Scaffolding for a new “religion” : a check list. But it’s not about religion in any way people are used to. There is no “denomination” (name), no building, no clergy with or without degrees, no required acts or belongings. It’s simply a welling-up and pre-existing (immanental) understanding of the world that might not be verbal at all. You begin building it as an infant, even before becoming a toddler, and it guides your growth ever after.

Experience, sensory experience like seeing and hearing, trying and failing, laughing and crying, gradually teach your brain who you are by physically plugging together systems of processing so as to deal with what happens to you.

With luck, being with groups and participating with them will be a happy experience that teaching you about ethnicity and group response to some ideas. These are called “beliefs”, but they don’t mean you actually believe them. In fact, much of it can be fantasy. (Like patriotism.)

If you can find a pre-existing group that aligns well with your sense of the world and aesthetic taste, you will be a fortunate and rewarded person. The ideas below are a way of feeling towards a new awareness of the felt meaning that each of us carries. It is not a new religion. I just say that and deny it, hoping it will take people to a listening headspace.


1. Replacing superstitious humanoid projections with awareness of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans we are now exploring on a scale that far exceeds what we ever could see before. This does not preclude the aura of meaning around each object of veneration.

2. Finding reassurance in our continuous inclusive relationship with everything else, whether other people, other living beings, or the tiniest microcreatures that live in us. DNA is a phenomenon that patterns all life and there is far more overlap than not. We share tiny organisms and actual genes with those with whom we are intimate, even pets. We include in our basic chromosomes features from the earliest one-celled creatures (eating, excreting, managing a skin) through every stage of evolution, often with no awareness at all, so we are surprised when they erupt into consciousness.

3. Consciousness that we are the result of everything that has come before through time and place and in turn being a consequence for everything that will follow. It is not possible to “not matter.” Even a conception that fails early has an impact on the mother and all around her. This is not limited to direct inheritance or ethnic identity, nor is it limited to humans. History extends aeons before humans and presumably will continue after our species.

4. Developing empathy, which begins as soon as we can focus on a caregiver’s face, and communicating with others through our senses (at first only eating, sleeping, cleaning, and something like loneliness) until we have extended our “minds” (thought systems) as far as possible. What do other people see and feel? Or, as in the famous essay, “What is it like to be a bat?”

5. Developing the senses in both technical ways, like using instruments, and in existential ways as through the arts, and through logical deduction. Practice, habits, experiments.


6. Skill and awareness in creating, recognizing and managing systems from the ecology of how things work in the context of each other, developing fittingness to the humanistic laws and principles of one’s society. This includes humor, friendship, manners.

7. Developing a “library” of books, experts, disciplines. It helps to know a “canon”, material that everyone is expected to know from the alphabet to vocabulary.

8. Managing personal space, time, iconography, tools, food, sources of comfort and ways of presentation and make time for them. Seeking experiences that both challenge and reassure.

The quote below is really about the scary time when one is leaving a familiar system and hasn’t quite found or developed a new one with the same significance. Politics, therapy, altered consciousness, travel, and general distress only help a little bit for a while.

“The March 27 Economist has an article by Lexington called “The God-shaped hole”. Americans who have rejected the institutions of religion but not the religious urge yearn for moral certainty and communal identity. Wilder ideas are described in “Strange Rites by Tara Isabella Burton. Politics looks increasingly like a pseudo-religion. Some have hailed the displacement of religious fervour into the secular realm as proof of the “God-shaped hole” a conviction attributed to Blaise Pascal in the mid-17th century. The article concludes “no wonder political compromise has become impossible.”


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Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.