Prospects of a World Religion

This text of a talk given by Chris at the South Pacific conference in Robertson, NSW in October 1988, was first published in the autumn edition of the URANTIA Book Study Group Newsletter ‘The Ascender” of which Chris is the editor.

(from: SIX-O-SIX               March/April 1989                           and re- published Autumn Arena 2016)

I am unqualified to pass judgment on the prospect for the development of evolutionary religion in individual countries, and I am reluctant to generalize on the subject. I would prefer to draw my conclusions from the Book itself. But we need only look around us to see that a world religion is a long way off. In fact The URANTIA Book says in ‘The Character of Statehood’ in the Paper on ‘Development of the State’ that the evolution of a world religion is the 12th and last stage in the evolution of statehood:

12. The world-wide vogue of the pursuit of wisdom — the exaltation of philosophy. The evolution of a world religion, which will presage the entrance of the planet upon the earlier phases of settlement in light and life. [Paper 71:8.14, page 807.10]

But elsewhere the Book hints at something more imminent, the seeds of which are at least being sown in our own lifetimes. In fact in the Paper “After Pentecost”, in ‘Christianities Problem’ it says: 

The modern age will refuse to accept a religion which is inconsistent with facts and out of harmony with its highest conceptions of truth, beauty, and goodness. The hour is striking for a rediscovery of the true and original foundations of present-day distorted and compromised Christianity — the real life and teachings of Jesus. [Paper 195:9;5, page 2083.1]

Many of us URANTIA Book readers are refugees from a Christianity that lowered its standards to conform to the worldly demands of the society it found itself in. And of course this doesn’t apply to Christianity alone; many of us must have felt a combination of apprehension and perhaps snaking envy at the way Islam acts as a guide for social and even national moral behaviour. But the danger of a religion that is anchored in the present human environment is that it will fossilize, no longer motivated to evolve by the adjutants of worship and wisdom and the Holy Spirit.

 ( Paper 92: the later Evolution of Religion)
The co-ordinate functioning of these three divine ministrations is quite sufficient to initiate and prosecute the growth of evolutionary religion. [Paper 92:0.5. page 1003.5]

Purely human stimuli to religion, fear and superstition, are falling away as the world shrinks with the development of scientific knowledge.

But the effects of neither science nor revelation have penetrated the whole population of the world, There are great inequalities in the extent to which they have reached various parts of it. And I’m sure we have all wondered at various times about how a highly developed spirituality can express itself when it appears among a primitive and ignorant society. Actually, though, our Book suggests to us that Adjusters can work less effectively with their subjects when they are indwelling primitive human beings. By implication, then, spiritual growth is more attainable in a better developed society, at least in one where the pursuit of knowledge has enough social prestige as o be organised, so that superstition and bigotry are on the way to being overcome Of course that doesn’t mean that the most spiritually advanced aware people are to be found in the most scientifically advanced societies. Not at all: it is possible for human institutions to develop beyond a point where the exercise of religious impulses is safeguarded, to one where it is threatened by a materialistic self-satisfaction and complacency. Our Book does warn us of these things: they are very prevalent and obvious in twentieth-Century Western Societies. But the very fact that our teachings were indited in the United States, the world’ leading technological power, should reassure us that this complacency will only be a passing phenomenon. Out Book warns us of the dangers to family life, our basic human institution, of self-gratification in modern western societies. From the Paper of Marriage and Family Life – ‘Dangers of self-gratification’:

….The hunger of the soul cannot be satisfied with physical pleasures; the love of home and children is not augmented by the unwise pursuit of pleasure. Though you exhaust the resources of art, color, sound, rhythm, music, and adornment of person, you cannot hope thereby to elevate the soul or to nourish the spirit. Vanity and fashion cannot minister to home building and child culture; pride and rivalry are powerless to enhance the survival qualities of succeeding generations. [Paper 84:8.4, page 942.5]

What does this have to do with the prospects for a world religion? Well, I don’t have the wisdom of a prophet, but as the world shrinks through computer networks and telecommunications, it seems almost inevitable that the countries we now regard as backward will have to pass though the phase we’re now witnessing in the materially advanced ones, if the communications media continue to create artificial needs and demands. Now I realise that if we condemn these artificial modern wants and desires we are in danger of being accused of longing for some unreal arcadian utopia; however, we must remember that this world must after all pass though many stages on its way to settlement in light and life. And we can only begin on that path when the leading nations of the world have achieved those ‘earmarks of statehood’ I referred to earlier from the Paper on the Development of the State. If we read through them again we can get a rough idea what stage most of the nations of the world are at now in the evolution (page 807) In fact we could probably even draw a graph to demonstrate where the majority are in the late twentieth century, If we did, we might find that quite a few nations have achieved stages 5 and 6, a fair number stage 7, the more enlightened ones 8 and 9, but beyond that our graph could not register anything – because while stages 1 to 9 can be achieved at different rates by individual nations, we find at stage 10 that nothing more can be achieved without some overall administrative body to preside over the achievements of the higher stages. This might not come in the form of any world government, but it could be envisaged as being supervised by a world body like the United Nations, if the vested interests of the great power blocs release their grip on it enough to allow it to act more freely. I’m optimistic enough to believe that we can see the seeds of these being sown already.

Now I’m not actually trying to argue by this that a world government is a prerequisite for a world religion. I think it is worthwhile to stop and consider here what our Book says about the idea of world government, before we pass on to consider a planetary religion. Our Book tells us that even Adam made a heroic effort to establish a world government. On Page 833.5 we read that he tried to federate the peoples of Eden into the Edenic League, but that his administrative plans were frustrated outside the Garden by Calligastia and Daligastia.

Our Book also tells us that Urantia is better prepared for a world government than the neighbouring planet whose government is described in Paper 72 and which in so many ways seems ahead of ours. But perhaps the most illuminating passage of all is Jesus’ teaching on the subject, given in Paper ‘The Transition Years” on pages 1487-1491. It is also a very absorbing passage because it seems like actual prophecy.

Urantia will not enjoy lasting peace until the so-called sovereign nations intelligently and fully surrender their sovereign powers into the hands of the brotherhood of men — mankind government. Internationalism — Leagues of Nations — can never bring permanent peace to mankind…[Paper 134:5.10, page 1489.1]

And again:

Urantia nations have not possessed real sovereignty; they never have had a sovereignty which could protect them from the ravages and devastations of world wars… [Paper 134:6.8, page 1491.2]

These are part of Jesus’ teachings at Urmia, and the Midwayer Commission took the unusual step in this Paper of adding a note of their own:

[When we, the midwayers, first prepared the summary of Jesus’ teachings at Urmia, there arose a disagreement between the seraphim of the churches and the seraphim of progress as to the wisdom of including these teachings in the Urantia Revelation. Conditions of the twentieth century, prevailing in both religion and human governments, are so different from those prevailing in Jesus’ day that it was indeed difficult to adapt the Master’s teachings at Urmia to the problems of the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men as these world functions are existent in the twentieth century. We were never able to formulate a statement of the Master’s teachings which was acceptable to both groups of these seraphim of planetary government. Finally, the Melchizedek chairman of the revelatory commission appointed a commission of three of our number to prepare our view of the Master’s Urmia teachings as adapted to twentieth-century religious and political conditions on Urantia. Accordingly, we three secondary midwayers completed such an adaptation of Jesus’ teachings, restating his pronouncements as we would apply them to present-day world conditions, and we now present these statements as they stand after having been edited by the Melchizedek chairman of the revelatory commission.] [Paper 134:3.8, page 1486.3]

Now I would like to consider the actual possibility of a world religion as we see it from the perspective of today. There are two main factors interacting here to promote or hinder this possibility among the vast majority of mankind who follow either evolutionary religions or atheistic doctrines (and I might add that all the anti-religious national doctrines seem to be state-imposed ones.) These two factors are the socio-political system and the evolutionary religions. Theexistence of only two or three great powers in the world, at any rate only two great military alliances, also implies that there are only two socio-political systems, which we call capitalism and communism. But both of these systems are nowadays pretty broad churches. I think until recently they were not so, though, even ten years ago it would have been possible to say that religion, like matters of individual conscience generally, was one of the man causes of confrontation between these two systems. This is no longer true, and I would like to think it is because more enlightened leaders of the two main communist powers, the USSR and China, have finally come to terms, or are finally coming to terms, with the fact that the State ultimately has no power over the individual soul. Of course there are exceptions, in Eastern Europe, like Czechoslovakia and Romania, for example, but these governments too, will eventually have to admit that obvious truth. Evolutionary religions, the various branches of Christianity, have much deeper roots in these countries, roots that cut right through the social structure. For us who are familiar with The URANTIA Book’s teachings, I think it’s particularly poignant to witness the situation in Poland where a highly conservative branch of evolutionary Christianity is taking a moral lead over a floundering and bankrupt government and providing hope and comfort for the people. Something rather similar has been happening in Burma recently, with the Buddhist monks taking an uncharacteristically active part in political developments.

Before we go on to take a closer look at the individual evolutionary religions, let us just remember one important precondition for the development of religion that our Book insist on very clearly: the separation of church and state. Union of church and state is one of the things that the Paper ‘Evolution of Human Government’ concludes by warning us against. In the nominally communist countries we can see a the present moment the importance of this separation: in the Soviet Union, where church is separated from the State in the constitution institutional religion is enjoying a resurgence and a relative freedom, whereas in Czechoslovakia, where the State presumes authority over the institutional church, priests are persecuted and believers are harassed, despite enormous pubic [protests. And the danger to real religion is great even in countries where the unified Church and State are on friendly terms: in this case the danger is of religious ministry turning into soulless bureaucracy.

So much for socioeconomic systems. Now to consider the principal religions in the world today and what they could contribute to a future world religion. Our Book lists eleven prevailing religions on Urantia in the Twentieth century, on page 1011, not counting the primitive unorganised animistic beliefs of a small minority of the world’s population. Many of these religions have not transcended the local or national level. The two extreme examples are Shinto, which is closely identified with the Japanese State and Emperor, and Sikhism, closely associated with a Punjabi State which is being fought for.

Two other religions are localised to India: Hinduism and Jainism, though they have to some extent spread beyond its borders. But these two religions exist independent of any state or nation and their teachings cold have universal application. Hinduism especially has proved very pliable, with influences of the Melchizedek teachings, Buddhism, Jainism Islam and Christianity. Hinduism is tolerant enough to accept the notion of an Infinite One, a Trinity, and secondary gods as well. But in failing to acknowledge a Universal Father and sonship with Him and in being so closely identified with the mortal life of a particular society, Hinduism hasn’t proved to have much appeal beyond that society, so that to foreign eyes it almost appears to be a philosophy, or a best a cosmology, rather than a religion.

Taoism and Confucianism, which remain largely confined to China, are the inheritance of ancient philosophers who possessed great wisdom and spiritual insight. Although present day China might not seem fertile ground for theistic beliefs to survive, and although, as our Book tells us in the Paper on Melchizedek Teachings in the Orient, their present forms are pitiful shadows of the original teachings, these two important religions have survived, no doubt also helped by two other important factors: the relative homogeneity of the Chinese race and nation and an ancient and dependable ideographic writing system. But the fact that especially Confucianism has promoted ancestor worship in China, has led to an inevitable sense of exclusiveness and self-containment.

Zoroastrianism is a special case among the religions of Urantia. Although is has been very much overshadowed by zealous Islam in its homeland Iran, it contains a strong strain of the ancient teachings of Dalamatia and Eden, at least about the Seven Master Spirits, the only religion to do so, though it didn’t evolve a Trinity concept. And during the times when the Persians dominated the Hebrews, Zoroastrianism came to have an influence over another important national and social religion, Judaism. And though Judaism is a religion associated with ne nation or race, it is a monotheistic religion and the soil from which Christianity sprang.

Our Book describes the twentieth –century religions under the heading ‘the Composite Religions’ because they have interbred and influenced each other. The most composite religions one might say, are the remaining three: the three great religions which can truly be said to be multinational, namely Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. None of the three is unified: all are split into sects, Christianity most of all, both reflecting and affecting the moral and social climate of the rimes and places where they split and differentiated. Crusades and missions have made certain branches of them take root in different parts of the world, so cold they possibly bee unified? Could we even try to unify them, in the spirit of Theosophy say, taking the best elements of each and rejecting those elements which seem to apply only to a particular nation at a particular time? After all, our Book does say on page

… there is not a Urantia religion that could not profitably study and assimilate the best of the truths contained in every other faith, for all contain truth. …[Paper 92:7.3, page 1012.4]

We hear on the news every day don’t we, of the terrible results of religious intolerance somewhere in the world, so we can appreciate how wise that statement is. In fact that reminds me that one of the most recent religions on this planet, the Baha’i faith is also one of the most ruthlessly persecuted – in Iran -from where it sprang! Yet the Baha’i believers themselves are among the most tolerant religionists, believing as they do that each successive great religious teacher was the herald of a larger truth, leading through Jesus to Mohammed to Baha’u’llah.

But a synthesis of the evolved religions alone doesn’t seem possible. Now we recipients of this fifth epochal revelation are of course very tempted, in the first flush of our enthusiasm for these supernal teachings, to shout about them from the rooftops, as the religion to unite all religionists and replace all evolved religions, But we know also that the religions of the present-day world must run their natural course and learn to life together first. Let me read a very pertinent paragraph here from the Paper on ‘the Later Evolution of Religion’

The future of Urantia will doubtless be characterized by the appearance of teachers of religious truth — the Fatherhood of God and the fraternity of all creatures. But it is to be hoped that the ardent and sincere efforts of these future prophets will be directed less toward the strengthening of interreligious barriers and more toward the augmentation of the religious brotherhood of spiritual worship among the many followers of the differing intellectual theologies which so characterize Urantia of Satania. [Paper 92:5.16, page 1010.4]

Remember how Jesus admonished his apostles not to take any of a person’s religion away from them, but to add new truth to it is such a way as eventually to leave no room for untruth. We can take that advice too, in our daily dealings with people who hold different beliefs to us.

It isn’t possible I think to say yet with any certainty what form a future world religion will take. But our Book leaves us in no doubt that, providing our world survives at all, there will be one and that phase of our evolution will be the prelude tour world being settled in light and life. It’s even impossible to say for certain whether Christianity Islam or Buddhism will spread any further than they have. Islam is so much a social and political system that it is difficult to imagine it wining further territory that has already been claimed by other socio-political systems, And Buddhism, the most effective religion without a God, is not likely to win more converts on a massive scale, although who knows, if it has achieved the concept of the Fatherhood of God and our sonship with Him, it might have swept the world. As for Christianity, I prefer to leave the last word to The URANTIA Book itself.  In Paper

Christianity has indeed done a great service for this world, but what is now most needed is Jesus. The world needs to see Jesus living again on earth in the experience of spirit-born mortals who effectively reveal the Master to all men. It is futile to talk about a revival of primitive Christianity; you must go forward from where you find yourselves. Modern culture must become spiritually baptized with a new revelation of Jesus’ life and illuminated with a new understanding of his gospel of eternal salvation. And when Jesus becomes thus lifted up, he will draw all men to himself. Jesus’ disciples should be more than conquerors, even overflowing sources of inspiration and enhanced living to all men. Religion is only an exalted humanism until it is made divine by the discovery of the reality of the presence of God in personal experience. [Paper 195:10.1, page 2084.1]

The beauty and sublimity, the humanity and divinity, the simplicity and uniqueness, of Jesus’ life on earth present such a striking and appealing picture of man-saving and God-revealing that the theologians and philosophers of all time should be effectively restrained from daring to form creeds or create theological systems of spiritual bondage out of such a transcendental bestowal of God in the form of man. In Jesus the universe produced a mortal man in whom the spirit of love triumphed over the material handicaps of time and overcame the fact of physical origin.[Paper 195:10.2, page 2084.2]