If you are pressed for time and don’t have time to read all of today’s article,
skip the beginning and go
straight to the section towards the end entitled,
“What Real Religion Ought to Be.” — RB
There is no real, official history
as to the origin of religion. So, here’s my
in a cave. It’s raining. You are scared. Really scared.
are terrified. Those with you huddled
around the fire arealso worried,
distressed, and anxious.
suggests asking the tree outside the cave for help;
since thismakes as much
sense as anything else, you do.
you beg the tree that seems unaffected by the
deluge to makethe water stop
pouring down from the sky.
miraculously – or by coincidence (it’s hard to tell which)
– the rainlets up.
The tree, it seems, helped.
symbolic way of thanking the tree (and perhaps to curry
favor withthe tree in
the future) you place ashes from your
fire at its base. This both nurtures the
tree and keeps you
remembering the importance of gratitude.
time it rains, you know what to do.
Religion is born.
Note: As a reader of the ROTB newsletter, you probably already know this, but it bears repeating: There is a difference between religion
(connection with the holy) and organized
(a set of goals and paths to the holy). The easy way of spotting the difference is that the later includes the word organized.
The view that the origins
of religion is based in totemism was
forth by 20th Century Polish anthropologist Bronisław Kasper
He theorized that as societies mature, what once was
considered magic becomes
religion. He continued to say that what
once was considered religion becomes
And, I think he is right.
I would also offer that
we live in society so removed from the
origins of religion that we frequently
lose sight of the magic
in our lives.
From the short tale about
the tree above, we can learn what
religion is really about. Religion, when you
boil it down, is about
a goal and a path to that goal.
I know that might seem
too easy an answer, but it’s true.
Religion = Path –> Goal
Religion is about a goal
and a path to that goal.
This is what people mean
when they say, “She exercises religiously.”
The goal is physical
fitness, the path is physical activity like
jogging or tennis or skiing.
And, right away we notice
something. There can be more than one
path to the same goal. If your goal is
physical fitness, you can
do many things to achieve it.
Moreover, let’s examine
the goal of physical fitness itself. For some
the goal of physical fitness is
bulking up and looking buff. For
others, the goal of physical fitness might be
having a healthy
heart. For others, the goal of physical fitness might be
Let me present an example
where (I think) the path and goal are
clear: this newsletter. The goal of The 77% Weekly is: “To
you to take your religious life into your own hands –
helping you create paths
and goals that fit your lifestyle – in
order to help you find and be with (the)
God (of your
understanding).” The path: “this e-newsletter of
spiritual-religious to think about, delivered 40/52 weeks a year.”
Now, let’s look go back
to examine the story of the rain and the
tree. The goal was “keeping it
from raining” and the path “pleading
with the tree.”
Or, the goal might be
“finding comfort” or “being less frightened.”
And, the path could be
“imagining results” or “petition prayer.”
You can begin to see how
what was at first simple, actually is
open to interpretation.
There is one more element
we need to add to our definition that
religion is about a goal and a path to
that goal. We need to take
into account triggers.
Chronologically, a trigger
is the first element of any religious path
towards a goal. A trigger reminds
you of a path and points you
towards a goal. It’s what triggers you.
In our example about the tree,
the trigger could be the rain or
feeling the sense of fear.
Triggers are either sense
or time related. The former start with
sensations: seeing, hearing, etc. The
latter start with an event:
every new moon, at meal times, in winter, etc.
Almost anything can
qualify as a trigger event: picking up your
keys, touching money, getting into
bed, eating something larger
than the size of an egg, seeing a string you tied
to your finger,
April 15, the last Thursday of the month of November, turning
on a light switch, hearing a car horn, seeing a rainbow,
feeling a twitch in
your hand, knowing that the calendar says
Tuesday, being scared, etc.
So, to review, triggers
remind you of a path and point you towards
Of course, the word
religion usually has something to do with the
numinous, which is just a fancy
word for “of or relating to holiness,
spirit, and/or God.”
So, using what we learned
above, the goal of religion – most
of the time – is connecting with the
numinous – or, as I like
to write it – connecting with (the) God (of your
The paths (including the triggers)
to that goal will vary with
What Real Religion Ought to Be
the 20th century writer and lecturer wrote in
1929, “I maintain that Truth
is a pathless land.”
How true. How true.
The paths and goals of
religion are quite illusive and difficult to
Nonetheless, I am going
to offer some definitions that I like.
Hopefully they can help us remember the
goal of our spiritual-
[Real religion presence and to
is…] seeking the face of God, striving both to live in God’s
be holy. Arthur Green
Real religion is
[Real religion is…]and knowing that we belong to the drama
recognizing our inherent connectedness
of the universe. Larry Hoffman
False religion is aboutreligion is about how to get
how to get to heaven and how to avoid hell… real
through life once you’ve been through hell. Author unknown
[Real religion is…] is not about self, butLinda Thal
rather, about self-transcendence.
- Real religion ought not
shackle or limit people in their coming to an understanding of reality, God, or
themselves; true religion sets people free. Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer
Now, try adding a few of your own statements or favorite
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