This site is dedicated to efforts by people all over the globe to renew their religions or ideologies in such a way that in the future they will be open to ongoing transformation while remaining solidly rooted in what is essential in their past. This is not a site to connect with new religious movements or syncretic religions amalgamated from bits and pieces of the existing faiths of the world. There are many such sites on the Web (and a few may be included if their guiding vision is congruent with the goals of this site). Rather, Religions in Renewal is a site to link members of groups within the major established religions or ideologies who are seeking respectfully and gradually to reform their traditions from within while remaining loyal to the spirit of their path. Secondarily, it is a site to 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.
Religions in Renewal:Dialogue, Reform, Re-vision
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.
From within my Catholic analogical universe I dedicate this site to two of my favorite quotations: "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est" (God is, where charity and love are found) and (from an Episcopal poster) "Christ came to take away our sins, not our minds . . ."
Others sites include as many links as possible. No wonder, web-navigators (consciously or unconsciously) are suffering from what Alvin Toffler called "overchoice." There is simply too much information available for the human brain to assimilate, and there is practically no quality control. In the Religions in Renewal site I will only include links which point to cyber locations which reflect authentic efforts to reform existing religions or ideologies from within (in line with the principles I stated earlier) and/or are dedicated to furthering thoughtful ecumenical or inter-ideological dialogue.Since I first set up this site I acquired a virtual server and have filled it with domains and pages dedicated to buiding bridges between diverse faiths and ideologies. Those projects kept me occupied, and I have spent little time on maintaining this page. Please, be sure to visit my Ecumene site!
AMERICAN ETHICAL UNION: ETHICALHUMANISM
EIGHT COMMITMENTS OF ETHICAL CULTURE:
Ethics is central.
The most central human issue in our lives involves creating a more humane environment.
Ethics begins with choice.
Creating a more humane environment begins by affirming the need to make significant choices in our lives.
We choose to treat each other as ends, not merely means.
To enable us to be whole, in a fragmented world, we choose to treat each other as unique individuals having intrinsic worth.
We seek to act with integrity.
Treating one another as ends requires that we learn to act with integrity. This includes keeping commitments, and being more open, honest, caring, and responsive.
We are committed to educate ourselves.
Personal progress is possible, both in wisdom and in social life. Learning how to build ethical relationships and cultivate a humane community is a life-long endeavor.
Self-reflection and our social nature require us to shape a more humane world.
Spiritual life is rooted in self-reflection, but can only come to full flower in community. This is because people are social, needing both primary relationships and larger supportive groups to become fully human. Our social nature requires that we reach beyond ourselves to decrease suffering and increase creativity in the world.
Democratic process is essential to our task.
The democratic process is essential to a humane social order because it respects the worth of persons and elicits and allows a greater expression of human capacities. Democratic process also implies a commitment to shared responsibility and authority.
Life itself inspires religious response.
Although awareness of impending death intensifies the human quest for meaning, and lends perspective to all our achievements, the mystery of life itself, the need to belong, to feel connected to the universe, and the desire for celebration and joy, are primary factors motivating human "religious" response.
(A powerful site for justice -- a challenge for people of all religions and none -- the ONE principle on which all of us can agree)
This site appears to reflect in a Jewish modality exactly what Religions in Renewal is all about, including emphasis on taking care of the earth, egalitarianism, openness to other religious traditions, focus on the inner life, understanding reality as a process, celebrating diversity, and faith in the power of love and compassion. The hauntingly beautiful, mandala-like logo alone is worth an extended visit. This is a brief introductory citation from the site:
At the heart of JEWISH RENEWAL is a renewed encounter with God and an understanding of Jewish history as a series of renewed encounters with God. These encounters have followed crises during which God has been eclipsed; yet each crisis has resulted in the emergence of a more or less deeply transformed version of Judaism.
Through prayer, study, and action, Jewish renewal seeks --to nurture the rebbe-spark in everyone without fearing its emergence in different ways and degrees at different moments in different people;
to nurture communities that dance and wrestle with God, that are intimate, participatory, and egalitarian, and that create a "field of rebbetude";
and to assist the spiritual growth and healing of individuals, communities, whole societies, and the planet.
WHO IS A RECONSTRUCTIONIST JEW?
Reconstructionists define Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people. By "evolving" we mean that Judaism has changed over the centuries of its existence. The faith of the ancient Israelites in the days of Solomon's Temple was not the same as that of the early rabbis. And neither of those faiths was the same as that of our more recent European ancestors. Each generation of Jews has subtly reshaped the faith and traditions of the Jewish people. . . .
We believe in a God who inhabits this world and especially the human heart. God is the source of our generosity, sensitivity and concern for the world around us. God is also the power within us that urges us toward self-fulfillment and ethical behavior. We find God when we look for meaning in the world, when we are motivated toward study and when we work to realize the goals of morality and social justice. . . .
While our support for Israel is unconditional, a variety of opinion exists within the Reconstructionist movement with regard to specific policies of the Israeli government. We are united in supporting efforts by the World Union for Progressive Judaism (with which we are affiliated) and others who work to strengthen religious freedom in Israel and to make Israel a religious home for all Jews.
THE SECULAR WORLD
Jews who now find themselves in democratic societies live primarily in a secular civilization - governed by non-Jewish legislatures and courts, speaking non-Jewish languages, singing popular music, working in secular environments with non-Jews, learning in non-Jewish schools, and structuring their lives according to accepted Western values.
Reconstructionists call upon Jews to embrace this open, democratic society - not only because its structural pluralism does not require the abandonment of Judaism, but also because American ideal at their best coincide with Jewish ideals as they ought to be developed and reconstructed. We have much to gain by incorporating contemporary mores into the Jewish civilization - with regard to the role of women, respect for individual liberties, and acceptance of cultural pluralism.
VISION OF THE JEWISH FUTURE
We hope for a Judaism that serves as a rich source of spiritual self-expression and moral challenge in the way we conduct our lives. We dream of a Jewish people that will overcome divisions and realize its commitment to the single goal of transforming the world into one where all people are respected as bearers of the divine image. ( from "Who is a Reconstructionist Jew")
Selections from the Preamble
to the Charter of Rights of Catholics in the Church
The rights of Catholics in the Church derive both from our basic humanity as persons and from our baptism as Christians. Membership in the human community and membership in the community of the Church, therefore, jointly confer the rights here presented which guarantee our dignity and freedom as persons and as Catholics.
Fundamental human rights are clearly set forth in the United Nations Charter (see Appendix II in the Charter Booklet). This Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church presupposes the rights expressed in the U.N. Charter. These basic human rights are supplemented by the common rights and freedom of Christians bestowed at baptism, and which are based on: (1) the priesthood of all believers, (2) the fundamental equality of believers, and (3) the prophetic role of all believers.
Moreover, Vatican Council II urged the Church to read and learn from "the signs of the times." One of the clear signs of the times in many countries is a concern for human rights. The framers of this Charter of Rights for Catholics maintain that faithfulness to the message of the Gospel mandates a concern for justice in the Church, as well as in the world. The Church, by its very nature, must labor for the liberation of those oppressed and marginalized by sinful social structures, which often make it impossible for many men and women to claim even their basic human rights. The Church as a People of God, and not individual Christians only, is called to give witness to the love commandment. This responsibility entails, especially, the renewal of the Church's own structural organization where it is seen to foster injustice and to deny to some Catholics the rights of persons and the freedom of Christians.2 "Justice is love's absolute minimum" (Paul VI). The institutional Church, as a human society, can therefore no longer justify an authoritarian and patriarchal order appropriate to earlier stages of human development. The Social Justice teachings of the Church, especially as set forth in Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio," are presupposed by this Charter.
Fundamental to this Charter is the principle that all Catholics are radically equal. Canon 208 of the revised Code of Canon Law states:
There exists among all the Christian faithful, in virtue of their rebirth in Christ, a true equality with regard to dignity and activity; all cooperate in the building up of the body of Christ in accord with each one's own condition and function.
In other words, the equality of all Catholics is based on their one God, one faith, one call and one common sacramental initiation. Therefore, rights and equality are not diminished by the differing gifts and roles of Church members. Christ has destroyed all divisions, "between Jew and gentile, male and female, slave and free" (Gal. 3:28). Thus, because all are equally beloved by God, each one's ability to respond to that God and to actualize his or her capacities within the Church community, must not be limited by considerations of race, age, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, state-of-life or social position.
The revised Code of Canon Law (see Appendix I) only partially articulates the principles which should inform a just, loving, and therefore fruitful relationship between Church authorities and the People of God.
Rights do not exist in isolation, but only in conjunction with corresponding responsibilities. But it is vital to remember that no responsibilities can be properly carried out without the safeguarding and exercising of those human and Catholic rights. In view of these considerations, there is, then, a need for a clear and complete Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, rights that are founded on (and limited by) the Gospel and on the authentic tradition of the Church.
Full Text of Charter
"Whereas the non-theological thinker can understand that we are created by the processes of evolution, the theological thrust is that God has created us to be co-creators. God created us to be free, in other words, in the sense that we have the capacity to imagine that the world and we ourselves can be different in significant ways, and we conclude, even though we cannot understand it very well, that God intends for us to be co-creators." Philip Hefner
Several years' of articles by scholar and rights activist Asghar Ali Engineer who heads the two organisations, Institute of Islamic Studies and Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. He has authored or edited 44 books on such issues as Islam and communal and ethnic problems in India and South Asia in general.
The Muslim Women's League is a non-profit Muslim American organization working to implement the values of Islam and thereby reclaim the status of women as free, equal and vital contributors to society.
"When we close our hearts to others, our eyes are closed to see the beauty of God in them. The message of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all other religions is one of love and service to others. If God decides to care and love and feed even those who deny his existence, then who are we to deprive someone else of our love just because he is of different color or speaks a different language or is born in a different country or prays to the same God but in a different direction, using different words?" Dr. Shahid Athar
Members of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) envision South Asia and other parts of the world as regions of peace and harmony,
Members of the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) are committed to promote awareness of these issues and harmony among South Asians in the countries of their origin and abroad, wherever they live.
Chief among any organism's growth adjustments is the major shift from closed system to open system; from dependence to independence. In the growth and maturation cycle of almost all higher life forms there is a natural and even beautiful process of a decreasing need for nurturance and a consequent and increasing need for self-realization and unprotected development. The seed becomes sprout becomes sapling becomes tree and bears fruit; the bird gradually learns flight; the child becomes a woman. As growth and maturation in the physical realm leads from attachment to detachment, so the cycle of spiritual maturity in a given community is a function of increasing autonomy and openness to discovery, awareness, and change.
. . .
PROPOSAL: (A) That the National Spiritual Assembly adopt and publish a new policy emphasizing openness and decentralization in the affairs of the American Baha'i community; (B) . . . (C) That American assemblies, both local and national, endeavor by policy to more actively seek out the views and input of their respective constituencies before undertaking any major initiative or program; (D) That the National Spiritual Assembly, its staff, committees, and agencies adopt a more open administrative style that will encourage and permit more individual initiative and the growth of nontraditional or unconventional approaches to Baha'i activity, with the aim of fostering unfettered and creative new approaches to teaching, consolidation, and administration.
. . .
The free flow of ideas and opinions is vital to the open consultation process and, more importantly, to the spirit of that cardinal Baha'i principle: the independent investigation of truth. Certainly, signing a declaration card does not strip the new believer of his or her access to said principle; yet we often act as if it were necessary to protect the Faith from its adherents. . . . Originally intended by Shoghi Effendi only to insure accuracy and dignity when presenting the Baha'i Faith to the public, review of publications has become a politicized process whereby reviewing bodies may impose their particular views of the Faith in unmitigated and unchecked censorship. This policy, now often utilized to silence disparate opinion and frank expression of non-mainstream views, has become a silent censor, hidden from the community at large and doubly dangerous because of its cloistered nature.
. . .
OBJECTIVE: If review is abolished, the flow of ideas, scholarly debate, and intellectual fervent will increase, becoming a boon to the quality of Baha'i life, individually and collectively. A climate in which people feel comfortable to speak out and share controversial or new ideas will be created. Also, non-Baha'is will begin to see a community that values and gives full expression to diversity. (A Modest Proposal)
Note: This article never appeared in print. . . . It appears that members of the elective Baha'i institutions, used to perpetual incumbency, the perquisites of office, and an authoritarian leadership style, could not abide the above document and therefore stooped to smear tactics to defame its authors. The editors, heart-broken, ceased publication of Dialogue. Several have subsequently been sanctioned, silenced, or left the Baha'i faith. - J. Cole
The ECUMENE domain provides cyber-homes for organizations dedicated to bridging the ideological boundaries that divide humanity and have been used for millennia to rationalize suspicion, proselytism, hatred, aggression, and warfare. 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 ultimatly caring and mutually supportive family. Ingrid Shafer
THE JERUSALEM LINK DECLARATION
We, Palestinian and Israeli Women, united in a joint effort to bring about a just and lasting peace between our two people, affirm our commitment to working together, within the framework of The Jerusalem Link, for the rapid realization of our common vision of peace, based on the following principles:
- Recognition of the right to self-determination of both peoples in the land, through the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
- The city of Jerusalem: two capitals for two states.
- The Oslo Declaration of Principles, signed on September 13, 1993, and all subsequent agreements, must be implemented in their entirety and should serve as the basis for negotiations of the permanent settlement.
- The permanent settlement negotiations must resume immediately, the terms of reference being UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and the Oslo Agreements.
- The settlements and their ongoing expansion constitute a severe impediment to peace.
- Respect for international conventions, and the active involvement of the international community in the peace process, is crucial to its success.
- The realization of political peace will pave the way for mutual trust, and good neighborly relations on the basis of equality and respect for the national and human rights of each community.
- Women are central partners in the peace process - their involvement in negotiation and in government is critical to the fulfilment of an open and just peace.
- We women are opposed to the use of violence and are committed to the promotion of democratic norms and civil society for the realization of an enduring peace.
We call on women in the region and elsewhere to join in making our vision of peace a reality.
August 2, 1996
INTERFAITH ALLIANCE: Statement of Principles
At a time when Americans fear our values are being undermined, our communities frayed and the strength of our families and our children's future are threatened, The Interfaith Alliance offers hope and renewal.
The Interfaith Alliance believes in the dignity of the individual and the importance of community. These religious principles compel us to take responsibility for both our own communities and our larger national community.
As a non-partisan organization, The Interfaith Alliance offers Americans a mainstream, faith-based agenda committed to the positive role of religion as a healing and constructive force in public life. The Interfaith Alliance draws on shared religious principles to challenge those who manipulate religion to promote an extreme political agenda based on a false gospel of irresponsible individualism. This false gospel threatens our families, our values and our future.
We believe we must not only give voice to mainstream values, but also take action to preserve and express our shared beliefs. We are committed to supporting families, ensuring opportunity and honoring freedom.