God and the Creative Commons: Open Source Religion

Religion is perhaps the most interesting facet of society. The idea that there is a higher being which exists and is looking after us is absolutely fascinating. There can never be a way to prove or disprove the beliefs of believers, and it will always be a topic of great debate for millennia to come. For many people, religion has become a relic of the past. Some children are just not instructed in the religious heritage of the family they come from, and when they go out on their own. They would like to learn more about it. This can be a very daunting task though. Ancient text such as the Old Testament in the Bible, The Torah, The Koran and the like are extremely difficult to understand for the casual reader. The internet is now changing that.

It’s called open source religion. The internet is allowing individuals to add their own commentary next to religious text, creating a collective database of information, think “Wikipedia for Christians”.

One of the projects is called “Blogging the Bible”, which was done by a Slate.com editor, David Plotz. Plotz considers him self to be Jewish, however he has never read the bible. He decided that he wanted to read it for himself. So Plotz did just that, reading through each book in the bible, summarizing it along with his comments. Plotz invited readers to respond to each of the works he writes about the bible. Plotz has made statements that 90% of the feedback he receives is positive, but he gets so much feedback that he can never stay on top of it all!

One Jewish individual attempted to bring the project to the next level, through the Open Source Judiasm Project. The idea was to use the internet to reacquaint Jews to the religion who have strayed from their religious heritage. Douglas Rushkoff, the project’s founder, quickly attracted a number of sponsors to help pay for the project. Unfortunately the project did not last. Some people who believed in Ruschkoff’s message started to disagree with people who have had more traditional Jewish teaching on the project’s web-based forum. Both sides accused each other of forgetting Judaism’s roots. This caused Ruschkoff to inevitably close the project.

Although there has been no great massive open source religion website yet, the forefather projects are there. It’s only a matter of time and effort before there is truly comprehensive and user editable religious instruction available on the internet.

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