What if we were starting today? If, here, 18 years into the 21st century CE, we were to invent a new, Earth-loving, progressive, reality-based religion?
Imagine a practice, a cosmology, a set of values rooted in what we now know about the Cosmos, about Nature, about ourselves. If we were starting just today.
What would it look like?
What would draw people in, make them want to be a part of it?
Well, I have some ideas.
To begin with, I’d think we would start with a cosmology that doesn’t fly in the face of what we’ve learned through science over the past few hundred years. Our sources would not be Agrippa and Paracelsus and Gardner, but rather Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Curie, Sagan. Our myth, the Great Story of cosmic and biological and technological evolution. We would overflow with love for the green and generous Earth, for the powerful and life-giving Sun, such that our joy would be infectious.
We would not ask people to sustain belief in that which strains credulity, and we would encourage critical thinking and critical inquiry.
We would start, as a foundation, with being sensible and realistic and connected to our Earth, the demonstrable reality of our existence.
We would be beautiful. Our religion would be filled with the aesthetics and symbolis m and imagery of magnificent Nature: of leaves and trees and animals and mountains and stars. It would root us in the reality of our interdependence with Earth and Sun.
We would be embodied. We would celebrate, rather than shun, our animal natures, understanding eating and food production, sexuality and childrearing and aging and death as natural and sacred processes.
We would honor ancestry not simply in the form of recent cultures of origin, but all the way back to the first organisms, to the pre-human ancestors that first innovated with art, with cooking, with toolmaking.
We’d stand for sterling values. For a better, kinder, more just and more sustainable world. For integrity, and truthfulness, and wonder and reason and love. Our politics would be that of generosity and inclusion and humble service to the Earth. We would seek and value wisdom and compassion.
And we’d offer experiences that were rich with meaning and personal growth: heartfelt, ecstatic experiences, in community with good-hearted people. Because that is what people—particularly young people—are gravitating towards now. It’s why they flock to all-night dance events and music festivals and Burning Man. They want the ecstatic, and they want to be connected, to feel like part of a tribe.
So we would draw on all that has been learned about ritual and transformation of consciousness, about psychology and the human heart. About poetry, and music, and rhythm and dance and art.
We would look around, and gather all the things that help people not just to survive, but to thrive. We would draw our knowledge and technology forward to help us.
And we wouldn’t need for our practices to have antiquity. We would understand that the tenacity of ideas has nothing to do with their worthiness. We’d know that while we drew forward old and beloved traditions, we were creating something new, vital, rich with all humanity has learned.
Our religion would be firmly grounded in reality, and cast its love and wonder to surrounding humanity, Earth and Cosmos.
Without stretching credulity, or demanding belief in the unprovable. Rich with pleasures and textures and scents and joymaking. And love.
It wouldn’t be steeped in a fantasy of some idyllic long-ago-and-far-away place that never existed. It wouldn’t need fairies and elves and dragons and unicorns, nor wizards and sorceresses and their occult lore.
Just this world, here, in all its utter, knockout magnificence, and beautiful people to celebrate it.