Fleshing out this notion of dis-organized religion compels me to define the role I would see myself filling within an intentional community. I offer the following as a vision for that role that I would love to make happen.
Human beings need elements of religion to live in harmonious community. These include those parts of our lives that continue (re-) to bind us together (-ligio) as people. Historically, however, the negative impacts of organized religion outweighed the positive contributions to the health and welfare of human community. Therefore, communities are better served by a new kind of religion – a “dis-organized” religion. The essential tenets of such a religion entail a code of freedom:
- from the construct of “god” in any of its manifestations, or of any “supernatural” or “spiritual” planes of existence (religious atheism is not anti-theist, but stresses the non-experience of a deity);
- from the presumption that humanity is evil, sinful, or deserving of punishment;
- from all religious creeds and dogma, or the belief that people must obey religious authority; and
- from limitations to exploration of religious experience and understanding.
And, it is the freedom:
- to believe as one wishes;
- to “be” oneself fully, as an equal partner with and responsible for all existence;
- to live with and to love others fully;
- to think and to feel fully; and
- to experience all within yourself and among others, as part of whatever constitutes our world.
Would there be ministers in this dis-organized religion? While this religion would invent its own reverent language, one may note that the Latin root of the word “minister” means “servant.” “Ministers” in dis-organized religion would be servant leaders, helping others explore their religious selves by serving them (for further reading on the concept of servant leadership, see the materials from the Greenleaf Center). For thousands of years in human communities, people have served the role of religious servant leader. This role possesses many names: shaman, prophet, guru, oracle, lama, rabbi, priest, imam, minister. Intentional community needs this role as well, although divested of much of the historical legacy of these examples. For that reason, this role requires a new name and not any of the traditional titles. For sake of simplicity, call this role the Voice.
What is the Voice not?
- The Voice is not divine or saintly, seeking to be no more or less special than others in the community.
- The Voice uses powers of reason and intuition, and is not in touch with any supernatural forces, spirits, or “god.”
- The Voice has a unique focal emphasis within the community, but possesses no inherently unique talent, skill, or ability.
- The Voice is not an authority over others or over the community; if anything the Voice eschews power or dominance.
What is the Voice?
- Like a shaman, the Voice is “one who knows,” who can heal the ailing heart and mind.
- Like an oracle, the Voice is a visionary, who observes and interprets forces and trends.
- Like a guru, the Voice is a “destroyer of darkness,” who mentors in search of understanding and learning.
- Like a lama or rabbi, the Voice is a teacher, who enlightens by offering the tools of learning and an objective perspective.
- Like a prophet, the Voice is a guide, who seeks truth in service of others.
- Like a priest or imam, the Voice is a celebrant, who builds community through worship and rites of passage.
- Like a minister, the Voice is a religious servant leader.
What does the Voice do?
- The Voice monitors the cultural health of the community and individuals within the community.
- The Voice is a doctor of the community body.
- The Voice provides expert advice in coordinating the multiple codes of the community’s belief system.
- The Voice preserves community traditions and helps the community celebrate group and individual achievements and milestones.
- The Voice mentors and teaches so that all may grow more mindful.
What are the attributes of the Voice?
- The Voice offers a comprehensive view on all matters.
- The Voice always looks to the long-term future while meeting the needs of today.
- The Voice is in touch with the flow of the community.
- The Voice seeks to be ever more wise, knowledgeable, and insightful.
I have participated in many Unitarian Universalist youth worship services, which in many ways epitomizes the experience I envision for everyone. Is it possible? If it was built, would anyone come? A large part of me wants to buy an old church or warehouse and convert it into a collage of studios, clinics, and other community activities and see what happens.