Modern Trends in World Religions

By A. Eustace Haydon | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

CHANGE has always been characteristic of living religions. For religion is not an abstraction. It has vital significance only as it is deeply rooted in the moving processes of folk life. Modernism is, therefore, no novelty for the historian of religions. Twenty-five centuries ago Hindu and Chinese conservatives were grumblingly adjusting themselves to "modern movements." But in all past ages the drift of religions into new forms has been relatively slow and dignified. It was a process of modernizing a traditional heritage rather than a radical reorientation. Today the great historic religions are compelled to come to terms with revolutionary forces unknown to any earlier era--desires, hopes, powers, problems startlingly new. Patterns of thought and custom which have remained relatively stable for centuries are now being challenged, neglected, or discarded. It may be that the religions of the world are in this generation passing through the greatest transformation of all time. The age-old search of men for a satisfying life-fulfilment which the historic cultures have embodied in the traditional religious world-views and programs is now assuming a new embodiment so strikingly different from the old as to appear to the shocked eyes of the orthodox, if not an abandonment of religion, at least a betrayal of the fundamentals. However religion may be defined it could not now remain static and still continue to be a vital phase of culture. Only dead religions, safely remote from the turbulent stream of human living, could escape change in this age of altered thought-forms, enlarged desires, new hopes, and novel problems.

The dominant influences compelling change are two-- the new scientific thinking and applied science, the one dis-

-vii-

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