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Toward a United Religions Organization
by Earl D.C. Brewer and Richard S. Kirby, Sep. 30, 1994
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United Religions InitiativeThis century has witnessed at least a dozen proposals for a "United Religions" organization, most modeled in one manner or another after the United Nations. Each proposal in due course has receded into obscurity. WNRF pioneers Richard Kirby and the late Earl Brewer believe a "United Religions" organization (URO) can be more than just a smorgasbord of global spiritualities.

In this paper they make the case for a more intelligent "United Religions" focused on the self-revelation of the Living God and the service of humanity. This article draws on their book,
Temples of Tomorrow: World religions and the future (Grey Seal, 1993). This abridgement first appeared in "The Futurist" magazine, September-October 1994, pp. 26-28.

The world's religions are on the move, reaching out to new territories and new peoples. They are on the move intellectually, changing their theologies and learning more about their histories. They are on the move toward each other, in interfaith meetings and associations.

And the religions of the world are also moving into the future, learning how to take up important places in the design of the shape of things to come. Religions are now headed toward what may eventually form a United Religions Organization (URO), structured in much the same way as the United Nations and sharing similar goals.

As theologian Francis Clark describes this vision, the URO would be a forum for representatives of the main faiths to meet and deliberate. It would bring together professional theologians and their societies with interfaith associations to encourage the highest standards of intellectual progress and accuracy. This colony of creative thinkers could also include artists, monks, psychotherapists, mystics, and futurists.

Building a Moral Parliament

The URO, as we envision it, would gather representatives of the world religions in perpetual spiritual parliamentary session in order to advance the knowledge of God or the Transcendent for the whole human family. It would inquire -- by religious, spiritual, and theological colloquy and research -- into the human predicament and its counterbalancing opportunities. And it would inspire the religions, old and new, to go speedily to the rescue of suffering creatures everywhere and at all times, to succor them with both the divine message and its accompanying grace and with the resources to save them from death, illness, degradation, and torment and to equip them for such living as may be a blessing to the whole human community.

The URO must be guided by new concepts of parliament suited to its sacred purposes. Many religious thinkers are familiar with existing secular models and examples of parliament, senate, and congress. However, these houses of debate and deliberation operate in accordance with outmoded political philosophies.

Other concepts of parliament are available to the modern world; the URO could test at least one such alternative model -- the model of sacred, scientific speech (parliament) in a collaborative rather than adversarial setting. Its major premise would be that politics advances not by conflict but by love.

In Buddhist thought, right speech is a precondition for the attainment of Nirvana. In sacred scientific parliament, sacred speech is the means to success. Brevity, honesty, and accuracy in speech, the habit of respectful attention to others, and partnership rather than prominence in plenary sessions are the keys to moral success in parliament.

The founders of the United Religions Organization will find it helpful to look at the work done by each branch of the United Nations and consider whether the URO needs an equivalent. For example, what in the URO might function as the counterpart of the U.N. Secretariat, the Security Council, UNICEF, or UNESCO? For the URO secretariat, there may need to be permanent "civil servants" trained in ethics of management, information, spirituality, collaboration, and science. As in the United Nations, there would need to be dedicated chambers or rooms -- perhaps dedicated to spirituality-theology- mysticism, mission, science, liturgy (worship), history, scriptures, ministry, temples, congregations, communities, and dialogue.

Addressing the World's Problems

The URO would address civic problems, such as disaster relief, as well as specifically religious issues, such as women and religion (the goddess motif), the spiritual path, and New Age thought. But perhaps most importantly, the URO would address areas of concern in which civic and religious issues overlap.

Issues that the URO will research and develop solutions for include:

*   Human degradation. Famine, drought, tempests, and wars decimate whole populations in many lands. What can the United Religions Organization do to help? What untapped resources of the human spirit can be called into compassionate action? This should be a standing question for the organization.

Crisis-intervention task forces will, we hope, one day stand on permanent alert in the "World Heart" computer rooms of the URO, but we should raise our consciousness and compassion to a sufficient degree to sense that any loss of life, any illness or loneliness, is a "crisis."

On the positive side, the URO should not only succor the needy, but create a positive new spiritual and just world culture. Examples frequently cited include sustainable growth, a just economics, bioregionalism, and a true democracy in every land. Such principles should also apply to space colonies and other "far future" human activities.

*   Environmental ethic. The Green Movement offers one of many possible environmental ethics. The world religions in the URO can debate the other possibilities for human values expressed in environmental ethics so as to maximize freedom, cooperation, and beauty.

*   War and peace. Just as war galvanizes science and technology in the search for victory, so could the search for peace galvanize the URO to focus its scientific studies. Futurists Parker Rossman and Takeshi Utsumi, in their essay "Waging Peace with Globally Interconnected Computers" in Challenges and Opportunities (World Future Society, 1986), described the potential for supercomputers to bring together a powerful collective intelligence to practice world peace research.

The URO, as the sole world organization aiming to integrate science, religion, and politics, would have a major responsibility to bring together computer manufacturers with peace/war academics and United Nations officers. Unlike war games, which must of necessity be kept secret, peace gaming would be public and could be at the center of a global university's curriculum on international affairs. Most important, it would embody a peaceful use of science and technology.

A New Covenant

These suggestions and programs amount to a kind of theological revolution that recalls the prophets of Israel. Those prophets engendered new relationships with God, and in the fullness of time a new covenant. Now, in planetary crisis, that new covenant between God and humankind needs urgently to be extended to science, politics, government, and technology. The URO, perhaps over decades of research and discussion, will discern the nature of that covenant, and with it the responsibilities, rather than the rights, of planetary citizenship.

The case for a United Religions Organization, in summary, is that it provides a conduit for divine power to bring healing and inspiration to Earth. The URO should also enlarge the religious vision of the human race as a whole and, hence, human decency. To be sure, religions have caused great distress on Earth and have been hindrances to many kinds of progress, but they have also authored many blessings. By coming together, religions may minimize the evil and maximize the good. They may inspire and sometimes challenge each other to bring their best elements to bear upon the human predicament.

Editor's note: Brewer and Kirby's article was written before the formation of the latest URO. A "United Religions Initiative" emerged in 1995 out of an interfaith commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. From 1996 to 2000, the URI engaged thousands of people from diverse religions in a charter process and signing.

URL: http://www.wnrf.org/cms/turo.shtml

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