“Depression, aggression, stress, and purposelessness are some of the common symptoms of our time. People wonder why we are plagued with such things and how to get rid of them. As I see it, the problem is that we have lost religion – in the deep meaning of the word. We have formal religions that contain the seeds of genuine religiousness, but they are weakened by many problems: my usual list includes fundamentalism, moralism, empty ritual, misunderstood teachings, and general irrelevancy. In our time of cultural change, they are becoming so weak as to be lost to history.”
When scholar and author Thomas Moore names what he considers “symptoms of our time,” he implies that our culture suffers from a malaise, a plague, one might even say a pandemic of sorts. A quick read of the morning paper, a few minutes spent watching/listening to the news, or perhaps an honest inventory of our own soul, would make it hard to argue with his assessment. His remedy for our malaise, however, is one that may not be so easily agreed upon. Is the loss of a religious consciousness really the reason for our dis-ease, and can reclaiming that awareness be its needed fix?
The brand of religion that is characterized by Moore’s “usual list,” could be considered part of the problem. But the “deep meaning of the word” ‘religion,’ from the Latin re ligare (to re-bind) is, indeed, a necessary element for our spiritual, mental, and emotional health individually and collectively. Without “real religion” understood as our connection with what is ultimate and infinite, we can become mired in the messiness of life, and experience the depression, aggression, etc. to which Moore refers.
There is great value to the practice of religion in a church, synagogue, mosque, ashram, or similar settings, for they can provide a nourishing oasis in the midst of life’s many burdens. But more important than the place and the rituals enacted there, is the recognition of and openness to the need for what extends beyond their walls; namely, the Truth that what is ultimate and infinite is also intimate, one with us individually, and the common thread that re- binds us to one another.