Photo by David Taffet on Unsplash

What religion would I make up if I could make up a religion?

It’s already been made up: veneration of the dead.

Veneration of the dead is most likely the oldest human religion. When the first human stopped and took time to respect the body of a dead loved one, both religion and philosophy were born.

“Ancestor worship” is a pejorative term. Those who venerate the dead do not “worship” ancestors in any Christian sense of that term, but rather remember them.

In a very real sense the remembered dead have a continuing existence. Our DNA passed through them. Our personal histories intertwine with theirs. Their deeds, for good and ill, live in everything about us. Remembering that creates a sense of awe and connection. Perhaps even humbleness.

Remembering. From the Latin word memor, “to be mindful.” When we are mindful of those who have gone before, history becomes instructive, and the present moment becomes malleable. Changeable. Full of possibility. Just look at all we’ve been through!

Respect for the past. Respect for the location of the bones of our ancestors. Respect in remembering the hard work and sacrifice and shortcomings of those who have gone before. Learning from their shortcomings and prejudices. Keeping alive the tradition of overcoming.

Yep, run it through any “ought” test for a religion. Veneration of the dead does it all — it’s logical; there’s nothing to “believe,” it’s awe inspiring, and it’s good for you!

Veneration of the dead gets my vote for Best Religion. Ever.

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