Tag Archives: Stephen Prothero

The Future of Religion in 5 Minutes

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I was recently asked to prepare a five-minute talk on “The Future of Religion.”

I thought five minutes would be easy, compared to the 30-minute talks or 90-minute workshops I’ve led. I was surprised to learn that the shorter the presentation, the more difficult it becomes.

Ignite Tampa Bay forced me to refine things I have been teaching and talking about for years. It encouraged me to make my language more accessible and less academic. It is probably the talk I’ve given that I’ve learned the most from.

Below is the video and full transcript. I owe a huge thank you to Matthew Fox, Stephen Prothero, and Ken Wilber who inspired portions of this talk.

We’re told not to talk about sex, politics, or religion. Continue reading

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How Religion is Evolving [Webinar Replay]

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The religions of the world aren’t pieces of a puzzle (with convenient edges and borders) or paths up a mountain to Universal Oneness – they are made of many threads and processes (rooted in language, culture, mythology, consciousness, and more) that create an integral and ever-evolving tapestry.

“A Brilliant Matrix: How Religion is Evolving” (presented by Oracle Institute) is an exploration of the stages of consciousness (how we grow up) and states of awareness (how we wake up) and a study of how religion is evolving in our time. Based on the work of philosopher Ken Wilber and using Don Beck’s developmental model of Spiral Dynamics, we will discuss the “Spectrum of Consciousness” present in the world’s faith traditions and consider the truth found in all worldviews.

Watch the FULL WEBINAR REPLAY below.

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Top 5 Tools for Cultivating Gratitude

“The man who simply became ready to have God remove his judgmental attitudes was surprised to find God’s answer was to make him more trusting of others and less judgemental of himself.” – Anonymous

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I recently attended a covenant group at a local Unitarian Universalist church. It was a group for parents and as is the case with groups of this kind, was accepting new members for a limited time. Most covenant groups close the “tent flap” seasonally in order to nurture trust within the circle and deep conversation and relationship among its members.

As the sounds of our playing (read: screaming) children rose up through the floor, a group of us young couples opened up our hearts and shared about the difficulties of turning the other cheek, setting a good example, frustration with family members and in-laws, fear of failure in front of our kids, and more.

One recurring theme emerged. Across the board and within all three dimensions of self, culture and nature — cultivating gratitude is hard work.

SELF

When it was suggested that part of the solution was to simply be more patient, gentle and forgiving with yourself, one of the fathers said, “I don’t know how to do that.”

At that moment, one (or more) of the kids started banging on a downstairs piano. The sound was jarring and discordant and came up through the floor in angular vibrations that momentarily put all of the parents on edge.

It occurred to me that the children didn’t know how to play the piano, but they were doing the best they could to make music with it. They, too, were ignorant to the workings of the instrument and so they simply wailed away at it, hamfisted and dispassionate. They were being too rough and too forceful, not patient or gentle.

This piano is a metaphor for our self-care. How often do we expect others to be maestros of communication, trust and compassion? How often do we expect others to be delicate, patient and gentle — to take their time, choose their words carefully, think before they speak or act, and to hold themselves with the utmost self-respect? And yet, how often, when it is our turn to do the same, do we bang out a rhythm or a half-baked melody and tell ourselves that it’s good enough. How often do we settle for less when it comes to finding pleasure or acceptance in ourselves?

Self-love and self care is not just about mindfulness. It’s not just about carving the time out of your day to pray, meditate or be present with your friends, co-workers and kids. It’s about moving beyond mindfulness to the difficult work of being in the world and witness to all its suffering. It’s about having the courage to put yourself out there when someone needs emotional or spiritual support, but also having the courage and intelligence to receive that support yourself.

CULTURE

Gratitude is also present in our attitude toward others.

Stephen Prothero has consistently proposed that the world’s faith traditions are an attempt to solve a specific human problem with a specific spiritual solution (sin/salvation, attachment/awakening, pride/submission, exile/return, etc.). Since pride is usually near the top of any list of cardinal sins, it is usually one of the first items to attract the attention of rigorous spiritual practice.  

Gratitude can be seen as the opposite of pride. The process of becoming more grateful, more thankful and more humble is the process of letting go of our pridefulness, ego and will.

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God is Not One: An Interview with Stephen Prothero

We sometimes hear people talk about, “one God,” or “one love,” or that the many world religions are simply “different paths up the side of one mountain.” But, what if that mountaintop actually was different for everyone? What if it looked and felt different to everyone who found the courage to climb?

God can be described or experienced (sometimes in the same turn) as loving, wrathful, or ambivalent – not to mention perceived by some to be male, female, or even beyond gender.  The ground of Spirit is viewed through a cultural lens by those who are seeking to commune with it, and it can be described as pure energy just as easily as it can be painted as an eight-armed deity or rendered a winged female with a halo. Conversely, a person’s culture can be tinted by their spiritual worldview, leading to a rigidly hierarchical class system or a life committed to giving to those less fortunate.

Author Stephen Prothero (Religious Literacy), was recently interviewed by C-Span’s Sally Quinn about his newest book, God Is Not One, in which he points out some similarities, but mostly the important differences between the world’s “most influential” religions. The book objectively puts eight of the world’s largest religious groups side by side and provides a brief history of what they believe and why. But, the biggest accomplishment here by Prothero is determining the “unique human problem” that each religion solves for its adherents. For instance, the problem in Christianity is “sin,” thus the solution is “salvation.” The problem in Islam is “pride,” thus the solution is “submission.” The problem in Buddhism is “suffering,” thus the solution is “awakening.”

This approach goes a long way in assisting current methods of interfaith dialogue. When everyone thinks they’re talking about the same “God,” and the same definition of “spirituality,” yet still ends up leaving the conversation angry, frustrated and confused, it could be that not addressing religion’s “job to be done” is part of the reason.

Prothero’s book is highly recommended, but in the meantime, the following video features Prothero discussing many (if not all) major points of the book. It is an hour-long episode, and embedding is disabled, but click through to the C-Span site and enjoy! And, as usual, please leave your thoughts and comments below.