When Huston Smith wrote his landmark work, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (2006), he set forth a series of cogent arguments as to why religion was still a serious phenomenon and reality for 21st century societies. A decade later, we could easily say, religion is even more significant in world affairs than it was when Smith wrote this book.
Taking stock of religious dimensions to global affairs in 2016, we see the following:
1) The ongoing, protracted conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians aspiring to create a state.
2) ISIS, with its own diabolical, barbarian ideology based loosely on Islamic ideas, but in which ISIS fighters happily murder Muslims as well as Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities.
3) Iran continues to undertake a proxy war against “the West”, through its support of terror and violence in other places, all in the name of the Shiite interpretation of Islam.
4) The refugee crisis in Syria gets the most airtime but there is another serious crisis in southeast Asia where Rohinga Muslims continue to flee violence in Myanmar/Burma at the hands of Buddhists. They too board sketchy boats to attempt to reach “safety” in places like Indonesia and Malaysia, where their prospects do not improve as refugees in squalid camps.
5) African conflicts are deeply rooted in religious/cultural fault lines, and Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS, Boka Haram and Al Shabab, target Christian and other non-Muslim communities as well as anything connected to the great evil known as “the West.”
6) Recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe, Turkey, Bangladesh, Africa, and the United States, unfortunately raise tensions and perpetuate more Islamophobia which leads to more conflict.
The list goes on.
In other words, religion is a huge factor in the world’s current conflict zones. For atheists and believers of any and all stripes, this is indisputable. What is needed more than ever is understanding, clarity, training, education, and a recognition that businesses, governments, and military commanders, can no longer ignore or downplay the role of religion in our fractured and complicated world.
Leaders in every field and arena take note.
At LACUNA, we believe that knowledge, expertise, intelligence and training about religious and cultural issues matters more now in the 21st century than at any other time in human history. We believe that understanding religion is the missing piece in world affairs. It is the “lacuna”, and that’s why we’re here.