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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Texas Faith : Do we need a Steve Jobs of Religion?

Do we need a Steve Jobs of religion, an innovative thinker who can "invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious?" If so, where would that person come from? And what would they try to offer? If you don't think we need a "Steve Jobs of religion," please explain why. Here is my response;

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
Throughout the history of mankind, the "Steve Jobs of religions" have made significant contributions to innovative universally-synthesized acceptable traditions for living a balanced life. However, they ended up becoming another competitive religion instead of the one that everyone would embrace. Indeed, there is a new focus in understanding the essence of religion and looking at all religions as valid alternative paths to achieve freedom.

Three thousand years ago, a man shared a corollary between the laws of physics and laws of society. Just as matter finds its own balance, the society will find its own order whenever it goes awry. Someone from among them will rise up and restoresthe order, or the dharma as Lord Krishna called it.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, another Steve Jobs of religion appeared with the name Gautama Buddha. He shared a simple philosophy of life to live with minimum (or no) suffering. He taught a balanced approach between ascetic life and living with given human desires. Today, it has not only become a distinct religion with adherents performing specific identifiable rituals but has split itself into three threads.

Two thousand years ago, there was another one who found a way to bring relief to mankind through teaching and prescribing the psychological medicine of forgiving and loving thy enemy. His teachings were for the whole humanity. but they got monopolized by a group. Two thousand years later,multiple groups claim their version is the truth. Jesus was his name.

Fifteen hundred years ago, yet another Steve Jobs appeared on the horizon with an innovative idea to bring harmony among creation. He said all men are equal before God and that God's love reaches out to every human and every community through the peace makers, messengers and the prophets. Prophet Muhammad said it behooves us to know each other so we can learn to co-exist. He said submitting to the idea of a cohesive society (will of God) is Islam.

Five hundred years ago, Akbar, the Great King of India, made serious efforts in finding a common ground among Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism and initiated Deen-e-Ilahi, religion of the creator. It died with that Steve Jobs.

The last four hundred years have witnessed Guru Nanak and Bahaullah initiating interfaith movements to bring people together in spirituality. However, they ended becoming Sikhism and Baha'i faiths.

Rituals are the differentiators; they signify the mile stones of our daily life. Every significant moment of the day is a ritual. It is an unwritten way of measuring our progression; a memory pattern to bring discipline to our actions. From the moment we are born to the last rites of our life and every moment in-between is laden with rituals, though some of us may deny it.
When specific rituals are prescribed or become a part of the group it will generate yet another religion rather than a commonality.

The bottom line to religion is to bring a balance to an individual and the balance with what surrounds him, people and the environment.

We have to shed the arrogance that our tradition is superior or the only way to salvation. Indeed, arrogance is the root cause of all conflicts. We have to remember that God has not signed a deal with anyone behind my back or your back, if he did, then we don't a God like that and he is not the one we need to bow.

The foundation for pluralism has done extensive experiments and workshops in religion and getting for people to see the value and essence of each religion that are deeply embedded in the rituals.

Steve Jobs would probably have echoed my belief: To build a cohesive society where no one has to live in apprehension of the other, we have to learn to respect every which way one worships (or not) the creator and accepts the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day; he is a writer, thinker and a speaker. www.MikeGhouse.net

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