Goals and Purpose
This page discusses the goals and purpose of Why This Way.
Why did we start Why This Way?
Starting a new organization that may be a religion is an ambitious undertaking, and one that attracts a significant amount of skepticism.
We chose to found our group because we see certain problems in the world and in religion today that we want to address, problems that are not being addressed within the existing framework of organized religion in society. These problems include, but are not limited to:
- A widespread disconnect between religion and everyday life.
- Religious institutions that do not consistently act in accordance with their own supposed values or beliefs (institutional hypocrisy).
- People participating in religion (for example a worship service) only out of habit or a vague sense of obligation.
- Religious institutions (and other institutions) failing or becoming disconnected from their original purposes.
- Groups of people becoming antagonistic towards each other and engaging in unnecessary, destructive conflict.
The question of whether or not to call our group a religion is controversial, and a point of ongoing discussion both within and outside of our group. We do not have a consensus about whether our group is a religion or not, but when we started it, we called it a religion for many reasons, including:
- We present a system of beliefs and practices encompassing and relating to all aspects of life.
- Our group's institutional structure was modelled in relation to problems arising in institutions of organized religion, with an aim towards addressing these problems.
- In keeping with our fundamental beliefs about consent and honesty in communication, we wish to avoid any sort of sense that we are presenting a religion without claiming that it is a religion, as this can elicit defensiveness and a sense that a group is being dishonest or pushing a belief system on people without their consent, by masking their true intentions.
- Although calling ourselves a religion is also somewhat controversial, we find that this controversy consistently provokes thought and generates discussion which is in accordance with our goals and our beliefs about a healthy state that we want to bring into being in the world.
- To create an organization and belief system where the institutional structure stays in harmony with the values.
- To promote more respectful dialogue in all aspects of society, including in religion, politics, and interpersonal relationships.
- To combat social and psychological problems in society.
- To create more effective organizational structures in society.
- To help society become sustainable.
- To change how people think about religion, allowing them to see it as open-minded, dynamic, relevant, and effective at addressing social problems.
About our goals
To create an organization and belief system where the institutional structure stays in harmony with the values
Religious organizations and other values-oriented institutions often reach a point where the organizational structure is disconnected from its original purpose, or doesn't seem to be aligned with its own value system. We witness corruption in their governments, and people feeling like their concerns are not heard. With our transparent, consensus-based decision making process, we hope to avoid those problems. With our rules of communication, we want to maintain a respectful environment and keep our values in mind when making decisions for the group. With our consensus process, we address the concerns of everyone in the group, rather than voting out someone's opinion.
To promote more respectful dialogue in all aspects of society, including in religion, politics, and interpersonal relationships.
When we founded our group, one of our first actions was to establish the rules of communication. The rules are only enforced during meetings and on the wiki, but we believe that these aspects of communication would be beneficial to keep in mind during everyday life, to facilitate more effective and empowering communication. The rules are based on ideas such as treating everyone with respect, seeing everyone as a whole, valuable person, and not claiming things to be true that you don't have enough evidence to know.
Often conflict arises from people making false claims, exaggerations, or applying negative labels. The conflict escalates as people get angry and respond with more false claims and negative labels. Since this kind of conflict is based on aspects that aren't entirely true, it is not necessary, and it can be avoided if people use more truthful and respectful dialogue.
Our process of communication also encourages people to listen to each other. When people listen to each other rather than solely attempt to communicate their own points, other people may feel like their concerns are addressed, and are less likely to become angry.
Although there can be a great deal of subjectivity in identifying and defining social and psychological and problems, there are many problems in our society which most people would want or like to see improved or solved if possible. These include:
- Psychological problems like depression and anxiety.
- Conflict, including violence, disrespectful or hateful speech or other communications, and political conflict (conflict going beyond healthy dialogue or discussion).
- Crime, including violent crimes, theft, and less tangible but sometimes broadly-influential crimes like corruption
- Addictions, including drugs and alcohol, gambling, and addictions to all sorts of other activities, including activities that can be normal and healthy in moderation or in some people.
- Economic problems, such as unemployment, economic dysfunction, and bad economic incentives (like people being forced to choose between activities that earn money and activities that fit within their value system or are most helpful to society).
The ways in which we hope to address these problems are complex and have only begun to be discussed. A lot of our approach, however, can be summed up in the idea of a healthy state described in our core beliefs: we wish to cultivate healthy communities, a healthy culture, and healthy ways of thinking and acting in individuals, and we wish to also cultivate healthy institutions. We want all these aspects to be robust and resilient in the face of these and other social problems, and we want to empower them to address and solve these problems in varied ways.
To help society become sustainable
Sustainability, the ability for a society or culture to sustain itself or endure, is represented in one of our core beliefs, in that, in a healthy state, society is sustainable. The widespread perception in society is that sustainability is associated with environmental issues, and some people use the word "sustainable" interchangeably with words like "green". Our use of the word is broader: sustainability encompasses both environmental and cultural factors, and captures whether the society is able to persist.
Although people in American society hold a broad range of views on religion, there is a widespread negative perception of religion among a certain subset of the population. The negativity in the views towards and dialogue around religion stems from a combination of legitimate and irrational sources. The legitimate sources of this negativity include serious and deep critiques of religion, covering topics from inconsistencies in beliefs and institutional hypocrisy, to destructive actions carried out in the name of religion, to negative reactions to pushy or aggressive evangelism, and judgmental attitudes carried out by various religious groups. However, these legitimate critiques are often distorted through processes of overgeneralization, false black and white characterizations of religion, religious groups, or religious people, and the attachment of negative labels. This sort of distorted dialogue about religion is prohibited in our rules of communication, and runs contrary to the sort of dialogue we want to encourage.
We want to help people think and communicate more positively and respectfully about religion, and we want to achieve this in several ways:
- By helping people to think more rationally and communicate more clearly, identifying specific complaints about actions carried out by religious groups and actions carried out by people under the name of religion, and criticizing these actions in pointed, constructive ways.
- By helping people involved in various organized religions, and helping institutions, to solve their own internal problems and address the legitimate critiques of religion levied by people alienated from religion.
- By being an example of an organization and belief system that is open-minded, dynamic, relevant to people's lives, and effective at addressing social problems.