Many of the kindest and most sensitive people I know are Nones. I don't really like the term, because it speaks only of what they are not. They are not religiously affiliated. What they are is much more important: kind, sensitive, unique, creative, thoughtful, engaged, and beautiful. They are inspirations to me and others.
Still I understand the use of the word None. If my friends take a survey on religious affiliation, they will check none of the boxes, except the box that says None. Some are quite skeptical of institutionalized religion, and many find more "spirituality" in nature, or music, or friendships, or justice, than in anything they associate with church or, for that matter, God.
I was trained in the field of Religious Studies and I know that there are many ways to understand and define religion. I think of religion as a way of living rather than a set of beliefs or practices. Given this way of thinking about religion, it seems to me that my non-religious friends belong to a very important religion, maybe the most important religion in the world: The Religion of Kindness and Beauty.
If anything can save the world today, it is a conversion of the peoples of the world to Kindness combined with a subtle realization that the planet itself, with all its diversity and splendor, is quite beautiful and worth protecting. Kindness includes love, tenderness, justice, nurturance, and respect, with special care for the vulnerable.
Even as I am a Christian, I am an evangelist for the Religion of Kindness and Beauty. I think the very purpose of Christianity is to help us enter the Religion of Kindness and Beauty. Happily this religion has many other communicants around the world, some belonging to other religions and some to no religion. The Religion of Kindness and Beauty is a global affinity group of people who seek a spiritually sensitive and socially engaged alternative to stale secularism and religious fundamentalism.
I realize that, if you take a survey of religious preferences, there will not be a box for the Religion of Kindness and Beauty. There will be a box for Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Daoism, and others. There may also be a box for people who are spiritually interested but not religiously unaffiliated: that is, for Nones. But there will not be a box for the Religion of Kindness and Beauty.
This is because it is an implicit religion of daily life rather than a formal religion with institutions of its own. It can be cultivated with help from other religions, enriched by their teachings, and articulated in terms of their vocabularies. A Jew might call it “being a good Jew” and a Muslim might call it “being a good Muslim.” But it can also be practiced without any association with other religions. Someone who is religiously unaffiliated might call it “being a good person" or "being a friend of life." It is a religion of shared humanity.
For my part, I imagine the Religion of Kindness and Beauty on the analogy of a small flowering plant that can grow in many different soils, adding its own freshness to any environment. Sometimes the flower is hidden within a larger array of flowers and sometimes it is visible in a more overt way. It can be cultivated without having a name for it and is not particularly jealous about names. All it needs is some sunlight and water.
That is what I offer on this page. I offer a process theology of the Religion of Kindness and Beauty that I hope might be meaningful for Nones, trusting that others like me, who are religiously affiliated, might also find something of value.
Many religions are not about private fulfillment alone, but also about community and planetary well-being. This slide presents two forms of well-being important to process theologians and to many communicants in the Religion of Kindness and Beauty: Ecological Civilization and Just and Compassionate Communities.
Most who belong to the Religion of Kindness and Beauty have hopes for themselves and the world. Process theology emphasizes four hopes: whole persons, whole communities, a whole planet, and holistic thinking.
The core ideas of process thought are identified in this slide. The final slides introduce a process understanding of God, which will be more interesting to some than others.
Belief in God is important to some communicants in the Religion of Kindness and Beauty, but not to all. Process theology offers six different ways of thinking about God that will be helpful for some. They can be combined or separated. If the very word "God" is off-putting to you, please substitute other words and phrases: The Universe as a Whole, the Living Universe, the cosmic Bodhisattva, or Love.
Nones have an important role in interfaith cooperation, as do people of all other traditions. This slide shows offers a process approach to interfaith work that includes the Earth and other animals, not simply as subjects of discussion, but as having voices in interfaith dialogue.