Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Religion of File Sharing?

Because I am a lawyer who is fascinated by religion, this story about people trying to turn file sharing into a religion, interests me.  Apparently, the Swedish government has twice rejected The Church of Kopimism's application to be a religion.  The group is made up of self-proclaimed pirates who consider copying, among other things, to be sacred.  Isn't this the religion of almost every college student these days?  It also seems like something Freegans might be into.  I'm reminded of the Buddha Torrents debate that everyone in Buddhist circles seems to be having now.

It's obvious that The Church of Kopimism's attempt to avoid copyright infringement prosecution on the basis of religion is not viable, just like saying you can run around and murder in the name of religion and get away with... um, never mind.  Nevertheless, I really wonder on what basis the government denied their right to be a "church".  If you read the group's manifesto, they sound not that different from the Secular Humanists.  The Church of Kopimism seems to promote science, knowledge, learning, etc.  Besides, what position is the government in to accurately judge what is or isn't a religion?  Courts have judged these issues in the US, but I don't know if they are truly in the best position to judge.

I have friends who swear God is a woman.  Keith believes in the psychic spiritual power of cats and swears that's part of his religion.  My brother is a Transhumanist Buddhist. I just noticed that his Facebook now says Buddhist.  There are all sorts of weirdos out there who believe weird things.  I am happy to say that I am one of those weirdos with weird Buddhist beliefs.  Many people consider Buddhism or Scientology or Unitarian Universalism "weird".  Thinking that these religions are weird, cult-like or not about God(s) doesn't take away the fact that they are legitimate religions. I think the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster explained religion best in its Q & A:
Q: Is this a joke?
A: It’s not a joke. Elements of our religion are often described as satire and there are many members who do not literally believe our scripture, but this isn’t unusual in religion – it’s only more obvious in the case of our particular religion. A lot of Christians, for example, don’t believe the Bible is literally true – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t True Christians.

If you say Pastafarians must believe in a literal Flying Spaghetti Monster to be True Believers, then you can make a similar argument for Christians. There is a lot of outlandish stuff in the Bible that rational Christians choose to ignore. We do the same with our scripture. This is intentional.

Q: I don’t believe you or any of your so-called followers actually believe any of this.
A: Some Pastafarians honestly believe in the FSM, and some see it as satire. I would just make the point that satire is an honest, legitimate basis for religion. Satire relies on truth to be effective. If it’s a joke, it’s a joke where to understand the punchline you must be conscious of underlying truth.

Compare our religion to those that are built on lies. I am not talking necessarily about mainstream religions (which themselves are often full of mysticism and ad-hoc reasoning), but think of cults, or churches where the leaders are scamming their followers out of money. These are groups where the followers fully believe. Are these churches legitimate since they have many True Believers?

Or can we agree that religion is as much about community as any shared faith. By any rational metric, Pastafarians are as legitimate a religious group as any. Arguably more so, since we’re honest and rational.

I'm not saying I'm in a big hurry to sign up for Kopimism, but I do think we need to focus on inclusive, liberal religion to make this world a better place.  Instead of focusing on exclusionary religion, why not focus on compassion for all beings?

Speaking of making the world a better place, it's reader appreciation time here at Buddhatropolis.

Posted as part of Rednesday and Everything But the Kitchen Sink.  And just for the record, if I were going to create a religion, I think it would be a religion that follows the hometown Miami Heat.  We would always cheer the Heatles, even when they lose, because we truly believe.


SueLovesCherries said...

I can't believe no one's commented yet! You know what "they" say about politics and religion! I don't think I'd want to be a Kopimist - it sounds too much like pessimist! You've done a great job writing this, and I enjoyed it, even though I'm a born-again Christian! :)

Ani said...

@Sue- I think religion and politics often make people uncomfy. Sometimes, talking about these topics reminds me of when I was on a date with a doctor and was talking about how much I love apples. It seemed natural to say, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Well, it would have been natural, if I hadn't been on a date with a doctor. Lol.