Travis Tokarek

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UNIFYING RELIGONS. It Can Happen. Asking for Feedback.

I am thinking of creating a small scale conference at my university. This conference will host ideally every religion represented by their club. The talks will first be through me (I have no cultural religious background, but understand their purpose and the need for the planet to pacify). I will identify how all religions present are similar and different. My belief is that all religions inherently have the same single moral value. This value is the purpose for religion and its key in understanding how we can unite them. When two religions argue about a conflict, I suspect the conflict arises from cultural differences. If we can identify this unifying value, it should rule out all cultural differences and bring all religions together.

What do you think?

Can this work?

Do you agree with me that religious unity is required for a better existance?

Does anyone know if this has been tried in the past?

The purpose of this TED talk is so that I can Identify what could go wrong and prevent it from happening or think of a solution so that there is no time for prejudice. The longer people have to dwell on a though, the more it becomes instilled as a belief.

Please respond, I am dead serious about this conference and I actually am developing a fear of being alive to witness what could occur in the next 50 years. Please respond.

  • Nov 8 2011: Travis,
    We all feel the "gap at the center" in Western civilisation due to the breakdown of the old faiths. The clear implication is that this gap needs to be filled. But with what? I believe it can only be filled by a renewed sense of the sacred. By this I do not mean a new set of beliefs, which will inevitably harden to dogma. I mean an experiential sense of trust and caring, a renewed feeling for beauty in whatever form it may be found. I believe no organisation, no new religion will help, maybe we need to develop a new story for our time , based on science.We must understand that aphorisms like "the brotherhood of man" are not romantic, pie-in-the-sky day-dreams but practical patents for survival.
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      Nov 8 2011: I agree with you, I am not hoping to alter anyone's beliefs. I truly believe them to all be the same, just clouded with differences doctrine from a time that is not the present. I don't like that what I have implied is creating a new religion. That doesn't really seem like a step forward. What I hope to do is adopt what you have written. The method is unknown and I would like to attempt one way of doing this. If you have any ideas on how to tackle the problem, please help. I appreciate the criticism, but am looking for methods and solutions.

      The problem, I feel, is that unifying values is not discussed enough
      • Nov 8 2011: You might want to check out Dr Zakir Naik's lecture as discusses the similar values that each religion pertains and how all religion is essentially one :)
      • Nov 8 2011: Travis,
        I didn't mean to criticise you, it was not my intention. I understand your concerns! But the only method I know that works without any negative side effects is "live as you preach''.We all love humanity, and now we should learn to love our neighbour, it's not so easy as it sounds. And maybe from that point , everything will start to change.
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    • Nov 10 2011: Kathy!!!
      It's brilliant! My limit of "thumb-ups" for you is over!
      Evelyn Underhill said,"it has been a tragedy of the founder of every great religion to have had re-erected in their wakes the very barriers they laboured to cast down."
      A root meaning of religion / two Latin roots "re" and "ligare"/is that, which binds together. A union of separately evolved, different religions, hence different parts of the whole should happen within each of us, individually, it's a personal endeavour for each of us, and only then the "the very barriers" will be "cast down' We should evolve to the higher state of consciousness to bind all religions together on the level of "Truth" which is beauty and love. Any attempt of unification on the ground of logic reasoning, at the present state of our consciousness is doomed, no matter how benevolent the intention is.
      But the intention is a good sign, maybe we start to understand the necessity of change and it's a first step.
      Travis,thank you for bringing this discussion on TED !
  • Nov 8 2011: Have you read those texts? I've read the Bible (which includes the Torah, and the Tanakh, which includes the Torah) and in many cases it cannot agree with itself, let alone any of the other texts you mentioned.

    As to what it tells me, it tells me that whatever branch of Sufism you are speaking of has not read the texts.
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    Nov 7 2011: Over a century many people strived to unite existing religions.

    The Sufi Movement and the Baha’i are good examples for this.

    http://www.sufimovement.org/

    http://www.bahai.org/

    Fact is that few people join to make this happen.
    They even are seen as a threat to some so called religious leaders.

    Today in Iran Baha’i communities are excluded from jobs and school.
    They even are driven out of their houses by the officials.
    Resistance though against your seemingly logical idea is enormous.
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      Nov 7 2011: Thanks so much for your response. Both links are incredibly relevant to what I am hoping to do. I am going to contact both organizations and see if they can help outline where they may have went wrong.

      How did they start? I feel like an organization that begins internationally would be weak in spreading their word. Where is its core members? If I started locally, then expanded, would it overcome the problem they faced?

      Thanks again for these links, and if you have any ideas, please let me know what you think.
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        Nov 8 2011: The Sufi Movement I'm most familiar with so I can say a little about it.
        It started in France, Holland and the US at the start of the last century. Holland became the base of the movement.
        Now there are communities all over the world but they attract only few people. Mostly people that can think for themselves.

        It is very difficult to get attention in the world. If your story is common believe for at least a great part of humanity and if you can put it into catchphrases that you can promote with a lot of money then you get attention for the time being. If it is a good story that has to spread by its merits, it takes a very long time. Our times are even more difficult. There’s so much and it passes by that fast that it’s hard to dedicate yourself to anything.

        I don’t want to discourage you with your prospect, only show that which I saw.
  • Nov 9 2011: Hi Travis I , read some of the comments. I was wondering, did ya get an answer? Religion seems to fall in bed with "prejudice"? With respect. :)
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    Nov 8 2011: You can not unite most religions, any more than you can unite magnetic south with magnetic north. Unitarianism already exists. Or you can join my religion: Empathy & Loving-Kindeness.
  • Nov 8 2011: Unifying Religion is a dream that might not come true.

    I grew up in Toronto and travelled and lived in many countries such as Bangladesh, Saudi Arab, United Kingdom, India, U.S, Malaysia and Singapore. From my experience I found that although all religion tells us to get along and live peacefully , culture plays a key role discriminate and hate.

    Here are some of my findings:

    It's a common story that Sikh wear a bangle in their arm to represent a form of slavery. They will take of the Bangle once they have irradiated all Muslims.

    Pakistan and India will always have a problem with each other (Muslims vs. Hindu), and if you are a Muslim living in India you have to work twice as hard to attain a job, and continuously prove that you deserve to be called an Indian Muslim.

    U.S. "War on terrorism" - enough said

    The promised land - Israel and Palestine (Jews vs. Muslim) Neither forces will ever give up.

    Religion itself is a powerful tool, some are willing to kill for it and others will die for it. Some countries tend to discriminate more than others and given the education level (of various countries), and the stereotypical hatred culturally enforced at an early age 'unifying religion' is wishful thinking.

    I'm not trying be a pessimist or discouraging you in anyway. But facts are facts and I hope it changes one day.
  • Nov 8 2011: Let's start with ALL Jewish, Christian and Islamic people using the single term HAJEAL when they refer to God for 366 days.
  • Nov 8 2011: I think we do agree in greater part than we disagree, and fortunately the disagreeable bit is interesting.

    Your understanding of existentialism is enough that you understood my point in the sense that your interpretation is correct.

    I definitely understand the macro existentialism is not helpful in this situation. I hope that I am a pessimist in this case and you are the realist, or at least more realist than I am.

    I would hope that eventually what I consider the original moral motto of the US prevails world wide (most especially in the US itself where it has lost it's realistic yet utopian meaning

    "E Pluribus Unum"

    In many, one.

    I hope that compassion does prevail, and that we gain a sense of peace. As I believe you are correct, the next 50 years are frightening to comprehend.

    Cheers!
  • Nov 8 2011: Religions do not share a single overriding value.

    To say religions, at least the two of the three Abrahamic religions that I am most familiar with have a common value is to belittle these religions and hundreds of years of theological development. I will exclude Islam because I do not know much about Islam and therefore am not qualified to speak even on it's implementation much less it's theology.

    Factions are almost built into religions it seems, even though those that I am familiar with specifically teach against schism. For example the Christian religion has attempted unifying doctrine many times, and it has often produced schism. And by Christian here I mean anyone who would take the title, because if you read some like Jack Chick, Catholics are not Christians, or if you read some other authors Protestants are not Christians, Mormons are not Christians and so on and so forth. Are Greek Orthodox Christians Christians? It depends on whom you ask.

    So to answer what could go wrong, I would say the tendency towards schism would promote division and break any unifying religion.

    Also...

    What about those of use, myself included, who are Atheists?

    And, as to whether I agree that religious unity is required for a better existence, I would say no. In fact I would posit that a unifying religion would lead to a worsened existence. To me this would be equivalent with a one party political system. That idea implicitly promotes the destruction of freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and, eventually, freedom of speech.

    And before someone accuses me of not having relevant experience because I am an atheist, I would say that I attended Christian churches and believed strongly in Christian doctrine for at least 10 years.

    And I don't miss it in the least.

    If you strive for world peace, I wish you the best in accomplishing that, but I do not believe your current idea will work. Sadly, as I too fear for the future.

    Good luck
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      Nov 8 2011: Sorry maybe I didn't outline my goal properly. Many civilizations and cultures have come about that experienced what our current one has (though the circumstances have changed ie/ technology, medicine, physics, etc.) We have seen all civilizations adopt religion, economy, politics. Why are these inherent to the human experience? Why have all past civilizations (and from the looks of it our current one) all failed? From what I gathered in my minimal university experience in anthropolgy and archaeology, a sense of ego develops in those with power. It happened in Egypt, it happened in Mesopotamia and it's happening now. Those in power are corrupt. The link I am trying to make between unifying religion and those in power is that we all have a sense of belief including the ones in power. Though our beliefs are all very different, I feel like they all must have one fundemental basis. I did not mean to discredit religions when I had said that they all have different cultures attached to them, but I did mean it when I said they all share a key value. Whether this key value is compassion (which Karen Armstrong had pointed out) or one that has not been identified, it must exist. If it did not exist it would not explain why these cultures all independently created the idea of God.

      I greatly appreciate your view on the tendency toward schism. This is not something I had though of and I will take it into great consideration.

      I would also like to mention my religious background as I did leave out the minimal amount that I do have. I attended catholic school and went to a christian club until I was 17. After I no longer had to go to church and adopted my love for science, I ceased to believe in God. Call them what you will, the forces that govern us do exist, who knows why they exist, but they do. I feel that unifying relgion would allow us to appreciate these forces or this God and relate our experiences with one another. The alternative is to watch them wither
      • Nov 8 2011: Wow, I am impressed by the level headedness of your response. Not that I had any reason to doubt it about you in particular, but I've... seen some interesting things pop out of the internet. So, many thanks for your tone.

        I would argue that God appears in at least most cultures (I can't say for all, but from those I know) out of a need for explanation. It is the same drive that drove science. I mean imagine a world where nothing makes sense! Lightning and thunder are very scary even when you know what they are, I have a hard time conceiving the ancient responses. God is an answer to questions we can't answer.

        There are forces that govern us, but I would say it is more in Camus' fashion of main character in The Stranger looking into the sky and seeing this infinity and our minuscule place in it. We are an accident of history.

        I have read a bit of Armstrong's work and I must say that while her grasp of the history of fundamentalism is quite staggering, I think she romanticizes religion. Similarly to how Jung romanced the idea of the mind.

        In a way, religion, economy and politics are expressions of the nature of man. We are inquisitive and group together and we establish cultures. The deep history of humanity is amazing to consider.

        So I suppose I agree with you on the manifestly present religiosity, but I would argue that this is all a product of the terror of the unknown. And I am not relegating this to pre-modern civilizations, religions have developed in the modern world as well, and for the same reasons.

        In any mechanism of a unifying idea we must never forget our humanity and our differences. We must use our freedom of thought to the maximum of its capacity.

        I honestly wish I could find evidence that peace might someday exist in perpetuity, or at least some modicum of peace. But I do not see evidence of this in history.

        Cheers, and many thanks for your measured response!
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          Nov 8 2011: I know what you mean, the TED website has somewhat turned into a way to just say something and be heard. Most questions and responses are not actually thought about before being posted. I adopt your reluctance to take posts seriously.

          I am not familiar with your reference to The Stranger, though I am aware of the basic idea of existentialism. I am so torn, I agree with you in nearly every aspect. I just feel that the existential ideal is so irrelevant to what we are experiencing right now. By that I mean that it is not a solution or a way of live that will allow us to address the current conflict, even though I agree that the conflict is so unimportant on the actual scale of things.

          I agree with your statement that "we must use our freedom of thought to the maximum of it's capacity" and I will strive to employ it while engaging this theological experiment I am conducting.

          Thanks for your input
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      Nov 8 2011: Quote: "Religions do not share a single overriding value."

      I wonder why you said this. As stated before: the Sufi Movement combines all religions for about a century now. If they hold service it is common that they take any subject of interest. Then they illuminate that subject with texts in that order from the Bhagavad Gita, from a Buddhistic writing, from the Avesta (Zoroaster), from the Thora (Jewish), from the Gospels (Christian), from the Qur’an (Islamic) and from our own perspective.

      So every religious subject of interest can be found in all those scriptures and correspond perfectly. What does that tell you?
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    Nov 8 2011: New Struggles:

    After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave-a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousand of years in which his shadows will be shown.-and we- we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.

    - From "The Gay Science book three'- Nietzsche
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      Nov 8 2011: Although I feel what you say is important to take into consideration, I should mention that I feel like toleration is not an option. Tolerance means accepting that our doctrines from years passed are what should be law. It is not the doctrine and the cultural differences that I am hoping will be unified. It is the underlying thought that it is compassion and "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you" that I want to highlight. If those values are a part of every relgion, then how come there is conflict?
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    Nov 8 2011: Travis in the begining was just one religion......the Godess......

    You have to be aware if you talk of religion or spirituality......are very different things.

    So what really do youwant to reunified?
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    Nov 8 2011: This is a great thing that you are trying to do Travis and I do not think anyone will argue with your intent.

    There are several issues with this (not with what your doing) but the religions themselves that may make it hard (not impossible, but hard). For one, one of the requirements of being part of a certain religion is the notion of certainty. I have many friends who are evangelical Christians who are very nice to me but still think that I am going to suffer from eternal hell fire because I do not believe in God. The same can be said about Muslims, Jews and just about any other dogmatic religion.

    I also think culture plays an influence. In the U.S. and Canada people are more liberal and much more (tolerant) about other peoples views than those in other cultures (I do not want to sound like western culture is elite or anything). There really is a difference between a Muslim in the U.S. and Canada an a Muslim from Iraq and Denmark, just how there is a difference between a Christian from Africa and a Christian from the U.S.

    I do not want this to sound pessimistic or anything but I just want you to be aware of the potential impediments that you would face, that way you may be able to put them into consideration and come up with something better. I'm actually pretty intolerant of some religious beliefs being that beliefs, like actions, do have consequences but I also know that my way of going about it is not going to be accepted from people of faith and that it would be viewed as arbitrary (even if that was not my intent). In all actuality I would advocate for a more secular society, instead of more religion bu on a more practical level (because I understand why religion has a purpose in peoples lives nothing I will say will change people). So you should do what I can't in this regard and unite everyone.

    Once again I think your biggest issue is getting rid of the truth claims of religion and trying to create more doubt in the name of unity than certainty
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      Nov 8 2011: Thanks for the input! Your right, I really do need to make sure that I am prepared going into this. I have already talked to so many people and see how much more of a struggle this will be. I still think that the fact that every culture around the world has developed religion independantly is grounds enough to give it great merit. It worries me that we see civilizations rise and fall and never stop to think that the corruption and loss of values they held is what is the cause. For whatever reason we are here, I really hope we find our way this time around, because once our buildings and society crumble, we will have to start all over again.
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    Nov 7 2011: Hi Travis -
    It is a noble and worthy goal from a cultural perspective. The primary challenge lies in doctrine, not necessarily underlying moral values. That said, there are many fundamental truths woven throughout most religions which can be agreed upon. If religions are willing to set aside what divides them, while working together toward a unified goal - such as peace on earth - the world could change. Historically, this is easier said than done, of course. I have great faith in humanity's ability to find what we agree upon, yet understand the difficulties inherent in this challenge. I often wonder if there will someday be agreement that we worship the same God, but it will take the conversation full circle and challenge doctrine again -- leaving someone wrong, or questioning their faith. Compassion and love for one another is the thread that binds us. Wouldn't it be great if we witnessed agreement on just that in our lifetime?

    You may benefit from looking into the Charter for Compassion. The Charter for Compassion creator, Karen Armstrong, is a TED Prize winner. Here's the link to her TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/karen_armstrong_makes_her_ted_prize_wish_the_charter_for_compassion.html

    Her vision is being realized in a myriad of ways, one of which is an interfaith dialogue occurring as the result of her efforts. The Charter for Compassion website might be of value to you also :) http://charterforcompassion.org/
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      Nov 7 2011: Incredible, thank you so much for showing me that this is already underway. The talk was awesome. My plan is that before I initiate conversation between and among these religious clubs, I will outline what it is that they have in common. The fact that Karen Armstrong outlines compassion as the trait that is most unifying may help. If what she says is true, and that doctrine can always be challenged by compassion, then one could always argue in favor of compassion.

      Does this make sense?

      If a conflict arose from differences in doctrine, theoretically, I could use compassion to argue the difference.
      If the extreme local example of university clubs works, then why not the city? and if municipalities can agree then why not states and provinces? Why not countries?
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        Nov 8 2011: I wish you success, Travis! For me, it starts by respecting each religion, while seeking consensus on universal truths. The challenge to unifying different faiths lies in the sanctity of each religion's scripture, which are generally the words of their Creator. Asking any religion to depart from scripture is asking a religion to deny the basic tenets of its faith. However, as you also said, shared values exist, and where we agree - we can also find peace.

        One of my favorite life lessons has been the importance of respecting one another's deeply held beliefs and values - as long as they're life affirming. This includes all religions, nations, political parties, etc. When most people adopt an ideology, they do so because something spoke to them at their core, making it part of what defines them. This may be the most important place to start in practicing tolerance and acceptance... not having an agenda or desire to change any religion, but accepting and loving them for who they are and what they believe.

        I feel your heart in your intent, Travis. The desire to create a dialogue like this requires a passionate heart for peace, and it's clear you have that. Makes my heart smile.

        I'll be thinking about you...and sending love. :D
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          Nov 8 2011: Again, I appreciate the feedback, and value you're positive take on it. I don't intend to let discouragement budge me from my goal, and your optimism is a welcome surprise. Something needs to change and nobody seems to be taking the conflict on. I am aware that I am the less suited for what I am , but I feel like any step is one in the right direction.

          Hearing your positve attitude gives me hope that what I am attempting is feasible.
        • Nov 8 2011: "as long as they're life affirming"

          I think this is the most important part of any unification process.The unification process needs to agree on universal (life affirming) ethics that forbid any use of violence, intolerance esp. based on faith and uphold equality between man and women?
        • Nov 9 2011: Hi Adriaan, did you mean promoting 10 Commandments or promoting the values and ideals expressed in those commandments? I would prefer the latter one.

          However I feel that we need a little more than 10 Commandments. Ideals like equality regardless of gender and race, and tolerance toward other beliefs and religions should also be included?