The future of religion lies precisely on how and whether religions -- as organized systems of belief and institutional structures -- can reorganize themselves around meaningful spiritual experience that enables people to embody the wisdom of their traditions and empower courageous action on behalf of others, for peace and for the planet. Religion's future depends on its ability to renew itself in ways that enrich human flourishing and our capacity to love our neighbor as ourselves. Otherwise, religion will be part of the problem (as many people now claim) and will continue on the path of institutional marginalization and decline. 

Therefore, the future of religion depends, well, on us. The spirit may be blowing in new ways, but unless we -- those of us who share religious traditions and our religious leaders -- feel the new winds and orient ourselves to the new directions, we may well miss this renewing moment for each our religious faiths. What will that future look like? Since wisdom teaches that, "no one knows the future," we will have to do our most creative work with humble awareness of our own limitations and the unexpected surprises we will encounter. Some yet-to-be-born historian will have to tell us how we did, for only time can show us the future.

 

Diana Butler Bass is the author of seven books, including the best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us and A People's History of Christianity. Her upcoming book The End of Religion? will be published in fall 2011 by HarperOne. She holds a Ph.D. in the history of Christianity, has been a college and seminary professor, is a popular lecturer and retreat leader, and frequently comments in the media about religion, culture, and politics.