If religion remade itself for the present and for the future, what should it be like? Robert Mangabeira Unger thinks religion is an important aspect of human existence but doesn’t serve our own needs and those to each other or to the world that we find ourselves in and are so dependent on. In “The Religion of the Future”, he continues the program that he introduced in his previous book “The Self Awakened”.
There are four major existential flaws of human existence: mortality, insatiability, groundlessness, and belittlement. Our mortality is the inevitable end of our struggle within life, although some scientists think it may be overcome someday. Our insatiability does seem to be part of human nature, a yearning for more of life and even life itself, but perhaps it could be quelled with training and resolve. Our groundlessness is due to the incompleteness of our knowledge as to the reasons of our existence and the future that we should pursue.
Unger considers belittlement to be a repairable flaw, unlike the other three. Belittlement may be different because we could learn to not reduce each others dreams and goals, but it may also be part of human nature to raise ourselves up by belittling others. We are social beings, but we are also confrontational and competitive. Even if we can learn, what is to stop the world itself from belittling us by placing physical limits on our actions and resources, or constraints on our abilities and plans?
These four flaws make us craven, clueless, needy, and terrified. Could a revolution of religion make us face up to our flaws in a mature and dignified way? Unger seems to think so and lays out his ideas. Four important principles that this religion must serve are apostasy, higher cooperation, plurality, and deep freedom. Four needful virtues that this religion must promote are self-transformation, connection, purification, and divinization.
The major religions of the past have the themes of overcoming the world, struggling with the world, and humanizing the world. What would the theme of the religion of the future be? Accepting the world? Embracing the world? Loving the world? Many religions avoid or even despise the world because it is only a means to an end, instead of an end in itself. We are indeed part of the world and must learn to accept, embrace, and love it as well as ourselves.
From the book description:
How can we live in such a way that we die only once? How can we organize a society that gives us a better chance to be fully alive? How can we reinvent religion so that it liberates us instead of consoling us?
These questions stand at the center of Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s The Religion of the Future. Both a book about religion and a religious work in its own right, it proposes the content of a religion that can survive faith in a transcendent God and in life after death. According to this religion–the religion of the future–human beings can be more human by becoming more godlike, not just later, in another life or another time, but right now, on Earth and in their own lives.
Unger begins by facing the irreparable flaws in the human condition: our mortality, groundlessness, and insatiability. He goes on to discuss the conflicting approaches to existence that have dominated the last 2,500 years of the history of religion. Turning next to the religious revolution that we now require, he explores the political ideal of this revolution, an idea of deep freedom. And he develops its moral vision, focused on a refusal to squander life.
The Religion of the Future advances Unger’s philosophical program: a philosophy for which history is open, the new can happen, and belittlement need not be our fate.
Roberto Unger / The Religion of the Future
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