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An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson

NeWFism 1 as a Religion

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NeWFism is a new religion created by this author. Its full name is New Word Fellowship

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If one thinks about “religion” from a functional standpoint, it can be said that:

“one thing religion or belief helps us do is deal with problems of human life that are significant, persistent, and intolerable.” 2

Given that the problems perceived as “significant” vary from society to society, and with a given society vary over time, it is not surprising that the nature of religion for us Westerners has changed over time: 3 At one time there were many gods (polytheism), which became reduced to one god (monotheism); at one time animal sacrifices were offered, now people sacrifice their own lives to pay a tithe (!); etc.

NeWFism 4 has certain characteristics that seem to disqualify it as a religion:

  • It lacks a theological system (although individual NeWFians are free to have whatever theological ideas they wish -- including none).

  • It recognizes no “holy” book -- i.e., it has no Scripture. Again, however, individual NeWFians may regard some book as Scripture.

  • It has no clergy. A given congregation will have a “bishop,” but that individual (who can be either male or female) is a mere functionary.

In short, for most people who have been churchgoers, it may be difficult to recognize NeWFism as a religion. If, however, the church one has attended has an adult class -- one oriented to discussion in particular -- the fact that discussion is central to NeWFism will give one a sense of familiarity. Also, if one is a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), the characteristics of NeWFism will all be familiar, except that Quaker meetings are not characterized by discussion. 5

Now if the function of a religion per se is to help one deal with “problems of human life that are significant,” I believe that NeWFism can perform that function well -- better, in fact, than any of the Christian denominations now present in the United States. Given that my exposure, over the years has only been to Christianity, I cannot speak to the matter of how well other religions might function from a problem-addressing standpoint.

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In supporting this claim for NeWFism, I would cite the following diagram from one of my eBooks, Addressing Our Uncertain Future (2014), p. 69:

Each of the numbered points of this diagram is discussed on pp. 62 – 76 of the above-cited eBook. Thus, for a full discussion consult that eBook. Here I just want to note that with point 4, for example, I assert that participation in NeWF sessions has the potential of giving some, if not all, participants a “natural high,” with the possible consequences of that being discussed under points 9 – 15. Point 5 is that participation in NeWF sessions can result in a feeling of solidarity, or “community,” with fellow participants -- with the consequences of that feeling then discussed under points 6 – 8.

As I noted above, NeWFism is oriented to discussion; I need to add here that a given discussion session has a “leader,” that leader chosen using a random procedure. That fact means that over a long period of time, and assuming no changes in group composition during that period of time, everyone will likely be a “leader” at some time, with all members of the group having that role an equal (more-or-less) number of times during that period.

Will the discussions associated with NeWF sessions “deal with problems of human life that are significant” -- and thereby be of a “religious” nature? My answer is a decided Yes! Why?

The “leader” of a given session is expected to begin the session by talking about what he or she feels “led” to talk about. What’s most likely is that this individual will talk about a personal problem(s), a local problem(s), a state problem(s), a national problem(s), an international problem(s) -- or some combination of the above.

Whereas a member of the clergy may not even talk about any sort of problems -- or talk about a problem(s) that concerns him or her, but ones not of interest to the congregants -- the members of a NeWF session are likely to discuss problems of interest to them. Each participant, of course, will be interested in problems that concern that person. But everyone present is likely to have some interest in those problems of concern to the other members, so that discussions can hold the attention of everyone present -- and perhaps even result in tentative solutions!

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Youth in the United States are increasingly losing interest in the religions of their parents, and I have mixed feelings about this. Perhaps, I would suggest, the existing religions are being abandoned because those brought up in them are coming to recognize those religions as increasingly obsolete, irrelevant. Insofar as that’s the case, NeWFism may hold attractions for the young and, as a consequence, may start growing. What it needs, however, is someone to publicize and “push” it -- and I am not that person!

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "NeWFism" is unrelated to the term "Newfie" which is a colloquial term used by Canadians to refer to a person who is from the Atlantic provinces -- generally from Newfoundland. It was originally considered offensive. However, it is now considered a neutral term.
  2. John Monaghan and Peter Just, Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction (2000), p. 124.
  3. Candida Moss has noted that “Historically, the definition of religion has been constantly changing.” The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (2013), p. 180.
  4. The specifics regarding NeWFism are discussed in an eBook cited shortly.
  5. Rather, Quakers, in meeting, sit in silence, and wait for the Spirit to speak to one or more of those present.

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Originally posted: 2015-MAY-30
Last updated 2015-MAY-30
Author: Alton C. Thompson
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