If you’re one of the growing number of young adults who identify as “other” when asked about religious affiliation, this is for you. Unlike those who claim to be atheists, you are honest enough with yourselves to realize that as a human being you are hardwired to be religious, but at the same time you don’t like the standard choices on the menu.
The best thing about being a young adult right now is that you, more than any previous generation, have the freedom and the resources to create your own religion. So, let’s get started.
1. Create your own scripture. Every religion needs its holy book, It’s easy to create one. You already have one, actually, but just haven’t organized it or acknowledged it. Make a list of all the quotes, passages, entire books, songs, poems, whatever, that have the weight of ultimate truth for you. Once you have finished you will have your own personal Bible. One of my favorite “verses” in my personal Bible is, “It is better to be hated for who you are than loved for what you are not.” –Andre Gide The realization of the meaning of that statement set me free, many years ago.
2. Create or affirm your own rituals. A set of sacred rituals is the structure of religion. You can create your own rituals, but you can also look at your life and observe what rituals you already follow without realizing it, that have an empowering, transformative effect. When I left Christianity, I started the ritual of going to the art museum on Easter Sunday. It was my way of celebrating my own return from the dead, in a place that was sacred to me.
3. Realize that in religion, nothing is just something. Think about it. In Christianity it’s just bread and wine, but it isn’t just that. Common elements take on uncommon, miraculous powers and functions. So think about things that move you. For me it is music. There are certain songs, certain types of music, certain performers, that transport me to another level of consciousness, that gve me a sort of spiritual orgasm. Pay attention to what moves you. Venerate it. Incorporate it into your rituals. Canonize it into your personal scripture.
4. Remember, you are the founder, the prophet of your own religion, but not its God. You still have to figure out what or whom you worship. Is it love, truth, collective humanity, the cosmic mystery, a more traditional God without the human-made garbage. That’s all up to you. But the one common element in any religion is some version of a higher power. It’s not you. If it is you, that’s not religion, that’s psychosis.
5. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing. If there is something you like in the Bible, the Koran, the Kama Sutra, it’s OK to include those in your new personal religion. Tell me a religion that hasn’t borrowed and built on those that came before it.
6. Happy Birthday! When I created my personal religion, I decided that birthdays should be the high holy day of that religion. Not just my birthday. All birthdays. Think about it. The birthday is the one day of the year set aside to be that person’s own personal holiday, when everyone whose lives have been touched by the birthday boy or girl focus only on him or her, celebrating, giving gifts, giving thanks. Think about it. Christmas is even a birthday celebration.