Like its predecessor, Religions in Renewal, a site I set up in 1997, this site is dedicated to efforts by people all over the globe to renew their religions or ideologies in such a way that they will be open to ongoing transformation while remaining grounded in what is essential in their past. I hope that this site will demonstrate that no matter how different our faith-languages, we have much in common and can learn from one another if we are open to the beauty and wealth of religious and intellectual diversity and willing to learn another's native tongue, not to abandon our own but to enrich it. Finally, this site reflects my conviction that Reason and Faith are meant to complement one another and that at its best, the European Enlightenment liberated humanity, as Immanuel Kant put it, from millennia of superstition, fanaticism, and intellectual immaturity.
No matter which faith or ideology, this effort should include commitment to loving kindness toward one another and non-human sentient creatures; respect for the personhood of all human beings; awareness of global interdependence; appreciation both of rationality and mystical insight; acceptance of diversity and pluralism; prudent sympathy for the values of secular life; and willingness to engage in dialogue with others.
The religions of the world represent a treasure trove of spiritual wisdom. They have given meaning to the lives of billions, and at their best have passed on the value of all-encompassing love in such principles as the various versions of the Golden Rule. They have also been perverted to rationalize heinous crimes against humanity, and have served to legitimize tyranny, blind obedience, fear and fanaticism, doctrinal rigidity, thought control, intolerance, discrimination, persecution of heretics, forced conversions, crusades and other (un)holy wars, misogynism, and neglect of the biosphere.
It is one of the great challenges of the present age to begin the work of separating those aspects of our religious and ideological traditions that liberate the human spirit and serve life in a global and pluralistic community from those aspects that have become destructive and discourage mature thought and individual accountability (it is important to note that " life-serving" and "destructive" are functions of the cultural matrix of an age; unquestioning obedience to authority or protecting the "poor and simple faithful" through censorship would have been considered a virtue in a non-democratic era). Practitioners of each religion and followers of each ideology will have to decide for themselves precisely what to address and how to proceed, but while there is a great deal of divergence in the specific problems encountered, there are also striking parallels. I hope that this website will eventually give people all over the world a chance to contact others in congruent circumstances in order to share reflections, prayer, and strategies -- or at least to know that they are not alone.
As I noted in my introduction to Ecumene.org. the Internet is giving us the opportunity both to focus on what human beings have in common and to discover, come to respect, and celebrate our many faces and varied ways. People from all over the world can now collaborate on countless projects to "build the earth," in the words of Teilhard de Chardin. Knowledge can be shared across borders and all can be simultaneously learners and teachers. From the perspective of cyberspace the world of communication and human relationships is as much one as the physical earth is when viewed from outer space. But unity does not mean uniformity and genuine globalization does not mean loss of what is best in a culture's tradition; it means enrichment, healing, cross-fertilization, and growth. It means that all human beings can finally begin to see themselves as members of one big, sprawling, diverse, noisy, argumentative, but ultimately caring and mutually supportive family.