British physicist and author Paul Davies predicts a future in which the need for spiritual guidance will be stronger than ever, but, at the same time, believes that “any religion that refuses to embrace scientific discovery is unlikely to survive to the 22nd century”.
Religion is a system of beliefs and practices by which people relate to one another, forming a spiritual community whose object of worship is the same superior force. The common frame of reference and code of conduct accepted by the religious community are generated by a priori accepted beliefs. Therefore, the destiny of religion depends on the destiny of beliefs, and the latter on the effectiveness of faith as an instrument of knowledge.
Accepting the possibility and probability of the existence of a primordial force, greater than all that exist, in which all find their genesis, and from which all receive their being, becomes the premise of faith. Faith is what gives religion a spiritual dimension, in the sense of ideality and immateriality. At the same time, faith is also the driving force behind religious practices and rituals, and it determines human behaviour.
Faith makes you happy
It has been said that the 21st century is based on relativism and individualism, and that these are in opposition to faith’s spirit of unity. However, after the trumpeting rejection of metanarratives in favour of micronarratives, we find that the postmodern human is finally using them to identify authentic metanarratives. Basically, recent society rejects the claims of institutionalized monolithic religion, but comes to accept the framework that underlies religious beliefs when they are credible in the life stories of those who champion them.
Thus, the spirit of today’s society can even help to identify and strengthen the worldviews of religious beliefs. Even if the number of religious people is reduced in this process, the remaining ones are consolidated in their beliefs.
At this point in the argument, the hypothesis of a correlation between religiosity, satisfaction, and happiness is very plausible. A study conducted in Germany, on 75,000 subjects, scientifically substantiated this correlation. Those who described themselves as very religious were more likely to consider themselves happy. The same conclusion was suggested in 2016 by the Pew Research Center: 95% of Americans who said they were very happy were Christians.
Faith in God together with the feeling of belonging and unity achieved through the interpersonal relationships of believers gives people fulfilment and meaning, and these materialize in increasing academic performance, in a state of well-being, health, and optimism.
Faith in the 21st century, pushed towards the private sphere
Postmodern society is pushing faith in the 21st century, as a religious experience, increasingly to the private sphere. Surprisingly, its definition as a personal commitment is made not only in relation to the profane dimension of society, but even within the religious world. Thus, on the one hand, operating with the supernatural, religion cannot be accepted as a source of knowledge in the scientific world, and, on the other hand, by incriminating proselytism, major religions and religious denominations take religion out of the public life, where its truth would generate debate.
Faith, however, has its genesis in the depths of the human being. Therefore, pushing it back to the place where it was born is nothing more than the premise of its manifestation with even greater power. Any attempt to repress religious behaviour in human history has eventually led to a revival of it. In the absence of religious freedom, for example, believers expressed their faith even more fervently, and when it led to abuse and persecution, the result was not the inhibition of faith, but the contrary hereof.
Reason identifies and purifies religious beliefs
Secularization did not lead to the disappearance of religion either, but rather to its transformation. In the same way, rationalism, the development of technology, scientific materialism, or pragmatism cannot cause the death of faith. Rationalist thinking, founded by Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, then perfected by René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant, is surprisingly increasingly stifled today by the multitude of superstitions and beliefs brought to the surface in the 21st century.
From beliefs in artificial intelligence—for example, the religious organization Way of the Future—to beliefs in UFOs, from the worship of aliens, in the hope that they will save the world, to Eastern beliefs, Yoga Hare Krishna, Tantra Yoga, Zen cults, etc. and up to neo-paganism and the Wikka religion, all these currents are developing as we speak. All these spiritual currents or religious movements have in common the instrument of faith as a means of knowledge, practice, and worship. In reality, faith in the 21st century is becoming an increasingly accepted and widely used dimension of man.
Thus, at the turn of the century, when spirituality and mysticism are alive, all forms of attack on faith—the abandonment of metanarratives in favour of micronarratives, the contestation of the veracity of sacred texts, pushing religion into the private sphere, and rationalism—prove to be, in the end, useful tools in the purification of religious faith. The 21st century seems to be the framework in which postmodernity finds its continuation in a metamodernity or a post-postmodernity, in which opposing concepts and ideas are put together and redefined. This approach is an opportunity for religion to regain its social relevance and thus contribute to the definition of the new society.
Ștefăniţă Poenariu is the president of the Holistic Christian Education Association, which operates the Transylvania International School.