Born to missionary parents in China's Szechwan province, Dr Jim Garrison grew-up in a conservative evangelical tradition very different to the inclusive Buddhism he subscribes to today.
The president of the State of the World Forum and the U.S. branch of the Gorbachev Foundation argues that the days of dogmatic religion are on the wane.
"One of the things I find very exciting about spirituality in the world today is that it is disengaged from religion. Religious orthodoxy is becoming less and less relevant to more and more people," says Dr Garrison, a Harvard graduate with a PhD in theology.
"I think that Judaism and Christianity and Islam have done real damage to the planet because they have too many answers. I prefer to live in the questions.
"I believe deeply in the Christian truths, but I think that they are partial. I think it's important that whatever we conceive of as God is the God of the whole not God of the part.
"If you think of all the violence that has been engendered because by people that believe the part is the whole it makes you shudder," he says.
"The deepest issue around the world today is the global crisis of the spirit and search for meaning," says Dr Garrison. "There is a malaise, there's an alienation, people have no sense of calling. People know that whatever doctrines they were taught when they were young aren't relevant to the 21st Century.
"In an age when women are being liberated how can the Pope be excluding women from the priesthood and talking about contraception as an evil. It makes no theological sense, it makes conceptual sense, and it makes no practical sense.
"The Hassidic Jews," Dr Garrison says warming to his theme. " I mean they're killing people on the West Bank. And now they're arguing if you're a Jew but don't have a Jewish mother you're not a Jew.
"Give me a break. That's not the world that we're going into. If you have instant information and you have instant access around the world through fax and computer you have to have a mentality and a spirituality that encompasses the totality of all of the relationships that you have. I have to treat you as an equal. That's just reality," he says.
Dr Garrison is quick to add that the problems caused by subscribing to narrow dogma are shared by all the world's six major religions.
"If my theology is an impediment I have to get rid of my theology," he says.
"I think the world needs to live in a spirit of inquiry and its out of inquiry that we learn tolerance. It's out of answers that we get dogmatic and we get violent and destructive with each other. I think history is moving beyond dogma."
"The conservative Jews and the conservative Christians and the conservative Imams they think what I'm saying is heresy, but I just say to these people your box is too small, get into a bigger box."
Dr Garrison says the State of the World Forum is about honoring the mavericks and heretics. "During times of transition orthodoxies fall and the heretics and the mavericks are the people creating the new orthodoxy. We're in one of these precious moments when we get to think out of the box."