The prize, which includes a monetary award of £1.1 million ($1.5 million), recognizes a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Sacks, 67, has spent decades bringing spiritual insight to the public conversation through mass media, popular lectures, and more than two dozen books. Among other things, he catalyzed a network of organizations that introduced a Jewish focus in areas such as business, women's issues, and education and urged British Jewry to turn outward to share the ethics of their faith with the broader community. Central to his message is appreciation of and respect for all faiths, with an emphasis on recognizing that that is the only viable path to fighting the global rise of faith-based violence and terrorism.
"Religion, or more precisely religions, should have a voice in the public conversation within the societies of the West as to how to live, how to construct a social order, how to enhance human dignity, honor human life, and indeed protect life as a whole," said Sacks. "Each religion, and each strand within each religion, will have to undertake this work, because if religion is not part of the solution it will assuredly be a large part of the problem as voices become ever more strident and religious extremists ever more violent."
In videos on the Templeton Prize website, Sacks argues that the spread of religious violence has been sparked by the export of Western secularization, which, he argues, has failed to provide guidance with respect to core issues of human identity, creating a vacuum that is being filled by religious fundamentalism and hatred stoked by the widespread adoption of social media. The solution, Sachs contends, is to match religious violence with "a message of love as powerful as the message being delivered by the preachers of hate.... [I]t really has to speak to young people, and we have to use the same social networking, the same technology as the extremists, and we’ve got to do it as well and better than they do."