The very notion of presenting a serious proposal for how religions can and should partner together as they work toward sustainable, peaceable global governance might seem preposterous to some. How, one might ask, could Arab Muslims work alongside Israeli Jews, or Western Christians? Moreover, how could these monotheistic religions collaborate with polytheistic worldviews like those founded in Asia and India? Indeed, within worldviews there are manifold difficulties that might overwhelm conciliatory efforts. Is the schism in Christendom between Protestants and Roman Catholics too great theologically to construct bridges of reconciliation relationally? Could Fundamentalist Muslims stomach the viewpoint of their moderate, even Westernized, cohorts or vice versa? Is there a place for agnostic and contemporary Jews or would this conversation only pertain to Orthodox Jews? There are so many questions, so many stumbling blocks, that many would scoff at any endeavor to intertwine religion and world governance.
While religious and ideological beliefs have instigated or fueled some of the most violent and durable conflicts in world history, one should not however fall into the trap of negativism to solely envision religion as an inherently evil “opium for the masses”. Nor would it be realistic to push religion under the carpet as if the beliefs of billions of individuals around the world counted for nothing in terms of how humanity will write its future, a future that, for better or worse, will inevitably be a collective one. And while the actions of a few might grab all the headlines, one should not forget that religious beliefs and practices take a thousand faces: as with democracy, one should not be swayed by the tyranny of the (religious) majority or, for that matter, by the tyranny of an extremist minority. With the two most populous countries, China and India, now consisting of one of the world’s least religious culture on the one hand and one of the most religious on the other, it is also imperative to find some sort of understanding between religious and non-religious people.
In other words, religion must reach on a global scale what it has achieved here and there on a national or regional scale, namely an understanding between religions and a compromise with the secular elements of society, be they governmental, economic, or social. In many ways, the reaction of religious extremists around the globe is nothing but a violent rejection of this understanding and this compromise.
That religion, which is often conservative in nature, should by all accounts not impede the march towards a global history is self evident. That it can actively contribute to building a global future is less so. Nevertheless, it is upon this premise that Nathaniel Bliss has established the guiding thread that runs through this working paper.