Friday, January 12, 2007

Open source approach to Religion

Last night came across this article about the concept of Open Source approach to Religion. never before i heard the terms open source and religion coming so close. being someone interested in integral spirituality and comparative religion, no doubt i liked the idea. yes we need an open source approach to religion. and its coming ...

let me share the article, Two Attempts at Opening Up Religion Online by Eric Krangel @ newassignment.net via digg, as well as some other resources on the theme.

For many Jews, raised with a strong sense of cultural identity but lacking a formal religious education, accessing the lessons and wisdom of their heritage can seem daunting. The essential texts of Judaism, the Torah, the Midrash, the Talmud, conform to stylistic conventions thousands of years old that make the texts frustrating, if not impossible, to decipher for the casual reader.

But the Internet has enabled people to offer their own commentary on religious texts, building a new collective wisdom - an open source approach to religion.

For the past seven months, Slate.com editor David Plotz has been leading the “idiosyncratic” Blogging the Bible project. “This is a book which shaped my life, the religion I believe in, but I’ve never read it for myself,” Plotz told NewAssignment.Net. Calling himself a “not very observant Jew,” Plotz started with chapters of Genesis, reading the text for the first time as an adult. He then summarizes the passage online, adds his own personal thoughts and observations, and invites his readers to respond.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Plotz said. “Every time I put something up, I get this flood of e-mails about it.” While Plotz braced himself for hate mail, he estimates that more than 90 percent of the feedback is positive, from people eager to engage in an earnest discussion of biblical interpretation. Not only has Blogging the Bible become one of Slate’s more popular features, it’s bringing in traffic from outside the usual Slate readership. Blogs serving evangelical Christians, conservatives, and orthodox Jews all link to Plotz.

A more ambitious, interactive, truly open-source interpretation of Judaism’s texts was the dream of Douglas Rushkoff, the creator behind the now-shuttered Open Source Judaism project. The idea was to open up the religion to disaffected Jews and use new media technologies to reinterpret the faith in a way accessible and relevant in the 21st century. “The entrance into Judaism is not a demonstration of faith,” Rushkoff said. “It’s the bar mitzvah. It’s that you can read the Torah and have a discussion about it with other adults.”

Rushkoff quickly attracted sponsors from among Jewish philanthropies who hoped he could help revitalize Jewish religious practice. Almost as quickly, under the weight of Rushkoff’s contentious personality, the self-described “iconoclast” attracted a lot of controversy. “Judaism was invented not to become a religion, but to have a corrosive effect on religion,” Rushkoff said. His book, originally to be titled Open Source Judaism, hit print with the far more provocative title Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism.

While Plotz wished he could figure out how to make Blogging the Bible more interactive, he anticipated the trap Rushkoff’s open-source religion idea fell into. “The problem with a successful wiki is the problem Wikipedia has,” Plotz said. “The popular entries are so contentious.”

Given the experiences of both Plotz and Rushkoff, it’s apparent there’s both a tremendous demand for and pool of willing contributors to a new open-source Judaism project. But unlike debugging an errant Firefox module, in religion there are no correct answers, only points of view. For Jews online, how to balance the promises with the pitfalls of open-source religion remains very much an open question.

my 2 cents | in a global village like ours, we truly need a better understanding of faith and religions. not only the faith we inherit from our parents, but also that which belong to humanity in general.

easiness of information sharing is bringing us a broad opportunity of sharing faith and religious issues. this will enable all of humanity to derive benefit of the collective wisdom that all religions bring to us. Did christ ever said, he is only for those who call them christians? did buddha claimed to be for the buddhist monks? no, they all are healers and teacher of huamanity. no faithful can honestly claim his faith is best while he or she is total ignorant of other faiths that many in the planet shares.

the approach of open source religion may have its short-comings (tell me which doesn't have on earth?), but it surely will help us share the essential wisdoms in a more integral way.

Resources:
Blogging the Bible
Open source Judaism Porject
The Complete Blogging the Bible (so far) By David Plotz Pin It Now!

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