Future Peril: Will Religion Be the Death of Us?
By Glen Hiemstra, 2003
“Religions, most particularly Christian and Muslim, want global market share, and the money and power that comes with it.â€
The past two years have featured what seems to be a dramatic increase in religious fanaticism. Recent events have highlighted this trend, including a bitter fights in the U.S. over a statue of the ten commandments in a public court house placed there by a judge and removed by the order of other judges, an ongoing conflict over the words “under God” in the national pledge of allegiance, and a high-ranking U.S. Army officer making public speeches saying the war on terrorism is, paraphrasing a bit, a holy war between the forces of God’s Christians and Jews, and Satan’s Muslims. Elsewhere Al Qaeda and other religions fanatics claim a holy war between the forces of God’s Muslims and Satan’s Christians and Jews. It is all religious bigotry, zealotry worthy of the 14th Century, not the 21st Century. We need not even mention the mix of religion and politics in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the acts of terror in the far East inspired apparently by Muslim radicalism, or Hindu vs. Muslim conflicts in India and Kashmir and so on.
Religious extremism is as old as religions, but what makes this new religiously inspired extremism so dangerous is the amplifying effects of modern weapons, communications and travel. In the 21st Century this phenomenon is not merely a side show, it will continue to generate untold suffering if not contained in the next few decades.
Some time ago I participated in a conference asking the question “What will it take for humanity to survive and flourish for another 1000 years?” Veteran futurist Joe Coates argued that humans giving up religion would be critical to survival. Was he correct?
Many religious people claim, and probably believe, that their religion is only a means of personal salvation, a way of assuring an afterlife, and a method for tempering the baser instincts of our nature. I think there is something else at work, and it is no great mystery. The zealotry we see is mostly about money, power and land. Religions, most particularly Christian and Muslim, want global market share, and the money and power that comes with it. Unless these two dominant religions give up this quest for power, we are apparently in for chaos.
Here are questions for those who are committed religious people. What do you think is going on? Could there ever be a time when the dominant religions give up the quest for more converts, more power, more money, including the quest to create Christian or Muslim or Jewish nations? Could all religion be a personal matter, and kept out of the affairs of state? If religion retreated to a personal affair, to be conducted in private or even in a closet, as one spiritual leader said, then perhaps humans might live with religion. Short of that, the future seems in peril and religion might just be the death of us.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video host and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.