We open source art, encyclopedias and Twitter tees.. Why not God? In Search Magazine, Sam Kean writes about "open source religion." It's one of those things you finally read about and realize should be far less surprising than it actually is.

Open-source religion is an amalgamation of two ways of thinking about the world. The first is religion, a common set of practices, rituals, and beliefs. It’s as old as the hills, one of the most enduring traits of humankind. The “open source” component is new, an unforeseen consequence of the Internet revolution of the 1990s. It’s a reference to open-source computer code, code that anyone is allowed to rewrite, add to, or delete. …

Adherents of open-source religion note that tradition can calcify into dogma, and if there’s one common trait to people who practice open-source religion, it’s distaste for dogma. Some open-source believers want to found entirely new religions, and some merely want to reinvigorate a mainstream faith. All want to change people’s perceptions of religion from something that’s handed down to them, something they receive, and make religion something people do. All religions evolve, of course, but the tinkering inherent to open-source religions can benefit founders and followers alike, Webster says. “When you share what you learn, you learn better,” he notes, “and the content evolves that much more efficiently.”

In other words, Vote on the virgin birth! Include user input as to whether Jesus is God! Interestingly, the idea seems far less provocative in practice. It doesn't seem to have led to many actual, doctrinal changes yet. People seem to (shockingly!) like ritual and tradition, and practice a religion because they, well, hold to its core beliefs. 

The premise is flawed. Think about it. Wikipedia, an open source experiment, only works because users are aggregating information that is already verified and true. They're not making facts up but collecting already verified facts, and their input stays only if it meets a transcendant, overarching standard of reliability. In religion, what would this transcendant, overarching and reliable standard be? How about revealed truth — as in the Bible? If there's no transcendant standard to measure the accuracy of "open source" information, what's the point?

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Alisa Harris

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