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Religious Diversity And Religious Revival Will Come Together – OpEd

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The first two decades of the 21st century saw a major rise in the number of people in the USA who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” which now stands at 26% of the American population, up nine points from 17% in 2009.

The next two decades will see a major post covid-19 religious revival and the evidence for that statement comes from The 2020 Census of American Religion by PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research (07.08.2021).

Evangelical Lutherans dropped from 5.3 million in 1987 to 3.4 million now. The Presbyterian Church USA had 3.2 million in 1982 but now is around 1.3 million. The Episcopal Church went down 50% from 3.4 million in the 1960s to 1.7 million now.

Disaffiliating white Christians fueled the growth of the religiously unaffiliated during the last 15-20 years. Only 16% of Americans reported being religiously unaffiliated in 2007; this proportion rose to 19% by 2012, and then gained roughly a percentage point each year from 2012 to 2017. In the 2018 General Social Survey of US attitudes, “no religion” became the single largest group, edging out evangelical Christians.

Reflecting the patterns above, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans hit a high point of 26% in 2018; but has since then declined to 23% in 2020. This marks a more than 10% decline in the number of Americans who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” in just three years.

Of teens and young adults who say they are affiliated with an organized religion, 52% say they have little or no trust in organized religion according to the “State of Religion and Young People” study which surveyed more than 10,000 Americans ages 13 to 25 about their involvement in, and feelings about, religion.

The study also found that 60% of teens and young adults who are not involved with an organized religion described themselves as at least slightly spiritual; 19% said they attend religious gatherings at least once a month, and 12% of unaffiliated young people have become more religious in the last 5 years.

This last group will lead the next religious revival starting post Codid-19 as Prophet Amos predicted: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)

But this 12% of unaffiliated young people that have become more religious in the last 5 years
group will lead the next religious revival only if the leaders of today’s religions will be open to the desire of young people for religions that are not homophobic; and advocate religious diversity by respecting other religions because they do not claim an exclusive ‘we have the only truth’ or ‘our religion is the only one approved by God’ theology.

According to a 2008 Pew survey, one in five Christians in America believe that non-Christian faiths cannot lead one to salvation. That number soared to 60 percent for white evangelical Protestants who attend church once a week. But the PRRI study reports that white evangelicals (who are often negative about the Qur’an) have declined from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent in 2020.

This is especially important for America’s Islamic and Jewish leaders because the Qur’an is a strong proponent of Religious Diversity: “Indeed, the believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good will have their reward with their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62)

A survey of over 35,000 Americans in 2008 found that most Americans agree with the statement: many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life. Among those affiliated with some religious tradition, seven-in-ten say many religions can lead to eternal life.

This view is shared by a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including 82% of Jews, 79% of Catholics, 57% of evangelical Protestants and 56% of Muslims. (From the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2008, Pew Research Center.)

Thus, in 21st century United States most Christians, Jews, and Muslims have rejected the ‘only one truth’ religious mind set and believe in the Qur’an’s pluralism teachings: “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had wanted, He could have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to do virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah (for judgement), so He will let you know [about] that in which you differed.” [5:48]

Only those who reject God by disbelief or by unrepentant evil activities will be the losers when Judgement Day comes. Although most ‘only one truth’ or ‘only one God approved’ religious mind set theologians will learn that they might not be as smart as they thought they were.

It is very important to understand that ‘religious pluralism is the will of God’ is different from religious, moral or cultural relativism. Relativism teaches that all values and standards are subjective, and therefore there is no higher spiritual authority available for setting ethical standards or making moral judgments. Thus, issues of justice, truth or human rights are, like beauty, just in the eye of the beholder.

Most people, especially those who believe that One God created all of us, refuse to believe that ethics and human rights are simply only a matter of taste. Religious pluralism as the will of God is the opposite of cultural psychological or philosophical relativism.

The fundamental idea supporting religious pluralism is that religious people need to embrace humility in all areas of religion. All religions have always taught a traditional anti self-centered personal egoism type of humility.

Religious pluralism also opposes a religious, philosophical, and self righteous intellectual egoism that promotes a tendency to turn our legitimate love for our own prophet and Divine revelation into universal truths that we fully understand and know how to apply.

Religious pluralism teaches that finite humans, even the most intelligent and pious of them, can not fully understand everything the way the infinite One does.

This is true, for every human being, even for God’s messengers themselves. When prophet Moses, “who God spoke with face to face, as a person speaks with a friend” (Exodus 33:11) asks to see God face to face, he is told, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see My face and live.” (33:20)

Similarly, in the Qur’an prophet Jesus admits to God, “You know everything that is within myself, whereas I do not know what is within Yourself”. (5:116)

And when Prophet Jesus was asked, in private, by his disciples, “What will be the sign for your coming (back) and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus warns his disciples about upheavals and false Messiahs that will come. Then Jesus concluded by saying, “But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the son: only the Father”. (24:36)

A similar statement was made by Prophet Muhammad when he was asked, “Tell me about the Hour”. He said: “The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.” (Muslim book 1 Hadith 1&4)

God taught the general principle of epistemological humility through his Prophet who taught his followers “I am no novelty among the messengers. I do not know what will be done to me, or to you.” (Qur’an 46:9) In truth, the only universal truth should be the humility to admit: “Only God knows.”

Or as Allah’s Apostle said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses, for people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection. I will be the first to regain consciousness, and behold! Moses will be there holding the side of Allah’s Throne. I will not know whether Moses was among those people who became unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or was among those exempted by Allah from falling unconscious.” (Volume 8, Book 76, #524)

As God declares through Prophet Zechariah: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.” (8:16-17)

Finally: “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (Quran 2:177)

As God declares through Prophet Zechariah: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.” (Biblical Book of Zachariah 8:16-7)

And as Prophet Micah makes it clear, what God wants is not one religious belief or ritual but your whole heart and commitment. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Biblical Book of Micah 6:8)

As Prophet Isaiah states: “Learn to do right; seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow.”  (Biblical Book of Isaiah 1:17)

Amos, the farmer-turned-prophet, preached during a time of surging national optimism: business was booming, and boundaries were growing. But Amos saw through the façade and preached against the greed, hypocrisy, and false worship. As our world comes to grips with a pandemic that has devastated booming economies, will we go back to putting our hope in ourselves or will we place our hope in God?
 
“Look, the days are coming…when I will send a famine through the land; not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

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Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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