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Let’s admit it: We suffer from religion-envy!

The Syntheist pathos starts with the admission that we as Syntheists suffer from religion-envy. While we live in a society obsessed with counting every dollar, every vote, every orgasm, seeing each one of these items as nothing more than a commodity of trade, we envy the religious who can walk into any one of their temples, cathedrals, mosques, in awe over what they and their fellow believers proudly have managed to construct as their evental site of community.

Winchester Cathedral

However we can decide that our envy is productive and indeed raises a fascinating question: What prevents us from doing exactly the same as the traditionally religious? What prevents us from building a sacred site where we can reflect on ourselves and The Universe, in awe? A site which is not owned by anybody, which does not have any exploitative purposes whatsoever, a place to bring people together, loving each other and The Universe, a place where Syntheos, the god we create and become when we are truly together, becomes manifest. This is the question from which Syntheism rises. And if you share our desire, come join us!

Celebrating participatory culture

Since the internet arrived a couple of decades ago, we have seen an explosion in participatory culture. Why would you ever go to say a regular rock concert or a traditional theater performance again – where you are just regarded as a passive consumer – when you can attend a festival where your own inputs and contributions have value and meaning to all your fellow participants? Participatory culture is active culture as opposed to traditional passive culture.

Freedman_Burning_Man_10
Burning Man festival

Just like interactivity, participatory culture is sacred to Syntheists. Syntheos is the divinity that materializes when Syntheists come together (the Greek term Syntheos means both “the god(s) we create” and “the god created when we are together”). So just like Syntheists regard the freedom and equality of interests on the internet as a holy mission – the internet wants to be free – they also regard participatory culture – as opposed to consumed mass culture – to be sacred, to be a manifestation proper of Syntheos.

The Borderland
The Borderland Festival

The most well-known example of a participatory festival is of course Burning Man, held in the deserts of Nevada, the United States, every early September. Other examples include Secret Garden Party in July and Wilderness Festival in August, both in the UK. The first participatory festival in Scandinavia, an early Syntheist stronghold, is called The Borderland, which this year (its third year running) takes place July 21-28 on the island of Gotland, Sweden.

Secret Garden Party
Secret Garden Party

The Syntheist Movement – The Facebook Forum Description

Religion (Latin for “re-connecting”) is the most productive, creative, intimate, and also the most provocative and controversial form of social activity. This historical fact is beyond doubt. Our longing for belonging with “the Other” and need to “freeze the chaos of the world and pretend it is an orderly cosmos” to stay sane makes it impossible to refuse metaphysics without resorting to intense depression and madness.

It is a common misunderstanding that Religion must be preoccupied with either the belief in God (monotheism), gods (polytheism), the dualism of natural versus supernatural. However mistaking Religion (the longing for belonging with The Other) with theism (the construction of gods and sagas precisely as to keep us stupid, controlled, and infantile) is “The Great Lie” under whose bitter shadows we have lived far too long. Re-ligion has to be re-interpreted. This is why we speak of Syntheism: The position that the question “Does God exist?”, the position of theism vs atheism, is irrelevant!

From Zarathushtra to Nietzsche, it has been widely known – often under the guise of “religious mysticism” – that while religious theater produces endless amounts of gods and sagas, True Religion is the art of “knowing that which we did not know that we know”.

There is something rather than nothing, there is undoubtedly a Universe within which we exist. Regardless of whatever attitude this Universe has towards us, we have to adapt to this divinity; it gives birth to, controls and ultimately defeats us. What is the Universe if not a god, Pantheos, the God of Everything that exists.

Inside The Sacred Room of the temple, overloaded with baroque amounts of art, jewelry, and other forms of eartly wealth, lies The Most Sacred Room: empty, dark, cold. This is where the true god recides, the god of priests and mystics. This is Atheos (Greek for “the god who does not exist”) or The Black Void.

The Syntheist Movement is seriously, intensely, uncompromisingly, decicated to Georges Bataille’s suggested atheological exercise: The art of nonknowledge, an exercise beyond both Science and Philosophy. So while Jehovah may be the god of unpredictable mood swings, Allah the god of obedience and reward, and Jesus the god of masochism and mercy, Atheos is the god of utter and complete silence from which Agape springs.

“The objectivity of science separates human beings from their world, wheras Bataille is interested in an impossible ecstatic connection with the world. Bataille is interested in another kind of consciousness altogether: A consciousness of nonknowledge, a consciousness of the absence of consciousness.”

When you as a modern atheist enter a beautiful cathedral: What makes you so castrated it prevents you from building something similar? Syntheism is the answer!

Alain de Botton

Recommended viewing: Alain de Botton’s Ted Talk on his book Religion for Atheists.