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Why This Way was originally described as a religion, but because it is consensus-based, and because there is currently not a consensus that it is a religion, we now present it with a more nuanced view: that it may or may not be a religion, depending on how you define religion.

Is Why This Way a religion?

The main rationale for calling Why This Way a religion is that it as a system of beliefs and practices that encompasses all aspects of life, and which is tied to a human institution with its own structure and culture, and that there is no other word that has such a holistic connotation. Why This Way is also closely related to acting out of a deep sense of purpose, and provides a medium for people to explore and live out these senses of purpose. However, Why This Way specifically avoids making direct claims about the nature of certain truths which are normally thought of as in the realm of religion, because our group encompasses people with a broad range of views on these truths, and limits our system of beliefs and practices to points on which we are able to reach a consensus. The core belief in Why This Way that participants in our group are not expected to believe any of our beliefs or practice any of our practices in their lives, also makes Why This Way conflict with many Western definitions of religion, which place a high importance on belief as distinguishing between different religions.

We have discussed other terms to describe Why This Way, but have not yet found a single term that adequately describes our group. Terms like belief system, philosophy, or life philosophy accurately describe part of Why This Way, but do not have a meaning or connotation of an organization or social institution. Terms like social movement also describe certain aspects of the group, but fail to capture the whole of the group, and may connote political advocacy, whereas Why This Way avoids political struggle. Also, terms that do not reference religion or spirituality may fail to capture the ways in which Why This Way religion and spirituality are frequently discussed in the group, and directly influence the value system of the group.

Regardless of what definition you use, Why This Way shares many attributes in common with organized religions, but is also new and distinct, both in terms of its belief system, its way of communicating, its culture, and the way its organization is structured.

What is a religion?

The question of what is or is not a religion can be difficult to answer, and sometimes controversial. At times, the controversy carries legal implications, such as tax-exempt status or constitutional protection of various practices. Even when it does not carry any legal implications, the classification of a belief system, culture, set of practices, or organization or institution as a religion or not a religion, can profoundly impact people's perceptions.

Our beliefs and rules of communication specify that we use language accurately and honestly, and we use definitions according to societal consensus. Although there is no exact literal definition of what a religion is which has a complete consensus in society, there are nevertheless a broad range of definitions or uses of the term religion.

The use of the term religion in society exists in a large gray area; we restrict our use of the term within this gray area, on the basis of our other beliefs, especially our beliefs about consent.

Normative definitions of religion

Defining religion too narrowly can be normative, in the sense that it can define certain systems of belief or practices as a religion, and exclude others, without the consent of the people who hold or practice those systems.

Our group chooses to define religion more broadly, because it fits with our beliefs about consent and respecting all people. This may include labeling certain things as a religion for which there is no clear societal consensus.