Religion, from the Latin religo, means to re-connect. Although belief systems were probably invented concomitantly with languages, the Latin term expresses this sense of expansion of self to the Universe, to disengage from time and somehow accept we are all part of some superior entity’s dream. Quite a nice way to comprehend it; however, it has become a fashion to deny and deprecate organised religions and the possibility of one or multiple creators. Maybe the unprecedented advances in science, the materialization of our spiritualities through consumerism, and the questionable statements made by religious institutions has contributed to such a reaction.
Regardless of opinions, the Legatum Prosperity Index and surveys from the Gallup, the National Opinion Research Centre and the Pew Organization have concluded that people who hold any level of affiliation to any religion tend to be happier than those who don’t. Another interesting study, Religious Contributions to Peacemaking, conducted post-9/11, shows the flip side of religious conflict, which is only beginning to be explored. If for a moment we could put our moral judgments aside and accept the positive side of the facts, it is possible to find new applications for these ancient traditions.
For example, Islamic banking follows the principles of Sharia prohibiting the payment or acceptance of interest for loans of money (Riba, usury), on specific terms, as well as investing in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles. Injecting a conscience into finance seems like a pretty good contribution.
Hinduism and its idea of many realities was one of the greatest contributors to a deeper understanding of Cosmology, theories of multiple universes and ultimately quantum physics as well as the theory of relativity (both said to have drawn inspiration from Vedanta & Gita). It is not by chance that India has one of the highest concentrations of physicists in the world. On a less scientific and more entertaining note, it was thanks to the transcendental sitar notes and repetition of mantras that trance music emerged, and now thousands of youngsters can have a spiritual-like liberation experience during rave parties.
The Sabbath Manifesto encourages people (of all faiths and none) to participate in a one-day movement away from technology. It is scheduled from Friday’s to Saturday’s sunsets, of every week, as a way for people to return to the values inherent in a modern day of rest: “reconnecting with family, friends and the world around them,” according to Jewish organisation Reboot. The app is available for Android and BlackBerry phones as well as Facebook and Twitter. Another good example is the singer Matisyahu who combines the rhythms of reggae, rock and hip-hop with messages of peace from the Torah; his song One Day was the main theme of the past Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Crossways restaurant (AU5 all you can eat) provides wholesome, hearty, vegetarian lunches. Run by the Melbourne Hare-Krishna Temple it fosters voluntary work, and raises awareness of the issues related to global food security. Due to its success the model has expanded and is now covering several countries. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to “heaven” and 530 references to “love”, Christianity’s contribution came in handy with the editing of The Green Bible, spreading the message of Creation Care to both religious and non-religious readers.
The world is not like Disneyland where allegories represent supreme good or evil. Manichean perspectives of the world are not only a display of ignorance but also express great lack of creativity and omit the plurality within kaleidoscopic realities… and beware, since according to Dante’s Divine Comedy generalisation is a sin that can lead you to the depths of Hell.