This book is a proposal to rethink religion so that our definitions are both more accurate and more inclusive of the variety of religious experience around the world. It also is an argument that there is a way to be religious and modern, open minded, progressive, appreciative of science, tolerant, and a peaceful global citizen of the 21st century.
In his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know —and Doesn’t (HarperCollins, 2007), Stephen Prothero (chair of the religion department of Boston University) wrote that religious faith in America “is almost entirely devoid of content.”
Having to argue with each other is the price we pay for freedom.
However, I’ve seen and experienced enough to appreciate that the only true morality is morality that is an expression of compassion and humanity. Merely following a list of external rules is a cheap approximation of morality. It’s what one falls back on when compassion and humanity are lacking.
People are seduced into evil because they don’t recognize evil as evil. They mistake it for justice, or righteousness, or even God’s Will. And the seduction begins with the thought that “I’m a good person,” and “his hatred of me is evil, but my hatred of him is justified.” As soon as we identify ourselves as “good” and the Other, whoever they are, as “evil,” we’ve well on the way to giving ourselves a cosmic permission slip to do whatever we want to be rid of them.
Sometimes wrestling with a difficult life situation involving moral questions helps us mature, spiritually and emotionally. If we give our moral agency over to the Morality Police we’re asking to never grow up.
If we define faith as trust or confidence in God, as many of the great Christian theologians defined it, then fear of God is the opposite of faith even in Christian terms.
For the record —spiritual is from the Latin spiritus, which refers to breath and life. Early Christians were the first to use spiritus to mean “soul.” The use of spirit to refer to ghosts or other supernatural beings began in the 14th century.
Religion is a living process, and it will mature as you mature. If you are 50 and your religion is the same to you now that it was when you were 20, you’re not doing it right.
In many religious traditions beliefs are a vehicle, not a destination. In some religious traditions beliefs aren’t even the vehicle, but more like training wheels.