If religion has failed (the Dalai Lama says so) should we reform it or abandon it?

by Bob Schwartz

“It is possible to live without religion, but can one live without love and compassion? The answer is no.”

No less a religious eminence than the Dalai Lama says that religion has failed us. From A Call for Revolution:

When I call on you to bring on the Revolution of Compassion, I am not speaking to you in the name of an ideology. I do not believe in ideologies – those systems of preconceived ideas that are applied to reality and the means by which political parties in power impose authority. Ideology is all the more dangerous because it permeates all sectors of society. Not only can you no longer discern it, your world view is unconsciously shaped by it.

Nor do I speak to you about the Revolution of Compassion as a Buddhist, as the Dalai Lama, or as a Tibetan. I am addressing you as a human being, asking you to never forget that you too are, first and foremost, a human being, before you are American, European, African, or a member of a particular religious or ethnic group. These characteristics are secondary: do not let them dominate. If I say ‘I am a monk’ or ‘I am a Buddhist’ or ‘I am a Tibetan’, these are subordinate realities to the fact that I am above all a human being….

In November 2015, after the Paris terrorist attacks, I faced up to the failure of religion. Every religion persists in cultivating that which divides us, instead of uniting us around what brings us together. None has succeeded in creating a better human being, or a better world. That is why now, in 2017, I have no qualms about telling you that there is an urgent need to go beyond religion. It is possible to live without religion, but can one live without love and compassion? The answer is no.

If that is so, and increasing numbers of people young and old believe it, where does that leave religion?

Should religion be reformed? Or should we, as so many already have, abandon religion?

It is unnecessary to highlight those failings. When people who claim faith ignore or encourage the worst, sometimes even in the name of those faiths, exactly what good can those faiths be?

So the question remains. Do we try to persuade the nominally faithful to pay more attention and fidelity to their principles, including the principle of compassion? Or do we shake the religion dust from our boots and move on?