In an interview to be shown on ORA.tv, the 80-year-old Buddhist thinker and leader said that while faith has been a positive, belief appears to be losing influence.
"I think religion — all major religion(s) including Buddhism — over 2,000 years I think — (have been an) immense help to humanity," the Dalai Lama told veteran cable interviewer Larry King. "But not adequate. Particularly now today out of 7 billion, (there are) over 1 billion — non-believer(s)."
The Dalai Lama's concerns follow a May 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center showing 23 percent of Americans now identify as "religiously unaffiliated," up from 16.1 percent seven years earlier.
The so-called "rise of the nones" is of growing concern to many observers. R. Andrew Chesnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, believes the growing cohort of "spiritual-but-not-religious," agnostics and atheists portends the continuing secularization of American society.
Others, such as LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer, believe some of the so-called "nones" are just nondenominational Christians. Writing at CNN.com, Stetzer said that "American Christianity is becoming more nondenominational and more evangelical at the same time."
But regardless of cause or consequence, the Dalai Lama apparently believes more and better inculcation of faith in new believers is necessary. He decried what he called "corrupted" followers among the world's religions who did not receive "adequate" instruction in their faith, and thus may require better spiritual formation.
"So now we have to find another way to educate people (in) the importance of these inner value(s)," he said.
Although he is the spiritual leader of the smallest of Buddhism's three main branches, the Dalai Lama's influence in America is substantial, Religion News Service reported recently.
According to Tom Tweed, president of the American Academy of Religion, the Dalai Lama "became an important public symbol for all sorts of values that Americans came to appreciate, including nonviolence, religious tolerance and openness to the conclusions of science."
The news agency said "millions of Methodist, Catholic, Jewish and other non-Buddhist Americans have kept copies of Buddhist texts, Buddhist meditation manuals or the Dalai Lama’s writings at their bedsides, 'significantly engaging in Buddhist ideas, but extracted from the context of a Buddhist temple,'" according to Tweed.
The Dalai Lama will be in the United States in October to attend the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. Tickets for a lecture he is expected to deliver at the University of Utah sold out within 15 minutes of availability, the Deseret News' Marjorie Cortez reported.
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