Farhan Shah (Muslim Process Philosopher) and Jay McDaniel (Christian theologian)
During the pandemic, we have grown ever more interested in what scholars call an implicit religion of daily life. An implicit religion of daily life is not a formal, institutionalized religion, but it can be combined with them, derived from them, and nourished by them. There are many different kinds of "religion of daily life." Consumerism is one of them, for example, and ethnic nationalism is still another. But we interested in one that keeps its distance form consumerism and ethnic nationalism, and leans in a fresh direction. We rightly call it the Religion of Freedom and Kindness.
By freedom we do not have in mind a way of living that makes a god of personal preferences. Rather we mean a way of living that freely exercises critical reasoning without being hamstrung by rigid authorities, political or religious; that is grateful for, but not enslaved to, custom and convention; that celebrates rather than flees from capacities for human creativity; and that is inwardly informed by the healing and creative spirit of a Freedom that comes from the divine source of all life. This freedom is communal as well as individual. It knows the depth and beauty of healthy and whole-making relations with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. It knows that each and every self is 'together' with other selves, and could not live without them. It knows the wisdom of relational selfhood. And in this relationality it partakes of the Freedom of the Deep. The Freedom of God.
The natural expression of this sense of relationality is kindness. Not pity, not condescension, not clinging - but rather a kindness that feels the feelings of others, takes on their perspective, and acts in solidarity with them, with special care for the vulnerable: the very young, the old, the forsaken and forgotten. This is a kindness that includes justice as well as compassion, respect as well as care. It is a kindness that partakes of the merciful and compassionate, the Kindness from which the universe itself emerges and evolves. This is how we ourselves understand the divine source. God is Freedom and Kindness.
The Religion of Freedom and Kindness is more about action than belief, but it has an inner dimension. It includes trust in the efficacy of freedom, a commitment to kindness as more important than material success, a love of diversity, epistemic humility, a capacity to make the best of difficult situations, and a commitment to what Martin Luther King. Jr. called Beloved Community. We see the living spirit of God in this religion, but also know that people can and do embody this religion without belief in God.
We think of it as a small flower that can grow in many different soils. At its heart is freedom, compassion, respect for others, and a love of life, with respect for animals and ecology added. We see it in people who are secular, people who are formally religious, people who are somewhere in between. It is, to our mind, the better hope of the world, and we believe each and all of the world's religions can help it grow. We find our way into the religion of Freedom and Kindness through Christianity and Islam - and know that others can find their way into it in different ways.
It is not about personal wholeness alone, but carries with it a social consciousness and hope: namely, that we can help build communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, humane to animals, and ecologically wise, with no one left behind. The word "religion" is related to the Latin word religare, from which we get our word ligament. A religion is something that ties together the strands of one's life. But the ties that bind the Religion of Freedom and Kindness are flexible and dynamic. That is, they adjust to new situations. They can be untied and retied in new circumstances.
Along with King, and so many others, this religion is the better hope of the world. In our own limited but significant way – helped by others and learning from them – we hope to be a vessel for it in coming days, months and years.