I have long been interested in the idea of religious realism. But what is it? Realism must be a true-to-life, compelling account of things. It must strike most independent observers as immediately true or plausible. Realism must be forcefully convincing. The less realistic it is, the less compelling it must be and will only appeal to those with a certain view or bias.
People want to be realistic today. People want to be connected to a larger world and they want a set of beliefs that ring true. Religion, if it is to be believed, must at some level be very realistic and compelling; otherwise, people will set it aside. But a religious realism that holds aloft no hopeful ideal, no greater dream or vision of a better life, risks falling into pessimism and self-serving ambition. With no dream or ideal that tempers the realist and elevates their spirits, a religious vision cannot hope to inspire people and lead them on. The religious realist holds aloft the soft hope that religion is true, that there is a sacred heart in this world, but must make that dream connected to improvement of the real world.