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The Persistence of Religion: Comparative Perspectives on Modern Spirituality
with Harvey G. Cox

The Persistence of Religion
Pub. Year



I.B. Tauris
(*Acquired by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2018)



Harvey G. Cox, former Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard University and ordained Baptist minister, and Daisaku Ikeda examine the continuing appeal of religion which, despite the onslaught of scientific reason, has not been relegated. Cox, who played a significant role in launching the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., says that "religion is about meaning, values and community" and offers alternative values to materialism, which has, according to Ikeda, "hollowed out the human spirit." Citing the examples of Gandhi, King and Mandela, the authors are convinced, as Ikeda emphatically states, "far from being petty creatures, human beings have the power to change the world." We must, Cox says, "pool all our resources," by engaging in inter-cultural dialogue at all levels and "learn to learn from each other." Only then can a peaceful, humane society or the unity of heaven and humanity, be achieved.

Pinpointing the causes of conflict and the rise of radical religious factions as being poverty and disrespect of individuals, their countries and their cultures, Cox and Ikeda recommend a return to universal values underpinned by the recognition of human dignity and kindness—or, depending upon the author's perspective, the presence of God in all and Christian love or inherent Buddhahood and compassion. In order to position human dignity and kindness as the core value of our lives, we need to undertake altruistic action for the happiness of others and strive towards the eradication of social injustice. In dialogue, universal values impart the humility and willingness to listen to others and, says Cox, whatever our worldview, "the frank recognition that we could be mistaken." These three things help lessen the causes of conflict. Ikeda later supports this idea, stating that two of religions most important roles are "restoring human ties and making local communities, and society more generally, warmly humane."

Cox and Ikeda call for a new stage of dialogue going beyond the recognition of our similarities in which we face and speak candidly about our differences, enabling true tolerance to emerge. Rather than being just the permissive acceptance that differences exist, true tolerance is the active appreciation of differences that opens up new horizons and creates new values without which nothing can change. "As long as we live," says Ikeda, "we must always move forward, creating new values." The authors look to religion to provide the spiritual strength and courage to choose dialogue and true tolerance over violence and conflict.

Having covered topics such as education, human rights, and the impact of the internet, Cox and Ikeda recommend that people everywhere have discourses similar to their own to uncover new and unfamiliar insights and possibilities. With the true humility they advocate, Cox and Ikeda conclude their dialogue by thanking each other for what they have learned.

Widely recognized as one of America's foremost theologians, Cox has advocated for decades the evolution of religion from its institutionalized practices of the past to one founded on spirituality. He first met Ikeda when the latter delivered an address at Harvard in 1991, then served as a panelist reviewing Ikeda's second Harvard lecture in 1993.


Preface by Harvey Cox
Preface by Daisaku Ikeda

One Beyond the Clash of Civilizations
Two Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Spirit of Non-Violence
Three The Market Economy and the Role of Religion
Four The Age of the Internet: Interplay of Danger and Promise
Five Rapidly Changing Times: Return to the Origins of Religion
Six Courageous Heroes of Non-Violence
Seven The Future of China and India: Great Spiritual Heritages
Eight The Future of University Education

Appendix 1 Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-First-Century Civilization
Appendix 2 Religion, Values and Politics in a Religiously Plauralistic World

Further Reading

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