Sunday, August 19, 2012

We Are Building A Religion

Within the last year I became involved in starting a new religion, Why This Way. I was hesitant to call it a religion for a few reasons. One of them is that it isn't what I think of as a religion: it isn't a theology. But it is a system of beliefs about other things. Another reason was that I think saying that we're starting a new religion might raise red flags for people that I know in my church. Like, if you start your own religion, you'll be worshiping yourselves. But it's just a matter of definition. If I said we're starting a new organization to promote health in every aspect of life, I don't think it would sound bad.

What's the point of Why This Way? It's always hard for me to sum up, because it is about every aspect of life. It started with Alex's vision, and It's not something I would have thought up on my own. Why? Because it seems too obvious. Just looking at our page of core beliefs, I would have thought that some of these things aren't even worth mentioning. But I think that's because they were already so ingrained into the way that I think, and I interact with a community of people who I perceive to think that way too. I guess it sometimes doesn't occur to me that it's not like that everywhere, and the more I've been involved in this, the more I've been able to identify things that don't fit with these beliefs, and don't seem right. Especially in the media.

We established (and are still establishing) our beliefs by coming to a consensus about what we think is important for a healthy and functional society. I've been asked before whether the idea that we don't mention God means that we're humanist or naturalist, but it doesn't mean that. We don't mention God because we know that people have different beliefs about God and we only deal with things that we can have a consensus about within our belief system. We're not here to replace other religions, but to exist along with them, and maybe influence them in positive ways. We also want to create an environment of respect for each other's personal beliefs about God.

One thing that's unique about Why This Way is that the first things we established were about the organization's decision-making process. This is because we often see organizations doing things in their governments that don't seem to make sense according to their values, and we want to avoid that as much as possible. We establish things by consensus, and we have rules of communication to encourage respectful dialog and minimize escalation of conflict. Although we have our set of core beliefs, the rules of communication are the first things we established, and our beliefs sort of grew from them. So although we are about health and holism in general, I guess our religion is very focused on respectful communication, and the idea that a lot more can be accomplished by people actually listening to each other and attempting to build a consensus than people might think. We want to bring that idea into as many areas of life as possible, like political debates, advertising, and education.

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