Today's date:
Spring 2007

Religion Is the Key Issue of 21st Century

Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. The Nigerian writer's most recent book is You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir.

Religion, and rising intolerance associated with it, will be the defining issue of the 21st century.

With the death of ideology in general, and the death of communist ideology in particular—which virtually amounted to religion—religion has stepped in to fill the vacuum. Just look at what's happening in Darfur, Chechnya and Indonesia. And religion, including the major religions, are at the root of intolerance. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are completely soaked in intolerance.

Yet, there is no reason at all why a religion cannot just expose and disseminate its own believed virtues and not at the expense of denigrating the belief systems of others. Conversion is absolutely legitimate; it's a mark of culture and civilization. But there isn't much of that.

Yoruba, a religion of Nigeria, is one potential model for the spiritual cravings of seekers. It has much to teach people about tolerance because its deities are among the most humane anywhere. As a result, the Yoruba people have no hostility to the piety of others. They have been willing to look at another tradition and find equivalents in their own. But Yoruba has become an "invisible religion" because it has been overshadowed by other elaborate and territorially rapacious world religions.