“What comes after Christianity?”
“You have to deal with what is there.” This is the likely response of frustrated and loyal people who are devoting much time and energy to seeking to resolve the conflicts that drive Christians apart in their thinking, their believing and their attitudes. Such people usually don’t ask questions such as what comes after Christianity; they are too busy trying to save it or at least to save the institutions which have become historic parts of it. Saving Christianity means different things, but for some it means respecting the integrity of those who are marginalised and despised by others.
How new or how old an idea is it to think of all religions, including Christianity, as being transient? It is not an idea that religious texts support and most adherents of religions would be surprised at such an idea.
Over six thousand years ago in the Neolithic communities of Asia and Europe it is doubtful if anyone imagined that Neolithic cultures and religions would be replaced in time, but they were. How many other cultures and religions have also been replaced? When will it be the turn of the religions that still survive in 21st century to be replaced?
Have you ever heard a person say, “I am a bishop of a transient religion” or “I am an imam of a transient religion” or “I am a guru of a transient religion” or “I am a member of a transient religion”? You probably haven’t!
Are not religions a response to the universal human search for meaning, wonder and values in the face of the implacable mystery of our existence – why are we here at all?
Do human beings ever have certainty in postulating answers to life’s great questions? Are not our religions a human response to such mysteries rather than a divine revelation, as still believed by many?
Religions speak of God or Ultimate Reality as beyond description and beyond knowing. God’s existence or non-existence cannot be proved nor can we prove that some ideas about God reflect God’s character better than others(that’s if God exists – isn’t this life’s central uncertainty?). However if God exists, God is ineffable, impossible for a human mind to grasp and comprehend. All we can do is construct our images, our symbols and our metaphors to convey what we guess God might be like. Over the centuries many ideas have been generated – some are good, others are repulsive. God remains mysterious, hidden and elusive. Indeed does not life itself contain the inexpressible?
Are we moving to an age when human beings will no longer think of themselves as Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, Hindus etc.? Perhaps people (whether they have a religious or a non-religious interpretation of life) will simply think of themselves as human beings and citizens of one global village who search for meaning and in doing so draw from a global resource of wisdom and spirituality to which religious and humanist traditions have contributed.
Isn’t it true that today’s global citizens can draw, critically, on such a resource of wisdom and spirituality garnered over countless centuries as well as add judiciously to it? Such a global resource has been created through our experiences of success and failure in living authentically; through our capacity to make good relationships as well as our failure to do so – with each other, with other living creatures, with our planet and universe, and with the transcendent mystery that some believe completes the meaning of life.
It is liberating to have an understanding of the scriptures of the major world faith traditions which allows a person to say: “that is what people claimed thousands of years ago to be right or to be the will of their god, but what they believed then does not constrain how I think today “. Is it not part of the dignity and responsibility of being human, and our human right, that we have to work out our moral conclusions, our political ideas and (if we have them) our theological convictions, however provisional, for ourselves?