Eileen Flanagan, Quaker mother, teacher, activist and author of The Serenity Prayer and other books , wrote this article which appeared in the Huntington Post. In it Flanagan addresses one of the basic issues of Universalism: the values and practices that underlie all religion, and help us to live changed lives.
I have a friend who describes herself as “a controlling type of person,” a single mom who tends to worry about money and germs. A practicing Muslim, she says that fasting during Ramadan helps her to feel more peaceful, despite the physical difficulty. Self-denial, daily prayer, and heightened compassion for the poor change her. “It’s a very intense period,” she explains. “If you don’t grow spiritually from that, you have to reevaluate what you’re doing because you should feel different. You should think differently. You should have a peace about you, a patience.” Ramadan, she says, is gradually making her a less anxious person, giving her the confidence to think about changing from a clerical job to a more service-oriented career.
When people want to change, they often turn to religion. Though the specifics of what we should change and how vary by tradition, the promise that our lives will become more peaceful through spiritual practice runs through many traditions. In a society where anxiety seems higher than ever, this may be one of the most appealing aspects of religion.
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Do you agree that the goal of religion is to make our lives more peaceful? What other role does religion play?
For more about Eileen Flanagan, see