Religion  21st Century eBook
Environmed

Religion 21st Century eBook

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Religion for the 21st Century

This book examines how innate tendencies are expressed as religions and how religions in the past have created conflicts that threaten human survival or, at least, hinder progress toward solutions. New religions and variations on old religions continue to emerge. The book examines the best paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

I describe some of the more obvious religious traditions on the planet and note similarities and differences. I am writing brief descriptions as if I were a tour guide introducing a stranger to the history, real and imagined, of five of the more obvious religions. My wish is that even people who live in the cognitive box created by one group will take a vacation, fly outside of your container and enjoy an overview of humans – past, present, and future. If you can go beyond beliefs, faith, claims, arguments and the narcissism that afflicts all of us, then you ask: does membership in any religious group bring us closer to living in a peaceful, constructive, sustainable society?

Misunderstanding and Conflict

 Any discussion of religion invites misunderstanding and conflict. No discussion of religion will make sense until the importance of group identity is understood. Humans may sometimes look like individuals, but the truth is that all humans are members of local groups that determine what they know, how they communicate and how they treat other humans. Each local group develops stories, beliefs and rules. Collections of local groups with special beliefs into larger organizations are often described as “religion.” Members of local groups are described as “religious” if they recite group slogans, attend meetings and celebrations. Religions often claim special privileges for their members so that the term “religious” is used to claim advantages and superior moral authority where none actually exists. The idea of large multinational organizations called “religions” is misleading. At best, the idea of religion is a fuzzy category that implies more coherence than can be found in the real world. Religion is a convenient fiction.

Humans have convened in small groups for thousands of years to celebrate, to appease evil spirits and to encourage good spirits to offer more privileges and benefits. Humans continue to dress up in costumes, beat drums, chant, sing, and dance and make offerings to innumerable gods. These celebrations help to maintain group unity and often induce euphoric feelings in the participants. While there has always been an archetypal form to these group activities, each local group develops its own version of myths, rituals and celebrations.

The belief in spirits is the universal form. The names, number and idiosyncratic expressions of the spirits is the local content. If you consider “religious” expressions around the world and throughout, history, you would notice that there a number of basic themes with thousands of imaginative variations. You also notice that in every tribe, village or city, people believe they have special relationships with gods and spirits not enjoyed elsewhere.

No discussion of religion will make sense until the importance of group identity is understood. Humans may sometimes look like individuals, but the truth is that all humans are members of local groups that determine what they know, how they communicate and how they treat other humans. Each local group develops stories, beliefs and rules. Collections of local groups with special beliefs into larger organizations are often described as “religion.” Members of local groups are described as “religious” if they recite group slogans, attend meetings and celebrations. Religions often claim special privileges for their members so that the term “religious” is used to claim advantages and superior moral authority where none actually exists.

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