This post is technically spurred by me reading the latest post on this forum, by johnswentworth, but it's an important topic in and of itself so I made a post.


Reading stuff like how millions of people could starve next year makes me wish there was an actual Humanist church. Not necessarily a "Humanist" church, but one that simply actually values Human wellbeing first and foremost--one that considers Longtermism, EA, and precisely the sort of problems such as the ones pointed out in this post. 

I don't care about creed, belief in god, or even if you're a rule utilitarian or Virtue ethicist. I just want a culture that values people continents away and it seems like the only way of actually achieving that is fundamentally changing human society and cultural norms. In order to have such a culture, is there consideration on this forum of starting a "religion"? I mean religion in the academic sense: as in a community, with beliefs about the world and ethics, and with traditions. The motivation to create such a cultural force is somewhat obvious to me. Religion is extremely effective at spreading and influencing the worldviews of people, and we could use this to our advantage. We want people not to die in the Sahel? We want a compassionate society? We don't want humanity to perish to malevolent AI? Then what better way to make sure our considerations will have a positive affect than by emulating the most historically effective way of spreading ideas? As in, why don't we consider making a religion out of this? 

I want missionaries, but not going to spread a faith, ideology, or even the very notion that wellbeing ought to be the main goal of humanity. I want missionaries who spread wellbeing. People who travel to remote villages not to hand out bibles, but rather to hand out vaccines and antibiotics. It's Kant's age old concept of treating people not as means, but as ends in and of themselves, (as much as I may specifically disagree with Kant.)

I have a Mormon friend. Mormons go on "Missions" at 16 to go spread their religion around the world. It's what made me think of this idea in the first place. I want something like that, except, I want a culture/religion and society and a community that doesn't care about your faith, it cares about your humanity. 

There is a real chance that this winter or in the next few years there is an absolutely devastating famine in the developing world. Be it due to economic recession or the war in Ukraine hampering grain/cereals or both. It enrages me beyond belief and fills me with the deepest most sincere despair that the world will likely simply watch and let it happen. Like Rwanda in the 90s. 

I know you could say I should go and do this myself. There is in fact by the way the: if anyone feels inspired by the last article and wants to get involved. (Though I don't know about EA's/LessWrong's notion of the peace corps. Mine is a mainstream understanding of it which is pretty amicable--there may be longstanding critiques people have of it on here that I'm not aware of.)

But I am more so lamenting the fact that there is no cohesive movement to get everyone in society to recognize and consider going to another part of the world to help. What I'm annoyed with is that there is no religion/cultural movement that get's it's members to seriously consider at 16 whether they should go to a remote part of the world and just increase wellbeing--and not in exchange for bibles or whatever as many of the missionaries in the Amazon do. Because I could go to Mali and hand out some anti-biotics as johnswentworth suggested, but a cultural force that promotes such behavior seems like a much more effective way of increasing good in society. Kinda like an extreme version of  in that it get's people to seriously  consider these things. 

I also think there might be a unique chance in western society at starting such a religion. People are leaving in droves from organized faith. If we could emulate the positives of religion: community, belonging, tradition, ethics, without the negatives and without splitting into hundreds of disorganized sects then idk maybe we have an actual chance of changing society for the better? I'm not talking about "atheism church", because again, I don't really care what your worldview is as long as you care first and foremost about human wellbeing on the subject of morality, and that you use rationality (steered by a bit of passion/emotions,) to determine what it is that is best for humanity. (That seems like the only hard line we'd really need to draw, right? No? Not even that is necessary? More is? I'd appreciate criticism in the comments.)

That leads to the question of "what exactly would be the tenets/structure of such a religion" but I was not actually seriously suggesting we go and create such a thing tomorrow. I understand that Lesswrong, EA, and Longtermism are very broad subjects and that not everyone who engages with them would even be comfortable or compatible sharing a "religion". (Though I am maybe opposed to such a term.) I was just asking what people think about such a concept and I was looking for some critiques as to why such an idea is stupid (and why I'm stupid and an idiot and big dumb.) 

Though I will self-promo my video that I think solves not having an absolute set-in-stone creed for such a religion: 

I also suspect that maybe people have had this thought before. If there are people who have, and they have a serious plan or are already getting started on exactly this task, then I would appreciate enlightenment on such a matter. 


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As the guy who created the Secular Solstice, helped run Sunday Assembly NYC and has thought a bunch about humanist religion, I feel fairly doomy about this path. I think the Way of Religion is fading – organized religion was a response to one set of societal pressures, and we now live in a different set of societal pressures. 

My impression is that hardcore conservative religions are still doing okay, but that more scientifically minded or liberal religions are mostly losing membership. Atomic individualism, the rise of the internet and other modern forces make religion a lot less compelling than it used to be. There are lessons to be learned from religion, but simply copying them doesn't work. Religion-as-we-know-it is built around society being a lot more stable/persistent than it now is.

(also, doublechecking if you've read the sequences on the Craft and the Community, which are the relevant background reading here)

Also thanks for the suggestion! 

I have encountered this issue of "religion" having far reaching unintended connotations before by talking with Humanists who were aghast at the notion of calling Humanism a religion. The term really doesn't work with secular people. And for good reason, as even though I myself had a fairly amicable exit with the church I know many who have risked their wellbeing leaving. 

I just used the term here to try and get at the general role such an organization would mimic, in that it would provide community, traditions, ethics, and an understanding of the world grounded in reality enough not to have serious ethical connotations. 

Again, the organization would never market itself as a religion. That's stupid. I should have said that front and center a bit more obviously. 

The part about society being atomized is the part I'd like to push against rather. Humans are social creatures. I am fairly confident based off of even a cursory reading of the subject that community and social ties are very important to human wellbeing, and that the atomization of society is really not something we should be simply shrugging our shoulders at. If you meant it as a practical obstacle, then I agree it would make such an idea harder to implement, but if you meant it as a sign that religion was outdated then I would push back and say that in this respect the communal aspect of religion is actually likely superior to the hyper-individualized society we now live in. 

FYI, I'm totally fine calling things religion. It's the actual structure of religion (i.e. community centered around intergenerational memetic ideology) I think no longer works. 

My point isn't that atomization is good, but that it makes different sets of things practical/impractical for creating community. (i.e. I think most people would rather get their community from Dancing or Crossfit groups or whatever than from a humanist religion. Ideological conformity is actually a key ingredient for religion working, and it's incompatible with the kinds of humanism you probably want).

(I have a bunch more thoughts/models here, may not have time to articulate them. But, a lot of people have attempted the thing you're articulating here and my current bet is that this thing doesn't work)

To be clear, I think there's a huge problem humanity is facing about how to do community and various social structure in this era, I just don't think the solution is to try to do religion-structured-things.

Fact check: Mormons don't go on missionaries until they are at least 18 for men and 19 for women.

Missionaries can be single men between the ages of 18 and 25, single women over the age of 19 or retired couples. Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two years and single women serve missions for 18 months.


Also, ever since the most recent transfer of power, Mormons have decided they want to be called "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" instead of "Mormons".

When referring to Church members, the terms “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” “Latter-day Saints,” “members of the Church of Jesus Christ” and “members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ” are preferred. We ask that the term “Mormons” and “LDS” not be used.



Also, could I seriously advise not mimicking the Mormon missionary program? Mormon missionaries are basically cut off from everyone and everything except the Mormon church. Until about three years ago, they weren't even allowed to call home more than twice a year. Apparently it's also so stressful that about half of them return home early, where they're further shamed for not meeting the exacting expectations of their church. It's basically human trafficking in the name of religion. You can read all kinds of mission horror stories on (the admittedly terribly biased)

Oh I'm well versed in the horrors of contemporary religious tradition and ritual. The idea was always to mimic the good without the bad. 

The tradition itself would never be good, it would be the end to which it serves that makes it good. This ideally keeps traditions in check. 

Oh I'm well versed in the horrors of contemporary religious tradition and ritual. The idea was always to mimic the good without the bad.

That brings its own horrors. See the recent events and commentary around SBF and FTX.

The tradition itself would never be good, it would be the end to which it serves that makes it good. This ideally keeps traditions in check.

When the end is everything, everything else is nothing, and the zealous bull of paperclip utility maximisation tramples every Chesterton fence in sight.

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