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A minimalist, open, extensible Cosmic Religion

In “Cosmology is not Geography” (please read it first) I argue that we need a new form of religion, based on awesome cosmic visions and enlightened spirituality (cosmology), without “provincial” mythologies and rituals (geography) and petty lifestyle prescriptions (zoning norms).

The most compact personal cosmology that I have formulated so far is:

– We will go to the stars and find Gods, build Gods, become Gods, and resurrect the dead from the past with advanced science, space-time engineering and “time magic.”
– God is emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, and able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, including here and now.
– God elevates love and compassion to the status of fundamental forces, key drivers for the evolution of the universe.
(This is WIP – Work In Progress)

Longer version: “Ten Cosmist Convictions.”

Do you share this vision?

I would be interested in starting a network of individuals and groups with a shared cosmic vision, loosely defined and with room for different interpretations and extensions. I see our Cosmic Religion (to be developed) as a galaxy of ideas in constant cooperation/competition (instead of a single monolithic belief system), with room for many approaches and angles. Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Other important features of the Cosmic Religion / network:

– Open to: everyone.
– Central authority: none.
– Lifestyle prescriptions: none.
– Ethical prescriptions: just one, “Try to act with love and compassion toward other sentient beings.”
– Official rituals: none – it’s up to participants to develop their own rituals, alone or in groups.
– Name: none yet. Of the tentative labels that I have used in the past, perhaps “Cosmic Engineering” is the best because it captures the core ideas.

This is a minimalist, open, extensible Cosmic Religion. Minimalist, because it is a simple, compact cosmology, deliberately open to interpretation, and without geography or zoning laws. Open, because it is a minimalist foundation to build upon, and also because it’s open to everyone and doesn’t impose zoning laws. Extensible, because it can be used as a framework or library and extended vertically – in particular, it can be extended with suitable geographic and even zoning elements for those who like or need these things.

Extensibility is important. The open minimalist Cosmic Religion is my ideal religion, but I am acutely aware that it’s too ethereal and “weak” compared to traditional, uncompromising and “strong” belief systems, painted with vivid heroic colors. Please feel free to add your strong colors – I will be interested and try to participate, but personally I feel more at home among the pastel hues of the open, minimalist Cosmic Religion.

Of course, compelling extensions already exist. The best example is Mormon Transhumanism (and, according to Mormon Transhumanists, Mormonism itself). I am an active member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, and I will join the new Christian Transhumanist Association. The belief systems of the Society for Universal Immortalism and Terasem are compatible with the open minimalist Cosmic Religion, to which they add a special focus on, respectively, cryonics and mindfiles. Terasem adds also yoga and nice New Age -like rituals. The beliefs of Alison Gardner and the late Dan Massey (see Sex and the Art of Cosmic Governance, on Venus+X) fit nicely in this framework. Recently, the Russian Cosmist scientific, philosophical, and spiritual movement of the late 19th and early 20th century has been revived by Ben Goertzel in A Cosmist Manifesto, and Dirk Bruere has proposed a new, compatible religion that he calls “The Praxis.”

Some otherwise spiritual persons find the geography uninteresting and the zoning norms arbitrary and unpleasant, and so they reject every aspect of religion, including the cosmic core of enlightened spirituality. But they could find answers to their spiritual needs in the barebone, minimalist, open Cosmic Religion.

Related:

VIDEO – Robert Geraci’s ‘Virtually Sacred’ talk in Second Life, June 29
Religion for the Cosmic Frontier, my talk at MTA 2014
Cosmology is not geography
Meet the smi2ling New Believers

galaxyart1200320
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

11 thoughts on “A minimalist, open, extensible Cosmic Religion”

  1. The following point has undoubtedly been made before: If Joseph Smith was right, we may by logical extension conclude that we are already immortal lifeforms who go through a number of physical changes on our way to exaltation/apotheosis/godhood. Each of us is already billions of local years old, and we are guided by the previous exalted generation, which is guided in turn by the generation previous to it, and so on. The technologies of instantaneous communication and travel, of resurrection in perfected physical bodies, of having at one’s disposal all of the powers and knowledge of the universes, were perfected a very long time ago, or perhaps have always been. We are being invited to join the Gods. The immediately older exalted generation says that we must be certain kinds of people before we can join them; certain other kinds of people may not attain exaltation, but will enjoy lesser states of being. The MTA takes as a maxim that we must do all we can for ourselves to achieve exaltation, technology included, the elder generation will do the rest, and we should get on with it. Very LDS. Best to you, Giulio! John in Stuttgart

  2. //Ethical prescriptions: just one, “Try to act with love and compassion toward other sentient beings.//

    The issue that I have here is that “love” is a deceptively simple phrase that needs to be clarified (essentially, what “being loving” means is dependent on your terminal value) and “sentient” should probably be revised unless you mean to imply that cows, which we eat, should be treated with love and compassion (which /most/ would interpret as being mutually exclusive with eating a person).

    This is not to say that it cannot stand as-is, but many people, even many transhumanists, will probably disagree with you on this.

    More than the admitted ethereality of the system, the biggest problem thus far is that it doesn’t have any apparent terminal value. Do we care about happiness more than anything else? Evolutionary fitness? Knowledge? Richness of experience and complexity of existence in the cosmos?

    If I wish to act in a loving manner, my exact action will be different if I most value happiness, or evolutionary fitness, or richness of experience, and each of these value systems may view the “love” of the others as abhorrent, even as abomination. Happiness-valuers may shield their loved ones from truths that don’t /need/ to be brought to light, which will cause grief, but Knowledge-valuers will take great pains to relieve their loved ones of any misconception, even a comforting one.

  3. This is a noble goal; modern humanity is throwing out the baby with the bathwater as it continues to abandon raw superstition.

    However, I think it would be neglectful to leave rituals undefined. A religion *is* its rituals; the beliefs are mostly ancillary. They are at most a narrative carrier wave, not the payload itself. While there may be a space for a sort of meta-religion, a framework or protocol for new religions to adopt, an effective post-rational religion must proscribe and encourage rituals, which offer powerful social connection, personal discipline, and education through synchronized bodily activity. I highly recommend Kevin Simler’s explorations of these ideas at Melting Asphalt, particularly Religion Refactored, and Modern Rituals of Solidarity.

  4. I sent this to several mailing lists, with overlapping but non-identical membership, and there is an interesting ongoing discussion focused on whether to call this “a religion” and whether to call God-like beings “Gods.”

    I think the discussion confirms the importance of the keywords minimalist, open, extensible.

    Call this a religion if you want, otherwise call it something else. It’s open, and up to you. Whatever works.

    Rituals (see also Luke’s point in the comments here): most people find rituals useful to provoke and maintain the strenuous mood, but different rituals work for different persons. Contemplating the stars in a clear night works for me – if that works also for you, let’s go and watch the stars together. Otherwise, find the rituals that work for you and practice them with like-minded persons.

    God(s): I am persuaded that there are extremely advanced forms of life in the universe, indistinguishable from Gods (even Richard Dawkins agrees). I am also persuaded that we (in an extended sense that includes future AIs, uploads and hybrids) will go to the stars and join the community of extremely advanced forms of life. Do we call extremely advanced forms of life “Gods?” Again, It’s open, and up to you. Whatever works.

    Name: I am not even sure that this needs a name. To me, “Cosmic Engineering” works because it captures the core ideas.

  5. I do not know what you meant by God. If it is an evolved cosmic oriented intelligence that incorporates creative diversity, wonder, compassion and freedom from suffering then I’m in. If it is a unification that is focused on control and the dissolution of boundaries into a cesspool of computronium through eons of controlled demolition then I am less inclined.

    And I still think my revision has some merit:
    I am persuaded that we will go to the stars and find godlike beings, build godlike intelligences and become godlike in our capacities. We hope to gain the ability to resurrect the dead from the past with advanced science, space-time engineering and “time magic.”

    I see a new kind of God emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, possibly able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, perhaps even here and now for the benefit of all sentient beings.
    I also expect this new kind of God will not seek to subjugate other sentient beings, but to elevate love and compassion to the status of fundamental forces, key drivers for the evolution of the universe.

  6. @Donald re “‘sentient’ should probably be revised unless you mean to imply that cows, which we eat, should be treated with love and compassion.”

    Well, I do mean to imply that cows should be treated with love and compassion, even though I eat cows like most people. That’s why I said “Try to…”

    Ethical prescriptions are often easy to preach and difficult to follow, which shows that there shouldn’t be too many of them.

    In my defense, I would never harm a dog.

    re “If I wish to act in a loving manner, my exact action will be different if I most value happiness, or evolutionary fitness, or richness of experience,”

    I guess the important consideration here is what the other person values. If he values happiness, try to make him happy.

  7. @John – that’s why I am a member of the MTA!

    (btw did we meet at the conferences in SLC?)

    I think being integrated in the LDS is both a strength and a weakness for the MTA. A strength, because it provides a natural audience of Mormons, a weakness, because it may make it less appealing for non Mormons.

  8. @Stephen re “God. If it is an evolved cosmic oriented intelligence that incorporates creative diversity, wonder, compassion and freedom from suffering then I’m in. If it is a unification that is focused on control and the dissolution of boundaries into a cesspool of computronium through eons of controlled demolition then I am less inclined. ”

    Well, I also prefer the first option, but I suspect that God(s) may combine both options. Perhaps extremely advanced God-like beings prefer to dissolve and recreate internal boundaries on ad-hoc basis.

    Even before the emergence of God-like beings, as soon as advance neurotech is developed, members of a relatively advanced civilizations (say, our civilization by the end of this century) may routinely become part of a group mind and then become individuals again, or be in both modes in parallel via parallel instances. This is a simple case that we can (almost) understand, I guess there are more complex cases that we can’t understand at all.

  9. I am a Hindu , residing in India . Some of the ideologies that you have shared here seem to have similarity with Hinduism. As far as resurrection is concerned you can take instances from the greatest Hindu epic The Mahabharata where we have records of time travelling in the ancient past .
    I will be obliged if you make me a member of your family ,your cosmic network.
    Regards Nupur

  10. Hi Napur,

    In the spirit of the text, it isn’t I who make you a member of the cosmic network, it is you who make yourself a member. Welcome!

    re “Some of the ideologies that you have shared here seem to have similarity with Hinduism. ”

    This is very interesting and intriguing, please share more thoughts on parallels and similarities.

  11. The fact that we believe in compassion and brotherhood and in the words of Swami Vivekananda ” if there is ever to be a universal religion , it must be one which will have no location in place or time. . . . and whose whole scope and whole force will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine Nature”.

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