I was recently asked to prepare a five-minute talk on “The Future of Religion.”
I thought five minutes would be easy, compared to the 30-minute talks or 90-minute workshops I’ve led. I was surprised to learn that the shorter the presentation, the more difficult it becomes.
Ignite Tampa Bay forced me to refine things I have been teaching and talking about for years. It encouraged me to make my language more accessible and less academic. It is probably the talk I’ve given that I’ve learned the most from.
We’re told not to talk about sex, politics, or religion.
When we choose not to talk about the diversity that defines us, we experience more repression, more polarity and more intolerance.
All religious belief (just like sexual preference and identity and political ideology) exists along a spectrum or continuum. On one end we have fundamental, traditional, conservative and on the other end liberal, progressive, mystical, unitive.
The problem with religion today is not a holy war between faith traditions, but a lack of understanding that the progressives or mystics in each tradition have more in common with each other across the aisle than they do with the fundamentalists in their own faith.
You would think that all Christians would get along. They don’t. You would think that all Muslims would speak the same language. It’s not the case.
There is a rich diversity within these traditions that needs to be talked about. And what happens when we collapse this spectrum and lump all these faith together is we create a flattened stereotype, a cardboard cutout. It’s not real.
To make matters worse, religion has refused to change from within. It refuses to adapt. Religion needs to be disrupted. It needs to be revolutionized, reclaimed. If Napster can do it to music, why can’t we do it to religion?
Most religious doctrine still divides us — separates us from ourselves, from each other and from nature. And, as we see with the rise in atheism and the “spiritual but not religious,” this separation is not working for new generations.
They are raised on multiculturalism, the internet, social media, with instant access to the world’s library and body of wisdom, and with a healthy dose of skepticism and with active bullshit detectors.
They would rather “drop out” of this archaic and crumbling institution of religion that doesn’t work, and turn toward something that does — ecology, nature, mysticism, volunteering, their neighborhoods, each other. This form of spirituality speaks directly to their soul with no intermediary and no chaperone.
We need a spirituality that doesn’t force us to choose either/or. We need a spirituality of both/and.
We need the idea of God and the idea that God doesn’t exist. Because both require us to act “as if.”
We need science and spirituality. We need both history and mythology. We need the masculine and the feminine. We need the salvation found in Christianity, the devotion found in Hinduism, the submission found in Islam, the awakening found in Buddhism, and the return to our source and love of storytelling found in Judaism.
We need to read the original sacred texts through a 21st Century lens. And we need new sacred texts – like Star Wars and Harry Potter.
The best spiritual practice is the one you do every morning. The best scripture is the one you are writing in your journal every day. Our religion is each other. This planet is our sanctuary. Our relationships are our meditation. Our life is our practice.
The future of religion will be determined by you. If you want to install a spiritual upgrade you need to look no further than your own heart. I ask that you turn to the person next to you, right now, and tell them “I love you.”
That’s the future of religion.