"The Last Religion"—A few thoughts and a documentary about Auguste Comte's "Religion of Humanity" in Brazil
|Mother & child—the primary icon of the Religion of Humanity|
In addition to the many wonderful paintings the house contained there were also many books, two of which for some reason particularly claimed my attention during that winter and the spring of 1989—The positive philosophy of Auguste Comte freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau (Vols 1 & 2). I found the general idea of a non-supernaturalist Religion of Humanity a particularly powerful one and ever since that winter and spring in Suffolk nearly thirty years ago I have continued to explore various versions of religious naturalism it in my own private studies and, of course, in a variety ways through my own ministry here in Cambridge.
|Eduardo de Sá—“L'Humanité avec l’Avenir dans ses bras" (1900)|
Well, this morning, I was pleased to catch-up with a splendid and interesting old acquaintance from Manchester Metropolitan University, Mike Tyldesley, and at a certain point in our conversation the subject of Comte's Religion of Humanity came up. Mike told me about the existence of a recent hour-long documentary film about the Brazilian church of which I was not aware and which I watched this afternoon.
I found it both very informative and also a very moving experience, not least of all because of the interview that appears towards the end of the film with the current Temple Guardian in Porto Alegre, Erlon Jacques de Oliveira. His deep and passionate commitment to this struggling, secular religious project rang all kinds of bells as a minister working in an associated, struggling liberal religious movement in the UK. Will either of our communities survive? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the struggle remains honourable and worthwhile and, in the end, for people like de Oliveira and me, there really is no choice but to continue to give it our best. But I do worry for him and his small community. To lose such a witness in our world would be a truly sad thing.
For those sufficiently intrigued by all this here is a link to the film on YouTube.