[Originally published in The New Pantagruel]
On July 7-13, 2004, in the beautiful city of Barcelona, there was an extraordinary international meeting that gathered some seven thousand people from all over the world. The meeting was for The Parliament of the World’s Religions and the attendees were believers from all different kind of traditions. From many denominations of Christians, Jews and Muslims to Buddhist, Sikhs, Hindus or even self-proclaimed pagans, it was truly a global coverage of the world’s faiths. During the seven days of the Parliament, hundreds of lectures, workshops, panels, concerts, prayers and rituals were performed.
You could see Sikhs chanting with their orange tunics and curved swords in one auditorium, and then watch the whirling dervishes of Sufi Islam in another and then rush to catch the interactive workshops with titles like “The Methods of Interfaith Dialogue” or “Which Islam?”
The proceedings of the Parliament will definitely be a valuable source for many years to come. Yet, even the very existence of such an event is a remarkable phenomenon, since it implicitly manifests the fall of the modernist vision. That vision, which was basically the product of 18th century Enlightenment and 19th century positivism, defined religion as a superstition that would die out with the progress of science and human knowledge. Based on the philosophies of atheist thinkers like Nietzsche, Comte, Feuerbach, Marx or Engels, and supported by the theories of Darwin, Spencer or Freud, the modernist vision foresaw a totally secular world. However, in the last quarter of the 20th century, religion surprisingly emerged as a very powerful force in human lives and world affairs.
The causes of this world-changing phenomenon