Saturday, May 14, 2005

One Common Faith, paragraphs 12-20

It would end up being repetitive to go through the next several paragraphs piece by piece, so I'm just going over this in general. The reader should refer to the original document to get all the details.

Paragraphs 12-16 speak of the forces of globalization, which I don't think anyone would dispute. The very fact that I can write these words, and they can be read by people all over the world is little short of a miracle -- and this increasingly global exchange of ideas certainly has an impact on the spiritual life of mankind, and how diverse peoples view each other. The response to a disaster like December's tsunami is just an obvious example -- the people affected are foreign, having a very different culture and outlook than our own, yet there was an outpouring of charitable effort like nothing I've never seen. And, of course, that's only one very obvious example among many.

The paper shifts, beginning at paragraph 17, from a denunciation of materialism and secularism, to a discussion of the benfits that religion has brought mankind. In paragraph 18, the UHJ asks Why, then, does this immensely rich heritage not serve as the central stage for today's reawakening of spiritual quest? Then, in the next paragraph, answers its own question:

It is here that the spiritual nature of the contemporary crisis comes into sharpest focus because most of the decisions called for are not merely practical but moral. In large part, therefore, loss of faith in traditional religion has been an inevitable consequence of failure to discover in it the guidance required to live with modernity, successfully and with assurance.

Well, actually, the "rich heritage" of the older religions actually *has* been the focus of spiritual quest for the vast majority of people. One thing I've seen online is a great resurgence of interest in Christian mysticism, and what the early Church fathers had to say about that. There are certainly more examples, but the most spiritual exploration goes on within the framework of these religious traditions, so I don't even know what the UHJ is talking about here.

What remains to be seen, however, is how the Baha'i Faith will be more successful in dealing with the ethical problems that come about through social and technological change. Baha'is, after all, do not live in a bubble; we are subject to the same forces of modernity as everyone else is. And it is strange that the UHJ should bring up such tricky moral questions such as stem cell research and sexual identity, when it has avoided ruling on such topics.

Then, the paper goes on to say:
A second barrier to a re-emergence of inherited systems of belief as the answer to humanity's spiritual yearnings is the effects already mentioned of global integration . . .

Basically, the idea I'm picking up here is that since people of various religions have been thrown together, they find they have much in common, and inevitably can't regard their own religion in quite the same light. What the UHJ doesn't mention is that while such contact can and does create interfaith understanding, it also can and does result in the defensive stance of fundamentalism.

People have been asking about what *A Common Faith* is aimed at -- what's it's general message? That actually hasn't been all that easy to figure out. So far, what I've gotten is that materialism and secularism, while they have brought mankind unimagined material benefits, have neglected its spiritual nature, bring moral chaos and the degeneration of society. So, basically, if lack of religion is the problem, then religion is the answer, but the world's religious systems haven't been able to do much about the world's problems either. At this point, the paper has shifted to examining the reasons for that.

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