I've always been fascinated by religion.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my family's summer holidays on the island of Corfu. August 15 is when all of Greece pays homage to the Virgin Mary. I remember going to church on that day every year, and sitting quietly among widows in black kerchiefs and younger women smelling of summer wool and candle smoke. I would watch, enthralled, as deep faith and memories moved them to tears of grief and hope. And, in my childish way, I shared their love for her.
I believe that we are all hardwired for the sacred, that the instinct for spirituality is part of our collective DNA. I wrote about this instinct 15 years ago, and called it the fourth instinct, the one beyond survival, sex, and power. It propels us to find meaning and transcend our everyday preoccupations.
For some, it involves organized religion. For others, it's a personal spiritual quest. Seventy percent of Americans belong to a religious organization and 40 percent attend services once a week.
Yet, despite the central role religion plays in American life, all too often, when talking about it, we end up talking at each other instead of with each other. This is a shame -- especially at a time like this, when the economic struggle in so many people's lives has led to a deeper questioning of our values and priorities. Whether you are a believer or not, this is an essential conversation to have...which is why I'm delighted to announce that we are launching HuffPost Religion -- a section featuring a wide-ranging discussion about religion, spirituality, and the ways they influence our lives.
Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news -- in this case about all things religion-related -- served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently -- and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.
HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.
So, among other things, you can expect discussions about the relationship between religion and science; the role religion can play in overcoming personal obstacles and attaining a sense of well-being; the ways religion is portrayed in pop culture; how religious commitments influence politicians and key domestic policy debates; and the effect of religion on foreign policy issues and international relations.
The bloggers who will be posting on HuffPost Religion will be a great mix of religious heavyweights and up-and-coming voices in the field. Today's thought-provoking lineup includes Rev. Jim Wallis on the spiritual crisis of the recession; Deepak Chopra on the continued importance of spirituality; Eboo Patel on the crucial importance of interfaith relations; Sister Joan Chittister on the future of the Roman Catholic Church; Rabbi Or Rose on the role of religion when it comes to the environment; Dr. Eddie Glaude on the declining power of the Black Church; Sharon Salzberg on Buddhism's "middle way"; Brian McLaren on 'new Evangelicals'; and Steven Barrie Anthony on technology and spirituality.
"Ask your soul!" pleads Herman Hesse in My Belief. "Your soul will not blame you for having cared too little about politics, for having exerted yourself too little, hated your enemies too little, or too little fortified your frontiers. But she will perhaps blame you for so often having feared and fled from her demands, for never having had time to give her..."
So give a little time over to explore these questions and concerns that are at the heart of HuffPost Religion. And let us know what you think. The conversation starts now.