by Jack McLean
I suggested in Part 1 that religion had a viable future in this age of global interdependence on condition that we recognize: the organic unity of the human race; the oneness of religion; abolish religious prejudices; reject hate-speech, fanaticism and violence in religion. Here I would like to advance a few more principles that in my view would promote the age-old goal of achieving a sustainable peace on earth. The list of recommendations to improve the human condition is long indeed, and I make no pretense here of being complete.
Lest I be labelled as a hopeless idealist, I should add that I do not believe there is any quick-fix to the deep-seated, longstanding problems of humanity. Organized humans have been engaging in self-and-other destructive and dysfunctional behaviours for at least 6,000 years. The reconstruction of the planet will be a multi-generational task that will involve nothing less than the reeducation of the nations and the spiritualization of the masses. But I dare to believe that humanity is educable in the long-term, no less than the individual.
We will need to start global education and character building with the children of today and tomorrow. If our children continue to be raised by the media, we shall remain in deep trouble. Hyper-sexuality, being star-struck, becoming famous, narcissistic behaviour and consumerism are not the values upon which any enduring, healthy and sane society can be built.
Women, who are fully half of the human race, must be deeply involved in this process of reeducation. To achieve this purpose, women must be given all the rights and privileges currently enjoyed by men. Women must also work diligently to secure these same rights and privileges. Equality achieved through paternalism is not real equality. Indian, African, Middle and far-eastern patriarchal societies must be willing to share power with women at all levels. North America must continue to advance the important work already accomplished over the past century on gender-equality.
The importance of educating women globally is arguably more important than the education of men. Why? Because in a certain sense, women become the mothers of civilization. If a woman’s education is sound, the chances are that her children will be sound, or at least–and while there are no guarantees–they will have a better chance to fare well in society. Special attention must be paid to character training for all. If the mother is able to secure a higher education, this will set a precedent for her children. Hopefully, the progressive cycle will continue with the continuing education of greater number of females in all departments of agriculture, science, technology, the arts and humanities.
One of the greatest travesties of justice, a travesty that is sowing the seeds of discontent, poverty and social unrest everywhere, is the gross extremes of wealth and poverty. Were philanthropy to be practiced universally by the wealthy, society would already be well on the way to eliminating poverty. Both legislation and the voluntary practice of philanthropy must be employed to correct the unjust disparity that currently exists between the rich and the poor.
Here the importance of belief in the organic oneness of humanity plays a cardinal role. If all humans are members of one family, how can the affluent members of this family in conscience stand by idly while their close relatives suffer from the effects of terrorism, despotism, chronic hunger, lack of education, difficult access to clean water and inadequate medical care?
Religion and science, two of the most potent forces of civilization, must learn to work in complement not in conflict. Einstein said it well in his 1954 essay, “Science and Religion”: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” The Harvard paleontologist and agnostic, Stephen Jay Gould, took essentially the same position in his 1999 book Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. Gould wrote: “The enemy is not religion, but dogmatism and intolerance.” (He did not advocate that agnostics necessarily take their ethics from religion, but he did recognize religion as a source of ethics.)
The bird of humanity needs the wings of both science and religion to fly. Without religion, science can become atheistic materialism; without science, religion can become fanaticism, and the kind of hocus-pocus that subsists in the ill-gotten phrase “creation science”, which is not science at all, as Gould pointed out, but just plain, old-fashioned Genesis literalism. By the way, according to Genesis, there could have been no “day” before the fourth day, when the sun, moon and stars were created (Gould). Logically, the fourth day should have been the first day.
Science unveils the physical forces, processes and structures of the material universe; religion prescribes values, ethics, right conduct, beliefs, self-sacrifice, service to others, and faith as the conscious knowledge of God and religion. Science, and its technological spin-offs, no less than religion, can become either a constructive or destructive force for humanity. In the negative column of science, think of germ warfare, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the potential militarization of space, genetic engineering gone mad, the multibillion dollar weapons industry, the deleterious effects of the petrochemical industry on the environment, and the radiation poisoning of the earth and atmosphere.
Once the forces of science and religion become harmonized and work together for the common weal, civilization will make a quantum leap.