Open-source religions attempt to employ open-source methodologies in the creation of religious belief systems. They develop their systems of beliefs through a continuous process of refinement and dialogue among the believers themselves. In comparison to traditional religions – which are considered authoritarian, hierarchical, and change-resistant – they emphasize participation, self-determination, decentralization, and evolution. Followers see themselves as part of a more generalized open source movement, which does not limit itself to software, but applies the same principles to other organized, group efforts to create human artifacts.
Following his exit from the Unitarian ministry in 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson left "the limits of an institution or a tradition", read the Hindu classics, embraced freethought, expounded the first American post-Christian new religious movement, Transcendentalism, and became the first member of the Free Religious Association, the first rationalist open-source religious movement. In the early 20th century John Dietrich expanded Unitarian beliefs to embrace religious humanism. Joining two nominally Christian denominations with decreasing memberships, the Unitarian Universalist Association became the first major religious denomination to explicitly adopt open-source religion in 1961.
Among the first examples of this movement, Yoans (followers of a religion called Yoism, founded 1994) claim that their version of open source religion does not have allegiance to any spiritual guide, rather the sense of authority emerges from the group via consensus. Yoism combines rational inquiry, empiricism, and science with Spinozan or Einsteinian pantheism using a model inspired by open source software, specifically Linux.
Another early example, in 2001, Douglas Rushkoff organized the first Reboot summit that took place in 2002. "The object of the game, for me, was to recontextualize Judaism as an entirely Open Source proposition." The publication of Rushkoff's book, Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, in 2003 spawned the creation of the Open Source Judaism movement. Open Source Judaism, in turn, spawned several projects, including the now defunct "Open Source Haggadah" (2005).
By 2005, a number of other attempts to form open source religions began to take form, for example, The Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn and Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis. Dr Leo Ruickbie released Open Source Wicca in 2007, seeing parallels between the way Wicca was founded and the concept of open source computing.
In spring 2007, Assignment Zero reported that "for six weeks, 40 brave volunteers from across the U.S. met in a special online forum on 'Open Source Religion' to talk about their deepest beliefs" (and the text of the article is itself open-source).
Another example is Open Source Religion, founded by Sidian M.S. Jones, an online social network in which Jones describes Open Source Religion as "A system for the mixing of religious and non-religious beliefs in an individual, even across multiple religions." OpenSourceReligion.net has a project called the Belief Genome Project, also known as "The Source Code" which aims to use crowdsourcing to catalog all beliefs as a resource for those wishing to build and discover their own belief system.
In 2009 an open source religious publication, Free Press Bible, was introduced. Touted as an authentically non-denominational approach to open source religion and religion in general, it allows owner/users to articulate and organize their religious texts utilizing both digital media and printed or written pages within a "religious binder".
Beginning with the Open Siddur Project in 2009, open source projects in Judaism began to bolster their open source credentials by publicly sharing their code with open source licenses and their content with free-culture licenses. As comparative expressions of an Open Source Judaism, their explicit objectives also began to differ from those which Rushkoff articulated in 2002. Rather than seek any reform, these projects often used open source and free-culture licenses to simply empower users to access and create their own resources from a common store of canonical texts and associated translations and metadata. Not unlike Wikisource and the Wikimedia Commons, these project facilitate collaboration in sharing resources for transcribing and translating existing works in the Public Domain, and to permit adaptation and dissemination of works being shared by copyright owners.
- Charles Piller (2006-07-23). "Divine Inspiration From the Masses". Los Angeles Times.
- Ferguson, Alfred R. "Introduction to The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume IV". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1964: xi.
- Sachin N. Pradhan, India in the United States: Contribution of India and Indians in the United States of America, Bethesda, MD: SP Press International, Inc., 1996, p 12
- Unitarian Universalist Principles: "4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning" http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml
- Yoism website
- Gunderson, Matt (January 11 2004). "Taking 'yo' off the street and into church". Globe Newspaper Company. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- Demare, Carol (December 9 2009). "Religion called Yoism plays role in appeal". Albany Times Union, Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
- Gary Craig (2011-04-11). "Civil commitment still evolving in N.Y.". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
- Kean, Sam (May/June 2009). "Open to Revisions". Search Magazine. Retrieved 2010-09-19. "[Daniel Kriegman] based the [...] religion on a cocktail of rational inquiry, empiricism, and science. [...] To this rationalism [...] Kriegman mixed in a healthy dram of the pantheistic god of Spinzoa (above) and Einstein [...]"
- Forni, Alberto (January 2010). "Yoism on Italian Radio". dISPENSER. Retrieved 2010-02-17. "Yoism is a complex system that incorporates elements of philosophy and diverse religious backgrounds, ranging from the pantheism of Spinoza to Mahayana Buddhism, up to Taoism [...]"
- Open Source religion
- Douglas Rushkoff (2003). Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism. Three Rivers Press.
- Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn website
- Ecclesia Gnostica Universalis website
- P2P Foundation, http://p2pfoundation.net/Open_Source_Wicca, 1 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- Bravely Exploring Our Spiritual Stars: An Adventure in Opening the Ultimate Source
- Open Source Religion Basics
- Taraka website (in Polish), accessed December 23, 2008
- website www.freepressbible.org not available 13 august 2013
- The Wiki Religion wiki accessed January 6, 2010
- Evan (May 2008). "Redefining God: Religion 2.0". Ning.com. — on the beginnings of Religion 2.0 and the "Religion of 'what is'".
- Thomas Goetz (November 2003). "Open Source Everywhere". Wired Magazine. — on the explosion of open source collaboration notes the existence of "open source projects in law and religion."
- Dave McKenna (November 2004). "Liberation dot com". The Silhouette. — on the relationship between human liberation and Internet-based open source innovations, with a specific reference to open source religions
- Charles Piller (23 July 2006). "Divine Inspiration From the Masses; Open-source programming's organizing principle has been embraced in medical research, engineering – even religion". LA Times.