A new monthly piece on Future Conscience which sets up a topic for discussion for all of those who read the site. This particular post also has a secondary motive, in that I am strongly influenced by my personal spirituality (I’ve even written a parable on this very site!) and it infuses everything that I write with a certain direction and sensibility.
Because of this, I want to start writing some posts which explore spirituality with a bit more depth. I thought it would be prudent to ask whether you, the readers, would appreciate such an approach every now and then or whether you like your futurism to deal more with hard science; technological progress; and secular ethics.
So, today’s discussion surrounds the role of spirituality in futurist dialogue. Is there enough of it? Would you like to see more of it? To what degree should metaphysical ideology shape our view of the future and the direction we are heading in?
Obviously, such paradigms greatly influence the moral and ethical foundations of any discussion – and futurism is no different in this regard – and so I would like to hear just where you think the line should be drawn. Is futurism a discipline that should try to overcome subjective interpretations of spirituality and religious ideology in favour of universal secularism; or should it embrace them wholeheartedly in their variety and expression?
Whilst writing for this site over the past eighteen months, I have examined and regularly read many futurist blogs and am often personally disheartened to see that the futurist ‘market’ seems to have unconsciously moved itself away from discussions of spirituality. Unless, of course, it is seen through the lens of the political ramifications of religion and its impact on nationality and foreign policy.
This partly comes from the subject matter involved in the field of futurism: which tends to surround ideas of technology and scientific progress. It also somewhat evolves from the view that in all scientifically empirical disciplines there is more of a tendency to adapt a kind of atheistic – or at least, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – mentality. Modern science feels that it can say quite a lot about religion and spirituality in the form of neurology and social anthropology; but it often doesn’t seem to be able to handle the lens being turned back onto it by paradigms that can hold different conceptions of ‘truth’.
Since Future Conscience is a personal blog, I feel it is okay for me to start adding posts that explore the spiritual motivations (or lack thereof) behind certain technological and social progressions. Indeed, I have been doing this all along. For me, to ignore the spiritual component of existence in favour of a purely utilitarian or ego-centric perspective is to walk down a path that inevitably ends in hardship for a great number of individuals. This mentality can be seen through every post that has been written for this blog; but I am currently considering making it more explicit and surface-level.
I strongly disagree, for instance, with a large number of social commentators who believe that organised religion is facing some kind of death knell at the hands of rational progress and ‘lucidity’ – washing away the silly superstitions and cocked-eyed vision of the more faith oriented.
Instead, I see only a rapid resurgence in those seeking to find meaning in religion – and, more particularly, personal spiritual paradigms – then we have seen in the past few decades. Unfortunately, many of those seeking such meaning are finding it in the radically fundamentalist evangelical Christian or Islamist movements (to name two predominate ones) because there are very few highly visible alternatives.
Our communication networks are making it far easier to connect with like-minded individuals than ever before, and one outcome of this is the vast amount of dialogue and discussion surrounding spirituality in its many forms. For some, coming to grips with your own personal relationship with the divine often means having to fight against the social norms that you are surrounded by. The internet, with its ideological variety, will always offer an alternative viewpoint.
In many instances, this leads one down a path towards the rejection of religion as it is quite easy to see the flaws involved in many organised evangelical or fundamentalist movements around the globe. Online, these fundamentalist perspectives are easy to discover and often quite domineering and hostile in their approach to those who think differently to them.
Personally, I see such rejection of these extremes as the easy way out – a cop out for the thinker who merely wishes to extrapolate from the negatives seen in fundamentalist religions towards a world-view arguing that humanity would be far better off without religion at all.
However, where the more militant atheist sees a call for rejection of spirituality and religion, I see a challenge to produce a more nuanced and rationally coherent form of metaphysical understanding. Indeed, these forms of spirituality have always been present behind the more dogmatic organised manifestations of religion – but it is time that they begin to find a larger audience and more mainstream recognition.
Science and religion are not merely to be seen as hostile to one another (indeed, it is important to recognise that scientific advancement throughout history often developed out of highly religious viewpoints); they should rather be viewed as counterparts that are exploring different facets of an overwhelming complex universe and our place within it.
There is also a great need to discuss more closely and openly the difference between organised religion and personal spirituality – a distinction that many people feel they understand implicitly but can often also be taken too far in that personal forms of spirituality can often become a collection of un-contextualised thoughts and beliefs strung together merely through convenience rather than a deeper understanding (many aspects of the ‘New Age’ movement spring to mind here).
I would argue strongly and continuously that science and rational empiricism, no matter how hard they may seek to try, will never be able to entirely undermine the position of those who wish to claim a form of ‘faith’ in something beyond empirical reality. In fact, I would also argue that all viewpoints – regardless of how ludicrously fundamentalist or rationally logical they may be – require a basis of faith. For every belief and viewpoint is predicated upon basic level assumptions about truth; progress; and the human condition.
I could go on for much longer on this topic (and for those who want to see me do so, don’t worry – it’s coming); but for now I want to leave it a bit more open in the hopes that some readers will contribute to this discussion and we can start something going here that explores all of these topics and many more with particular focus on the futurist discipline.
So, what do you think: does religion and spirituality have a role to play in futurist discussion? Should futurism remain almost solely the bastion of scientific empiricism? Is there enough recognition in Singularity theory (to take one example amongst many) of the spiritual and ideological assumptions that lie at its very basis?
What do you think of the future of spirituality – will it remain at the centre of what it means to be human, or is it just a way for us to find comfort in the dark? A way that is no longer needed now that logic and science is beginning to shed so much light?
Is there room for spirituality in futurism?
I look forward to your thoughts on the issue, and don’t worry – Future Conscience isn’t going to turn into some fundamentalist evangelical rant of a blog!