Religion

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Can't we all just get along?

Religion is belief in god in practice. Those that share a common belief system will express those beliefs in their traditions, rituals and worship practices.

Unfortunately no such traditions exist for those with secular orientation. But since tradition and ritual are integral to culture, it is necessary for metaculture to develop traditions and rituals that can reinforce modern values like freedom, reason, science, equality, etc.

In order to remedy this situation, the first step is to enumerate all of the functions that religion serves in our society and personal psychology, in order that we can find secular analogs for each that can perform the same function, or improve upon them.

Essential Components of Religion

A fully fledged religion needs to have:

metaculture should provide all of these things in order to fully serve the social and psychological functions of religion without contradicting the rational, materialistic view of the universe.

The goal is not to establish any kind of organization around this practice, but to demonstrate what a fully secular analog to religion would need to encompass. Individuals are free to adopt it, or use it to help interpret their own cultural traditions in the light of science, or create their own New Religious Movement that borrows from it and other traditions they identify with. The wiki is here to help organize and share ideas, and demonstrate the universalist compatibility of all religions with each other and with science as a principle that we all need to share, or else.

metaculture attempts to describe the "spiritual science" category

How Do I Know What You Know?

Religion is a shortcut to knowing what is in another person's mind. If another person identifies with your religion, there are hundreds of stories, doctrines, and ethical allegories that you can assume they are familiar with. You can then make references to these in conversation without having to explain them to be understood. Eventually, the familiarity with scripture is so great that only chapter and verse numbers are necessary for the most important concepts.

This facilitates extremely efficient communications, in-group affinity, and the ability to establish the trust needed to do business with strangers. Before the construction of ancient cities, this type of shorthand was not necessary since everyone you interacted with was part of your tribe.

The dilemma we now face is that the Internet has created a globally connected society where we could be communicating with someone from any religion or educational background at any time. How can we determine if they are trustworthy? Given the level of grift in modern capitalism, this is an increasingly important question!

But beyond trust, there is the terrible inefficiency of having to determine if someone has a basic understanding of high school science and math before you can engage in a productive conversation about anything of importance. This causes writers to have to explain the same core concepts over and over again, contributing to information overload and causing people to tune out important ideas.

Just as any believer in Christianity should be familiar with the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments, we need to be able to assume that any graduate of our modern educational system is familiar with fundamental concepts like evolution and the laws of physics, upon which all conversations about science are founded (fractal geometry should be in that list as well!). We need to be able to refer to them by chapter and verse, without having to explain, and everyone knows exactly what we mean.

One of the best illustrations of this principle is the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Darmok" that depicts an attempt to understand an alien race whose language is highly allegorical. Without understanding the stories they reference, they can't understand each other. Religion functions much the same way.

Star Trek TNG - Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra

Religion as the Human Operating System

While comparisons between the workings of the brain to those of a computer have often led to bad psychology, the metaphor is still quite useful for understanding the relationship between our brains and our conscious experience. Just don't take it literally.

If you think of the brain as the hardware in the human computer, and our learned skills and habits as the software, our belief systems are the operating system.

Let's Stretch This Metaphor

In computers, the operating system is how software interfaces with hardware. It provides an easy, common interface for all software developers to access inputs from scanners, microphones, keyboard, mouse, etc., and outputs like the screen, printer, and network. As software grows more complex, the operating system needs to be upgraded to handle it--from 8-bit, to 16, 32 and 64-bit. Of course, the human CPU can't be upgraded, but for the purposes of this metaphor we can assume that the brain has always been a highly parallel 64-bit platform with terabytes of RAM, and we just need to install the OS upgrades that allow us to take full advantage of this.

Technically the OS is also performing the duties of the compiler in this metaphor, if you're going to be a stickler about accuracy in allegory.

In culture, a shared religion provides the common interface that authors, poets, teachers, and leaders can use to create the ideas that lead us to action. It allows them to easily tap into our deep, primal emotions by using well-known concepts that are tied to ritualized reinforcement. This has both advantages and disadvantages, as history has shown.

Fractured Culture Means No Shared OS

Modern times have proven that not having a shared operating system has a very negative effect on human happiness. This is understandable from the programmer's point of view. Imagine if every program you wrote had to include its own custom hardware drivers! Or, you are forced to use the drivers that come bundled with Christianity, Islam, secular humanism, etc., and if the end user isn't running that OS it's up to them to write their own port regardless of their coding prowess.

The Cultural Cross-Compiler

Programmers solved this problem by creating the cross-compiler, allowing software developers to write code that can be run on multiple operating systems without having to make extensive changes for each one. Java is an example of this. Java code can run on Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux, Android, iOS, and everything else out there. Without Java it would be impossible to write any useful software for the Internet, since there are hundreds of different operating systems that need to run it and no single tech giant, let alone programmer, could ever port their code to all of them. If your project requires you to create a new operating system, one of the first things you do is create a Java compiler so you can run everything that already exists on the Internet.

The proliferation of New Religious Movements globally is similar to the proliferation of new devices and operating systems in the technology sphere. Developers of human software used to be able to target a single OS like Christianity and know that it would run on the vast majority of devices, at least the ones they knew about. Until recently, it was fairly easy to get global market share by writing a couple of quick ports to Judaism and Islam, since they have a similar architecture to Christianity. But with people abandoning monotheistic traditions in droves, and no shared canon of scientific knowledge and perspectives to draw from, humanity is in desperate need of mental Java.

Java for the Mind

metaculture is Java for the mind. Open source, compatible with all platforms. You run whatever OS you like, code in whatever IDE you are comfortable with, metaculture will make sure it runs on every device.

Version 4.0 Release Notes

Each major upgrade to religion throughout human history has been a response to advances in technology that profoundly changed the structure of our society.

  • Version 1.0 - tribal hunter gather societies developed animism.
  • Version 2.0 - the development of agriculture and permanent cities led to polytheism.
  • Version 3.0 - the growth of ancient empires led to monotheism.
  • Version 4.0 - the connected global society that science and technology has created requires a shared language for cross-cultural understanding--metatheism.

The level of consolidation in religion mirrors the consolidation of our human communities. The bigger our community, the more types of people we must interact with regularly, the more generalized our concept of god becomes. Dispersed, unconnected tribes are like animism where every being is its own god. The collection of city-states in ancient Greece emulates their polytheistic pantheon of gods. And when Rome conquered Europe and the Mediterranean, a consolidated, monotheistic god emerged that reflected this new social order.

It is inevitable that a new, universalist concept of god will emerge now that we live in a globally connected society.

Evolution of Religion

Throughout history, the traditions of one culture have been coopted and repurposed by the next. Saturnalia becomes Christmas once the Roman Empire becomes a Christian state. This makes sense from a psychological perspective since it is much easier to redirect an existing habit than to form a new one from nothing.

Christmas has already been coopted again by the god of capitalism, and as such it should be embraced. Rather than being a selfish perversion of the teachings of Jesus, it can be a joyous celebration of all the wonderful stuff that capitalism is so good at producing. This is simply acknowledging the evolution in meaning that the Christmas holiday has already undergone.

And this is the nature of rituals. They evolve and change their meaning with the tide of history. Old traditions become new by taking on new meaning imbued by future generations. Rarely are they simply made up out of whole cloth, and when they are it's more likely to become a cult than a religion.

As old religions evolve and New Religious Movements continue to proliferate, we need to ensure that this process does not fracture and divide humanity. It can be a way that each of us can express our individual identity, culture, connection to history, and love of our fellow humans, or it can be a way to divide us into smaller and smaller in-groups until it becomes our small circle of true believers versus the world. A metatheology is necessary to make it easy for people to identify those movements that will lead to positivity and growth and avoid high-control groups regardless of their ideology.

Updated Ethics for Modern Techno-Capitalism

Modern mental software development has lagged far behind the developers of actual software, who have launched many new information platforms that have taken advantages of known exploits in the 3.0 operating systems to perpetuate grift through misinformation.

The 4.0 update will include built-in firewall and auto-updating virus protection to guard against the types of grift we see in an Internet-connected, global, capitalist society. It will do this by providing clear ethical guidelines that apply directly to issues of modern capitalism and democracy instead of leaving it up to the interpretation of ancient scripture. And the guidelines will be open source and regularly updated using the latest scientific consensus, ensuring that new exploits are patched as quickly as they are discovered.

For example, a clear moral directive of "pay your taxes" provides a much more direct and unambiguous message than "render unto Ceasar," which has not always provided sufficient ethical persuasion to prevent rampant tax avoidance.

Even though our emotions and intuitions form the basis for our ethical compass, the complexity of modern capitalism and diversity of the misinformation and grift we must deal with necessitates a trusted central authority that can be relied upon to provide clear ethical guidance.

Good Religion, Bad Religion

With so many religions out there, and so many different ways of practicing and interpreting scripture within each of them, how can you tell whether your religious group is a "good" one?

In general, the degree of authoritarian control exerted within the group by its leaders and members is the key meterstick for assessing the quality of a religious institution.

Hassan's BITE Model of Authoritarian Control is widely considered the standard for determining how controlling any group is, measuring four categories of control--behavior, information, thought, and emotions.

"Bad" religion exerts high authoritarian control, be they a traditional cultural institutions, New Religious Movements, or even a social club.

The Freedom of Mind website has many resources for helping any person, friend, or family member that has become involved in a high control group.

Separation of Doctrine and Institution

In order to achieve the goal of creating a Dogma of No Dogma, it is necessary to create a balance of power between scripture and the institutions created around it. When a belief system is tied to an institution, there are strong incentives to promote interpretations that favor the established power structures within that institution. The more influence that individuals in power can exert over doctrine, the more corrupt it becomes, and over time it becomes entrenched and extremely hard to root out.

In order to prevent this, the development of the metaculture wiki should not be tied to any institution that is dedicated to developing a ritual practice or organization based on its philosophy. Updates to the wiki should be standards-based, using set guidelines for when new scientific theories should be adopted as best practices. Since the development and revision of doctrine is done publicly, with contributions from many individuals and organizations, the ability for any one group to make self-serving changes is dramatically reduced.

This is also in line with the goal of creating a metatheology that unites all of the various religious institutions of the world in a common cause. This goal would not be achievable if a new institution were to be created in an attempt to draw members from and compete with establish religions. Were it even possible, it would not be desirable, as it would represent monoculture, homogenization, and the necessary destruction of tradition.

Wikipedia has become a benchmark for all of the world's knowledge by being an independent, open source effort. If it were owned by a for-profit corporation, political party, or a crypto-bro, and it did not have the full transparency where every edit is logged, then it would never have gained the universal trust that it has. Wikipedia has fully replaced the encyclopedia as the common reference we all use for general information about any subject. Can another wiki project become the new common scripture for a modern, secular, high-tech, capitalist age?

metaculture's metatheology

The following beliefs have been lovingly hand-crafted to provide the greatest compatibility with both science and an allegorical reading of any scripture, while inspiring wonder and awe in the universe and the oneness of humankind.

Religion Videos

There are a lot of videos on religion that could be chosen. Here are some of them.

The Origins of Religion


The History of Religion


The Neuroscience of Spiritual Experiences - Patrick McNamara


The Neuroscience of Spiritual Experiences - Andrew Newberg


World Religions Explained (Full Series)


Mahavishnu Orchestra - Visions of the Emerald Beyond