The Voice of Fear and the Voice of Hope

Rabbi Michael Lerner

Posted Mar 14, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

For the past several thousand years, much of human society has been torn by a struggle between two worldviews or ways of understanding what it is to be human. The one view tells us that we are born into a world in which each person is out for themselves and life is a battle of all against all. Others will dominate you unless you dominate them first. Security for ourselves, our families, our communities, or our nation depends on our ability to get the advantage over them before they get it over us. Fear of the other is common sense, the only possible response a rational person can have in a world where competition is required for survival. I call this the view of cynical realism, and the normal psychological state accompanying it is heightened alert and fear.

The other view tells us that the world is composed of human beings who desire and need loving connection, recognition of who they are from others whom they respect, and joyous celebration of life and consciousness and freedom. According to this view, people are constantly seeking ways to cooperate, and they feel most fulfilled when they are needed by others and can generously provide care and assistance. Our fate is intrinsically bound up with the fate of others, and our own realization as human beings depends upon the fullest realization of the capacities and desires for love of everyone else on the planet. I call this the view of spiritual consciousness, or the unity of all being, and the normal psychological state accompanying it is heightened generosity and hope.

Much of what transpires in the world of politics is a reflection of the degree to which one or the other of these worldviews is on the ascendancy, though both views are almost always present and contending in the minds of most people in the Western world.

When the paradigm of fear is dominant, people look at all their experiences through that framework. At such times, politicians who speak the language of fear sound realistic, even profound, while those who talk about hope seem foolish and out of touch. These dynamics have been particularly evident in the post–9/11 world of American politics, in which the fear of terrorism has been used to manipulate the public into supporting politicians who seem to be the toughest militarists and are thus able to reassure the population that they can handle the seemingly ever-present threat. But the culture of fear extends far beyond politics. When fear prevails, those parts of our cultural heritage—religious texts, for example, or novels and poetry, or social and psychological theories—that validate our fears are deemed the most intellectually sophisticated, while those that embody elements of hope are dismissed as naive, with little to teach us. Conversely, when hope is in the ascendancy, politicians and theologians, novelists and social theorists who were previously dismissed as unsophisticated because they dared to articulate hope in a time of fear are now seen as visionary thinkers and leaders.

It’s rarely the case that someone produces a decisive argument that proves one paradigm or the other. Rather, there is a flow of social energy, a movement of consciousness, both inside each person and in the society as a whole, between our most hopeful and our most fearful inclinations.

If we think of a continuum between two poles—the pole of hope and the pole of fear—then we can imagine that at any specific moment each of us is situated at some place on that continuum. In times when a large number of people feel their attention being drawn more toward the pole of fear, we can talk metaphorically about a flow of social energy moving in that direction. And we can experience in ourselves how frequently the voices of fear pop up precisely at the moment when our energies are moving toward hope.
On the most general level, the atmosphere in our society has oscillated over the years between these twin poles. After the stock market crash of 1929, when America was suddenly thrown into economic despair, many Americans felt their energy flow toward fear. The direction of the flow changed in the years of the New Deal, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt convinced Americans that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear again became dominant during the witch hunts of the McCarthy period, and the Cold War anticommunist hysteria made the Vietnam War seem plausible to many. Yet for youth coming of age in the 1960s the pendulum swung back in the direction of hope when the Civil Rights movement and other social change movements began to reclaim some of the highest ideals of American democracy.

The shifting balance between fear and hope is rarely based entirely on some “obvious” meaning of any event in our personal or communal lives. We usually interpret events through the framework of the underlying theories and worldviews we already hold. Skillful political leaders or movements can call upon these preexisting frames of reference in order to characterize an event as confirming our most hopeful or fearful predilections.

Take 9/11, for example. It’s certainly easy to understand why many Americans would feel frightened by such a terrible reminder of the fragility of their own lives and by the evident vulnerability of America to attack by a handful of extremists. Yet President Bush and others in both major political parties seized that moment to inculcate a much deeper level of fear in the population than the facts themselves justified. Suddenly we were told we were facing a well-organized global network of terrorists capable of launching many more 9/11s. From there came a systematic restructuring of American ideals and patterns of life. In the years since 9/11 we’ve been subjected to color-coded alerts to the present level of danger, rarely substantiated in any way that could be called credible. Television, radio, newspapers, and magazines have drenched us with anxiety-provoking images and unsubstantiated stories of threats against which we must be constantly vigilant. Arabs and Muslims have become instant targets of suspicion, discrimination, and arbitrary arrest. Intimidated into believing that extraordinary measures are needed to fight an ongoing war against terror that has neither well-defined enemies nor any plausible way of measuring victory, the American public has allowed its government to set up prison camps in which people are routinely tortured . And even though no link could be established between 9/11 and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, fear of terrorism became the primary argument for why we needed to invade and wage war against his regime, launching a struggle that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and has maimed or killed thousands of American soldiers. As I write, over these past four years the number of people who have died at the hands of terrorists is less than one-fortieth of the number of Americans who die in car accidents and less than one-third of the number of people around the globe who died on 9/11 from starvation and preventable diseases. All the same, since that day our social and political energies have to a large degree been devoted to preparing for a repeat of this kind of attack.

A different leadership, while acknowledging the need to take measures to protect America’s borders, might have focused greater attention on the heroism of thousands of ordinary Americans who responded with generosity and courage to the attack on 9/11. Hundreds of people gave their lives and countless others risked theirs to aid the victims of the attack, while millions more gave their money and in other ways demonstrated their sympathy and concern. This was a moment that could make us all feel optimistic about the human condition and the goodness that lies at the core of so many of our neighbors. Yet these points were made only in passing, while the chief political lessons drawn by our leaders and emphasized in the media were those that confirmed our fears, not our hopes. The facts did not require this—the misuse of 9/11 was a choice. But it was a choice rooted in a deeper paradigm of fear. It is thus critical that we understand the two contending worldviews and how they operate, if we are ever to move America away from its current domination by fear.

In the fear paradigm, human beings are imagined to have been thrown into a world based on the struggle of all against all, in which people seek to maximize their own advantage (or the advantage of a group to which they belong) without regard to the consequences for others.

Greed is one of the pathological consequences of fear. We believe that there won’t be enough to go around, so we feel we must hoard. We suspect that others won’t share with us, so we don’t want to risk being exploited by sharing what we have with them. As long as we see the other as likely to take advantage of us, the idea of sharing seems self-destructive. The world is evil, and we must struggle on as best we can.

The voice of fear has its reflection in religious language. According to the paradigm of fear, God’s religious path is primarily about creating boundaries and restraints and providing us with religious practices designed to prevent us from falling into the endless temptations that surround us. Individuals find meaning for their lives by being aligned with the divine energy that is protecting them and that guides them in how to deal with all the many dangers they face. Frequently, the spiritual energy of the universe is perceived as uniquely on the side of a particular group or nation (even though virtually every nation or group believes that God is on its side). Further, God is envisioned as a warrior: powerful, combative, and harsh in judgment. This is the Right Hand of God.

For some two billion people on this planet, material scarcity remains a central reality in their daily lives. To the extent that this is true, fear of destitution and abandonment may be much closer to the surface of consciousness, and trust may be harder to sustain. Voices that preach resignation, the inevitable triumph of evil, the fundamental corruptibility of the human soul, and the need to dominate before one is dominated may all seem more plausible when one’s daily reality is filled with hunger, deprivation, and oppression. Even those who yearn for a different world may give up on the possibility of achieving that in any way other than through divine intervention. What an emotionally sustaining picture—to imagine the world suddenly being made right when God swoops down and decisively defeats the forces of evil in battle. God’s Right Hand triumphs, and subsequently the good things of the world can flourish. I’m not surprised that many people follow the Right Hand of God.

To many on the contemporary political Left, the Right Hand of God consciousness is the only visible manifestation of religion, dominating American politics and leading people to support the war in Iraq, to attempt to pack the judiciary with right-wingers, to seek to criminalize abortion, and in numerous other ways to back policies based on domination. “Why should we listen to this talk of religion or spirituality,” my friends on the Left say, “when in practice all that religious language turns out to be about is accepting domination and resigning yourself to oppression? Religion is just a way for people to accept what they believe they cannot change. Perhaps the one thing Marx actually got right was that ‘religion is the opiate of the people.’” As they see it, religion is the problem, not the solution.

If the only manifestation of religion were the Right Hand of God, my friends on the Left would have a point. But the voice of fear and despair has never become the sole voice in our heads or the only melody in our souls or the only strain in religious and spiritual traditions. From the time we were born, we have heard a loving, caring voice that cannot be totally drowned out. Human infants could not survive the first several years of life without a nurturing loving other who takes care of them. Clinical studies have demonstrated that a child that is fed and clothed but not touched or given any external source of recognition will die. Without denying all the pathological behavior we may have experienced at the hands of our parents, the reality is that none of us would have survived had there not been a loving someone to nurture us, and that person could not have survived unless she or he was surrounded by a family or community that provided the primary caregiver with nurturance and support.

This initial, undivided love is the basis of the great spiritual traditions. Biblical religion does not start with evil and fear. The book of Genesis begins with a God who creates our universe and who then affirms the goodness of the world: “and God saw that it was good.” Human beings are created in this divine image—we also are good. If there are distortions of that divinity in the world, they reflect mistaken choices, not the essence of what it is to be human. Cruelty is not destiny, because human beings have been created in the image of a gentle, loving God. Imperialism and class conflict, murder and rape, anger and hatred—these are not built into the fundamental structure of reality. They are not inevitable. They can be changed through human action and more compassionate choices.

None of this is to deny evil and sinfulness as part of the daily reality of human life. We in the Jewish world talk about sin as a “missing of the mark,” as though we are an arrow that has gone off course, and we need periodic tuning up of our spiritual selves in order to get back on course. In Judaism, sin is overcome through repentance, a return (teshuvah) to the divine image in which we were created. In Christianity, sin is overcome through faith in the person of Jesus, whom they believe to be the Christ (Messiah), whose mission on earth was to enable human beings to once again find that divine good and hence repair the evils around them. In both traditions, we are told that evil can be overcome and that we need not live in fear.

The central story of the Torah is that of a people who are enslaved and then through divine intervention freed from slavery. Its message is one of hope: we can overcome oppression, the world can be transformed. In Judaism, the force that makes change possible is YHVH, the God-force of the universe. This God-force, a force of healing and transformation (tikkun), is the ultimate reality of the universe, the force that has shaped the universe from the start, the truth whose will toward goodness is manifested in the command to “pursue justice,” to “love one’s neighbor as oneself,” and never to “oppress the stranger.” This God is a loving being whose essential nature is compassionate, caring, forgiving, generous, and peace loving, even though God can at times be angry at the persistence of injustice and our indifference to the suffering we cause by participating in oppressive social or political systems. God wants us to care not only for ourselves but for everyone on the planet because we have all been created in the divine image. God needs us as partners in the healing and transformation of the world and as stewards of the well-being of the planet, and sometimes gets irritated or upset when we misuse God or Torah or Judaism as a vehicle to escape doing what we know we must do to heal the world. Although ultimately God cares for us, has compassion for our straying from our mission, God desperately needs us to get back on the path of healing the world, even with all our imperfections and weaknesses, as long as we too show compassion for others. This is how God is understood from the standpoint of The Left Hand of God.

If we want to find an answer to our current spiritual crisis and remake our society, the choice we face is not between religion and secularism. The choice we face is between the Right Hand and The Left Hand of God. Even if you are secular, you are called to choose between the paradigm of hope and the paradigm of fear, between a vision of a world in which love can be the central reality and a world in which power over others is the only realistic path. At every moment, we are unconsciously, but nevertheless quite determinedly, organizing our experience through one or the other of these paradigms. One of the goals of this book is to encourage us to become more conscious of which paradigm we are using at any given moment and to help us make it less scary to choose the paradigm of hope.

The world is not neutral. My faith tells me that the world actually tilts toward love and hope. Nor is my belief some New Age accommodation to modernity. The great interpreter of Torah, Rabbi Hillel, was challenged to recite the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel responded: “Do not do anything to your neighbor that is hateful to you. This is the entire Torah. Go and learn.” And the greatest expositor of Jewish law, Rabbi Akiba, taught that the central principle of Torah was, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He went on to explain that this statement was not just about inner feelings but about our relationship to property: “What is mine is yours, and what is yours is yours.” Need I add that, in articulating his view of God’s call to human beings, Jesus later developed this message of love to an even higher level of sophistication and centrality, while parallel developments within Judaism and later in Islam have given that message of love a deep foundation in the religions of the West, however imperfectly those who practice these religions have actually embodied it.

This call toward a world of love and hope is counterbalanced by many moments of despair and fear both in ourselves and in our holy texts and spiritual traditions. We hold elements of both paradigms in our minds, both the Right Hand and The Left Hand of God, both fear and hope, and in every encounter we hear both voices, which together shape how we experience the world and one another. Exactly where we are on that continuum at any given moment is determined by a complex interaction among several factors: the legacy of our experiences in our families and in our early socialization in schools; our current life situations; the intellectual concepts, religious beliefs, and popular ideas that we have internalized; and our assessment of the extent to which those around us are conducting their lives according to fear or to hope.

Once we understand the paradigms of hope and fear, we have a framework within which to understand the political meaning of much of the culture, intellectual life, religion, and mass psychology that surrounds us. We need only ask of any phenomenon: “Does it tend to increase our hope or our fear? Does it make us more certain that the world is basically a scary place from which we must be defended, or does it support our inner conviction that more goodness and kindness and beauty and generosity and compassion exist in the world than we have been allowing ourselves to recognize recently?”

Do your own research. Ask yourself, where would you locate what you see and hear on the hope-fear continuum? Ask this question of every movie and television show you watch, every political speech or advertisement you listen to, every commercial and magazine ad, every piece of legislation, every political demonstration, every sermon or spiritual teaching, every theory of human development or of the natural stages in spiritual evolution, every social and scientific theory, every rock concert or rave that comes your way.

What you will find is that our culture is today profoundly oriented toward the paradigm of fear. Selfishness makes sense; generosity does not. In moments of fear, the hopeful side of religious traditions recedes, and stories, theologies, and interpretations of holy texts that see the world as a dangerous place and human beings as evil or fundamentally hurtful, or that justify the use of violence, or that see God as seeking revenge and the obliteration of enemies, or that view suffering as intrinsic and inescapable, or that justify passivity and an acceptance of the distortions in the world as unchangeable, become more prevalent. Religions develop that sanctify the people in the “in” group (the nation or the community of believers) and demonize those on the outside.

These same dynamics play out in the secular world and in secular theories of social change. When fear is ascendant, it is easy for theories to catch on that blame some evil other for the ills of our society and that assume that anyone who does not share this viewpoint is deluded. Theories become popular that see the contemporary distortions in human beings as built into the structure of reality, as an inevitable feature of human nature or of complex social organizations, or even as a result of bad genes or evolution or brain structure.

In the progressive world, the paradigm of fear is manifested through a lack of trust that we can transform our society and a growing cynicism about the possibility that people can ever be mobilized to struggle for the kind of fundamental changes that the world so badly needs. Liberals and progressives develop narrowly conceived technical solutions to social problems because they imagine that people are too fearful to even think about, much less fight for, the more fundamental transformations that are really needed. As they themselves begin to lose trust in the viability of their own underlying vision of what the world needs, they unconsciously communicate their own lack of faith in the American people, which only serves to increase our collective doubt that real change is possible. But if real change is not possible, people reason, then tinkering with the system as it is may only antagonize the powerful who have the means to retaliate, for example, by moving their business to countries that offer fewer environmental restrictions and cheaper labor. If no credible vision for deep-seated transformation exists, if fear has won out over hope, then many people will try to accommodate to “reality,” and this often encourages them to affiliate with the Right, which seems more equipped to deal with a world based on fear.

The Right has learned how to use the paradigm of fear to dominate politics. It can take a distinguished army hero like Senator John McCain or John Kerry and label him “soft” on military matters, as George Bush did during the Republican primaries in 2000 and again in the presidential election of 2004. It can push through the Congress spending bills totaling hundreds of billions of dollars to fight the war in Iraq on the grounds that otherwise Americans will become vulnerable to terror. It can claim that to protect us from terrorists we must reduce our funding for social services so that we have more money for homeland security.

Instead of countering with a vision that validates The Left Hand of God, the Left, particularly the Democratic Party, tries to tinker with kinder, gentler versions of the Right Hand of God. But doing so only strengthens the widespread perception that everything is moving toward fear. And the more people believe that fear is the only sensible approach to reality, the less open they are to anyone who isn’t sophisticated enough or profound enough to understand how dangerous and hurtful the world truly is. To the extent that they allow their own fear to dominate, the Left becomes powerless to shift the discourse. Its supporters come to be perceived by many as a puny substitute for the right-wing “realists,” who always appear to have a much more savvy understanding of the world than all these weak-kneed liberals.

There is an inherent problem for those who espouse a politics of hope and a vision of love: that achieving a world of love and kindness cannot be done using the tactics of power and domination. If the Right Hand of God seeks to “win,” the Left Hand of God seeks a world in which winning is no longer the appropriate category, a world in which the humanity of all has been validated, including those who position themselves as “our enemies.” The Left Hand of God looks weak in part because it does not aim to dominate and control but rather tries to elicit a spirit of generosity and hope. Such a spirit does not show up on the radar screen of those who think of power in terms of capacities to manipulate or command people and resources for the sake of self-advantage.

It is no surprise that many who espouse the Left Hand of God have used the language of women’s experience to describe their vision. The Hebrew word for compassion is rachamim, from the Hebrew word for womb, rechem. The mothering we receive during our early years leaves an indelible impression on us, a belief that love is really possible, a love that is not about manipulation and domination but about the outpouring of generosity, about the world nurturing us with mother’s milk. Such images suggest a vulnerability that frightens those who believe that love and generosity are too “soft” to provide a foundation for significant victories in the tough-minded, power-oriented world of American politics. Yet the history of transformative movements from Judaism and Christianity down through psychoanalysis, feminism, civil rights, and the peace movement demonstrates the potential power that can emerge from a vision of love and kindness. Even when these movements eventually lost faith in their own transformative vision and then allied themselves with the Right Hand of God, their initial and most profound impact occurred when they actually believed in the healing potential of a world based on love, generosity, and caring for others, and on aligning oneself with the poor and the powerless and affirming peace and justice.

The logic of Pharaoh could never make sense of the logic of Moses, the logic of Rome could never make sense of the logic of Jesus, the logic of police sergeant “Bull” Connor could never make sense of the logic of Martin Luther King Jr. The spiritual politics of the Left Hand of God confronts the empires and the social practices of domination with a loving energy that by the criteria of the powerful can seem insubstantial and dismissible, like a bothersome mosquito that makes noise but ultimately can’t really do much damage. That loving energy nevertheless has an immense potential to change everything, to the extent that people are able to sustain the position of hope.

Yet social reality is never static, and the moments of hope, no matter how self-validating and wonderful they feel, are often undermined by nagging doubts, the not-yet-cured legacy of past pain, and the impact of social and economic institutions that have not yet been transformed. Fear crouches at the door, ready to leap back in, and does so under the guise of an alleged realism about the best way to create and maintain a world that is safe for hope. In the name of peace, we must make war; in the name of social justice, we must accommodate to the interests of the rich; in the name of building a society that is safe for our religions of peace, we must protect ourselves from those who hate, and the only way to do that is to hate their evil ways! So slowly the energy swings back toward fear.

So how do we move the energy toward hope?

We are continually making choices that tend to reinforce one end of the spectrum or the other, both in ourselves and in those with whom we interact every day. Every time we take a step in a direction that reinforces hope and affirms the possibility of building a world imbued with greater love and kindness and generosity and lack of violence, we contribute to the movement of social energy toward the Left Hand of God. Every action we take has the capacity to increase the love or the anger, the hope or the fear, that are the fundamental building blocks of the world we inhabit. In the smallest acts of our everyday lives, as well as in our larger acts on the stage of politics, we are always involved in choices.

But what if we are stuck in fear or feel that others are stuck? What can we do?

I wish there were a magic bullet or one-size-fits-all solution. But each person and each moment has its unique features that can’t be addressed through a general formula.
Some valuable resources and guidelines grow out of the religious and spiritual traditions of the human race and have sustained people in times of darkness, sometimes empowering them to take steps toward hope:

1. Do acts of kindness, love, and generosity every day, even when you are not in the mood.

2. Let go of a commitment to outcomes. Do acts of hopefulness even when there are no rational grounds to believe that it will all turn out okay. This is what the religious miracles are meant to say—that good outcomes can happen even when there is no rational reason to believe they will.

3. Find a friend with whom you can share your vision of the world you want. Develop that friendship so that it is one place where you can always go to share your frustrations and renew your hopes. Make it a regular commitment to see that friend and share your own inner fears and hopes and hear his or her hopes and fears too. (And when you are listening to your friend, pray for the success of that person’s vision even if it isn’t yours.)

4. Prayer and mediation. It’s possible to focus on the source of our fears, to be fully present to them, to experience them, and see that they are often less formidable than we may think. Meditation and prayer can sometimes help us fully accept that we are all going to die and can teach us to let go of the expectation of permanency, decreasing the fear of death and making it less scary to take risks for the sake of our beliefs in what is right and good.

5. Rituals of empowerment. The Passover Seder and the reading of the stories of liberation from Egypt helped keep up the spirits of the Jewish people for two thousand years while they endured oppression, exile, and brutality from others. The spiritual Left ought to have a comparable Seder telling the story of the liberation struggles of the world. Till we have such, why not create such a ritual for your friends and family? You’d be amazed at how empowering and hope engendering it can be.

6. Join and participate in a spiritual community that weekly celebrates a Sabbath of some sort, a day dedicated to celebrating the grandeur of creation and to remembering the moments in which hope surged forward. Don’t stay in a religious community that does no such celebrating. Challenge such a group in the name of the Left Hand of God, and speak with others about the hope-based tradition within your religion, letting them know that you want to hear more of that hopeful vision being articulated. If that doesn’t work, leave that group and if necessary build your own spiritual or religious community. Draw upon the rituals and practices of some existing religious or spiritual path, since it’s harder to start from scratch than to modify a path that has some history and accumulated wisdom.

Some other resources, not necessarily connected with a religious or spiritual tradition, may also be helpful:

7. Individual therapy, particularly with a therapist who has a hopeful attitude toward the world and is not stuck in some fear-oriented worldview. Be sure that the therapist you pick knows that your current despair is not only a psychological issue but also a reflection of the degree to which the society as a whole moves toward fear—and don’t stick with a therapist who tries to reduce the whole thing to childhood problems. But keep in mind that all of us carry remnants of childhood and adult life that can help to undermine our capacities to sustain hope—and they should be dealt with too.

8. Participate only in political activities in which the leaders are psychologically and spiritually sophisticated enough to understand these issues and give as much attention to making sure that their activities foster hope as they do to winning a specific political goal. If you can find no such activities or leaders, you can be the leader and create the activity. If there is no alternative but to take part in an activity in which the leaders are generating fear (for example, the only peace demonstration in town), challenge the speakers and leaders publicly. Don’t go along just because they created the activity. Insist on a message of hope. But do it compassionately and respectfully. And when someone comes around asking for your vote or your donation, make sure that a condition is that they start to project a hopeful vision more in accord with your own.

9. Whenever you are giving a talk, recruiting a person to some activity, writing a leaflet or op-ed, or trying to influence others in the public arena, always ask yourself: is this presentation giving enough attention to fostering hope?

10. Invite people to study my new book, The Left Hand of God, with you as the first step in creating a group that will focus on books related to spiritual politics. It may give them some hope, and that may give you some hopeful sustenance. Then, join the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and that will give you even more.

If you were the only one doing all this, it might seem scary. But guess what? You are not the only one! In fact, hundreds of millions of people want to build a world of greater love, kindness, generosity, awe, and wonder. Our task is to help them find one another so that they will know about you and you will know about them. That’s why it’s so important to join up, to become part of a movement that articulates your ideals, and to become visible.

We can change this world, and you can be an important part of that process. But we need to be smart about it, correcting mistakes of the past and being unafraid to articulate a visionary and love-filled perspective.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of Tikkun. This article is excerpted from The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right. © HarperSanFrancisco, February 2006.

Originally published at and reprinted in TAM with permission of the author.

Rabbi Lerner wants to extend an invitation to American Muslims to come in on “the ground floor” of building a Network of Spiritual Progressives. So he is urging American Muslims to sign up for the East Coast founding conference May 17-20 in Washington, D.C. More details at  To get a full understanding of his perspective, please get and read his new book The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (published in February, it has subsequently become a national best-seller and is the full statement of the plans for a spiritually oriented progressive movement in the U.S.).  Information about the conference is available in our EVENTS section, and we have published a review of the book.  Type PROGRESSIVES into the search field for The American Muslim and a list of past articles about this movement will come up.