Real Good Religion

—Rebooting spiritual practice

Introduction edit

We often wonder in awe what more there might be.

People who are seeking real good[1] may be perplexed by the many inconsistencies, falsehoods, and arbitrary claims of traditional religious doctrine and dogma. However, they may be reluctant to leave traditional religions because of the community, moral guidance, and sense of awe that these religions provide.

Supernatural claims that are almost certainly false are central to traditional religions. This creates a tension and dissonance for people who are seeking real good.

Despite these tensions, leaving traditional religions can be challenging for various reasons, even for thoughtful and reflective individuals who are seeking true beliefs. The difficulty often stems from a combination of psychological, social, emotional, and cultural factors. Perhaps you see yourself on this list of obstacles to leaving traditional religions.

Fortunately, these obstacles can be overcome.

Objectives edit

This course offers an invitation and guidance to people who want to leave behind the anachronism, inconsistencies, divisiveness, and polarization of traditional religions and progress towards living a real good life.

This course suggests a path toward a real good religion—deeply fulfilling experiences that do not rely on supernatural claims.

Although the topics in this course are presented sequentially, it is likely that you will wander through these topics and find your own path as you explore your journey toward a real good religion.

Progress Beyond Theism edit

If you are perplexed or skeptical, and have begun to question the beliefs and teachings of the religion you were taught earlier in life, the beyond theism course may help you discover a helpful alternative.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Beyond theism
  2. Progress beyond theism.

Align Your Worldview edit

Each of us holds a set of basic assumptions about how the world works. This is known as our worldview.

Worldviews are sets of beliefs and assumptions that describe reality. A worldview is a way of describing the universe and life within it, both in terms of what is and what ought to be. Worldviews represent a person’s or a culture’s answers to fundamental existential questions.

Our worldviews are deeply embedded within us. They are mental habits that form an important part of our identity. We are typically unaware of our worldviews, and they resist change. None-the-less, it is wise to align your worldview with reality, as it is best understood.

Assignment edit

  1. Think Clearly.
  2. Study the essay Reality is our common ground.
  3. Learn physics.
  4. Adopt a global perspective.
  5. Study big history.
  6. Learn what is.
  7. Align your worldview with reality.
  8. As your understanding evolves, continue to refine your worldview.

Well Founded Moral Reasoning edit

Moral Reasoning is the thought process we go through to determine what we ought to do.

Moral Reasoning is the thought process we go through to determine what we ought to do. Moral reasoning helps us decide what is right and what is wrong.

Although many people rely on traditional religious teachings for moral guidance, many religious doctrines are narrowly conceived and provide archaic and obsolete moral guidance.

No simple rule, list of commandments, formula, or outcome seems to adequately capture the complexities of moral reasoning. Instead, we need to rely on a toolkit that taken together provides guidance in a variety of situations.

The moral reasoning course presents the elements of the moral reasoning toolkit.

Assignment edit

  1. Compete the Wikiversity course on moral reasoning.
  2. Draw on your well-chosen moral reasoning toolkit to decide what you ought to do.
  3. Do only what you ought to do.
  4. Live the moral virtues.

Cherish Awe edit

Experiences of awe are integral to many religious traditions. However, it is wise to distinguish between awesome experiences of reality, and fanciful stories and illusions of supernatural encounters.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the essay Reality is Awesome.
  2. Study the essay An Awesome Big History of Religion.
  3. Study the essay Awesome Features of Traditional Religion.
    1. Celebrate life with engaging secular celebrations, rituals, ceremonies, music, art, and natural setting.
    2. Embrace the awe of nature and the expanse of the universe.
  4. Study the essay Awesome Charlatans.
    1. Escape the allure of charlatans.
  5. Study this list of everyday awe.
    1. Welcome awe, savor awe, and cherish awe every day.
  6. Enjoy magnificent music, art, and architecture.
  7. Visit museums. Savor the exhibits.
  8. Study the Wikiversity course Cherishing Awe.
  9. Cherish awe.

Belong to a Community edit

Strengthen your social connections and find where you belong.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Creating Communities.

Real Good Prayer edit

Secular alternatives to prayer encompass a range of practices and activities that are not rooted in religious beliefs but are aimed at promoting well-being, mindfulness, and reflection. Consider this list of secular alternatives to prayer. The sections below provide guidance in a range of real good practices that supersede traditional prayer and are unburdened by supernatural claims.

Find Equanimity edit

Finding equanimity allows you to remain calm and retain a wise perspective while experiencing the chaos and complexity of the world we live in.

Assess this moment in perspective. Recognize that this moment is the faintest ripple in the fabric of the universe.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Finding equanimity
  2. Find equanimity.

Quiet your Mind edit

A quiet mind, and human wholeness, are available through controlling discursive thought and developing nondiscursive perception. Like learning to walk or to talk, using the mind well is a matter of patient repeated efforts. The Quiet mind course provides a simple method for controlling discursive thought; and for making nondiscursive awareness your primary perspective, through which discursivity is guided in creating a flourishing life and a flourishing Earth.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Quiet mind
  2. Quiet your mind.
  3. Choose appealing guided meditations.
  4. Enjoy meditating.

Affirm your Gifts and Intentions edit

When we are alone, most people are almost constantly engaged in an intrapersonal dialogue within themselves. Inner speech is an important yet underrecognized aspect of how we humans work. In particular, major life decisions, including our important transitions and rites of passage, are formed by inner speech. Almost everything we do with our minds we do with inner speech. Reading, thought, decision making, self-regulation, action, memory, and conversation all draw on the processes of inner speech.

Psychologists are demonstrating that inner speech helps us regulate our behavior, motivate ourselves for action, evaluate those actions, and even become conscious of our own selves.

Because we spend so much time speaking to ourselves, it is helpful to choose inner speech that provides wise advice.

Assignment edit

  1. Choose wise affirmations that acknowledge your gifts and reinforce your wise intentions.
  2. Form effective affirmations.
  3. Talk wisely to yourself.
  4. Silently repeat well-chosen affirmations often.

Increase Emotional Competency edit

Emotional competency is the skill to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others.

Many believe that living life to its fullest requires experiencing and enjoying the full range of human emotions. Yet so many of us are uncomfortable with emotions; we don’t recognize what they are, what they are telling us, how they can be helpful, or the choices we have in how to respond to them. Many of us were taught to ignore, suppress, diminish, or deny our own subtle feelings and vivid passions. Do you know how you feel?

Fortunately, we can learn to improve our emotional competency, enhance our life experience, lead a more fulfilling life, and contribute to our humanity.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity Emotional Competency curriculum.
  2. Increase your emotional competency.

Pray for Peace edit

Reflect on these 32 secular prayers for peace. You might enjoy choosing a different one each day of the month.

Exercise Agency edit

Move beyond thoughts and prayers and take effective action. Employ your agency to attain well-chosen goals.

Assignment edit

  1. Decide what you want to have happen.
  2. Determine what you can change and what you cannot change.
  3. Exercise your agency to solve problems and progress toward your well-chosen goals.

Expressing Gratitude edit

You may be asked to “give the blessing” or “say grace” before thanksgiving dinner, before meals, or at some other occasion. Draw on this list of secular blessings, or create your own reflections, to express gratitude, kindness, encouragement, grace, and good will.

Spiritual Development edit

Spiritual practices, including meditation and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life. Spiritual experiences include those of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with an imagined divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Spiritual Development.
  2. Continue your spiritual growth.

Universals edit

Despite their diversity and pre-modern worldviews, the world’s religions teach several universal and enduring lessons for living wisely. These are important elements of a real good religion.

Assignment edit

  1. Read the essay on Universals.
  2. Focus on the common ground that is emerging from millennia of religious practice.

Explore Existential Questions edit

Everyone has important questions and legitimate concerns about their very existence. People often wonder, do I even matter? Strive for an accurate optimism while remaining curious. Keep in mind what you can change and what you cannot.

Assignment edit

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Exploring Existential Questions.
  2. Stay curious as you continue to seek true beliefs.

Practice Philosophy edit

Philosophy is literally “love of wisdom”. More practically, philosophy is what happens when we begin to think for ourselves.[2]

Because people who are seeking real good think for themselves, it is useful to practice philosophy.

Assignment edit

  1. Be curious.
  2. Know how you know.
  3. Continue to think for yourself.
  4. Draw on the resources in this Philosophy Toolkit to complement your thinking. (to be further developed)

Grieving edit

As we live our lives it is inevitable that we suffer irrevocable losses. These typically include tragedies such as the death of family, friends, pets, or other loved ones. Other losses include unemployment, financial difficulties, housing loss, ill health, injury, oppression, humiliation, betrayal, shattered assumptions, shattered dreams, or the end of a relationship. We also suffer minor setbacks such as failing a test, losing the game, missing a goal, rejection, exclusion, insults, indignities, scolding, or stubbing our toes.

Grief is our reaction to those losses. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.

Assignment edit

When you encounter losses, consider taking the following steps.

  1. Acknowledge your loss.
  2. Allow yourself to grieve.
  3. Take care of yourself.
  4. Obtain support. Consider joining a support group or seeking professional support, if you are having difficulty coping with your grief or have suffered major physical or psychological trauma.
  5. Regain your resilience.

Tenderness edit

The comfort of a mother’s tender embrace.

It feels good to be held and reassured by your mother. Even the most stalwart among us occasionally long for tenderness to satisfy our need for comfort. A mother’s comforting hugs, her compassionate, caring, reassuring, understanding, forgiving, and empathetic listening provide often needed tenderness. Her tender and unconditional love and parental care fills our universal need for comfort.

Mother goddesses are prominent throughout traditional religions. Real good religions could benefit from establishing ways to meet our need to be cared for at times when we are especially vulnerable.

Atonement edit

Atonement is action we take to correct past wrongdoing on our part. This may involve direct actions aimed at mitigating the consequences of our past deeds, engaging in equivalent positive actions to contribute to the well-being of others, or expressing remorse through various means.

Atonement signifies a conscious commitment to not only acknowledge our mistakes but also to actively work towards restoring balance and fostering positive change.

Assignment edit

  1. Reflect on your transgressions; list the people you have harmed.
  2. Complete the Wikiversity course on Apologizing.
  3. Apologize or otherwise make appropriate amends to those you have harmed.
  4. Catalogue your grievances.
  5. Compete the Wikiversity course on Forgiving.
  6. Forgive those who have wronged you.
  7. Savor the serenity.

Real Hope edit

People crave hope. Many traditional religions offer hope by promising everlasting life in heavenly paradise to those who live good lives. Unfortunately, such an afterlife is almost certainty non-existent. There is no credible evidence of an afterlife (other than legacy) and there is no known mechanism that would make such an afterlife possible. Promises of life after death are almost certainly false. Because life almost certainly ends at death, it is best to seek out real reasons for hope that we can enjoy during our one certain life.

The Stockdale paradox describes a basis for real hope. When author James Collins asked which prisoners didn't make it out of Vietnam, James Stockdale replied:

“…You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Real good religion provides us a basis for real hope.

Assignment: edit

  1. Read the essay Real Reasons for Hope.
  2. Face facts.
  3. Enjoy real hope.
  4. Practice intentional evolution.

Discover your true self edit

Explore the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

“Who am I?” is the question that uniquely defines us as individuals and as humans. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are determine our personal identity. However, the narrative we use to define ourselves may be partly based on false beliefs about who we are. This false self-image limits our performance and distracts us from being fully present. In the true self course you can work to examine your current narrative, identify your true self, address areas where the narrative does not accurately describe your true self, and adopt a new narrative that accurately describes your true self.

We must know who we are before we can be all we can be. It is important to “Know thyself.” Socrates lamented “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” The true Self course can help you examine your life.

Shame lurks in the gap between what is and what ought to be. The true self course is designed to help you identify that gap and begin to close it.

Assignment edit

  1. Complete the Wikiversity course on Unmasking the True Self.
  2. Discover your true self.
  3. Be your true self.

Build Your Cathedral edit

A personal myth is a constellation of beliefs, feelings, images, and rules—operating largely outside of conscious awareness—that interprets sensations, constructs new explanations, and directs behavior. Personal myths speak to the broad concerns of identity (Who am I?), direction (Where am I going?), and purpose (Why am I going there?). For an internal system of images, narratives, and emotions to be called a personal myth, it must address at least one of the core concerns of human existence.

The book Building the Cathedral: Answering the Meaning Crisis through Personal Myth[3] guides the reader in “building their cathedral”. This is an on-going project to write a story that becomes your personal myth and establishes your place in the universe.

Assignment edit

  1. Read the book Building the Cathedral: Answering the Meaning Crisis through Personal Myth.
  2. Study the hero's journey.
  3. Write your story, embrace your myth, cherish your cathedral.

Find a Congregation edit

Practitioners of traditional religious typically congregate (meet) regularly in a certain location to practice their religion together. It can be helpful to find a location where you can regularly gather with a group of people who you enjoy spending time with. Activities can vary widely, and discussing meaningful topics can provide depth to the time spent together.

Any number of locations may be suitable. Consider private residences, restaurants, dining halls, or pubs; party venues, club houses, fraternal organizations; outdoor venues such as hiking trails, parks, playgrounds, dog parks, and picnic groves; school buildings, campus buildings, libraries, municipal buildings, or the local fire house. Existing meetup groups may have already chosen suitable locations.

You may find a local American Humanist Association chapter where you feel welcome.

Assignment edit

  1. Find a suitable location and group where you can congregate
  2. Enjoy congregating regularly.

Come Together edit

We can learn to come together harmoniously.

Assignment edit

  1. Complete the courses in the Wikiversity Coming Together curriculum.
  2. Come together harmoniously.

Do Good edit

Most religious people do good deeds. World peace advocate Jane Addams advised that "Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics." Real good religions encourage practitioners to act for the good. Committed people are doing good improving our world and helping others as they increase their own gratification. Consequential action combined with well-chosen, human-based values can make a significant difference. Courageous achievements that help others around the globe for all time is real good action.

There are many ways to do good.

Assignment edit

  1. Complete the course Doing Good.
  2. Do the most good you can.
  3. Volunteer to provide community service.
  4. Help to advance human rights, worldwide.

Advocacy edit

Traditional religious group expand their congregations by proselytizing—meeting people and advocating they join the religion. As one example, Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their efforts to spread their beliefs, most notably by visiting people's homes, and distributing Watch Tower Society literature. In another example, Mormon missionaries are volunteer representatives of the church who engage variously in proselytizing, church service, humanitarian aid, and community service.

You may wish to advocate for your secular worldview. Use good judgement in adjusting the intensity and nature of your advocacy to strengthen rather than strain relationships.  

Assignment edit

  1. Come out”. Be proud to discuss your secular world view with friends, family, and other people you meet.
    1. Remain respectful and candid.
    2. Practice dialogue.
    3. You can obtain guidance and support for your decision to share your secular beliefs with others at the openly secular website[4].
  2. Join one or more secular advocacy organizations such as the American Secular Union, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Recovering from Religion, the Secular Coalition for America, or one of their member organizations.  
  3. Study the Wikiversity course Street Epistemology.
  4. Practice Street Epistemology

Summary and Conclusions edit

You can leave behind the anachronisms, inconsistencies, divisiveness, and polarization of traditional religions and progress towards living a real good life.

Live wisely.

Recommended Reading edit

Students interested in exploring real good religions may wish to study the following materials:

  • De Botton, Alain (January 8, 2013). Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion. Vintage. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0307476821. 
  • Moody, Harry R. (1998). The Five Stages of the Soul: Charting the Spiritual Passages That Shape Our Lives. Anchor. pp. 384. ISBN 978-0385486774. 
  • Lerner, Michael (2002). Spirit Matters. Hampton Roads Publishing. pp. 384. ISBN 978-1571743602. 
  • Abrams, Nancy (March 10, 2015). A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet. Beacon Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0807073391. 
  • Legrand, Thomas (December 4, 2021). Politics of Being: Wisdom and Science for a New Development Paradigm. Ocean of Wisdom Press. pp. 520. ISBN 978-2957758302. 
  • Ricard, Matthieu; Daniel Goleman (2007). Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0316167253. 
  • Azarian, Bobby (June 28, 2022). The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity. BenBella Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1637740446. 
  • Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel Dennett
  • Speckhardt, Roy (July 28, 2015). Creating Change Through Humanism. Humanist Press. pp. 192. ISBN 978-0-931779-65-7. 
  • McGowan, Dale (April 25, 2007). Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. AMACOM. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0814474266. 
  • Harris, Sam (2010). The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. Free Press. pp. 322. ISBN 978-1-4391-7121-9. 
  • Musolino, Julien (January 6, 2015). The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs. Prometheus Books. pp. 287. ISBN 978-1616149628. 
  • Zuckerman, Phil (December 4, 2014). Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions. Penguin Press. pp. 288. ISBN 978-1594205088. 
  • Trumble, Dennis R. (July 16, 2013). The Way of Science: Finding Truth and Meaning in a Scientific Worldview. Prometheus Books. pp. 375. ISBN 978-1616147556. 
  • Keltner, Dacher (January 2, 2024). Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. Penguin Books. pp. 336. ISBN 978-1984879707. 
  • Sagan, Sasha (October 5, 2021). For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 304. ISBN 978-0735218796. 
  • Yunkaporta, Tyson (May 18, 2021). Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. HarperOne. pp. 256. ISBN 978-0062975621. 
  • Lightman, Alan (March 14, 2023). The Transcendent Brain: Spirituality in the Age of Science. Pantheon. pp. 208. ISBN 978-0593317419. 
  • Legrand, Thomas (December 4, 2021). Politics of Being: Wisdom and Science for a New Development Paradigm. Ocean of Wisdom Press. pp. 520. ISBN 978-2957758302. 
  • Schneider, Kirk J. The Spirituality of Awe: Challenges to the Robotic Revolution. Waterside Productions. pp. 158. ISBN 978-1945949692. 
  • Moon, Sadie Alwyn; Dempsey, Brendan Graham. Building the Cathedral: Answering the Meaning Crisis through Personal Myth. Independently published. pp. 119. ISBN 979-8728831211. 
  • Fiand, Barbara (July 1, 2008). Awe-Filled Wonder: The Interface of Science and Spirituality. Paulist Press. pp. 96. ISBN 978-0809145294. 
  • Goleman, Daniel; Davidson, Richard (September 5, 2017). Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. Avery. pp. 336. ISBN 978-0399184383. 
  • Singer, Peter (April 7, 2015). The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. Yale University Press. pp. 232. ISBN 978-0300180275. 
  • Cooney, Nick (April 27, 2015). How To Be Great At Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World. Jossey-Bass. pp. 208. ISBN 978-1119041719. 
  • Kidder, Rushworth M. (1994). Shared Values for a Troubled World: Conversations with Men and Women of Conscience. Jossey-Bass. pp. 332. ISBN 978-1555426033. 
  • Ward, Keith (April 1, 2013). God: A Guide for the Perplexed. Oneworld Publications. pp. 272. ISBN 978-1851689736. 

I have not yet read the following books, but they seem interesting and relevant. They are listed here to invite further research.

  • Beyond Religion: A Personal Program for Building a Spiritual Life Outside the Walls of Traditional Religion
  • Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, by Megan Phelps-Roper
  • Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions, by Huston Smith
  • Ethics for the New Millennium by Dalai Lama
  • The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism, by Tim Alberta
  • Cutting God in Half - And Putting the Pieces Together Again a New Approach to Philosophy, by Nicholas Maxwell
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan, Ashraf Killany, Mounir Moussa, Hoda Abbas Moussa
  • Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam, by Yasmine Mohammed

References edit

  1. The word “real” in the phrase “seeking real good” refers to objective reality as distinct from imaginary or fictional and is not a modifier such as “very”. I recognize that the majority of very good people hold religious beliefs.
  2. Shand, John (June 5, 2003). Fundamentals of Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 458. ISBN 978-0415227094. 
  3. Moon, Sadie Alwyn; Dempsey, Brendan Graham. Building the Cathedral: Answering the Meaning Crisis through Personal Myth. Independently published. pp. 119. ISBN 979-8728831211.