This 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
* 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
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.
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.