Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Future of Religion

"There is no such thing as the future. Humankind faces multiple possible futures, many of which hinge on seemingly inconsequential events."
Dune: The Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
[For more information on Frank and Brian Herbert's Dune novels please visit their Official page here.]

What is the future of Religion? Will it be supplanted by Reason or be able to coexist side by side? I strongly believe that Religion and Science can coexist and even become two complementary views of the universe. I can not imagine that a complex universe like ours would not have a Creator but I am a man of Reason. If Science can prove that there was not a worldwide flood as depicted (or misinterpreted/mistranslated) in the Bible (and I believe they already have strong evidence against a worldwide flood), that will not shatter my faith. Whenever Science learns something new about our universe I have no reason to deny/ignore it to protect my beliefs. What differs from Science and Religion is that whenever Scientists find new evidence that contradicts older ideas they are more willing to revise their theories/statements/beliefs(?) than Religion which base its beliefs on Faith rather than facts/evidence. Religion has learned to adapt itself to the 21st century but it feels out of place. Some believers feel so out of place that they want to turn back the clock to some "golden era" because the change is too jarring for them. So they strong arm us, scare us, threaten us hoping that we will turn back the clocks in unison to a time of their choosing. But we have no control over progress except in limiting its potential. Again I do not wish to rehash the argument of Science vs. Religion nor make a case for Science and Religion. I'm just stating that since Religion in its present form is not going to disappear anytime soon (if ever) then we MUST open our eyes and hearts to the possibility of coexistence instead of annihilation of one another.

An interesting view of the future of religion and science is depicted in Frank Herbert's Sci-Fi Dune novels where Religion and Science are still very important and integral parts of Humanity. The books are set thousands of years in the future where man has no need for computers to think for them. They still use and depend on technology but Humanity has learned to increase their mental and physical abilities that today would look almost supernatural. This is due to a great uprising, the Butlerian Jihad, against the Thinking Machines that turned against and enslaved them. After Humanity's victory over the machines they vowed never to build anything in the likeness of Man.

"Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."

The fear of the machines rising again was carved into Humanity's psyche which gave rise to Mentats, humans with the mental capacity to process information as fast as computers.

Religion was also affected by the Butlerian Jihad which brought Humanity together paving the way for religions to create the Orange Catholic Bible.
ORANGE CATHOLIC BIBLE: the "Accumulated Book," the religious text produced by the Commission of Ecumenical Translators. It contains elements of most ancient religions, including the Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions. Its supreme commandment is considered to be: "Thou shalt not disfigure the soul."
As I recall there was resistance by some religious groups in making this book as it seems to boil down all faiths into one. Some groups have this problem today stating that the New Age movement is leading Man astray by saying all religions are the same and all lead to God. I do not believe all religions are the "same" but all humans are spiritually equal before what we call God no matter what set of symbols we choose to worship Him/It/Us(?) by.

Religions in the Dune universe has also blended into new religions in the future as shown above. Some of these new religions are: Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism, Navachristianity, Muadru, and Zensufism. As I recall Herbert never describes how this happened in his novels but it would be interesting to know how these religions embraced each other to the point of syncretism.

But will blending religions solve our present day fighting? No, I don't believe it will nor do I believe there is a need for it. What we do need is to understand one another. We don't have to accept someone else believes (or lack thereof) but to understand what and why they believe as such. Let us do away with misconceptions of one another and learn what the other believes. It won't hurt us to open up a history book or even talk to someone of a different faith. When some Christians accuse Muslims of world domination they have not talked directly to Muslims or have studied Islam and vice versa. If we just sat with each other and talked directly we would find that most believers (and non-believers) want peace not eradication. This is EXTREMELY difficult in our present day out of fear that if one side were to put down their arms they will be eradicated by the enemy. This is a reasonable fear but someone must be first. I am just a simple family man and do not consider myself a religious leader at all. I barely attend church or even pray on a daily basis. But if by extending my hand to people of other faiths and beliefs inspires at least one other person to do likewise then that at least is a humble start.

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