Open Source Religion

Thursday June 7, 2007


Regular visitors to thinkBuddha will probably know that I’m a big fan of the Open Source and Open Access movements. Open Source is a term usually applied to software, and it refers to a system of licensing under which the raw stuff of the software is made freely and publicly available for tinkering, development and so on, under the proviso that the results of such tinkering and so on be issued under the same licence. What this can lead to is significant collaborative endeavour so that natty things like this blog (which uses textpattern, a nifty little open source piece of blogging software) and this laptop (which runs Ubuntu Linux) can run on free, community-developed software. It gives me a warm glow just thinking about it…

This approach to knowledge has had implications elsewhere. So lately I’ve been diving into the resources of the Directory of Open Access Journals site, which makes the results of scholarship (which, after all, is undertaken often in publicly funded institutions) open to all. I’ll write about Open Access journals later, as I think that this is a vital thing in the world of scholarship: so much knowledge is locked away under the most draconian of licences.

I’m not militant about Open Source, but at the same time, I like the ethos of the Open Source and Open Access movements. So I was very pleased to hear this morning about Yoism, which claims to be the world’s first Open Source religion. According to the Yoism site, the religion aims at “Uniting Atheist, Skeptic, Agnostic, Realist, Enlightenment, Humanist, Unitarian, Transcendentalist, Pantheist, and Deist systems of belief to create the World’s First Open Source, Rational Religion, the advent of Yoism marks a turning point in the history of Homo sapiens, the next stage in human development: Childhood’s End.”

Childhood’s End, eh? Having had a quick look at the website, I’m not entirely sure what Yoism is about, and I’m not entirely convinced that it is for me. Thankfully, however, Open Source Religion is growing and is by no means restricted to Yoism. Wikipedia has a useful article so you can find the Open Source religion that suits you. And, of course, if you don’t like the religions on offer, then you can tinker with the source code (and you know how much those folks in traditional “closed source” religion disapprove of mucking around with the source code… ) and come up with your own version. As long as you respect the original Open Source licence…

# · Gabor

Sure, download the buddism.tar.gz, and if you don’t like the idea of harmlessness, just put #include< holy_war.h > at the top. If you have problems with cultivating wisdom, just comment meditation out. Or, who doesn’t want secret ceremonies? Copy over a few lines from freemasons.tar.gz!

The result may compile, but it will crash the platform…

# · Apollo

I’m open to using the open source model in religion, but I’m wary of losing the value of lineages and losing a framework for validating spiritual knowledge. There still needs to be some sort of authority to determine what actually works, doesn’t there?

# · Al

Buddhism hardly needs to import secret ceremonies. If you don’t see that Buddhism is full of them in many countries, you should check around.

# · Will

An interesting question about determining what actually works. Part of the question is that of what it means for something to ‘work’ – whilst it is still popular to claim that there are many paths to the same goal, perhaps it is rather the case there are many paths to many different goals (I think that David Brazier / Dharmavidya makes this point well in his The New Buddhism, in which he looks at the varieties of so-called ‘Enlightenment’ and suggests that they are perhaps different kinds of thing).
In connection with this, I’m not sure I know what spiritual knowledge is. So I don’t know how you’d validate it. But maybe that’s just me being obtuse!

Best wishes,


# · Jacob

#Buddha God
sudo chown -R Buddha /Home/Jacob/Respect

# · Will

Oh, Crikey! I hope I haven’t unleased a whole load of geek jokes that I can’t even pretend to understand…

Will ;-)

# · Sidian

Some real Open Source Religion:
<a href=>Open Source Religion</a>

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