If You Were Told to Invent a New Religion, What Would It Look Like?

A United Church of Christ Pastor who also teaches comparative religion divides up her class into teams and has them invent new religions. She tells them all religions had to start somewhere.

What her students come up with reflects, one would guess, comtemporary thinking about what they want from a religion.  It differs from conventional wisdom of older generations.

One characteristic of the religions they design is the lack of preachers/preists.  Since their teacher is also a preacher, I can imgine a little disappointment on this.  Students don’t see a need for instruction on something they can decide for themselves.

Along with that, as one would expect, the “new” religions do not meet every week.  Time is better spent elsewhere apparently.

Then, there is the matter of hell.  The see the concept of hell as too judgemental, the very thing they want to avoid in the religions they design.

Their religions sound encouraging, not discouraging.  They focus on eastern concepts of meditation and self fulfillment.

The professor asked them what would happen to a person who did not follow their religion’s principles, would not there be some consequences?  The answer is there would would not, the wayward would simply move on to another religion.  If they were unhappy there, they would be welcomed back.

The invented religions students come up with no doubt reflect values that are comtemporary.  One has to think established religions reflect the values of a previous time.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/7515/millennials_invent_new_religion__no_hell__no_priests__no_punishment/

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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29 Responses to If You Were Told to Invent a New Religion, What Would It Look Like?

  1. entech says:

    “Isn’t it blasphemy to invent a religion?” my student asked with concern.
    Every semester, in the comparative religion class I teach at a local community college, I ask my students to divide into groups and create a religion from whole cloth.
    “All religions were invented at some point,” I offered, reminding him that while Jesus may have assigned Peter to be the rock upon which the church would be built, it was up to everyone else to determine the details.

    Well that is a good start to an interesting piece.

    The magazine is based in University of Southern California, which seems appropriate I have been told that that area has more new religions per head of population than the rest of the Country (world?) put together. Does that mean they are more inventive in that state, or more religious :lol: ; is there a difference ?

    • entech says:

      Oops, forgot to answer the question, it would take too long to try and gather everything useful and sift all the rubbish from it. To daunting a task for me, I would be afraid there was going to be hardly anything left for all the effort.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        entech 1:46 “Oops, forgot to answer the questin…”

        I didn’t answer it for myself either. I’d start by saying my religion would have to be inexpensive, no staff or buidings. Next, it would be nice to people. I can’t think of much else. :)

        • Carr says:

          It sounds like you would only have one commandment too, “Do unto others as……” I like it!

          • entech says:

            I prefer the negative version, as stated by Hilali about the Torah, “Don’t do anything you would find hateful if done to you, the rest is commentary”. That would work for most of us.

  2. Michael Ross says:

    “what they want from a religion.” “they can decide for themselves.” “they want to avoid in the religions”

    Sounds like human centered religion. Not new at all. Goes back to the Garden:

    For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

    Human-centered religion was not human invented at all. It was Satan-invented. This lady pastor has come under the same seduction as was her sister/prototype, Eve.

    • entech says:

      Human-centered religion was not human invented at all.
      I disagree completely, I really think it was invented by humans for the benefit of those that invented and as a means of keeping the masses quiet and subjugated and fearful.

    • Carr says:

      Oh Michael, there you go again! Yes, all the ills and evil of this world are because of a woman. You mean that man can not make his own decisions? Not my fault. Satan made me do it. Eve made me do it.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Carr 3:52 “Yes, all the ills and evil of the world are because of woman.”

        That’s one of the funnist stories in the Bible, Eve being the villian. The story could have been Adam being tempted by the apple, warned by the talking snake and Eve being dumped by the clever Adam. It was necessary, apparently, to make women evil.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 3:17 re: human centered religion

      I agree with entech. Christianity is completely human centered. Its circular reasoning is used to insure its followers don’t have to die. I asked here other times how many believers would continue on in the faith if they learned there was no afterlife. I’m still waiting for one volunteer.

  3. Wanna B Sure says:

    “If you were to invent a new religion, what would it look like”? Hard to tell exactly, but by some of the specifications mentioned, I’d bet they would meet at the Plains Art Museum.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 5:03 “..by some of the specifications mentioned, I’d bet they would meet at the Plain Art Museum.”

      Now that you mention it, the specifications I mentioned are very similar to the Red River Freethinkers. Only a coincidence I’m sure. :)

  4. Wolfy32 says:

    One thing that I’ve wondered about religion is the concept that it is self serving… Of course it is, what point to a religion or well anything in life if it wasn’t self serving. The person that goes out of their way to care for others, is serving one’s own need to gain inner joy, fullfillment, and/or self esteem by helping others. It’s not in the norm of “self serving” to serve others, it’s not like one is going out and buying a million dollar yacht. Yet, many times, people that serve others are serving an internal need to themselves. People gravitate towards things that are fulfilling to themselves. And, in turn, that fulfillment is self serving. Serving one’s own need.

    So, by definition, buying groceries is self serving. One needs food to fulfill the need to live.. buying food for oneself is very self serving…

    So, what isn’t self serving in our existence? Our jobs serve our need for income – to provide food and shelter for ourselves and to support us in our needs to gain fulfillment by giving to others. Respecting others is an internal self serving need for respect ourselves.. In essence by respecting others we have an assumption we too would be respected.

    So, what religion would not be self serving? And would anyone follow it?

    Here’s some food for thought: What if, some time down the road, a more advanced race happens upon and chooses to help us out… And we grow dependant on them. They continuously ask us to “help them out”, and eventually we become servants / slaves to them, with nothing in return for us.

    If humanity got nothing from Christ, why would anyone risk being “stoned to death?”

    I can’t really describe what a non self serving religion would look like… I think it’d be pretty pointless….

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wolfy32 2:27 “I can’t really describe what a non self servign religion would look like..I think it’s be pretty pointless.”

      I think devout Christians would have to agree, though they might try to escape. There just is no escape.

      In 1776, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations. He wrote it at a time when captialists needed an apologist and his book served that purpose well. He wrote about how each person pursuing his own self interest ended up serving the common interest, the best interests of all.

      The premise works well, in many circumstances, and remains the basic premise of the economics disciple. It gets us into trouble, however, when we get into sharing things that are owned by everyone. Then, self interest is to take as much as you can for yourself and leave less for the common good of others. That’s why we have laws about how much our cars and factors can pollute the air and water we own in common.

      Religion helps most people and everyone who is helped should be allowed to use it. The only problems come from when it ozzes over to the government we share and affects people of different or no religion.

  5. H.P.Drifter says:

    First I think I would get rid of all religions.
    Then I would put up one sign
    No robbing or stealing, fraud
    No human trafficking or slave owning
    No murder, rape, or forced prostitution
    No organized crime, this includes criminally minded governments
    No crimes against women or men
    No wife stealing or husband stealing
    No crimes against animals
    No crimes again children
    Drugs are free just sign up
    No Gossiping about any one
    Penalty for above rules Death
    Penalty for false accusations Death
    Rules can be amended any time
    Now get out of the way and let the next person read the sign.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      That’s twelve commandments. Surprised by the last two? Not really. Let’s make the sign out of granite, and put it by the new city hall.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Interesting. The more they talk, the more they reveal.

      One time a while ago, I was asked by this gentleman if I was in favor of the death penalty. I responded with an unqualified “NO”. Now, it seems as though he is. One wonders what would happen if his persuasion was in the majority. Hmmmmmmm

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 3:00 “Now, seems as though he is.”

        Do you think the death penalty is losing or gaining support? I was encouraged by two women in Boston, badly injured by the rouge bomber, who said putting him to death will not change a thing. Letting him live in prison wondering for decades, “Why did I do such a stupid thing?” seems like a better deterrent.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Re. the death penalty: With advances in forensics, DNA, inter agency connections, it is proven that some, (many)? have been falsely accused, jailed, and put to death for crimes they didn’t commit. Now they are going back years, and discovering this. Just a couple weeks ago, they released a person that was jailed for over 20 yr. This is not uncommon. Cold cases are warming up. Just this alone should give pause to capital punishment, not even considering gross errors over the last 200 years. How many were there? I’d hate to think. When one injects religion into a civil, (state) matter, the “separation” is blurred. That works both ways, and should be avoided.

          • Wolfy32 says:

            Not to mention “false accusations” and “cover ups” “Fall guys” etc…blurs who is really guilty and what is justice. If conspiracies are formed to give the public one person for something a group did… I don’t know, it seems killing a bunch of people off seems like a bad idea….

            However, if people knew they’d die and not go to prison… That might be even more of a deterrent… However, that borders on the expansion of a police state.. Just imprison / kill anyone that doesn’t agree with you…

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Re. “losing or gaining support”. I really don’t know. It’s my understanding it is in the jurisdiction of each state. In MN, we don’t have the death penalty. In Texas, if you kill someone, they’ll kill you back. I’m very comfortable with MN. What they do in other states, I have no control over.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Why did I do such a stupid thing”: An after the fact situation isn’t much of a deterrent. Better to ask; “Why would I do such a stupid thing”? Yet “stupid things” happen all the time. If I remember right, there have been studies done regarding the death penalty as a deterrent. Some say yes, some say no. I think each case must stand on it’s own, including all related matters to the case, such as; Did you take the gun along to kill someone when you robbed the bank? Did it go off accidently . I’m sure the Boston bombers considered the risks. It didn’t stop them. Intention is tough to prove, as are unanticipated events during the crime, or unanticipated events leading to a crime. There are some very evil people that haven’t killed anyone directly. There are some really innocent people that have. No one law fits all.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        @3:00: Oops, meant to say ; “I was asked by another gentleman”.—-”Now it seems as though this one is”. sorry. Thinking of one, referring about another.

      • Jinx says:

        Totally agree with you, Wanna, regarding the death penalty. There is abundant amount of research showing the death penalty is not a deterrent. Does society really believe that a murderer will pause just before he strikes to ask him or herself if he completes the act, will he be put to death?

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      H. P. D. 2:28 re: rules

      I would add, “If you take something out of the environment, put it back.”

  6. H.P.Drifter says:

    Regarding rules:
    If you could teach students these rules are just one step away from being approved, then you might get some attention. Then you could point out there are many professions that would keep them away from being tempted. And get them on the right track early, its never to early to make up your mind to do good in life. Make it a habit early in life. Some schools teach about recycling make it mandatory. Introduce moral and ethical practices early in school (not part of religious studies) in classes on living a good life and being a good citizen. Teach them classes that have practical application for their age level. Plus reading, writing, math and science. Cut out the over proliferation of choice in what you can take. (let them be proficient in what they are studying)They will get plenty of the latter later in College. There really no hope for the older generation in most cases. We need to start with the kids to head off disaster

    • Jinx says:

      HPD, again, you speak wisdom….start with the kids. Based on extensive research in child development I would suggest starting from the cradle and support those parents that need education and training so they can raise better kids. All most all parents want their kids to have a better life than they had and early intervention is the way to do it.

      Now people, don’t get all hot and bothered and scream ‘keep the govt. out of my family’. We all know kids and families who just can get things together or are out right abusive, a little meaningful support would go along ways and keep kids out of foster homes and the juvenile system. For evry dollar spent on programs to support families, 3 dollars are saved on future justice system interventions.

  7. entech says:

    The story in the next topic about arks and coracles (or perhaps arks and covenants) reminds you of what a difficult assignment the kids are being given, most of the most outlandish aspects have been usurped already.

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