Does Society Need Religion?

Reviewed in Newsletter 30 by Noel Cheer.

This is the title of Lloyd Geering's latest series of lectures (October 1998) and booklet (December) from St Andrew's Trust for the Study of Religion and Society.

As a preface to the first lecture, Lloyd observed that this might have been an appropriate lecture with which to inaugurate the SATRS lectures 15 years ago.

The first two chapters cover a range of definitions of the word "religion" and trace the benefits to society ("superglue") and the dangers ("dynamite") that it poses. Chapter 3 looks at attempts at creating societies without religion and leave us with the view that the more rigorous the attempt, the more like a religion the attempt becomes. The last chapter returns to a theme much in evidence in Lloyd's writing these days: the need to elevate ecological matters to the status of a religious concern. He moves us from the phenomenon of "globalisation" (which, in Chapter 3 gets a mixed press) to"global consciousness"-a move which is utterly essential to our survival-and therefore the required centre of religion in the 21st century.

Although the "bottom line" is similar to that of his Tomorrow's God (Bridget Williams Books, 1994) he arrives at it via a consideration of traditional religious ideas, traditional antipathy to religion and the need to start again with Tillich's "conscient ious concern for what really matters" rooted, literally, in the earth.

And, along the way, SOF people will be glad to be told that heresy (your making a choice in the face of dogmatic authority) is a spiritual duty!

Noel Cheer