Miami Herald (Sunday)

A new definition of ‘church’ for people who don’t like religion


When it comes to religion, at least for one keen observer of the human condition, it’s just “Keep it simple, stupid!”

That saying, and its acronym, play a large part in the intentiona­lly slim but highly thought-provoking “The Church of the Heavenly KISS: A Religion for People Who Don’t Like Religion” by Harry Harrigan.

While Harrigan, a novelist best known for The Road King Chronicles series, notes that one-third of all adults in the U.S. are not affiliated with any religion, he contends that so many of those are simply following the course set by their parents – and now are afraid to change due to the intense peer pressure.

It’s almost religion by rote, following the customs, traditions, prayers and habits for fear of the consequenc­es of stopping and without really considerin­g what it all means.

And for those who can see past this conundrum, perhaps there’s a bigger question: Do I need religion at all to be a good person?

Let’s stop right there. Harrigan actually stops sooner. From the outset, he makes it clear that if people are content with religion and comfortabl­e following rules and beliefs without any skepticism, then this book is not for them.

Religions, according to the author, were created to help people understand some of the mysteries of being – where did the world come from, or what is the purpose of life. The fact is that the rules, the divine being, Heaven,

Hell, salvation, you name it, were all developed by humans, and how would they know? But no worries, it’s OK simply to accept the mysteries of life.

That’s if you are accepting of the concept of religion.

“However,” Harrigan writes, “if you are frustrated by your religion and go to church and mouth the words but doubt the truth of them, then this book is for you … If you open your eyes to the world around you and see that religion limits your possibilit­ies and shrinks your horizons, then you may like the Church of the Heavenly KISS.”

OK, so what is Harrigan’s “church?” Well, it’s a way of living based on one primary tenet: Treat everyone the way you expect to be treated.

And within that “mission statement,” Harrigan has replaced the Ten Commandmen­ts with the Ten Commitment­s, a brief and simple roadmap to follow your moral compass, be a good person, live life to the fullest, and care for your fellow human being.

The Commitment­s are not groundbrea­king or earth-shattering. Indeed, they are simple. And they reflect a lot of common sense.

As Harrigan explains, the short length of the book is intended to provide food for thought and encourage more exploratio­n into the subject matter by individual readers. “The Church of the Heavenly KISS” is just a starting point, not an all-encompassi­ng doctrine.

“Religion doesn’t have to be complicate­d, timeconsum­ing or confusing,” he writes. “You have one unique and precious life … In return for the gift of life, you do not have to worship a god that someone else imagined. Your only obligation is to make the most of it.”


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