Religion is not doing well. Certainly not the old ones. All the major world religions with the exception of Islam are reporting declining membership and thinning attendance at observances of those time honoured rituals that once gave entire world regions their identity. It is even difficult to get the kids to travel home to the kraal to reverence the ancestors.
Speak to most followers of these dying old religions and they will bemoan the decline of morals and ethics in the world. Secularism, humanism, materialism in fact any “ism” will be blamed for the dying of the old ways.
There is however one man who sees this decline as a good thing, and he isn’t an aetheist. In fact he is an Anglican priest. Don Cuppit, Professor Emeritus at Cambridge University suggests that religion is a human enterprise. He insists that all our words about God are spoken within human language. Cuppit writes, “human beings obviously invented religion, and religion is very important in all human societies, but making up religion, creating religion, is very difficult and very hard work. We have largely forgotten how to do it. All our received religions are very old and are dying now. We have got to learn the difficult art of religious thought.
It is here that Cuppit puts his finger on our current religious problem. We humans are inherently lazy. That is why we have taken to consumerism with such gusto. Today it is easier to buy almost anything than to produce it. From jerseys to jam, vegetables to violins, let someone else do the hard work. We will buy what they have made.
It is no different with religion. If there is someone else who can do the graft of thinking, questioning, relating, enquiring, doubting and discovering; power to them. Just dish it up and we will consume, cuddle and critique it. After all we paid for it!
The result in all areas of life is bloated, malnourished incompetence. Just as I have no idea of how to milk a cow, make jam, or grow a butternut, so too I am quite incompetent to begin with discovering a spiritual system that can make sense of my twenty-first century, mobile and digitally connected life. I am spiritually unskilled. Yet deep down inside the little voice of my humanity cries that I need to find my way, my truth, my life. It may not resemble anything the world has seen or believed before, but it will sustain me and make sense of the life I am living. I need to learn what Cuppit calls the “difficult art of religious thought”. It has to make sense for me before it makes sense to anyone else. This is why sense-making is my passion and what fills me with awe at life.
It sounds an impossible exercise until I recall that the Buddha, Jesus,and The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), never set out to do anything more than that themselves. Their task, like mine, was simply to observe the mystery of Spirit at work in the world.
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