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Why Do We Need a Religion Like Yoism?


Yoism & the Tension between
Our Individual & Group Identities


"The Trouble with Trippies"
[and the "Die Hippie, Die" episode of South Park]

Some people have a problem when they consider the "religious" nature of Yoism. Many of these folks do not want to become identified as a member of a group. For very good reasons, they don't want to commit to an ideology; they don't want to subvert their own personal identity by "joining" their selves to some "cult" or "movement." Because of their personal experience with attempts to get them to compromise their selves—for example, when attempts were made to indoctrinate them into a religion or worldview that they have since rejected—some people now eschew "belief systems." Others are simply aghast when they look at what "true believers" have wrought on the world.

This reaction is more than just a concern about the historical regularity with which righteous mobs of believers inflicted horrifying damage on outsiders (or on competing righteous mobs of believers), i.e., most acts of genocide and wars. There is also often a sense of repugnance at the audacity and arrogance required to make a claim about having a better "truth." Such people want no part in going around and making the grandiose claim to be a member of a group that has discovered or forged "truth," or started a "new religion." Their discomfort becomes manifold when said truth conflicts with the contradictory beliefs of others who, they fear, may feel diminished, insulted, or disrespected by any claim about having a "better truth."

Of course, these concerns have an all too real foundation. It is true that many religious believers find themselves threatened, hurt, and angry when others claim to have a superior belief system (religion) or a more valid worldview. And it is true that humanity's worst acts of inhumanity and injustice are always tied up with a subversion of common sense and personal values in the service of some shared and strongly proclaimed ideology or system of belief.

Yoism—as the religion that has committed itself to looking upon the Face of Yo (i.e., to facing Reality)—places, at its very core, this fact: Religious ideologies and mass movements based on systems of belief are DANGEROUS. Yet, for the same reason (because we are committed to facing Reality), we must acknowledge that only organized people acquire power in the Real world. And all organizations, movements, institutions—whether religious, political, or economic—have ideological belief systems at their core. If we don't organize around and commit ourselves to some shared values and beliefs, those who do will continue to rule our world.

A good case study illustrating this point is American politics in which the religious right, even when in the minority in the congress, is able to exert enormous power, far in excess of its actual numbers. Even when the Democrats have a majority, they are crippled by their lack of cohesion, vision, and shared ideology/religion.

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The Sacred Individual vs Over-idealizing Individualism

Why we can't escape from the tension between our group and personal identities

Herein lies "The Trouble with Trippies." Led by folks like Timothy Leary, the tripping hippies of the 60's went from a mass movement into virtual extinction. Their "ideology," their belief system, became a blip, a footnote to history. Leary's mantra, "Turn on. Tune in. Drop out," formed the core of a very limited ideology that helped lead them . . . nowhere.

The very basic, primitive and thus limited world view held in common by the hippie movement—that is, the set of beliefs that formed the group's identity and basis for taking action as a group—was built upon three elements. The first element was personal mystical experience derived from the use of psychedelic drugs (see the video on the right).

The second element, often expressed simplistically as "love," was a profound respect for the divinity of each sentient, human life.

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Related to the notion that each person is a sacred, divine being was the third element of this primitive ideology: a glorification of freedom, an anarchistic worship of unconstrained individuality. Allergic to any group identity (and especially antagonistic to the Catholic Church of his childhood), Leary became a champion of individualism. In doing so, he voiced some of the deepest values of Yoism: Think for yourself. Question authority. (See Leary's "How to Operate Your Brain: An Owner's Manual.") Indeed, Yoism, at its core, is built upon such notions.

Unfortunately, those who hold sacred such truly sacred values become as difficult to organize as "trying to herd cats." By doing so, they render themselves irrelevant. Without balancing such valid values with the NEED to organize—and, yes, to compromise one's individuality (which is always required to some degree when one joins a group)—hippies and hippie ideology became a dead end, like communism. Communism errs in the opposite direction, fatally ignoring other, equally important aspects of Reality about human nature and motivation and assuming that self-interests and identity can be subsumed by the shared interests of the social herd. As social animals, we need to find a healthy balance between our self-interests and our group identifications and commitments.

There is frequently a consequence, a price to be paid, for refusing to face important (even if unpleasant) aspects of Reality. In this case, we are talking about the total failure to acknowledge the Reality of conflicting self-interests and social ties and to work at finding a balance between them. Hippies refused—and today many atheists (who otherwise share all of the main beliefs and values of Yoism) actually pride themselves on their refusal—to face the need to buckle down and do the hard work of organizing, to face the need to struggle to develop a shared system of valid beliefs and values, to face the need to endure the tension between one's self-interests and group identifications, and to face the need to struggle with the discomfort experienced when promoting those shared beliefs and proclaiming one's group membership.

The terrible price that has repeatedly been paid for refusing to face these Realities derives from this fact: Those who hold the individual to be sacred—i.e., that every human is a divine being (including those who disagree with us)—repeatedly leave control of the playing field (that is, control of our world) to those who do not.

Bill Maher's "Religulous," or

"What happens when rational people are too timid to come out of the closet (and get organized)."

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Kurt Vonnegut: Angels need to organize like the Mafia."Individualists" refuse to put the effort required into forming and fielding a winning team. Rather, at best, they will enthusiastically join a team that others have organized when the goals of the group happen to come close to their own. At worst, they sit on the sidelines while others—others who, too frequently, are guided by religious dogma, destructive economic/political dogmas, and a profound disrespect for the divinity of others (including our individualists)—eagerly organize, willingly subvert their selves to ill goals and delusional notions, and effectively recruit others to join them.

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Without an overarching organizing ideology, sanity and enlightened self-interest can defeat organized insanity when the insane make terrible tactical errors. For example, the Nazis brutally mistreated the Russians who greeted them as liberators, driving the Russians to unite around their hated, brutal dictator (Stalin) and the Soviet Union's despised communist ideology. Furthermore, Hitler's overweening grandiosity led him to take on much more than his army could possibly handle when, during WWII, Germany took on Russia, Europe, and the United States at the same time.

However, what usually happens when those who hold the individual to be sacred do not organize around some unifying ideology and instead try to sit out the game on the sidelines (or wait and only enter the fray when things have gotten quite ugly)? Well, when the sane don't form a team and enter the playing field, the organized insane determine the course of human events. And by "insane," we simply mean those who do not believe that individual, sentient beings must be held sacred, who replace the truths they can experience directly with dangerously destructive delusional dogma, and who thus end up holding beliefs that encourage them to devalue and destroy other human beings. Groups of these "insane" end up battling one another for control of the playing field, the stadium, our cities and towns, our countries, and our planet. And no one escapes the horror when our world is turned into a battleground.

"One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts." Bill Moyers: Democracy in the Balance
For an example of what happens when "the sane sit out the game" (and for one illustration of the political effectiveness of religious ideology), consider the emergence of the Religious Right's power monopoly in the US.

Compare CBS & Harry Reasoner "On Hippies"
(circa 1966) versus Trey Parker (below).

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In the face of the monotonous repetition of human wars and destruction, people have long pondered this question: Why is there so much ugliness and destructive stupidity in the world? The answer is really quite simple: Because those with the healthiest, sanest notions about how we can live together—i.e., those who consider all humans to be divine beings, those who value the individual over groups and their belief systems, and those who look to the observable real world (and not to dogma or unquestioned authority) for guides to effective action—are less effective at creating and less willing to join ideologically organized identity groups that can effectively compete for power.

Unfortunately, the Leary/hippie notion that one can avoid joining and avoid being co-opted by social institutions is a delusion. And the paranoia-driven notion that one ought to try to avoid participating in social structures—the belief that, by withdrawing from group participation, one can avoid being exploited or exploiting others—is a self-deceptive attempt to escape from the inevitable problems inherent in being a member of society. It is a self-deceptive delusion because it only provides the illusion that one is avoiding the problems of exploitation. Not only can no one really opt out, trying to opt out may be one of the most exploitative options! It is an avoidance of one's responsibility, both to oneself as well as to others.

Probably no one has expressed this pseudo-paradoxical truth and the emptiness of anarchistic, hedonistic worship of the individual (and the avoidance of the need for self-sacrifice and hard work) better than Saint Trey, in the Die Hippie, Die! episode of South Park:

Trey Parker "On Hippies"
Excerpted from "Die Hippie, Die" (South Park episode 902)

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Even the anarchic individualism of "hippyism" was founded on certain shared beliefs and values, such as those embodied in Leary's mantra, "Turn on; tune in; drop out." Given what is happening in the world today, by now it should be clear that—despite the all-too-real danger of shared ideologies—holding an ideology that only embraces the acknowledgment of and need to avoid this real danger is the equivalent of burying one's head in the sand. It is not enough to eschew any clear statements of belief in order to avoid offending others whose beliefs are contradictory. It is not enough to avoid the terrible dangers of competing group identities by refusing to join with others and refusing to commit to a group identity. It is not enough to enshrine the individual, without also acknowledging the need for shared belief and individual efforts directed toward collective action.

"I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anyway."

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It Does Matter to Us. How About You?

The New Yoan, Bodhisattva Dispensation:

"Turn On, Tune In, Drop In!"

I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. (Howard Zinn)

We must not sit out the game on the sidelines. It's our world, our lives; it's the only game in town. As difficult as it may be to balance a healthy respect for Reality, our individual aims and interests, with a necessary, strong commitment to a shared group identity, failing to do so because we refused to try would be a terrible mistake.

Yoism is our answer to such a grievous error.