A new religion?

While walking around Köln recently, discussing my reactions to visiting the massive cathedral there and my antipathy towards organised religion, my companion Thomas Koch said “maybe we need a new religion”.

The church and its myths predominated for centuries until Darwin, Freud and the carnage of the first world war trenches knocked a big whole in those assumptions. People weren’t ready for the vacuum left by the undermining of those stories though so the totalitarian regimes of Fascism and Communism filled the gap. When those myths too fell apart we were left with the myth of capitalism and the market and isn’t this beginning to look decidedly suspect since the collapse of the banking industry? Even watching the farce of the old them and us story of the right and left politics running out of steam in the UK general election is like watching another big story die.

So what do we have next? What sense making frameworks would best suit our current state of evolution? What would form the basis of our new religion? What stories will help us make sense of the world we find ourselves in? I am wary of replacing one ideology with another and my inclinations are anarchic rather than ideological but maybe we do need a new framework within which to make decisions. Maybe we need loads of them. Maybe we need individual ones! Maybe we don’t need big stories anymore? Maybe we can play out the universal themes of being human on a more human scale with our own stories well told?

David Weinberger once wrote that by blogging we were “writing ourselves into existence”. This is where I believe our future sense making lies. In the collective and shared stories we are beginning to learn to tell using the tools made available to us by the web. This is not some overarching ideological story or some rigid dogmatism securing the influence of a small group over the crowd. This is collective sense making happening on the fly and at a rate that has never been seen before in mankind’s history. We are just learning how to do it and just beginning to grasp how immensely powerful it can be. Isn’t it exciting?

12 thoughts on “A new religion?

  1. Yes Euan – we presently without a "story" but I think a new story based on our place in the natural world – a story that demands no "faith" but only observation – a story about the innate connectedness of all things – a story perhaps with a new metaphor – the web itself – for the web of existence – where time and space collapseRob


  2. Nietzsche noted the need for a new religion (or, community built around a metaphysical story), saying, in the passage "God is dead, and we have killed Him" (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft). He also noted that it would be a long dying, which has been going on now for well over 150 years.But he is right: we humans do need community, and we do need binding tales. It is part of our make up. As Maria Montessori noted, in developing her educational philosophy, these needn’t be religious stories in the traditional sense — a Montessori lower elementary classroom teaches from "Great Stories" about the evolution of the universe, the history of man, the ways we discover, etc. — but the stories taught are no less binding agents for the students into a community of individuals who teach and learn from each other.Rob’s story suggestion is one potential starting point. Let me throw another out there: the story of how we create master stories and use them to create a framework which includes and empowers some things and excludes and disempowers others to the point of making them beyond notice, and how periodically such frameworks push us too far into imbalance and must, painfully, be given up and new stories constructed. This is the engine of the process of civilisation and culture and is instantiated into different societies, trans-national cultures and the rise and fall of areas of the world. Even today’s so-called "one world" is just a passing phase that will leave us, perchance to return in a new form just as it has been present in the past, and no technology will change this, since it is the nature of the universe to keep changing and thus making all our "advances" steps that can be undone.


  3. And indeed Bruce what is exciting about this current phase is that we have the potential to make the local story telling, through which we have always made sense of the world, global story telling at the same time. Until now the access to global story telling was constrained to the few with the means of production. We are coming out a period of industrial story telling.


  4. religion is a system of shared belief, generally embellished with dogma and ritual.Before embarking on the journey towards a ‘new’ religion, I recommend reading Pirsig’s metaphysics of quality (as outlined in Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance/ Lila) for a better understanding of belief ‘systems.’


  5. without adequate language to describe my reasoning I rejected organized religion very early on . . . still admire much of the architecture and their amazing tax avoidance deal but have barely set foot inside since a small child save for weddings and funerals so what of my belief system . . . influences have certainly been non-traditional, self-selected, occasionally accidental, often conflicted and totally randomthe notion of community/belief systems forming around social networks is highly intriguing . . . if nothing else, my sense is it will be extremely dynamic (polar opposite the current party politic) and far more democratic providing voice for all regardless of place/position


  6. HiHalf way reading your post I thought of twitter as the new way of sharing and bringing ideas together in short bursts. then you mentioned blogging..Here is a clue for a new religion. TwOmmmm. 🙂


  7. I smell the emergence of disorganized religion. (If it’s disorganized, can it still be called religion?)I think the new "religion" will be a kind of mysticism that will instantiate itself in various forms – always telling basically the same myth, but with varying characters and settings. The story has been told countless times already, but I think because of the ongoing crises a larger proportion of people might now be expected to gain a deep understanding of it – "really get it".The difference this time will be that instead of rejecting one another, practitioners of the various flavours will recognize one another beyond their respective favorite symbols and rituals, and be driven towards mutual understanding instead of self-protective or dogmatic retreat. There might be an ecological component to it. It will be a postmodern, anarchistic religion – an unreligion, as it were! Fun times! (I hope I’m divining correctly! 🙂


  8. seb . . . really enjoy the idea of people spotting like patterns across various belief dialogue . . . common threads of belief . . . certainly more productive than any further effort to prop up existing dogmas


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