Sacred Energies: When the World’s Religions Sit Down to Talk about the Future Of Human Life and the Plight of This Planet

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Sacred Energies: When the World’s Religions Sit Down to Talk about the Future Of Human Life and the Plight of This Planet

  1. Review

    It is estimated that two-thirds of the people of the world are affiliated with one of the major religions of the world. Each of these religions provides its adherents with a “world” of interpretation and response to what they experience as sacred. Though separated by distinct differences, all of the religions share some commonality of belief and ethics. Today, the people who live in different religious worlds, together with everyone else, share a common world that is in crisis. This book is based on what happened when some of the most eminent scholars of the world’s religions sat down to talk about the “plight of our damaged world” and formed the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics. The Consultation is supported by the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The President of the Consultation and author of this book is Professor of Ethics in the Theology Department of Marquette University .

    Maguire states that The Consultation began its work by facing the fact that the very existence of our world is threatened, indeed dying, from ecological degradation, over population and excessive consumption. He then introduces two international critics of global economy and its impact on our ecology. David Loy, a philosopher and economist, who is a Buddhist, believes that our capitalist economic system has become a religion, in “secular drag.” The “religion of the marketplace” promotes a “vicious circle of every- increasing production and consumption by pretending to offer a secular salvation.” He explains how global capitalism, driven by greed for profits and the greed of consumers, “takes our jobs, poisons us, impoverishes us, shifts wealth from the bottom to the top – making wars of redistribution more likely – and it encourages terrorism since not everyone is willing to play by the rich deal makers rules.” David Korten, an economist, continues the analysis by describing how the logic of the global capitalism results in the exploitation of the poor of the world and the degradation of the environment.

    In 1972, a study group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology produced a Book entitled The Limits of Growth. After describing the disaster facing the human race, the report concluded, “Probably only religion has the moral force to bring about (the necessary) change.”   Maguire describes four areas of concern that all religions share: (1) all religions “consider egotism and an absence of any sense of the common good and human solidarity” a root problem; (2) all religions share some concept of justice and human rights; (3) all religions deal with the question of how to treat the poor and disempowered; and (4) all religions believe that life is more than a question of survival. It is his conviction that if the religions of the world can work together in the areas of concern that they share, they can become a moral force dealing with the problems we have to solve if we are to survive.

    The reader is then invited on a tour of the world religions to see what they have to offer in helping save the planet. Maguire states that the goal is “to join the powerful currents of thought represented by these scholars and to do so in understandable language.” The tour begins with “The Poetry of Africa” and continues with chapters entitled – “Buddhism: Lessons on Downsizing Wants,” “Hinduism’s Rivers of Wisdom,” “Ancient Chinese Secrets,” “The Unveiling of Islam,” “Judaism: Workshop for a New Humanity,” “Protestant Christianity and the Recovery of Lost Fragrance,” “Catholic Liberation Theology.” Our tour guide for each chapter is a distinguished scholar of the religion being highlighted, who helps the reader to see the tradition he shares as a “storehouse of wisdom and practical advice.”

    Maguire concludes with his assessment of our need as a shared world. He writes, “What the earth needs is a rebirth of awe and wonder and gratitude, the best ofhuman emotions, and the source of those phenomena we call religion. If we recover our sense of the sacredness of the gift of life and get recharged with the electricity of ideals and delight, the ongoing destruction can abate and the bare ruined choirs of planet earth can sing again.”

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