ramblings. Peace, Earon Davis Divine Primates http://www.divineprimates.com


jasdeep sindhu
3/23/2008 5:45:31 AM

Religion of Soul - Religion of All Saint Tara Chand Ji Maharaj generally used to say in his discourses– Brahamana (a higher cast in Hindu cast system) is that man who has dissolved himself into Brahamic (cosmic) consciousness. He does not accept donation, but tries to give, whatsoever he has, to the needy, indigent and destitute. Power of Word, the Creator, reveals in his soul which fulfills all his desires. The Lord of imaginations (Kalpavriksha) accepts his offerings of Love and devotion and provides all the treasures of life to him. Saint Charan Das says- Brahmana is that who identifies Brahman (God) in himself Becomes introvert and seeks the vision of Lord His senses cease to travel outward He nurtures compassion for every creature He becomes devoid of passions, anger, lust, greed and ego; Brahmana is that who possesses these virtues. We are devoid of internal treasures embedded in the deeper layers of our Self because we have not identified the hidden enrichment inside. The actual bliss lies inside but we are groping outside in the gloomy world of passions and grief. We are adopting lopsided approach which create imbalance in our life energies. The outer achievements are dominating over the spirit of rationale and wisdom which has created imbalance between the inner and the outer world. The result is tension, instability, selfishness, individuality, unhealthy competition, nepotism, communalism and terrorism. The reason of this imbalance is that we have not awakened the spirit of Wisdom seated in the middle of eyes (Third eye); the Lord of which gives all the orders; all the actions originate from this sphere (Ajya Chakra) of actions. Ajya means command, Chakra means sphere. All commands emanate from this sanctioning authority. All the senses respond to the mandate of this housing spirit. But the inner Self of this sanctioning authority has been sleeping in his den for innumerable lives. We have not made efforts to awaken its power


anne r. fitzgerald_2
3/22/2008 10:59:26 AM

To state that "Religion makes the claim..." or "Religious people ....." is sweeping, prejudicial thinking. In all religions there are both superstitions and truths, both foolish and wise disciples, both mean-spirited and compassionate people. Spirituality alone can be self-centered and even deluded; belonging to a religious tradition offers community and opportunities for service. The extremists in Islam or Christianity are just that - misguided and potentially harmful, yes, but not truly representative.


jeffery biss
3/21/2008 12:51:21 PM

Religions are merely belief systems. Ideologies in many ways equal "belief system". Belief provides a way for people to accept without proof or evidence. The corollary provides an argument to intentionally disregard proof and evidence to conform to one's innate nature. Religions are nothing more than an externalization of the inner person; A kind and compassionate religion reflects its kind and compassionate adherents while horrible and evil religion reflects its horrible and evit adherents. The same goes for ideology. For example, with regards to Michelle's call to honor Earth Hour, religion allows many to disregard the brutality they bring to other living things and the devastation we cause to our world simply because their religion makes the claim that the earth was created for us to do with as we please and it cannot fail to support a infinite number of people. Religion also makes the claim that all other living things are nothing more than objects for our use and have no feeling and no value except the value our desires place on them. This allows religious people to completely ignore the consequences of their actions simply because they believe life is all about them; They are exalted above responsibility to the least among us because their desire is paramount. We would do better without simply accepting belief but this does not seem possible with the human animal.


michele wheeler
3/21/2008 11:55:42 AM

While we are on the subject of saving the world, don't forget "Earth Hour". On March 29 from 8pm. to 9pm. millions of people around the world will turn off their lights to send a powerful and united message re the need for strong action to fight climate change. Countries, cities and individuals are sighning up. How about YOU?


hal zina bennett
3/21/2008 11:25:18 AM

Two things are worth pondering about this article: 1) Religion is not necessarily "spiritual." Think of all that is done in the name of religion that is anything but spiritual; and 2) the point about global warming leading to religious conflict presupposes that there is no way to change the course of the global warming crisis. Part of the problem we're facing is that much of the world is locked into a mindset that we can do nothing about the coming crisis--and this creates a rather fatalistic, self-fulfilling prophecy. Recognizing human consciousness as a great power in the world is a core spiritual principle; let's shift that consciousness, spiritually as well as scientifically, toward creating solutions to global warming (we already know what they are) and, while we are at it, toward bringing spiritual principles into religion. HZB http://www.halzinabennett.com