I am currently reading one of the best books I think I have ever read - and I have read a lot. Looking In The Distance is by Richard Holloway, former Bishop Of Edinburgh, a fascinating guy and a brilliant writer. Having got to the top of the church's hierarchy (well not quite as they probably still reckon that position is still held by God) he has left the institution and a conventionally religious point of behind him for reasons he gives below:
For many people in our secular society, religion has never held any attraction for them. They have not left the Church for the simple reason that they were never in it. And they do not cease to be interested in spirituality or the inner life of the human community just because they are not members of any of the religions on offer in our society. They are fascinated by the human passion for trying to understand the universe; and they admire the way science tries to look unflinchingly at the reality of things. They revel in the richness of human art and, through its various forms, tey experience moments of grace and transcendence. They are increasingly fascinated by the complexities of the human psyche as revealed by the psychological study of human nature; and they are aware of the long human search for wholeness and healing. In short, there is a rich and diverse range of human spiritualities in the world, and countless people follow them without reference to religion or any necessary sense of God. I have written this book for this great company and now find myself within it.
In his book Richard examines the way religion has come to lose its hold on the lives of most of the world - obviously apart from the activities of fundamentalists of various flavours - and sees this as a good thing. He, like me, believes that we have the potential to find meaning and behave moraly both as individuals and as a society by working it out for ourselves but he worries that this becomes harder as our traditional uniting myths lose their grip. He does however alude, albeit briefly, to the power of the internet to provide an alternative method for generating this unity.
Web 2.0, or the social web, or whatever you want to call it, is the world's biggest lobby group. In this world of globalisation and supposedly all-powerful corporations, we seem to have overlooked the possibility that the globalisation of relationships might have created something bigger than the biggest corporate.
This was the underlying theme of my closing talk at Reboot 8.0. There is no one telling us how to do this any more. No clear and uniform sense of right and wrong. It is complex, messy and potentially dangerous. However in the internet we have, for truly the first time, a platform on which to have conversations about why we are here, how we should behave - both individually and collectively, and what to do in the face of the cruelty and pointlessness of the universe in a way that we never have before.
Lets get out there, start talking, use this thing wisely and have some fun!