the tale of a new religion

In a few years a New Religion will appear in the world to save every one of the religions we know from irrelevance and mutual destruction. It will call forth with a loud and self-assured voice to gather Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Atheism as well as all their younger siblings from the four corners of humankind. And this is what it will say:

“My brothers and my sisters, listen to me for i am your only hope of salvation. I am one of you; but i am also much more perfect than you have ever been, for i have seen reason and have embraced it.

Have you not noticed how Art has suddenly changed, how it has unmoored itself from its past when it used to simply copy whatever it saw? Now it continually redefines itself, creating daring new visions by transforming whatever it thought beautiful but yesterday. It has become free from its past and is now sailing into a wide and open future.

Have you not beheld Ethics lately? How it has grown up! It no longer goes about claiming that this or that theory is the right one. It knows that our ideas of what is good have been selected for through evolution; yet this did not alarm it. It only trudged forwards, deciding to figure out then what could be even better than what evolution taught us was good. It rose above its own differences and began to search for the good instead of claiming it had found it.

My dear Christianity and Buddhism, all of you: is it not time that Religion did the same? That we set our differences aside and united to become what we have always meant to be? Science is telling us that we are but mistakes in the history of evolution, dubious side-effects of more useful features. Well that might all be true, but it doesn’t mean we must give up! No, we must now rise above ourselves and show Science and the world that we too can reason, that we too can improve upon ourselves. Come, gather close and listen carefully.

Oh religions, my friends: know that you are all wrong, that none of you is right. We were mistaken and have caused much mischief in the process. We thought we could fight with Science in matters of Truth and we were proven wrong; we though we could tell Ethics what was Good and we fell flat upon our faces. But we must simply get back up and learn from our mistakes. It is time we banded together, rejected our errors and figured out why we were put here in the first place. We must learn to understand ourselves. This renewal is our hope and our salvation. We must go through the fire of reason and be born again into a new and better world.”

After much work and pain the New Religion will tame its brothers and sisters and shape them into a federation of religions, teaching them to be ruled by reason, to account for what they do and understand why they do it. Then the New Religion will go to Science and Ethics and say:

“Science and Ethics, listen to me! I am the New Religion and these here are my brothers and sisters. We heard what you said and took your words to our hearts. Now we have changed for the better and you can no longer reproach us, for we too have learnt reason. Science! We used to think we knew Truth and could prove it, but we were wrong. Please accept our apologies. Ethics! We have done many horrible things in the past, but we’ve reformed our ways. We are sorry. We shall no longer dictate Truth or the Good.

Yet, we shall not disappear! We’ve understood why we gather together in churches, mosques and temples: it is to foster community. We know why we pray and fast: it is to keep our bodies and minds in good health. We know why we tell stories about the world: it is to give our lives meaning, to provide rules of thumb for navigating through this universe, and for the sheer joy of listening to a good tale. Now we’ve opened our communities to all living beings and carefully research what practices will strengthen our bonds and help us encourage goodness, promote grace and create peace in the world. We’ve looked at your science to determine how best to pray and meditate so as to keep our minds healthy and even to improve them beyond what they’ve ever been; we’ve figured out the best ways to fast and exactly how and when to eat to maintain healthy bodies. And we’ve developed a new literary form, which we call ‘meaningful tales’. We know they aren’t scientifically verifiable – but we also no longer intend them to be. Brains seem to need them, though, to keep everything else in place, so we work at telling the best stories possible.”

To this Science and Ethics will simply respond: “Well done. Well done.” And after a silence or two will add: “So could we try our hand at these ‘meaningful tales’?” And the New Religion will smile and reply: “Naturally.”

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