“Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient,” Bill Gates said. “There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” The remark may explain, in part, the decline of traditional worship, especially among Christians. At the same time, it encourages a larger discussion about one’s sense of self and place in an ever-changing world.
Science and technology appear to surpass the need for or relevance of religion. They have little use for superstition and denominational vanity disguised as fact and absolute truth. In addition, religious hierarchy no longer receives an unchallenged status as if a divine power chose these fancy-dressed, elite members.
Technology has consumed, influenced, and manipulated humankind like never before. Smart phones are a constant companion whether in the bedroom, watching television, or a short trip to the corner store. Individuals have made technology an extension of their person.
It can empower, but also dehumanize and emotionally disconnect people renewing the purpose and relevance of spirituality often enhanced through religion. This is why religion is so important today.
Religion when used by the individual for personal enlightenment empowers self. Religion is an invitation to stillness. It uses metaphors, a universal language speaking to a deeper part of one’s identity. Bad religion wrongly interprets metaphors as facts and if further abused, controls and manipulates others.
Broadly defined, religion has the potential to balance the mind and body. It can be a tool to call us to an experience – something mystical. Mysticism can be secular, humanist, or deeply religious. An atheist can “enjoy” a beautiful sunrise, or “experience” it just as well as a person of faith.
The believer and non-believer can be lost in a transcendental moment. Mysticism is a connection to a transformative experience in the moment or potentially for a lifetime. Religion can help as an entry into mysticism.
Although traditional Sunday worship is in decline for many, the fundamental wisdom contained in Christianity and other world religions, flowing from a common source, offer timeless and universal values and lessons. The challenge for spiritual leaders is to re-create a modern means to communicate the wisdom to the notebook and smart phone generation.
In addition, the technology generation must re-create the ancient lessons making metaphors relevant to them even though too many spiritual leaders hostile to science have made religious metaphors into facts and thus superstitions.
Today, religion can be a safeguard to maintain our humanity and sense of community when ease or complacency seeks to replace human interaction with social media. Religion, if not abused, still calls to an intuitive, inherent spirituality in the quest for meaning and relevance.
Paul Jesep is a policy analyst, corporate chaplain, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”.