Real Religion

“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.  

One thought on “Real Religion

  1. Hi Tom, This post reminds me of a book written years ago by psychologist Aaron Beck entitled, Love Is Never Enough. Beck argued that if two people love one another but lack good communication skills– it isn’t going to work. I think that what we need today is more than a new religion. We also need a new vision.  My sense is that Christianity has associations with “this life as preparation for life in the world to come,” and Nietzsche’s “the eternal recurrence of the same,” but people today want more than this. The church today is pro-life, but it seems oblivious to the relationship between this position and the problem of human over-population. We need a vision for our future that is both holistic and coherent. Native Americans have this saying that we have “broken out of the sacred loop.” We have lost our innocence. We are no longer living in harmony with the natural world. Can we find our way back? How? I suspect that this is one reason that so many Americans are pro-choice. I do some online dating occasionally, and one of the most striking things for me about so many of the women who are my age is that they want to travel (burn fossil fuels), and I know that many of these women believe in global warming, and they vote Democratic.  This is why I find myself agreeing with many Jungians who believe that what we need is not only a new religion– but also a new vision for how we can live on this Earth into the future.   Bruce 


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