I recently read Thomas Moore’s book, A Religion of One’s Own. More is a former Catholic monk, with a doctorate in theology. Many of you will be familiar with Thomas Moore, who also wrote the wonderful book, Care of the Soul. He is a very accessible writer, a counselor, who writes in the language of myth and metaphor to discuss the spiritual and religious core of our lives.
The basic thesis of A Religion of Your Own is that is it okay to create your own religion, taken from any spiritual tradition, and live it as if it is a real spiritual, religious path. More goes on to argue that not only can we do this, we must if we don’t want to be spiritually disconnected and cut off from the soul and the sacred in ourselves. The gift of this book is that Moore simply says, yes, this is the way forward, “as you know.” And I do know. Most of this book describes what I already do, and what most of my friends do—the many, many of us, who say that we are spiritual, but not religious. More gives us permission to call ourselves religious, and to take whatever spiritual teaching or religious or cultural tradition we want and make it our own. No one owns those things, this knowledge, this wisdom. He argues that being religious no longer necessarily means believing and adhering to all the tenets of one religion. It can, but it need not. Moore believes we are at the beginning of a new era when it comes to religion, and that the new era will be one where each of us chooses our own religion, and we live it out as our souls and spirits tell us to. I totally agree, and each of us will create our own art and meaning, too—just as John Berger suggested long ago in Ways of Seeing.
It is a relief to have him include astrology and tarot, pantheism, and all the world religions in one pot of wisdom, from which each of us have to make our way, not without community, but definitely without some spiritual authority telling us what to think, and some institution giving us the way. That time, in work, in life, in religion, is passing away. New challenges, and new achievements and adventures are ahead. This is just a lovely and kind book, permeated with Moore’s knowledge and compassion, and his gentle vision of the future of religion. He argues that opening up will breath new life into the world religions, by letting people express their real experience of the sacred, while letting go of the identity aspect that is limiting for many. For some, the limit is the religious identity which asks them to shut out other religions and other kinds of spiritual wisdom. For others, it is the homeless feeling of having to describe oneself as “not religious,” because we don’t subscribe to one religion’s complete belief system or dogma. To be able to say, yes, I am a very religious person, but not have to adhere to one belief system is a gift to me. For every “spiritual” searcher out there, this is a book that will help you realize you are already there, at home, in your spiritual life, doing exactly what you are meant to do.
You can also listen to Thomas Moore talk about his ideas on Oprah’s podcast