Our Buddhist Future?

David Brooks says cutting edge neuroscience will pose a new kind of challenge to the traditionally religious: “The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.”

You can see Ross, who thinks this is more like a kind of pantheism, for a theological take on this but here’s another kind of thought — if India and China (and other smaller Asian countries) keep growing, we’re going to see much more cultural prestige and geopolitical importance attached to non-monotheistic societies. Fareed Zakaria goes so far in The Post-American World to describe India and China as places where people just don’t have religions. I wouldn’t put it that way (he’s basically defining Christianity and Islam as the only “real” religions) but there is a real difference between Christianity and Islam on the one hand, and all these other practices that try to meet spiritual needs by focusing on specific and personal religious obligations — obligations to caste or to ancestors or to the Jewish community — plus some somewhat separate ideas about universal ethics and personal spirituality.