Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Your Own Personal Religion

The first piece of writing I ever published was called "Christianity and Humanism." All my life I've been interested in undoing any separation between everyday life and religion. For thirteen years, starting when I was thirteen, I lived a monastic style of life in the Catholic Servite Order, and since leaving there in my mid-twenties I've tried to have a mark of monasticism on my lifestyle. I tend to be contemplative and visionary, and I live a fairly simple life and consider my work as a writer and therapist to be my best form of prayer.
I went from the most formal and visible form of religion you can imagine -- I wore a long black habit with a large rosary dangling from the belt and followed a precise schedule every day that included hours of meditation, ritual and prayer -- to what looks like a completely secular life. I've learned the lesson of Zen emptiness and hold to my version of Teilhard de Chardin's vision of the natural world as spiritual and holy. Today you couldn't easily find signs that I'm a religious person, yet religion is baked into everything I do, and I don't, as they say, wear it on my sleeve.
I'm in my early seventies now, and this evolving sense of religion, fortified by a Ph.D. in the field and another advanced degree in theology, has become a well-formed philosophy. I now publicly claim that we are entering a new era in which old competitiveness, moralism, dogmatism, exclusivism, sexism, and preachiness of the established religions is over. On the other hand, I would hate to see secularism win the hearts of the entire world, because by nature a fully secular world is soulless, and, as ancient writers often remind us, the soul is what makes us human. 
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