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Kirill (Gundyaev), patr. Maintaining spiritual and moral purpose (From the speech at the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, Astana, May 30, 2012)
AND MORAL PURPOSE
From the speech at the 4th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional
Religions, Astana, May 30, 2012
We live in an epoch of hope, change and commotion, when many previous models of societal development have ceased to work. In the last century people began actively to promote - and still do - the ideas of the domination of autonomous reasoning, maximum freedom and emancipation, constantly expanding the limits of secularism and the isolation of the human personality from God and tradition. Using the latest achievements in political and information technology, religion has at best been relegated to the margin of the cultural or ethnographic cluster, with people turned into a human mass for the marketing of goods and ideas. Millions of our contemporaries, mostly young people, have become participants in the global experiment of imposing a consumer-oriented, utilitarian system of values.
Never in history has mankind experienced such a systematic imposition of global social, cultural and ideological standards. From career dreams to the way we relate to the objects of everyday life, behave and even the way we think, everything has undergone total uniformisation. Today, sin becomes a standard in a consumer society in which there is no place for a notion like morality. The only notion is that of comfort. If in the past people thought in terms of good and evil, and questioned the moral permissibility of certain phenomena, today for everyone it is much easier to think in terms
of ‘comfortable versus uncomfortable,’ ‘profitable versus unprofitable’ and ‘advantageous versus disadvantageous.’
To achieve comfort, young couples voluntarily refuse to have children and kill the babies they conceive. To ensure comfort, they send elderly parents to special hospitals and residential homes so that they do not interfere with their lives. To achieve comfort they destroy families and take away a woman’s right to motherhood, while at the same time modern technology turns women into paid incubators. Finally, to achieve comfort they euthanise, because life with suffering and disease is no longer considered worthwhile.
Faith can help people to distinguish right and wrong goals, even in such circumstances. Faith gives the individual the capacity for self-realization, but at the same time shows people the limits beyond which the meaning of human life, dignity and the very notion of ‘humanness’ are lost. The duty of religion in today’s world is to maintain personal freedom, freedom from enslavement by vice and to enable man to realise his eternal destiny.
The atheist model of peoples’ development has failed, along with the ideologies of the twentieth century. The history of this century has shown that to deprive society of religion is to take away its moral sense, to take away its very heart. If a society comprised mainly of religious people is for some reason declared totally secular, and attempts are made to try to drive religion into a ghetto, separating it from social processes, those doing so simply repeat the failed attempt of the states with dominant atheistic ideologies. That is why such attempts are ill-advised and even unrealistic in today’s world. They will fail just as did the ambitious project of state atheism.
It is obvious that the removal of traditional religions from social processes will not diminish religious commitment, because the craving for God and faith is natural to humankind. Moreover, where the organic processes of religious tradition are interrupted, there emerge new religious formations, in many cases malignant. The number of ethnic and religious conflicts grows exponentially. People deprived of the traditional mechanisms of education become sources of aggression, also in the inter-religious sphere.
In this context we need to mention the problem of pseudo-religious extremism. Inhumane acts against innocent civilians express not only to the evil intentions of bandits, whom we condemn.They are the consequences of a religious vacuum and the lack of correct understanding of religious tradition. States fight terrorism, kill aggressive fanatics and are right in doing so, because society has the right to self-defence. However, at the same time it is vital to solve the problem at its root: Give people the opportunity to peacefully practice their ancestral faith, to develop their national culture, expressing these in family-raising and the building of social relations.
The education system plays a special role in the prevention of inter-ethnic and interreligious conflicts. Human personality is formed and civilization is developed through acquaintance with cultural and religious heritage. Religious education leads people to comprehend God’s plan for them, and it teaches moral behaviour. For this reason it is very important for any government to encourage religious educational programmes, and the study of its people’s cultural foundations and the traditional ways of life.
A further global problem is of concern to many of our contemporaries. Respect for human rights has been positioned at the centre of global and national policies. Conferences and meetings are organised to promote the protection of human freedoms, and various documents have been approved. Many times, however, this work acquires a one-sided political-ideological orientation with a totalitarian intonation. Well-organised minorities are able successfully to impose their will on the majority under the pretext of respect for human rights. For all this, however, the world does not cease its violations of the rights of believers, including Christians, nor does it put an end to human trafficking, poverty, hunger, and the sexual exploitation of women and children. These are some of the most flagrant human rights violations.
If the human rights movement loses a sense of spiritual and moral purpose, and if it becomes a tool for political propaganda and the promotion of certain ideologies at the expense of others, it will bring humankind a lot of injustice, bondage to sin and vice,
excessive consumption and pride, which can cause and are already causing real human suffering.
Today we, as religious leaders, are called to speak clearly about the harmfulness of the attempts to create a world without God, a world dominated by passions and selfishness. In this our witness, we will have many allies, including among non-believers. From my own experience I know that many programmes of the Russian Orthodox Church are supported by people who are not believers, and I am sincerely glad that many states and their leaders are helping make the voices of religious leaders heard all over the world.
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