The Future of Religion (1980)
For the October, 1980 issue of The Futurist Ted Peters, associate professor of systematic theology at the Pacific Lutheran Seminary (Berkeley, CA), wrote a piece titled, "The Future of Religion in a Post-Industrial Society." An excerpt appears below.
Western society is so pre-occupied with the consumption of goods and services that even religion may become just another commodity, like the packaged tour to an exotic island. If so, the world may lose a possible solution to its great crises.
What is to become of religion as our society moves further and further into the post-industrial period? Certain trends are fairly easy to identify. For example, an extension of Islamic influence due primarily to the sudden expansion of wealth in Muslim hands. But I would like to bypass trends of this type and focus on something else, namely, the potential interaction between religion and the current understanding of the human self which has developed during the now passing industrial period.
My thesis is that as our civilization becomes increasingly post-industrial, our preoccupation with consuming goods and services will most likely commoditize religion. There is now a strong trend - which I believe will continue - toward treating the moral and spiritual dimensions of life as commodities to be acquired and disposed of according to tastes and whims of shoppers in the religious marketplace.
Excessive consumption, however, whether it be consumption of material goods or spiritual values, is the root of the crisis we call the "world problematique." In addition, as long as the consumer mentality prevails, we will be condemned to a prostitution of the essential religious vision, a vision of the transcendent unity of all things which requires a sacrifice of the human ego. It is just such a vision, however, that holds the greatest promise for resolving the world problematique.