I have a radical vision for Positive Religion on a Global Scale. Earlier blogs in this series have focused on human flourishing from a Jewish perspective — but the theory and teachings of Positive Judaism are humanistic — all based in universal truths about wellbeing – and do not need to be limited to one faith. All faiths that believe in human potential and individual freedom, who believe in tradition and community, and who dream of a better world for us and our children — are already part of it — a radical vision I have for 21st Century — a new Positive Religion Movement.
THE STUDIES SHOW . . .
Pew Research Center recently reported that 36% of Americans attend religious services at least once per week and 33% attend from a few times per month to a few times per year. In the US alone, this amounts to over 200 million people in the pews each year – and that’s just in the United States. If only a small percentage of these people heard messages of well-being and learned practical ways to raise the level of positivity and wellbeing in their lives, there would be a significant increase in wellbeing and happiness. Clearly, quality health care, better education, and safer communities will raise levels of wellbeing — but so do participating in faith communities.
Time and again, it has been shown that religious people are happier and more satisfied with life than non-religious individuals. This is not saying that believers in God are happier than those that do not, rather, it’s saying that people who consider themselves to be religious people, scale higher in life satisfaction and wellbeing than those who do not.
It’s here in the religious realm that people can best express their most human values (optimism, hope, love, kindness, gratitude, etc.) and appreciate and develop their psychological strengths (bravery, courage, authenticity, love of learning, humility, forgiveness, etc). Here’s what the studies conclude:
- Religious people are happier and healthier, and recover better after trauma than nonreligious people.
- The social support, fellowship, and sense of identity allows people to share in one another’s burdens and achievements and helps people feel less isolated.
- The strong emotional experiences of worship and prayer provide comfort and encourage awe and wonder and the search for the Divine.
Why? Because faith education and religious communities provides the context to ask existential questions: Who am I? What is my life for? Where do I fit in? Who is the creator? How do I live a virtuous life and improve the world around me?” And faith communities hold people together and guides them to address these deep questions that have massive implications.
POSITIVE RELIGION FOR ALL FAITHS
An emerging positive religion platform should draw upon the teachings and rituals that lead to wellbeing and happiness. Positive religion is not a universal practice that seeks to eliminate the uniqueness of each faith group. That already exists in Universal Unitarianism, the Ethical Culture Society, and the Quaker Society by and large.
Positive Religion is not a movement, it is a platform to draw on the positive messages and teachings that already exist within particular religious faith groups. There will be a Positive Judaism, a Positive Christianity, a Positive Islam, and a Positive Buddhism, etc etc. Each having their own distinct philosophies, practices, and traditions for wellbeing, happiness, and life satisfaction.
Positive Religion will focus the work of religious leaders – Priests, Pastors, Imam’s, Rabbis, and teachers of all faiths — along with their communities — to embrace positivity as the engine and platform that drives their uniqueness and particular message.
I believe there are 3 fundamental ideas that need to live at the heart of how faith traditions will apply positive religion in their own unique ways.
- Focus on freedom rather than authoritarianism
- Replace pessimism and fear with optimism and hope
- Teach human flourishing through religious practices, rituals, and symbols
I want to acknowledge the many religious organizations, ministers, and faith educators all over the world who have a vision for innovative, expansive, and dynamic religious living. They have been successful at motivating their communities and their people to achieve great things. Their people feel loved, supported, and connected to each other and to God.
THE PASTOR’S CREED
The Pastor’s Creed of the 21st Century should be to raise the wellbeing and happiness in the lives of the individuals and communities they serve by implementing positive religion in their ministry — and faith organizations should do the same. I believe the result of this enhancement will be one of the most important shifts in modern day religion than anything we have yet to see and to experience in organized religion. The opportunity is so great and I invite you to visit positive-judaism.org where we are creating resources, writing blogs, and hosting podcasts for you to use and to adopt in your own way.
For everyone, faith leaders, wisdom teachers, and religious communities who are eager to help your people thrive and flourish and to raise the universal level of wellbeing on a global level, I thank you, we are just at the beginning — and I wish you much success as you imagine new ways for Positive Religion to change the world.