This post was written originally for: Books in the Spotlight, 5 August 2011
First I’ll start with my very, brief definition of religion. I see religions as shared belief systems that provide guidance for living and tools to keep one’s values and actions aligned. Historically religions evolved as all other parts of life evolved – whether due to people migrating to new places, learning new things, incorporating new technology, etc. Our current dominant religions seem to have stopped evolving. Many no longer constructively direct our cultural evolution. Some, I would even go so far as to say, are quite divisive and destructive. I would like to promote constructive cultural evolution, so I want to encourage people to apply their critical thinking and creativity to religion. I have found that most people understand things better if they have an example. So I am creating a religion as an example, hoping that it will inspire and empower others to rethink tradition and adapt religion to our times.
We live in a time when advances in technology are opening up traditional boundaries and we need our belief systems to help us learn to live cooperatively. The character I’ve created is named Eva. She is an update of the femme fatale archetype. Her story is one of personal exploration and a struggle for self-determination. Her journey leads her to find compassion – compassion for those around her, the world, and eventually for herself. The idea for Eva’s character started with me, but there are many people involved in creating her mythology. This is important because religions are shared dreams, so in order to create one, it needs to be relevant to more people than just me.
Eva is Coptic and born in Cairo in the early 14th century. Her life changes drastically when Eva gets the plague. In an effort to save her, her parents allow Eva to be turned into a vampire. For her protection, Eva is sent to a live in a convent in the desert. Here Eva learns a new way of life and finds a new family. Eventually both her biological and surrogate families die and Eva is cast out of the convent. From here Eva’s path takes her to Europe and the Americas. Her way is fraught with pestilence, betrayal, violence, and greed mixed with tenderness, friendship, and appreciation. Through a life that spans many lifetimes, Eva learns acceptance and compassion. She transforms fear and awe into serenity and love.
Now, creating a religion can be a bit involved and may not be for everyone, but everyone can at least customize one. I have a few ideas to get you started:
- Reflect on what you value and believe in. How did you come to those things? How have your values and beliefs evolved over time?
- Examine how your values and beliefs are manifest in your life. How do they inform what you do?
- Identify the tools or practices you use to keep your values and actions aligned.
- Analyze your tools and practices. What works and what doesn’t. How can you make them more effective?
- Keep an open mind. Life is a work in progress and provides us with constant feedback. Remember to take the feedback just as feedback and move forward.
Discover a fable about the friendship and destiny of two timeless characters: Eva, a creative vampire who likes people, and Dries, a traveling spider who disdains web-spinning. “Relations that Suck” is a piece of art in book form that bridges the worlds of fine art, fashion, and writing. It portrays the tragedies of denial and guilt in thirty-five dramatic photographs accompanied by a poetically heartbreaking narrative.