Sir: Paul Vallely's forward-looking articles on religion (20 December) rightly stress the need for religion to be recognised as a vital part of our life here on earth, not a subject for intellectual gymnastics nor a mystic means of communication, even of salvation, open only to true believers in a particular theological system.
The three phases of religion identified by Friedrich von Hugel - institutional, intellectual and emotional (perhaps better termed as spiritual) - are all indispensable; but moving to an understanding of the next should not imply rejection of the last, merely the need to put it into context. We are not sequential pilgrims; we do not need to leave behind our cultural roots, nor our intellect, when entering spiritual territory.
How can we promote a common human purpose and faith which is not merely relativist, pluralist or materialist? How can we respond to those who seek spirituality but would never enter a church? In the UK the liberal religious witness - Sea of Faith, Unitarians etc. - seeks to provide a public forum and a structure for self-development which encourages spiritual progress. Religion fit for the 21st century, incorporating all three of von Hugel's elements, will only emerge if we can move beyond the distortions and limited vision too evident in both anti-religion and institutionalised religion.
Chelmsford, EssexReuse content