DIY Religion

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Religious Symbols, religion (Paul G/flickr)

Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World, encourages people to craft their own religious practice, as he did, drawing on the traditions of many cultures, including Greek mythology, Sufi Islam, Catholicism or Kabbalah.


Thomas W. Moore

Comments [36]

Rembo from Jersey

Was a bit disappointed that Moore, and Brian, didn't mention the impressive resources now available to non-believers and those looking for a secular community. Unitarian-Universalist Association congregations have fulfilled this need for generations and are active nationwide, with particularly strong congregations in New York City and the metro area. Secular Humanist meeting groups are growing throughout our area, providing thoughtful programs and activities for non-believers and atheists. Other resources include student groups at many universities and colleges, and many wonderful on-line resources to explore, including the American Humanist Association, CFI (Council For Inquiry), Free Inquiry, plus many on-line or newsstand magazines, newsletters, discussion groups, local associations and more. Some of these sites have help pages for those who are giving up their religion and finding it difficult. Local libraries and/or bookstores, plus Amazon or Barnes & Noble on line, have a selection of recent books (yes, even including Atheism For Dummies!) that can be very helpful. None of this was really explored and could have been supportive and helpful to listeners just getting their toes wet as they start their journey into leaving religion behind. The non-believer/atheist/secular humanist population, coupled with a huge number of people who simply check off "none" on forms asking their religion, are a fast growing and increasingly organized segment of American society.

Jan. 21 2014 05:35 PM
Muhammad from New York.

I am happy to hear the openness that you projected.Sure enough we should be open to all faiths and pick up the good points of all.And attempt to find the commonness among all and why there is commonness.Is it because God is one.Some may disagree.Or is it because the latter religion cheated from the divine texts from earlier.I was born in Islam then one time I became atheist and then a calamity hit me hard and I researched the faith and read Hinduism and Christianity and Islam.I found a lot common between them and went back to Islam as I judged all three faiths on four things,1)Founder and the completeness of info on his complete life.2)the divine book and whether or not it changed in text or language. 3) Is the faith being practiced today is what the founder taught and why and where it changed(surely one main reason is the arrogance and greed of the clergies in it)4)Spirituality and if it is compromised by creeping materialism and the check and balance in the faith to keep spirituality through accountability or its absence(due to compromise)I believe if we all chose faith rather than inheriting it the world would have been a better place.

Jan. 21 2014 02:55 PM

"The Earth is firmly fixed; it shall not be moved."
-Psalms 104:5

This bible verse shackled the minds of men for thousands of years, and held back the advance of science. It was this verse that was used as evidence against Galileo, who argued for the theory of Copernicus, that the earth is not immovable, but rotates around the sun. It was for teaching this that he was called to Rome in 1633, and tried for the crime of heresy. The aged Galileo, in his 70's, was taken down into the dungeons of the church and shown the instruments of torture that were going to be used on him if he did not recant. Fearing the torture, and fearing that he might share the fate of Giordano Bruno, whom the church burned at the stake a generation earlier for the same crime, Galileo recanted the truth. He was confined to his home under house arrest, neither allowed to leave or to receive visitors, for the last seven years of his life.

Galileo needed a "DIY religion"

Jan. 21 2014 12:33 PM

"DIY religion" is the perfect fit for the narcissist that doesn't have the courage to embrace the obvious.

Jan. 21 2014 12:18 PM

Indoctrinating children in religion is child abuse.

It should be illegal.

Jan. 21 2014 12:15 PM
Diane from Brooklyn

I invite people to check out the Ethical Culture Societies in our area - in Park Slope (, Manhattan (, Teaneck (, White Plains (, Riverdale ( Long Island (, where people concerned with how we can live ethical lives now and contribute to the well-being of others and our world gather weekly in communities of humanist faith and celebrate the human spirit. These communities often have children's programs that expose youth to the ethical traditions of all religions and actively engage them in ethical decision-making and appreciative inquiry into how to live a life that values and recognizes each person's worth. Check us out!

Jan. 21 2014 12:07 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Dear Truth and Beauty, I don't think you've expressed either here. I don't agree that Mr Moore is "full of you kow what". I think what you describe, what you think is religion sounds more like dogma. For example you say "If one is taking various rituals from various religions, it means one is completely and totally unfamiliar with any religion." I subscribe to Joseph Campbell's theory that when you find commonalities among various religions then you have found a universal truth. The fact that there are so many religious conflicts shows me that these religions are failing in their pursuit of religious truth. And it seems to me that the great religious leaders who are so revered are the ones who found their own path, their own truth and who "reinvented the wheel".

Jan. 21 2014 12:06 PM
John A

There is a book "How to Be a Perfect Stranger" IIRC that describes how to attend all the various services as a stranger (as you would be on first visit) so you can check out different faiths for yourself.

Jan. 21 2014 12:02 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Unit Aryan?

Jan. 21 2014 11:59 AM
John M Hamilton from Yonkers, NY

I think that this process of inviting people to create intentional spiritual practice is great. And I applaud your guest. But I sense people make all sorts of assumptions about religion not based in reality, and which I see even in the comments above, that I would want to ask people to reconsider. 1) A religious community is monolithic and you cannot diverge from the group think. This is true of some faiths, but by no means true of all of them. And it is even more true of a local parish than it is of the larger organization. My church the Episcopal Church openly acknowledges this. 2) Religion is about mumbo jumbo, magic. This is a misunderstanding. Many stories with a spiritual significance have a miraculous quality, but most faiths are very grounded in reality. Theologians distinguish between magic and spiritual practice and 3rd) You can make up your own religion and it is as just as good as any other. Religions have experiences in the past which they are interpreting spiritually. The message of all faiths is not the same. It is worth while to use curiosity without judgment to explore what living faiths actually say. It will be very enriching and probably enlightening. For sake of disclosure, I am an Episcopal priest.

Jan. 21 2014 11:58 AM
Skeptic from NYC

"…a child's approach to religion" -- ha. All of it is based on: Daddy is up there on a cloud watching out for me and taking care of me.

As a child, I picked up a child's bible and saw an illustration of a white-bearded man wearing a caftan and holding a shepherd's crook and standing on a cloud. My 5-year old eyes rolled. And when I realized the belief was that the giver of all life was a male ("Him"), I just knew that was something I could NEVER believe.

Jan. 21 2014 11:58 AM
Cynzanne from Brooklyn

Two words UNI TARIAN.

Jan. 21 2014 11:56 AM
Jen from NJ

I've attended many Coming of Age ceremonies over the years at my Unitarian Universalist congregation. ( They seem to exist in many religions, whether it's called Confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah or something else. I find UU is a perfect fit for me - organized religion, theism optional, with people on individual spiritual journeys coming together in community to put their faith into action. At my congregation, we started a charity (Giving Network: to provide household items and furniture to people locally, in addition to donating to local food banks, and working on social justice issues.

Jan. 21 2014 11:56 AM
John A

An adult can leave behind the child's belief system and attend gathering as the adult - agree with guest on that one point. The greatest misconception of the "deconverted" is that the memories of childhood religious experience is all you would get if you went back. False.

Jan. 21 2014 11:55 AM

This is such a fascinating segment as this is something I am grappling with as an adult who was raised entirely without religion, but who has found her own feelings of spirituality and who seeks both ritual and community that religion traditionally allows. Are there any recommendations for someone who doesn't come from a religious identity about how to adopt not only practices, but also an identity, even if a somewhat individual one?

Jan. 21 2014 11:54 AM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

But does is religion (whatever that is) really needed for one to be compassionate? Certainly the history of atrocities commited in the name of religion contradicts this premise. One of the biggest irony is that people worship Jesus, instead of following his teachings /lessons for spirituality / compassionate action.

Jan. 21 2014 11:52 AM
Andrew Campbell from Putnam County, NY

Bring this woman, the call-in woman, Jessica, with her daughter, the one that is Jewish with a Catholic husband, the daughter has a spiritual coming-of-age event at the end of the year!

Jan. 21 2014 11:51 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Great segment. But more than solitary spirituality, many of us are looking for a community for collective worship, just not one that thinks there's been no new knowledge in 2000 years, that the righteous can be self-glorifying, etc.

Jan. 21 2014 11:50 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Religion is the hope of defeating death.

Jan. 21 2014 11:49 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Obviously there are so many people out there who have an intense need for religion/spirituality and purpose. This sounds pretty darn hokey to me. How about keeping moral teachings and dumping the kooky, outdated fairy tales, superstitions, rules and rituals?

Jan. 21 2014 11:49 AM
Skeptic from NY

Sure, John A, community is a real positive for humans. But it need not be based on magical mysticism. There are communities of crafters, communities of rock'n'roll aficionados, communities of foot fetishists, communities of political progressives, etc. No need for fantasy.

Jan. 21 2014 11:48 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Starting your own religion is not new; they do it all the time in California.

Mr. Moore is full of you-know-what. If religion is unorganized (disorganized), it is personal belief, not religion. If one is taking various rituals from various religions, it means one is completely and totally unfamiliar with any religion.

One of the reasons we go to school is to learn all the things that others have learned before us so we can build on them. Same with religion: you can't build on it unless you know what it is and know all there is to know about all the other religions, and it just may be that you find what you're looking for there, without having to reinvent the wheel.

Jan. 21 2014 11:47 AM
NSNY from Brooklyn

There are so many people out there today trying to sell "spirituality" that it's been hard to navigate and find the philosophies to center what I've cobbled together over the years. What are your guest's thoughts on the modern day "guru" culture that has cropped-up and how to find the real and authentic sources to research? Thank you

Jan. 21 2014 11:47 AM
Wendy W

Wanted to add onto my previous comment:

We have done ritual based on traditions (like solstice), sciences (quantum mind), math (infinity) and other things.

Jan. 21 2014 11:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Once science understands and is able to cure death, then I think all need for supernatural-based "religions" will end. But not before. People want to live, even after death. That's the problem.

Jan. 21 2014 11:46 AM


Myth can be a powerful tool in understanding the nature of universe and charting your own deliberate path. I would suggest that it is not myth that is the problem, but inability of people to recognize that myths are meant to be allegorical -- not literal.

Jan. 21 2014 11:45 AM
John A

I think being part of a community is superior to being off on your own, don't people agree?

Jan. 21 2014 11:44 AM
Skeptic from Manhattan

"Succumbing" to secularism? Not quite. Happily having left mumbo-jumbo behind, more like it.

Jan. 21 2014 11:44 AM
Wendy W

American pagans have a tradition of customizing our spiritual life. I create a ritual for my friends every 6 weeks which we find very satisfying. I know many others who do.

Jan. 21 2014 11:43 AM

When can we talk about living life without myth?

Jan. 21 2014 11:38 AM
Moses from NYC

any outsider looking in to a religion will think these people are nuts.
Let's not judge crazy.
Moses split the sea and allowed the Jews to leave Egypt after raining frogs and blood and locust - that is nuts!
But we shouldn't judge crazy, it's NOT a conversation worth even having [unless it harms women+children].

Jan. 21 2014 11:16 AM

Does the author belief that we are less satisfied with the large god-based belief systems and thus desire and seek more individual spiritual pursuits?

Jan. 21 2014 10:15 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism = "bubba meinses" or grandma's fairy tales :) Indeed, all mysticism is fairy tales. It's why we have science, which continues to try to unravel reality based on observation and reason, not on "revelations" and supernatural myths from the past. Not that science has all the answers YET. But it's getting there.

Jan. 21 2014 10:06 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Keep in mind that there is a truth out there.

Jan. 21 2014 08:32 AM

Actually, the metaphor/analogy of Kabbalah to mere spices and seasonings is somewhat flawed. More like inordinately rich, hot or sharp spices or seasonings that can only be tolerated when taken after a full, balanced meal.

Jan. 21 2014 08:11 AM

Misconceptions and misinformation abound regarding the traditional Jewish mysticism known as "Kabbalah".

First, this highly esoteric field of study was only intended to be pursued by those select few who:
a) have already mastered the rest of the Torah (which means not only the entire "Hebrew Bible" with all of the classic commentaries but also, no less importantly, the entire Talmud and Shulchan Aruch, with all the major commentaries, and much more)
b) have a reached an outstanding level of piety and scrupulous observance of every detail of Jewish law ("halakhah") in even their private-most lives

The _basics_ and _fundamentals_ of Torah knowledge and observance are likened to bread or meat, Kabbalah to the spices and seasonings.

"When it comes to Kabbalah, those who say, don't know. And those who know, don't say." ~ High school teacher of mine

Jan. 21 2014 08:03 AM

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