The religious historian Martin Marty has made the observation that we don’t live in either a religious society or a secular society but rather a hyphenated “religio-secular” society. I would like to take the hyphenated identity a step further and say that we live in a “religio-spiritual-humanistic-secular society.” I know. Its linguistic construction is a bit awkward. Nevertheless, we need to give justice to each of these four quadrants that constitute the complex and many-sided society in which we live. Together they comprise an ecology of universal values that nurture human flourishing.
Within each quadrant there are various constellations of values that can enrich and sustain life. These values need not be oppositional and contradictory. They can be complementary and cooperative. Someone has wisely said, “The different of one great truth is another great truth.” Consider the possibility that the various constellations of values associated with the religious, spiritual, humanistic and secular quadrants of our society and world might be able to live together in a reciprocal and mutually respectful relationship.
1. The Religious Quadrant:
The Primal Tradition: The Great Spirit, Mother Nature, The Human Being
The Hindu Tradition: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
The Buddhist Tradition: Mindfulness, Non-Attachment, Compassion
The Confucian Tradition: Respect, Character, Nobility
The Taoist Tradition: Receptive Yin, Initiatory Yang, Integral Tao
The Jewish Tradition: Justice, Mercy, Peace
The Christian Tradition: Faith, Hope, Love; or Light, Life, Love
Other Religious Traditions: (Additional Value Clusters)
The Spiritual Quadrant:
The Archetypal and Iconic Shaman, Sage, Prophet, Mystic
Body, Soul, Mind, Spirit; Soma, Eros, Psyche, Spiritus
3. The Humanistic Quadrant:
Beauty, Goodness, Truth; Arts, Humanities, Sciences
The Whole Person: Body, Senses, Emotions, Relationships, Dreams, Imagination, Reason, Volition, Conscience, Intuition, Spirit
4: The Secular Quadrant:
Life, Liberty, Happiness; Work, Learning, Leisure; Health, Education, Welfare; Rights, Responsibilities, Relationships; Freedom, Opportunity, Equality; Persons, Planet, Profits; Public, Private, Social (Sectors)
A dualistic mentality will attempt to play off these various value clusters against each other. An integral pluralist mentality will attempt to find the common ground between them while respecting differences in emphasis and priority that are only natural between different individuals, groups and cultures.
What is needed today in our pluralist society and global age is the ability to make common cause with others around shared and complimentary values, while at the same time living respectfully across our real differences. This applies to all our social institutions, including religion, education, law, media and government.