Sunday, September 9, 2012

New religion

I've been trying to define the principles of a new religion: its creed, you might say. It's not often that I do this kind of thing, so I'm a bit of a newcomer to such a challenge. But creating a new religion is a pleasant and fulfilling task. For the moment, I'm the only clearly-identified adept of this new religion, but that could change overnight once my system of beliefs becomes more widely known.

In spite of all that talk about a rose being a rose by any other name, I consider that names (and symbols, too) are quite important when you're creating a new religion. For the moment, I'm forced to admit that the name I've been using for my new religion is a little clumsy: not exactly the sort of word that rolls off your tongue, harmoniously, like most good names of religions. But it's the best thing I can find. I'm calling it Awestruckism, from the well-known adjective "awestruck". And I'm using a nice big purple-hued letter A as our symbol.


It's not a particularly complicated religion, in that it has no dogma whatsoever, no sacred rituals and—last but not least—no clergy. In fact, I don't think my new religion can even be associated with something that might be referred to as a theology. Individuals who adhere to Awestruckism won't be expected to pray, or take part in any kinds of official ceremonies. Indeed, the sole religious duty of those who decide to accept this new faith can be summed up in a single sentence:
Adepts of Awestruckism are expected to remain constantly awestruck by the nature of the Cosmos.
That's all. Being awestruck is our sole profound goal in existence. But we must understand the multiple meanings of this adjective... which have been conveniently grouped together in my online Macintosh dictionary:
awestruck: awed, filled with wonder, filled with awe, wonderstruck, amazed, filled with amazement, astonished, filled with astonishment, lost for words, open-mouthed.
The dictionary concludes with four more, of a slightly different kind:
reverential; terrified, afraid, fearful.
Without going into details, I believe (here, it's my faith that is talking) that the practice of awestruckism can be associated with any and all of the above-mentioned senses. Indeed, I consider that one of the great early intellectual pioneers in Awestruckism was the French philosopher Blaise Pascal when he said:
The eternal silence of these
infinite spaces terrifies me.

Unfortunately, he was waylaid by conventional religion and science, and never had an opportunity of developing his Awestruckist beliefs.

Within the context of the new religion that I am promoting, there will be no arbitrary rules concerning the nature of the phenomena capable of striking such-and-such a believer with awe. For example, if I were approached by a young male baptismal candidate who told me that he was utterly awestruck, first and foremost, by the insanely sexy allure of a certain young female (or male, for that matter) whom he had recently encountered, I would not hesitate in looking upon him as a potentially serious member of our congregation.

Admittedly, no self-respecting religion can survive without a certain number of forbidden themes. For example, if somebody informed me that he was totally awestruck by the recent phenomenal gains of Ajax shares, say, on the Chicago stock exchange, I would hesitate a little before looking upon him as a potentially-rich adept of our faith. Potentially rich, maybe, but not necessarily the kind of spiritual profile we're seeking.

To call a spade a spade, many (but not all) of our sources of awe are likely to come from the various domains of contemporary science: genetics, cosmology, etc. But an Awestruckist might just as surely discover his revelations of awe in art, literature or, simply, in everyday life. Our religion is largely open-ended.

Already, I can hear folk of other faiths claiming that I only chose this name because I'm "Awe-stralian". But I assure such heretics that my having been born Down Under has little, if anything, to do with my religious beliefs. Even if I had been born in France, for example, I'm sure that I might have evolved into a pious Awestruckist.

Other infidels are going to draw attention to the proximity, from a pronunciation viewpoint, of the term ostracism, designating exclusion and banishment from an established group. This criticism worries me less, because it's undeniable that Awestruckism will be tinged inevitably by a mild and inoffensive form of elitism. What I'm trying to say is that I wouldn't like to see hordes of people flocking to our new religion simply for superficial pretexts such as baptisms, marriages and burials. Besides, I've decreed (pardon my absolutism) that it's out of the question for Awestruckists—at least for the moment—to build religious edifices or organize regular ceremonies of any kind whatsoever.

Talking about religious edifices (churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, etc), I feel it's not too early—even before I get around to exploring the tenets of Awestruckism (in later posts)—to refute categorically certain suggestions of a complicated and indirect kind that are sure to arise. Let me explain. The French philosopher Auguste Comte [1798-1857] created a vaguely science-oriented belief system known as Positivism.


Friends know that I lived for many years in the Rue Rambuteau, Paris, on the outskirts of a celebrated neighborhood: the Marais. Not far from where my children went to school, there's a mysterious temple, in the Rue Payenne, inspired by the beliefs of Comte.


You can read about this place (in French) here. Surprisingly, the creation and upkeep of this so-called Temple of Humanity (which I've visited on countless occasions, simply because it's so weird) has been financed by anonymous Brazilians. And, if you're still under the silly impression that the Brazilian flag displays a soccer ball, let me show you in closeup what it says:


The national motto of Brazil—Ordem e Progresso (order and progress)—has been taken indirectly from the work of Auguste Comte. In other words, the creation of the modern nation of Brazil was in fact inspired by the Positivist faith of its founders.

Although I was once greatly intrigued by Auguste Comte, I hardly need to point out that there are no direct links between his Positivism and my Awestruckism. On the other hand, I must admit that I'm highly interested in the possibility that, somewhere on the surface of our awesome planet, an emerging nation might decide to use a quote from one of my Awestruckist texts. Let me propose immediately the following five-word motto, which would look good on a flag:
All things bright and digital.

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