Story behind the Passage
This book was recommended to me by my pastor. Well, he is not exactly “my” pastor, of course, and I am not even “his” church member anymore, but that is a different story. Or, wait a minute, actually, it is not a different story at all! The reason why we keep in touch and why I still consider him “my” pastor is very much related to the topic. The reason why I left this church is because I could not live with the fact that my fellow church members were convinced that “their” God is the right one and that we therefore need to pray for the “poor” Muslims, Hindus, and other people with lost souls, so they may find the right path.
Yes, I am putting that into very simple words here.
But that is the gist of the story.
I could not take it.
But that does not prevent me from
keeping in touch with pastors and individual believers.
Yes, I was baptized as a Christian and I consider myself a very faithful person. If you had told me this maybe ten years ago, I would have laughed at you, thinking you are taking serious but obviously very powerful drugs. Well, life changes you. And I am not going to talk more about my faith here. I want to talk about the book and it deals exactly with the question or rather the obligation we have to find a way towards inter-religious dialogue and peace. If you watch the news from Afghanistan right now, you will see that religion, as terrorists understand it, is the source of much evil in the world. But every true believer also knows that this kind of institutionalized fundamentalism has nothing to do with God.
For me, the events of the past few days have forever changed me.
They showed me once more what true believers can achieve –
That they can move mountains and save lives.
- Critique of Western achievements
These paragraphs provide a pretty good impression of what the book reads like. As Küng explains in the introduction, it is the gist of long years of research, reflection, dialogue, and lectures. This is also why it is structured in such a concise way. And the aspects described in these sentences here provide the background for Küng’s “project” of coming up with a world ethos; a kind of global value basis which members of all faiths can commit to whily still being firm and grounded in their individual religion/denomination. The reason why the world needs ethos in general is very simple: Because we keep killing ourselves and our planet otherwise.
Oooops, this is exactly what we are doing now.
Remember the book was published three decades ago.
How prophetic of an oecomenic theologist.
I would say, the things he describes in this passage are exactly to the point today — all of them. Especially ecology is much of an issue now with all the attention global warming is getting. But I am even deeper into the democratic value disaster. I have no idea how I could become such a “preacher” in favor of morality, ethics, and virtues, but this is obviously what I am called to do these days, I cannot help it — I do not want to suppress the impulse. And I am sure there is a reason. We are that reason — all of us. Sometimes I hate living in the wrong century, even millennium, but that is also sinful to even think that you can live in the wrong time or even lead the “wrong” life. I strongly believe that we are where we are because we have some sort of mission to fulfil and if my mission is to bring the necessity, the inherent need for ethics and basic humanistic values, to the attention of the public — so be it.
2. Ethics without religion?
You know, this is a particularly challenging passage for me because, just a few years ago, I would have said that ethics and world peace are definitely possible without any kind of religious and theological roots. Today, I think differently. And the reason is very simple — it is empirical; based on personal experiences, concluded inductively to be more precise. Whenever I ended up in life and death situations or really severe crises, all of the people who brought about solutions and contributed to joint help efforts shared one thing: They believed in God and they made no secret of it — they prayed, smiled, and spread optimism based on actual achievements which nobody would have thought possible before.
And guess what? In these moments, nobody cares what this God is called.
Nobody cares what kind of songs are sung about him.
Nobody cares if you are black or white, gay or straight, Catholic or Muslism.
I guess, you can learn a lot from crises and war.
If you truly believe…
3. Humanitarian Rights
There is not much more to add to this except for emphasizing that Küng was right — more than right. The importance of the topics he lists has even increased. And the thing that makes your heart bleed most, especially in this very minute in which women are being killed and raped around the world simply because they are women, is that the gap between the “developed” and the “emerging” countries, as we used to call them, is still so huge. I know, the figures are actually saying the gap has been closing a little bit. Still, we are facing extremes if you look at the actual living circumstances. And these extremes will only be eliminated if people — including WOMEN — in the rich and supposedly liberal countries TAKE ACTION.
You can do so in many different ways.
It does not take much.
Küng decided to research, write, and teach about his vision and how to get to the world ethos.
I will follow his example.
Are you following too?
1) Do you think ethics without religion are possible? How?
2) What is the biggest global issue threatening humanity according to your opinion?
3) If you think of Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism — what do these “religions” have in common?