Faith Forum: Is humanity going in the right direction? (2023)

Many reports paint a troubled picture of humanity's future. Is the world moving in the positive direction? Does the world need to be changed?

Should we take steps to remake the world or should we just transform ourselves and, as the saying goes, instead of upholstering the whole planet, just put shoes on your feet? Or should we just leave everything to God's hand and do nothing?

We asked our panel of religious leaders the following question: From a religious perspective, is humanity moving in the right direction or does its direction need change?

Here is what they have to say:

PURE RELIGION WILL MOVE HUMANITY FORWARD

Ryan J. Earl, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assistant area public affairs director

All things considered, we live in a remarkable time in history, and we must have faith that humanity is moving forward. The 24/7 news cycle bombards us with negativity and anxiety and increasingly makes evil appear good and good appear evil. Thus, we often struggle to recognize the economy of service that pervades humanity — the innumerable acts of kindness and charity that provide each of us, our families and communities with an enhanced quality of life. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)

Modern technologies and achievements may expand opportunities, but the decision to engage in good activities or in destructive, sinful and/or time-wasting activities will always be individual in nature. To move humanity forward, we need to individually and collectively pursue principles of pure religion.

FIXING THE WORLD

(Video) Good God? Faith and Reason in the Face of Suffering | John Lennox at Rice University

ElizaBeth W. Beyer, N. Tahoe Hebrew Congregation & Temple Beth Or rabbi

Each of us needs to make a difference to make the world a better place. "It is not your duty to complete the work [of fixing the world], but neither are you free to desist [run away from it]." (Pirkey Avot) "Fixing the world" is both an internal and external exercise. Internally, we strive to be more compassionate, humble, wise people.

From a global perspective, we see the needs of so many people. We send prayers and money to provide food, shelter or medicine. We are "G-d's hands" when we volunteer time to help those in need. Religion has been at the forefront of change, i.e. the civil rights movement and those who stand against tyranny, hatred and repressive regimes. People of faith continue to work every day toward the common good — even with those with whom we disagree. Overall, humanity is moving in a positive direction, making a difference.

WE NEED BETTER GPS

Stephen R. Karcher, St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church presiding priest

The mindset or worldview that's predominated since the Renaissance has left us with a secular-scientific mentality that's only served to limit our ways of perceiving things. It's jettisoned what's sacred and given us a false view of ourselves in return. It's created the mentality that sees people as mere animals subjected to fate, physical laws and the belief that to find fulfillment we just need to pursue social, political, economic and technological interests. This leads us down the path to self-destruction. We need a healthier way of thinking and a realistic and accurate self-image. We must reaffirm that humans possess a spiritual identity allowing us to transcend physical laws along with this world of corruption and mortality. We must invite the sacred back into our thinking, see ourselves as springing from divinity and belonging to eternity, and then we'll perceive and experience the world around us as it is: holy.

DIRECTION WITH SPIRITUAL FORTIFICATION

Bradley S. Corbin, Bahá'í teacher

We live in a wonderful age of universal reformation. Laws and statutes of governments, civil and federal, are in the process of change and transformation. Sciences and arts are being molded anew. Thoughts are being metamorphosed. The morals of humanity must continue to undergo change; our intellects must continue to develop and be subjected to universal reformation. Obsolete dogmas, codes of human invention, the old conditions of animosity, bigotry and hatred between the religious systems must be dispelled and the new conditions of love, agreement and spiritual brotherhood be established among them. The body of man is in need of physical and mental energy, but his spirit requires the life and fortification of the Holy Spirit. Bahá'u'lláh has come to change ignorant fanaticism into universal love, to establish in the minds of his followers the basis of the unity of humanity and to bring about in practice the equality of mankind.

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HEART TRANSFORMATION

Stephen B. Bond, senior pastor of Summit Christian Church, Sparks

Humanity is clearly not moving in the right direction. Grim news headlines reaffirm this daily. Humanity began moving in the wrong direction eons ago when the first humans chose to live independently from God. Separated from God, our natural inclination is toward selfishness, pride and domination of others. Scripture reveals that our separation from God results in painful and purposeless life on Earth and eternal death.

There is only one remedy for this: Jesus. Jesus came to Earth as God in the flesh and lived without sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay the full penalty for our wrongdoing, and he offers forgiveness to all who ask for it. Once we accept Jesus' gift of grace, we are given a "new heart" with a new orientation toward selfless love and humility.

Thus, the only hope for the world is the transformation of the human heart through the work of Christ.

YES AND NO

Kenneth G. Lucey, UNR philosophy/religion professor

Humanity is definitely moving in the right direction in some regards and most assuredly not doing so in others. For example, globalization has hugely raised the standard of living of a large segment of the human population. This is most evident in a country like China. Yet, the very processes by which the lives of those people have been improved has at the same time degraded the environment in which they live. While their nutrition has improved, the quality of the air they breathe has deteriorated drastically. People who suggest that we just leave everything to God and do nothing are seriously misguided.

Another example of the improvements humanity has achieved is the near total elimination of diseases such as polio and smallpox. I believe the only people opposing polio vaccination programs are those such as the Taliban in Pakistan. Left in God's hands, these diseases would still rage within human populations.

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DEVIATION THAT NEEDS CORRECTION

Sherif A. Elfass, Northern Nevada Muslim Community president

A Muslim can argue that since Islam is the fastest-growing religion, humanity must be moving in the right direction. However, I believe that as man continues to get further away from God, for reasons discussed before in this forum, and as some Muslims continue to get away from the true teachings of Islam, humanity is getting deviated from the right path. To Muslims, the right path is the straight path; the only path that leads to salvation. That is why Muslims ask Allah at least 17 times every day to guide them to the straight path [Quran 1:6].

However, one needs to have faith in order to be guided to the straight path.

Allah says, "God guides those who believe to a straight path" [22:54]. But, he also says, "Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." [13:11]

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Monique Jacobs, director of faith formation, Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno

The question implies a starting point from which we judge our direction(s). Consider: We are taught to value the decisions and history of our ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand. Yet, that is to see the world/humanity through a personal, limited perspective; this question is "from a religious perspective." From the Catechism: "God does not abandon humanity to themselves. God not only gives [us] being and existence but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains [us] in being and enables [us] to act ... (301)."

From this perspective, we cannot judge one era over another as "better" — not as people of faith. We believe in a living, dynamic God; trusting God's presence in every era, every moment, caring for all humanity in spite of the destruction we wage upon each other.

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The challenge, in seeing and experiencing the direction of this destruction, is how to act as visionaries of humanity.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

Jikai' Phil Bryan, Buddhist priest and meditation guide

Buddhism focuses on ending suffering. Qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy for others and equanimity (in troubled-times) are our answers to "... right direction." "Bodhisattva Never-Despising" (Lotus Sutra) proclaims that all beings can become Buddhas. To the degree that we are slaves to fashion and robotic programming of greed, anger and ignorance is the degree to which we fail. "How are we to live?" was asked of Socrates, answered by Buddha and many others, including Confucius, Shakespeare and Whitman.

As long as humans recklessly and ignorantly squander our time on Earth, and waste our lives in vain pursuits instead of compassionate ones, even playfully nurturing life ... to that degree, does "direction need change"?

From the larger Buddhist perspective, infinite Buddhas on infinite worlds are teaching many life forms how to live happily, compassionately together.

Time is running out for healthy living on Earth if we fail to learn ourselves.

Next week:Why are more American congregations are moving toward informal worship styles?

Faith Forum is a weekly dialogue on religion coordinated by Rajan Zed. Send suggestions or com-

(Video) Faith Forum: John Updike

ments to rajanzed@gmail.com.

FAQs

Is humanity heading in the right direction? ›

Humanity is clearly not moving in the right direction. Grim news headlines reaffirm this daily. Humanity began moving in the wrong direction eons ago when the first humans chose to live independently from God. Separated from God, our natural inclination is toward selfishness, pride and domination of others.

Has humanity outgrown faith based institutions? ›

Now the precipitous decline in the numbers of self-identified Christians in the U.S. is translating into far less attendance at faith-based institutions. However, if we either broaden the meaning of “institution” or replace the word altogether, we'll likely find that very little has been “outgrown.”

What are the challenges facing religion today? ›

In recent decades there has been a precipitous decline in biblical moral values. This has paralleled the rapid escalation of culture-shifts such as relativism, materialism, individualism and secularism. These have caused the church, in general, to become increasingly marginalized throughout the world.

What defines humanity? ›

Definition of humanity

1 : compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition : the quality or state of being humane bespeaking humanity for the enemy in the midst of a bloody struggle— C. G. Bowers. 2a : the quality or state of being human joined together by their common humanity.

What is the future of religion? ›

In 2015, the Pew Research Center modelled the future of the world's great religions based on demographics, migration and conversion. Far from a precipitous decline in religiosity, it predicted a modest increase in believers, from 84% of the world's population today to 87% in 2050.

Why do people still believe in God? ›

The quick and easy answer to why people are religious is that God – in whichever form you believe he/she/they take(s) – is real and people believe because they communicate with it and perceive evidence of its involvement in the world.

Can you believe in God but not religion? ›

While the Nones include agnostics and atheists, most people in this category retain a belief in God or some higher power. Many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or “SBNR,” as researchers refer to them.

What are the 5 major issues in Christianity? ›

  • 5 Problems with the modern Christian church. While not all modern churches have these problems, far too many do. ...
  • Not preaching the gospel. ...
  • Hyper “Seeker-friendliness” ...
  • “Relationship, not a religion” oversimplification. ...
  • Lackluster worship music. ...
  • Trying too hard to be “cool”

What is the biggest problem facing the church today? ›

Other issues seen by more than half of American pastors as major concern facing the church in the U.S. include: poor discipleship models (63%), addressing complex social issues with biblical integrity (58%), prosperity gospel teaching (56%), reaching a younger audience (56%), and political polarization (51%).

What are the major issues in Christianity? ›

The major issues in Christian eschatology are the Tribulation, death and the afterlife, (mainly for Evangelical groups) the Millennium and the following Rapture, the Second Coming of Jesus, Resurrection of the Dead, Heaven, (for liturgical branches) Purgatory, and Hell, the Last Judgment, the end of the world, and the ...

What does the Bible teach us about humanity? ›

The creation story in the Bible states that man was created in the image and the likeness of God (imago Dei). This implies that humanity was created as perfect beings. However, the issue of disability in the human race results from disobedience to God (Ex. 15:26; Deut.

What is humanity in Christianity? ›

The human is person because God is person. It is apparent in Christian claims that the concept of the human as “being-as-person” is the real seal of that human as “being-as-the-image-of-God,” and therein lies the true nobility that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures.

What is a lack of humanity? ›

1 an insufficiency, shortage, or absence of something required or desired. 2 something that is required but is absent or in short supply.

Which religion will survive in the future? ›

Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 … The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.

What will religion be like in 2050? ›

Religious risers

In fact, Muslims are projected to increase by 73 percent between 2010 and 2050. If current trends hold, Christianity will also grow, albeit at a slower rate, increasing by 35 percent by 2050. That is about the same rate as the world's population overall is expected to grow by 2050.

What religions are declining? ›

The Presbyterian Church has had the sharpest decline in church membership: between 2000 and 2015 they lost over 40% of their congregation and 15.4% of their churches. Infant baptism has also decreased; nationwide, Catholic baptisms are down by nearly 34%, and ELCA baptisms by over 40%.

Which religion is most intelligent? ›

A 2016 Pew Center global study on religion and education around the world ranked Jews as the most educated (13.4 years of schooling) followed by Christians (9.3 years of schooling).

What is it called when you believe in God but not the Bible? ›

An agnostic theist believes in the existence of one or more gods, but regards the basis of this proposition as unknown or inherently unknowable. The agnostic theist may also or alternatively be agnostic regarding the properties of the god or gods that they believe in.

How do we know God exists? ›

As mentioned earlier, evidence for God's existence is widely available through creation, conscience, rationality and human experience.

Can you go to heaven without believing in Jesus? ›

Pope Francis assures atheists: You don't have to believe in God to go to heaven.

Who created the God? ›

We ask, "If all things have a creator, then who created God?" Actually, only created things have a creator, so it's improper to lump God with his creation. God has revealed himself to us in the Bible as having always existed. Atheists counter that there is no reason to assume the universe was created.

What do you call a person without religion? ›

2 The literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to Merriam-Webster. And the vast majority of U.S. atheists fit this description: 81% say they do not believe in God or a higher power or in a spiritual force of any kind.

What are the most common problems in the church? ›

Many churches miss out on amazing opportunities to witness to new believers because they have trouble expanding.
  • Not Ready to Expand.
  • Not Enough Space.
  • Communication Issues.
  • Resistance to Change.
  • Encouraging Attendance.
  • Retaining New Congregants.
Aug 28, 2018

What issues that divide the Christians today? ›

5 Issues That Divide Christians
  • Homosexuality. Despite the Bible being quite clear on the subject, this issue is still a hotly debated one. ...
  • When/If the Rapture Will Happen. ...
  • Pre-destination vs Free Will. ...
  • Old Earth vs Young Earth. ...
  • Evolution vs Creation.
Mar 21, 2015

What country was Jesus from? ›

When Jesus was born, all of Jewish Palestine—as well as some of the neighbouring Gentile areas—was ruled by Rome's able “friend and ally” Herod the Great.

Why do so many youth leave the church? ›

The reasons fell under four categories: Nearly all — 96 percent — cited life changes, including moving to college and work responsibilities that prevented them from attending. Seventy-three percent said church or pastor-related reasons led them to leave.

What is the church of the poor? ›

The Church is always mindful of the conditions of the people in the society. She has the mission to proclaim the Gospel not only to those who are privileged and fortunate in life but also those who are poor, marginalized, deprived, and voiceless in the society.

What problems did Martin Luther have with the church? ›

Luther had a problem with the fact the Catholic Church of his day was essentially selling indulgences — indeed, according to Professor MacCulloch, they helped pay for the rebuilding of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Later, Luther appears to have dropped his belief in Purgatory altogether.

What are the 5 basic beliefs of Christianity? ›

This is a discussion oriented Bible Fellowship. The 5 are: 1) Uniqueness of Jesus (Virgin Birth) --Oct 7; 2) One God (The Trinity) Oct 14; 3) Necessity of the Cross (Salvation) and 4) Resurrection and Second Coming are combinded on Oct 21; 5) Inspiration of Scripture Oct 28.

Is religious life still relevant today? ›

Although outward signs might give the impression to the contrary, Religious Life has a great relevance today. At the heart of what we are called to be is exactly what today's women and men need. At the heart of our life is a series of non-negotiables that, lived in authenticity, have enormous germinal power.

What challenges did the early church face? ›

In the early church, discipline concerned four areas in which there arose violations of the demand for holiness: (1) the relationship to the pagan social milieu and the forms of life and culture connected with it (e.g., idolatry, the emperor's cult, the theatre, and the circus); (2)…

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