Traditional religious institutions are rapidly becoming obsolete. They are unable to keep up with the rapid advances that are occurring in science, technology . . . and with the acceleration of change in general. There is a need for an umbrella (overarching) quasi-religious organization that can transition us into, or at least provide the inspiration lacking from today’s traditional brick-and-mortar churches.
Many theists used to argue that God is in the gaps, the things that science doesn’t explain, the disconnects in our scientific theories. While there are many things we still don’t understand, there are fewer and fewer gaps. Thus the gap theory is itself becoming obsolete.
The failure of the gap theory may be one explanation for the loss of faith in highly-educated individuals. According to John G. Messerly:
A comprehensive survey revealed that only about 14% of English-speaking professional philosophers are theists.
Surveys of the members of the national academy of sciences, comprised of the most prestigious scientists in the world, show that religious belief among them is practically non-existent, about 7%.
However, many of us were born into a religious tradition. And that tradition is an important part of who we are. We are hesitant to chuck that tradition, no matter how obsolete it becomes. I, for example, was born LDS/Mormon. I’m hesitant to leave, but the church is becoming increasingly irrelevant to me and to the rapidly evolving world. The geriatric leadership and ossified bureaucracy in the LDS Church are struggling to keep up, progress is not occurring with the intensity required to survive (the Church’s current growth is only occurring in the developing world).
The Catholic Church, thanks to the efforts of Pope Francis, is making an effort to stay relevant and find a coherent message, but it is doubtful that its conservative elements will allow it to move as fast as required.
The Internet is also changing the ecclesiastical game. Contemporary churches have become much less important for the exchange of ideas and for the education of the spirit. We can find community online, as well as in a church or chapel. While face-to-face interaction/bonding may still be critical, it is certainly less important as a medium for exchanging ideas.
To evolve our religious experience, I feel there is a need for an overarching, higher-order organization–or organizations–that can feed our need for relevance. We need an umbrella religion that provides us the benefits of discarding the collected effluvia of traditional churches. We may not want to totally abandon our inherited religion, but we need more. We either need something to transition to or something higher than our current overly structured, brick-and-mortar church.
Several ideas for a higher-level, umbrella religion are being tried or are being tossed around:
- Unitarian Universalism theology ranges widely, with members following humanist, atheist, agnostic, pantheist, deist, Christian, Jewish, neo-pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. traditions. UU church congregations tend to be very tolerant, and are open, frequently much more so than more structured religions. Because of this, the congregations often have a relative over-representation of single mothers, interracial couples, LGBT, and Interfaith families. UUs do not share a creed but are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. In other words, they are syncretistic and have liberal leanings.
- Baha’i Faith is a montheistic religion which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. The religion has 3 core principles: (1) the unity of God who is the source of all creation; (2) that all major religions have the same spiritual source; and (3) the unity of humanity, that all are created equal and diversity is important. According to the Baha’i Faith’s teachings, our purpose is to learn to know and to love God through prayer, reflection, and service to our fellowman. The Faith, however, does not consider itself a syncretic religion, although it certainly appears to be.
- Turing Church: Recently Giulio Prisco has initiated a movement he titles: the Turing Church. This initiative “is an attempt to creatively blend science and religion.” In terms of organization, he would like to imitate the concept of a self-organizing swarm. Giulio wants to discard the mythologies and the petty lifestyle prescriptions found in most religions.
I’m sure there are other syncretistic movements (here must be wonderful Asian examples), but these 3 give an idea of what is out there.
I think there is one theological foundation that might provide a good starting point for a umbrella quasi-religious movement and that is: Process Theology, a theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy. One of the principal tenets of this movement is that everything is in a state of flux, everything is evolutionary rather than changeless enduring. Instead of a Creation, there is a Creating, the creation of the earth is still ongoing. Instead of a belief, their is a believing. As far as I know there is not a religious organization centered on Process Theology. But it would provide a wonderful starting point for an umbrella church.
Note: this post is very much a work in progress.