Well, the title of this post is accurate, but it needs some explaining.
Actually, I've already written almost all of the Church of the Churchless book, since after I started this blog in November 2004 I've written 2,601 posts. Assuming each has around 500 words (likely more, so this is a conservative estimate), that's 1,300,500 words.
For quite a while I've been thinking I should fashion those posts into a book. Recently that thought became action. I've already gotten 58,000 words worth of blog posts selected and mildly edited. Mostly I've just been removing links and a bit of extraneous material.
An 80,000 word book strikes me as a good length.
That's in the totally cool range of a Writer's Digest article. Since I'll have many short churchless "sermons," each starting on a new page, 80,000 to 85,000 words seems about right for this first Church of the Churchless book -- almost certainly with more books to come.
I'm enjoying the process of selecting and re-reading the blog posts, which will simply be listed chronologically in the book. Last Sunday I talked with an old friend about the book. He told me about an author who said, wisely, "I write the book that I'd want to read."
Since I'm feeling inspired by reading what I wrote quite a few years ago, I figure I'm on the right track. It looks like I'll be able to find 80-85,000 words worth of book-worthy posts in just the first year of this blog, between the end of 2004 and 2005.
Early on I decided that I'd only correct typos, not change what I'd written, even if now I don't agree with what I said back then. Likely I'll include a sentence or two of present-me commentary before each post, such as "Wow! I sure sounded like I believed in God here. Makes me cringe a bit to read this now."
Having written three previous books about spirituality/philosophy that I no longer believe in, to a large extent, it feels really good to be working on a book that comes much closer to my current atheistic world view.
The way I see it, converting to a religion is akin to walking up the stairs of a building with many floors. The height you reach depends on how strongly and completely you buy into the tenets of a religion.
Since I spent 35 years as an ardent devotee of the guru/meditation-centered Sant Mat teachings promulgated by Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), I did a lot of stair-climbing. When I deconverted from those teachings, it was a gradual process, just as walking down the stairs of a tall building to ground level takes time.
So it makes sense that the blog posts which will appear in the first churchless book are filled with mentions of God, soul, and such, since I was still a speaker at RSSB meetings until October 2005, eleven months after I began writing Church of the Churchless posts.
Here's one of the early posts that made it into the book manuscript, "Become a religion of one" from October 5, 2005. I like it a lot.
Most people belong to a religion with many members. There are about two billion Christians in the world, over a billion Muslims, and nearly a billion Hindus. Sure, company is nice, but here are some reasons to become a religion of one:
-- You can hold a worship service whenever and wherever you want. Your church just needs to be as big as you are.
-- No contentious arguments about leadership. Any jockeying for power in your religious organization will be between you and you.
-- Doctrinal disputes are easily resolved. What you say, goes.
-- If you’ve ever wanted to be known as “Most eminently enlightened great being” or “Her highly esteemed holiness,” within your own mind at least, this is your chance.
-- Beer and tortilla chips can be your holy sacraments. Or, cake and chocolate.
-- Sex between clergy and parishioners is absolutely fine. Encouraged even. It’s all in your own hands. Literally.
-- Finding a name for your religion is easy: just look at your driver’s license. The hard part is deciding between “ism,” “ity,” or whatever. In my case, Hinesism sounds OK, Hinesity terrible. Hinesiosity, maybe. I need to schedule a meeting with myself on this.
-- No worries about declining membership. You’re already as low as you can go (death will take your religion down to zero devotees, but that’ll be the least of your worries).
-- Salvation is assured. All you need to do is write “salvation is assured” on a holy post-it note and then have faith in your divine revelation. Heck, if it works for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, it’ll work for you.
-- The next time someone says, “Who died and made you the pope?” you can reply with a straight face, “What do you mean? Nobody had to die, I’ve always held that office.”
But seriously…I’ve got shelves of books from each of the world’s great mystical traditions — Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu — that support the contention, “Become a religion of one.”
Science seeks universal material truths through a collaborative process of rigorous investigation. Mysticism seeks universal spiritual truths through an individual process of rigorous investigation.
Don’t believe it when you hear, “When two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” in reference to spiritual presence. In truth, that’s when God is not present—in a group.
Believe it: the best religion has a membership of one.