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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kopimism: Sweden Recognizes File-Sharing to be a Religion

When I teach a class on religion, I often begin by defining what constitutes a religion (not surprisingly, scholars don't agree). On one end of the definition continuum are somewhat more exclusive definitions that only consider a something to be a religion if it includes a belief in the supernatural. This doesn't necessarily mean that it must believe in a God or gods in order to be considered a religion (although that is often true), but it does mean that it at least has to believe in something beyond the natural world such as a force or ultimate state of being (e.g., samsara, nirvana) in order for it to be a religion.

On the other end of the continuum are definitions that are much more inclusive and regard movements that define certain objects as sacred and others as profane as potentially being religions. Scholars who embrace such definitions generally require that there also be some sort of collectivity that gathers from time to time and that engages in rituals that celebrate what they consider to be sacred. However, these scholars do not hold that a movement must believe in the supernatural in order for it to be a religion. That is why they often regard secular movements, such as communism or even the environmental movement, as religions because there are objects that members of these movements consider to be sacred (e.g., "The Communist Manifesto," "The Silent Spring") and rituals in which they participate together (e.g., pilgrimages to Marx's gravesite, worshipping the earth).

With this in mind, along comes Sweden, which just recently recognized a new religion, Kopimism, which means file-sharing ("Sweden recognises new file-sharing religion Kopimism").  The Missionary Church of Kopimism was founded by 19-year-old philosophy student Isak Gerson and is a congregation of file sharers who believe that copying information is a sacred virtue.  Followers are called Kopimists (from copy me) and believe that communication is sacred and hold up "CTRL+C" and "CTRL+V" (the computer shortcut keys for "Copy" and "Paste") as sacred symbols. Its basic tenets are:
All knowledge to all
The search for knowledge is sacred
The circulation of knowledge is sacred
The act of copying is sacred
I guess the Swedish government embraces the more inclusive definitions of religion.

Note: Thanks to Noel Tebo for first telling me about this

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