A Synopsis of Paper 99: The Social Problems of Religion
In the modern age, we are faced with rapid adjustments of civilization. Society is becoming more mechanical, more complex, and more interdependent; it will not settle for a thousand years. The function of religion during this transition period will be to stabilize human ideals. In the midst of the confusions of a rapidly changing environment, humans need the sustenance of a cosmic perspective.
Religionists should function individually rather than as groups. Individual religionists are certainly sympathetic to social suffering, civil injustice, economic thinking, and political tyranny, but as a group, they should confine their efforts to the furtherance of purely religious causes. Religion directly influences social reconstruction by increasing the spirituality of individuals. Religion creates insight into human fellowships, puts new meaning into group associations, imparts new value to play, and exalts true humor. It grows when it is disciplined by constructive criticism, amplified by philosophy, purified by science, and nourished by loyal fellowship. True religion is a meaningful way of living everyday life.
Religion inspires us to live courageously and joyfully, joining patience with passion, insight with zeal, sympathy with power, and ideals with energy. Religious experience unfailingly yields the fruits of the spirit. Religionists express their religion through wholehearted service to the brotherhood of man. Knowing God as a Father is a personal religious experience. The corollary of this experience-knowing others as brothers-leads to the group aspect of religious life.
Group religious activities enhance the service of unselfish fellowship, glorify the potentials of family life, promote religious education, provide spiritual guidance, encourage group worship and friendship, conserve morality, and facilitate the spread of the gospel. The dangers of formalized religion include crystallization of beliefs, diversion of religion from the service of God to the service of the church, the inclination of leaders to become administrators instead of ministers, the tendency to form sects and competitive divisions, the establishment of oppressive ecclesiastical authority, the creation of a "chosen people" attitude, exaggerated ideas of sacredness, a tendency to venerate the past, and failure to hold the interest of youth.