So what does all this "Yo talk" mean to me?
Why is it important?
If you question the importance of believing in Yo―of devoting any time or energy to the kind of spiritual enterprise typically associated with "believing in God"―you are not alone. The scientific community is divided as to whether or not to even use a word like "God" to refer to what they have discovered about the nature of Reality. While many do use overtly religious terms, most do so with considerable ambivalence (e.g., Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking). Other scientists and intellectuals are almost "allergic" to the very thought of religion (e.g., Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins).
We would suggest that a large part of their problem is that the word "God" along with "spirituality" have been appropriated by the false, fantasy religions, and the atheistic scientists don't see what can be gained by reclaiming religion. Though some of these same scientists describe experiences akin to religious awe when they talk about their scientific conceptions of the world―whether it be the immense history of evolutionary design by natural selection, the cosmological structure of the heavens, or the subatomic world of matter―they often assiduously avoid using religious words or constructs such as "God" and argue that there is no gain from such a conception.
Yoism without Yo?
The 5-10-Open-Heaven core of Yoism.
Just as there are many church and temple going Christians and Jews who are agnostics or even atheists, for a sizable minority of Yoans, Yo is irrelevant! While this contradicts a central belief of Yoism, it does not pose a problem for Yoans who "believe in Yo." First of all, Yo, the Divine Mystery, is not a humanoid, jealous "God," like the deity one finds in certain major, traditional religions. The notion that Yo is an entity whose feelings can be hurt by whether or not humans believe in and worship Yo is as close to blasphemy as anything can be in Yoism. Indeed, in Yoism, the very notion of blasphemy is blasphemous ;-)
Here's another way to understand why whether others believe in Yo is not a concern of those who do believe. Yoism is close to Buddhism in its core beliefs and values. Indeed, the belief in Yo is a major difference between certain forms of Buddhism and Yoism. In Buddhism, there not only is no "deity," there isn't even a "placeholder," such as Yo, for the awesome mystery underlying existence. However, the Buddhist path of the Bodhisattva is very similar to the Yoan Pillar of Embodiment. This basic Buddhist conception is right in tune with the central Yoan goal of creating heaven, right here on earth. For some Yoans, the spiritual sense that this path is dictated by Yo, Itself, is vitally important. For others, it is of secondary importance. And for still other Yoans, like the scientists who are allergic to God, it is utterly irrelevant.
However, just as Buddhists have shared, sacred beliefs, Yoans share the belief in The Five Pillars, The Ten Sacred Principles, The Open Source Truth Process, and the overarching goal of creating Heaven on Earth. And there are completely secular, non-mystical ways to present the overarching need for "The 5-10-Open-Heaven" solution that forms the essential core of The Way of Yo.
Yoism and Shared Belief versus Private Beliefs
So, Yoism, as a community, has little trouble fully incorporating Buddhists, Brights, and other forms of agnostic or a-theistic "believers." While it can be more difficult to be a believing Christian, Jew, or Muslim and be a Yoan, this is also possible. There are more than one or two Yoans who have acknowledged a belief in the special, extra-human divinity of Christ, without it stopping them from joining the Yoan community. The difficulty posed appears to become an insurmountable obstacle when, for example, a believing Christian also holds to the notion that only Christians are "saved" and it is therefore yos duty to get everyone to share a belief in "Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour."
For those individuals who do not feel it is necessary to get others to share their Christian beliefs, and for whom such notions are, for the most part, privately held―private, that is, in contrast to beliefs that lead one to proselytize―there may be no insurmountable obstacle to becoming a Yoan. And we know that there are many, many people who identify themselves as Christians and who do not feel any need to convert others.
Our experience has shown us that, for some of them, it may be possible to embrace fully and without reservation "The 5-10-Open-Heaven" core of Yoism with its central emphasis on the Open Source Truth model for developing shared beliefs. In the Open Source model, healthy, adaptive, shared beliefs must be intersubjectively verifiable, which simply means that what we believe, proclaim, and act on as a community must be susceptible to testing by each of us, through direct, personal experience.
All Yoans, indeed all people, hold beliefs that have not been empirically verified by direct experience. Some of these beliefs may, in fact, be demonstrably false and the person may not have had access to the relevant evidence; we are all simply wrong about some of what we believe. Other beliefs―such as predicted scientific truths made prior to gathering the evidence to test them―may be correct even if the predictions and beliefs are made before we could verify them.
In fact, many scientific advances work exactly like that. A scientist who believes a certain theory is correct, sets out on an arduous process to gather the evidence to test it. One could claim that the scientist was just speculating and doesn't believe yos theory until the evidence is in. But such a person doesn't know many scientists ;-) Few people devote their lives to testing theories they don't believe are true. The difference between scientists and "true believers" is that the scientists have agreed that the ultimate arbiter of truth is Reality as we experience it directly, i.e., the empirical evidence. True believers, on the other hand, believe the arbiter is some immutable holy book or authority, even if their direct experience contradicts their faith-based belief.
Because we all hold some false and some unverified beliefs, all Yoans have personal beliefs that could not have been "consensed on" by the Yoan community and are not shared beliefs considered to be part of the beliefs of Yoism. Just so, for Christians, for example, who fully accept the Yoan commitment to the Open Source Truth Process for shared beliefs (while holding personal beliefs that are not shared by the community), Yoism can actually be a path to a fuller expression of their deepest values, values that in their lives may have deep roots in their Christian identifications and beliefs. Indeed, we invite all who share our belief in the 5-10-Open-Heaven core of Yoism to join us in the vitally important work of celebrating the divinity of each human, combating irrationality, ameliorating interpersonal and intergroup conflicts, working for freedom and justice for all, and finding a way to join together human efforts toward the creation of Heaven on Earth.
The benefits of religion
It appears that some traditional Yoans may have more in common with "Christian Yoans" than with "Yoan ennuists" who have little or no interest in religion (derived from "ennui" and pronounced on'-wists, see "Types of Yoans" at Yoism and Buddhism). Because of the enormous costs typically associated with the benefits of religious belief, ennuists appear to join with skeptical scientists and reject religious belief altogether. They may even question whether there are any benefits to religious experience. The more religious Yoans (along with most religious believers), on the other hand, believe that in rejecting religion, the unbelievers are overlooking some fairly obvious gains generated by an unambivalent, spiritual veneration of the divine:
Many people find themselves needing to feel that their lives are guided by something greater than their desires of the day, the quest for money, or the latest new promise of "salvation through consumption" that emanates from the corporate world. And, at some points in most of our lives, the need for support and comfort becomes extreme and people find themselves turning to religion. This is related to the familiar incantation: "There are no (or at least there are few ;-) atheists in the foxholes."
Given this need that some people experience everyday and most people experience at one time or another, we are not talking about whether to surrender to religious belief. Rather, at those times and for those people who seek something larger than themselves to believe in, Yoism offers a choice: to surrender to nonsense or to surrender to Reality in the form of the Divine Mystery, Yo.
Structured religious awe, shared using a common language within a community of believers, has been shown to have many tangible benefits. These range from personal comfort and reassurance to the generation of peak experiences that are typically described as being joyful, ecstatic. And actual health benefits have been empirically demonstrated (even if the evidence does not support the commonly claimed miracle cures).
Such communities of believers have clearly demonstrated the utility of such belief systems in bringing about very high levels of in-group cooperation, mutuality, and altruism.
Related to this strong in-group cooperation, religious groups have very strong identities and can generate powerful group cohesion and effective, coordinated action.
The terrible danger of religion
These last two "benefits" are often associated with horrible costs, costs so great that many people wish they could banish religion and religious thinking altogether. The worst side effect of having group identities structured by religious beliefs is also the ugliest human characteristic. Religious groups almost always claim superiority over those who do not share their beliefs, and commonly use this to justify the most horrendous, immoral actions toward out-groups.
"You only have to glance at the daily news to see how passions are stirred by claims of exclusive loyalty to one's own kin, one's own clan, one's own country, and one's own church. These ties that bind are vital to our communities and our lives, but they can also be twisted into a noose." (Bill Moyers)
"The most henious and the must cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives." (Mohandas K Gandhi)
"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." (Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winning physicist)
Click image to see how innocent children are turned into deadly fanatics.
As Yoans, we recognize that we are doing something that could be dangerously similar to this universal tendency to exalt one's own religious beliefs; to the degree that we claim to be closer to the truth than other religions―and we do make this claim―to that very degree, this could foster in us a sense of superiority. Even Buddhists, who espouse tolerance and non-violence as fundamental precepts, have been known to use their religious group identity to promote a righteous sense of superiority that has become involved in ethnic warfare (e.g., the civil war in Sri Lanka). Yoism is the only religion that acknowledges this all-too-human tendency, the grave danger in wielding such a powerful instrument (religious group identity), and places this danger in the center of its belief system as part of its raison d'être.
Paradoxically, for Yoism, it is this very danger that makes it necessary to promulgate the Truths of Yo!
Yoism: Why the world needs "another religion"
There are two solutions to the horrors generated by the type of religious thinking that is often associated with violently conflicting group identities. The first is to eschew religion, to fight all religious ways of thinking, and to exhort others to rise above this human tendency. While this means giving up the comforts and sense of belonging and meaning that are associated with religion, these are not the real problems with this solution. The real problem with this solution is that the most powerful organizing force in human history is left in the hands of those who do not understand the danger.
Who will organize to fight the irrationality of organized religion? If we can not and do not organize with equal effectiveness to fight highly organized, dangerously superstitious coalitions, then―by our abdication of the use of this powerful force―humanity is placed in grave danger. It's like letting known terrorists stockpile nuclear material and saying, "Nuclear material is much too dangerous to play with. We won't have anything to do with it. We will simply call you names and ridicule your activities. Nah. Nah."
Also note that those who believe in the sanctity of the individual and work toward freeing people from collective delusions and the chains of irrational social structures―for an example, consider Timothy Leary―can inadvertently end up supporting solipsistic, irrelevant hedonism. This was the fate of the "Hippie Revolution," which was thoroughly co-opted by those who were willing to subvert their selves to superordinate corporate and/or religious goals. To see how South Park's Trey Parker approached this issue, take a look at The Trouble with Trippies.
If you think that the danger primarily comes from outside the West, from Islam, think again. The never-ending war―now heating up as new methods for harnessing destructive forces are created and made available (via new information technology) to millions of fanatic believers―between Islamists and Fundamentalist Christians (not to mention many smaller cult groups) threatens to engulf the entire world in chaotic destruction. The human hunger for religion and religious group identity is not going to go away. If we do not struggle to harness the organizing power of religion safely, the fantasy religions will continue to respond to this intense human hunger and will continue to fill and enslave the minds of billions. The fantasy religions will continue to distract humanity from our true potential. Sowing their infectious memes in the continually expanding medium of human psyches, they will harvest increasingly destructive cycles of violence.
Bill Maher's "Religulous," or
"What happens when rational people are too timid to come out of the closet (and get organized).
The major fantasy religions were created in a past age when the human population was small and our survival did not depend on sharing limited resources on a dangerously overcrowded planet. The tendency to form group identities around such belief systems evolved in a time long before Mutual Assured Destruction, before the M.A.D. nuclear age. They were formed long before our rapidly improving ability to produce other effective (and inexpensive) weapons of mass destruction. So, in the past, this religious tendency was not maladaptive to those who could effectively harness it. They became the victorious empire builders; they were "the fittest" who survived and passed their tendency to become an effective, warring, religious group onto their children.
So, if we are willing to consider that it may be necessary to use the organizing power of religion, why Yoism? Why not a loving, tolerant version of an existing religion?
The two religious solutions to the horrors of religion:
One, embody love
Some individuals have tried to actually embody their religion's positive values. They attempt to live by the precepts of love, justice, and fairness that can be found in most successful religions. They have tried to extend their religious values of cooperation and mutuality―that historically were directed only toward in-group members―to outsiders. They have tried to adapt their old religions in order to create new values, to reinterpret their old texts in light of the new interdependent reality, i.e., our need to share our closed planetary ecosystem, if our species is to survive without incomprehensible horror. Yet, these loving and enlightened individuals have always been too weak and too few.
The relatively enlightened, ecumenical religionists have not wielded the power of a more vociferous and aggressive group that has historically, maintained or regained control of religious groups and large coalitions. This more aggressive group of religionists remain more in-group focused. This ensures greater in-group cohesion, cooperation, commitment, and effectiveness when a highly religious faction competes with other groups, including other less "fanatic" adherents to what is ostensibly the same religion. (To an alarming extent, this has been occurring in America over the last 40 years. And in their ignorance, the American religionists are foolishly working to end their own religious freedom!)
The more aggressive and "fanatic" believers―who also more readily, righteously, and effectively use violence in their pursuit of extreme, "divinely dictated" ends―repeatedly take over and control the larger group. Whenever a power vacuum appears, whenever a political system gets weak, whenever a democratic state becomes complacent (e.g., when there is high "voter apathy") it is these more aggressive "true believers" who step in and re-establish a more dictatorial state, i.e., one that is less tolerant of differences, with less freedom, etc. While these ideological dictatorships often become more moderate over time, empires end; political systems weaken and can be taken over. This pattern is then repeated.
And now, using modern technology, the increasing numbers of fanatics among the major fantasy religions (in our increasingly overpopulated, impoverished world) will have the capacity to bring about ever more horrifying catastrophes. So, if we eschew harnessing the full power of religion―i.e., if we take a more "moderate" or "watered-down" stance to our ideals and beliefs, instead of making a thoroughgoing zealous commitment to shared Truth―and leave the most effective organizing tool in human history to those with ideologies that keep this cycle going, then we sideline ourselves. We leave the playing field and allow human history to continue to be written by those who readily employ more extreme religious ideologies. We continue to allow this powerful but dangerous tool to be wielded by those who do not understand the dangers involved. Meanwhile, we look on passively. If we water down the intensely righteous, in-group superiority of traditional religions, we create a more benign, but weaker religious theology. Inevitably, such saner, milder systems of belief lose out to those with a greater willingness (actually, an eagerness) to force their ideas upon others and to engage, unambivalently, in struggles for dominance.
And there is another danger. Even if the more extreme, religiously organized groups that exercise tremendous influence over much of the world were to be relatively tolerant and non-violent toward outsiders, they still pose a horrifying danger to the rest of us. We are confronted by major problems that will inevitably bring about tragedies of immense proportion. Environmental destruction and overpopulation, if confronted only after their devastating impact becomes undeniable, will be almost impossible to reverse without their first causing horrendous human suffering. As difficult as it will be to forge international cooperation around these crises, the religionists―who insist that divine providence, not rational, human problem solving and planning, is the answer to these dilemmas―are effectively preventing any possible solution.
For example, we keep seeing signs of potentially tragic diseases that, in our increasingly overpopulated world, are threatening to burst upon us. Meanwhile, the United States is being run by religious ideologues who pray while ignoring global warming and approaching hurricanes. What do we do to prevent or plan for such problems? Nothing. Religious believers prevent us from taking a rational approach to population/birth control. The result is terrible overcrowding, creating the ideal conditions for breeding and spreading new diseases. Instead of preventing global warming, the religiously deluded plan for the rapture and elect leaders who ignore the destruction of our life-sustaining biosphere. Without a shared, rational worldview, we are simply not responding to such problems in a sane manner.
The Yoan Solution: Creating a religious meme system that includes the danger of religion
The second solution―the Yoan solution―is to try, self-consciously, to wield the power of religious group identity the way we use other powerful, dangerous forces, i.e., intelligently and carefully, with our eyes fully open to the danger. Yoism is the only religion that self-consciously seeks to harness this incredibly powerful force. One way to protect ourselves from the danger is to enshrine the danger in the core of our meme system alongside of our highest principle, the divinity of all sentient life. Human beings are divine by virtue of their sentience not because they share our beliefs. Human divinity is unalienable. These two principles, along with a clear understanding of why they are of vital importance, are at the very core of Yoism.
All animals are equal but some are more equal than others. (George Orwell, Animal Farm)
As we take a stand against false ideas and evil acts, at times we will find ourselves filled with anger, even hatred; we are no more than human. Because of this, we must remain eternally vigilant lest, like Orwell's pigs, we allow ourselves to believe that we are more divine than others.
We know that it will take great effort and further, creative solutions that have yet to be fully developed and refined, if we are to ever ensure that Yoan group identity does not devolve into coalitional power seeking and chimpanzee politics. This is the central task of Yoism and our Open Source Truth Process.
Yoism aspires to generate and spread a meme system that can be used to create a socio-political-economic culture that values individual humans and the diversity of all life. We strive to promote a new culture that―in contrast to the present system of constant consumerism, blind growth, and frantic competition―believes in fostering community and deepening relationships. We will foster a human way of living that is in sync with the natural world, a way of living that gives back instead of one that extracts to the point of self-destruction.
Now, more than ever, we need the organizing cohesiveness that has historically only been generated by religious movements, IF we are to stand together effectively against the insanity of greed driven (pseudo-religious) corporate global slavelization; IF we are ever to wrest human sexual and reproductive freedom from those that would doom our world to overpopulation (because He is preoccupied with what we do with our genitalia!); and IF we are not to fall under the spell of delusional fantasies about an "afterlife" that allow us to postpone dealing with our current problems, at best, and to become suicide bombers for God, at worst.
Creating community and working with "the good" in other religions
While the fantasy religions have constructed a vision of the world that has led us to our current catastrophes, we must bear in mind that these past traditions are also filled with powerful symbols, ethical messages, and values that have motivated countless human beings to incredible acts of kindness and sacrifice for the greater good. We see this in the in-group messages and ideals that characterize all successful religions. Yoism does not need to oppose these religious ideals, especially when the attempt is made to make them into universal themes, that is, to include outsiders. We only must oppose the destructive in-group mindset that typically goes along with the belief system that espouses loving principles. Despite this tendency, within each religion we can find allies, truly religious men and women who see the unity of all beings and the protection of the earth as primary religious callings. Yoans must always remain open to working with and learning from these people, and the possibility that they will learn from us.
Changing the world versus changing our lives
Yet, the most important benefits of a religious attitude that most of us consider are the first two in our list above. For most of us, having an effect on the direction in which our world is headed is a nice ideal, but it is a grand abstraction. We need tangible effects in our day-to-day lives. And, if we are correct in our supposition that humans evolved for life within religious, tribal communities, then this may explain why religion has beneficial effects. As fundamentalists of all stripes eagerly lament, without organized religious communities, anomie and isolation can dominate our experience and fuel more rapid consumption. We turn to the titillation of our senses and overweening pride of ownership to temporarily mask the empty meaninglessness that has become more and more prevalent in the modern world. We naturally long for a spiritual community―that is, a community of shared identity, meaning, values, and beliefs―and many if not most of us can find the deepest human satisfactions only within such a community. For those of us who cannot find such community within the fantasy religions, we need to build our religious identity around our closest approximation of a Truth that is consistent with our actual experience of "The Face of Yo" (i.e., Reality).
Atheism versus Sane Religion
Atheists and agnostics sometimes pride themselves on their willingness to deprive themselves of anything to believe in. They appear to act somewhat righteous about facing existential meaninglessness alone, or without anything larger than themselves to give them comfort and direction. Yoans would agree with their rejection of comforting fantasies and illusions: Comforting fantasies and illusions that depend on dangerous, destructive, divisive delusions must be given up. We agree that such religious fantasies have provided the basis for the worst of all human evils.
Yet, there is no gain, nothing to be proud of, in holding one's breath and depriving oneself of oxygen. While the self-control underlying compassionate charity and generosity is clearly better than voracious greed, there is nothing to be proud of in taking such self-control to an absurd extreme by insisting that one has no right to eat while others starve and then starving oneself to the point of anorexic death. Likewise, there is nothing to be proud of in denying oneself the psychological oxygen of community, a divine, tribal, human identity that can provide for the normal, healthy emotional need for belief in something larger than ourselves, our idealized purposes, our meanings, our reasons for existence and action, and our sense of belonging in a community.
Indeed, if the notions on this page have any validity, we must struggle with the tension between our individual and group identities. If we do not, we allow our world to be controlled by those who have organized effective power-seeking coalitions that get people to subvert their selves completely to insane group identities (i.e., the traditional religions). So, we sit and watch as our world is destroyed or struggle to utilize the human religious propensity to form a sane group identity of our own that can take a stand against the insanity.
As long as care is taken to base our shared beliefs on that which is Real―i.e., on observable manifestations of Yo, on ideas consistent with past experience and predictive of future experience of "The Face of Yo," on facts that can be independently perceived by others, etc.―we do not need to fear the error of delusions; our religious identity can even help steer us away from error. As long as care is taken to ensure that our beliefs and values do not include some imaginary, divine elevation of the value of our lives over the lives of others, we do not need to repeat the error of divisive religions with their bizarrely inconsistent in-group morality versus out-group brutality.
The Fountain of Joy and The Source of Meaning
There may be a tendency to read the words of the following pithy observers and to discount them. One may think that they are merely relating one of many axioms for life that they have discovered. But if you read their words carefully and assume that they may have had the ability to say what they actually meant, then they are saying that this axiom stands above others. They are providing their answers to our questions, "So what does that mean to me? Why is that important?"
We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. (Albert Einstein)
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. (Helen Keller)
This is the true joy in life -- being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one ... (George Bernard Shaw)
As Saint Peter (Jackson) inspired us, this is most true even and especially when we face the greatest adversity. Just recall the wise counsel offered by Samwise Gamgee:
Consider the impossibility of describing "red" to someone who has been blind from birth. Like the difficulty describing most sensations to one who has not had the experience, words may be inadequate to describe the importance of shared meaning, cherished goals, something that brings us together in a common bond to mutually held idealized aims, "something worth fightin' for." We would suggest that most people have experienced the joy of shared identity and purpose, and that "devout" atheists or agnostics are merely (proudly?) denying themselves the validity of such feelings (as they paradoxically indulge themselves in righteous skepticism that enables them to feel that they are members of a community of specially enlightened thinkers). Even though they would not consider denying themselves the valid joy of gasping for breath when surfacing after being submerged underwater for too long, these "religious unbelievers" appear to derive some kind of meaning from their (religious!) willingness to sojourn in meaninglessness.
Nonetheless, even if it cannot be clearly spelled out in words for one who only knows such feelings when embattled against them, even if the righteous, religious disbeliever needs to deny their importance, such feelings are still profound and appear to be essential for human happiness. The very fact that we universally find such ideals in the center of great works of art (e.g., the movies, stories, and heroic characters that thrill and inspire us) suggests a basic, biological, built-in yearning for meaning and identification through devotion to―or union (or identification) with―a great cause. We seek "to join" with something "bigger" than ourselves. And just as we do not question our need for air to respire, we need our ideals and values to inspire.
Grandfather, look at our brokenness. We know that in all creation only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the ones who must come back together to walk in the Sacred Way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor that we may heal the earth and heal each other. (The Ojibwa people of Canada)
There is an almost sensual longing for communion with others who have a larger vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendships between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality almost impossible to describe . . . (Teilhard de Chardin)
See The Song of Ozacua for another exploration of the need to form a group identity around clearly articulated beliefs, if we are to have some chance in the competition with other such coalitions. The Song of Ozacua is a parable written for "grownup children," living in the post Nine-Eleven World, (the NEWorld).
Momma! Pappa! Will you get me a suicide bomber costume for Ramadan?
Only if this effort is successful will Yoism be able to harness the power of group identity organized around a hunger for Truth and wield this most powerful tool in the service of healing ourselves and our world. Yoism aims to transform our relationship with the planet and each other.