Saturday, December 12, 2009

Days of Resurrection

Developments in the world of religion and spirituality continue to reflect the operation of forces that Baha'is understand as hastening the advent of a united and just world civilization. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just released some fascinating data in this regard:

Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths

Eastern, New Age Beliefs Widespread

Dec. 9, 2009

Americans mix multiple faiths
The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination -- even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.

One-third of Americans (35%) say they regularly (9%) or occasionally (26%) attend religious services at more than one place, and most of these (24% of the public overall) indicate that they sometimes attend religious services of a faith different from their own. Aside from when they are traveling and special events like weddings and funerals, three-in-ten Protestants attend services outside their own denomination, and one-fifth of Catholics say they sometimes attend non-Catholic services.

Different Types of Religious Services

Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they attend at multiple places and nearly three-in-ten (28%) go to services outside their own faith, according to the Pew Forum survey, which was conducted Aug. 11-27 among 4,013 adults reached on both landlines and cell phones. Attending services at more than one place and across multiple religious traditions is even more common among those who go to religious services on a monthly or yearly basis, with nearly six-in-ten (59%) saying they attend at multiple places and four-in-ten attending services from outside their own faith at least sometimes. (Read more here)

Charles M. Blow of the New York Times comments on these findings as indicative of paranormal flexibility.

If you think that was interesting, how about Muslim's who follow Jesus?:

"When Nabil had a life-transforming encounter with Jesus, he remained within the Muslim community, participating in Muslim prayers. As his love for Jesus became known to family and friends, some followed his example, but others actually attempted to murder him. After being imprisoned for his beliefs, he decided he no longer considered himself a Muslim. He saw Islam as the system responsible for persecuting him. Today Nabil considers himself a Christian. But some who followed him in faith still see themselves as Muslims.

Ibrahim was a well-respected scholar of the Qur'an, a hafiz. When he decided to follow Jesus, he closely examined the Qur'anic verses commonly understood as denying the Trinity, denying Jesus' divine Sonship, denying Jesus' atoning death, and denying the textual integrity of the Bible. He concluded that each of these verses was open to alternate interpretations, and that he could therefore follow Jesus as a Muslim. Soon members of his family and community came to share his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Ibrahim was also imprisoned for his faith, but unlike Nabil, Ibrahim still wanted to follow Jesus as a Muslim. Nonetheless, some whom he led to Jesus no longer see themselves as Muslims. Ibrahim and Nabil are friends and respect each other as brothers, though they disagree about their identity."

Reading about the Pew Report and so called "Messianic Muslims" reminded me of a portion of the document "One Common Faith" that was commissioned by the Universal House of Justice:

Loss of faith in the certainties of materialism and the progressive globalizing of human experience reinforce one another in the longing they inspire for understanding about the purpose of existence. Basic values are challenged; parochial attachments are surrendered; once unthinkable demands are accepted. It is this universal upheaval, Baha'u'llah explains, for which the scriptures of past religions employed the imagery of "the Day of Resurrection": "The shout hath been raised, and the people have come forth from their graves, and arising, are gazing around them."

While many will view evangelical Christians consulting astrologers or Muslims embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior with concern, Baha'is will welcome these phenomena as evidence of the further disintegration of the walls of accumulated dogma that have so long divided people from their neighbors. As another portion of "One Common Faith" put it:

For a Baha'i, the proliferation even of cults and practices that may arouse aversion in the minds of many serves primarily as a reminder of the insight embodied in the ancient tale of Majnun, who sifted the dust in his search for the beloved Layli, although aware that she was pure spirit: "I seek her everywhere; haply somewhere I shall find her."