The Case for a New Religion, Part III

Were the reader to imagine that Cartism’s fate required all the trappings of a traditional religion—a pox of churches and schools, an army of clergymen and lay associates, and  unrelenting fund-raising campaigns—his skepticism as to the new religion’s ability to gain a public foothold would be justified.  But the fact is that Cartism requires none of these things.  To get underway, all it needs is a computer system and the Internet.

The simplest way to describe the comprehensive system I envision is to imagine it already exists when  Sydney Hanson, a prospective convert, enters its website.


Upon clicking on the “Join Now” button, Sydney is presented with a short quiz to determine if he understands the religion’s precepts and is in accord with them.    Immediately upon completing the quiz, Sydney is advised that he has passed it or is given the reasons he failed to do so.  We’ll assume the former and that Sydney accepts a pledge to uphold his new religion’s principles including the requirement that he is never guilty of intentional misrepresentation—an unpardonable sin under Cartism that would result in his lifelong excommunication from the faith.

Sydney is then asked to fill in a password-protected, two-part questionnaire that will become available to all members on a read-only basis.  The first part is devoted to establishing his identity including his home address, date of birth, and such other data that would be necessary to establish a unique, verifiable profile.  Ideally, some sort of physical scan would be made part of this step.

The optional second part gives Sydney the opportunity to voluntarily enter whatever other information about himself that other members might find helpful such as his education, occupation, employer, family relationships, achievements, publications, non-professional interests, current photo, political affiliation, e-mail address, and so on.  So that this page is kept current, at least once a year the system displays it and asks Sydney to make any necessary revisions.

Provided the system is able to cross-check Sydney’s identity, he is welcomed into the faith and, naturally enough, asked for a voluntary contribution commemorating his new status.  (It should be pointed out that Cartism requires no entrance or membership fees) Sidney’s page is then incorporated into the membership database and he is provided a search box to query it.  Thenceforth, anytime he wishes, Sydney can look for, let us say, a competent, co-religionist dentist in his area.  Alternatively, Sydney might elect to join a Cartist book club whose members’ viewpoints were generally compatible with his own.  More interestingly, Sydney, who is planning a vacation in Bruges, can hope to find an English-speaking Cartist resident of that Belgium city, of similar age and interests, with whom he can correspond regarding his trip.


As part of his membership package, Sydney is provided a page on which he can write anything of the moment that he believes would be of interest to his circle of Cartist acquaintances—let’s say his opinion of a movie he’s seen.  Likewise, Sydney can delete anything on his board he chooses.  And, as social media demands, Sid’s friends can freely enter comments on his board.


Finally, Sydney is asked to become familiar with part of his membership site known as the “ledger.”  The ledger is designed to encourage Sydney to enter any particularly laudatory action or especially egregious behavior with which Sid is personally aware regarding a fellow Cartist.  Whereas Sydney is not obligated to file such observations, it is impressed upon him that he, as a good Cartist, should do his part to help maintain the flock’s standards.  In short, he is told, the ledger is not a mere adjunct to the religion but an essential element—a substitute for an omniscient god, if you will, keeping his flock under constant surveillance.  Moreover, it is in Sydney’s long term interest to cooperate in this regard.  For him, like other Cartists, to benefit from their associations with their coreligionists, they have to know whom they can trust and whom they cannot.  How else is he to be sure his Cartist dentist is an accredited professional with a clear record?  Or be totally confident his Belgium correspondent is, as he professes, a university student?

Before his ledger is activated, Sydney is advised of two of its important mechanical characteristics; one, postings to it are inerasable and, two, they are double-entry.  Allow me to explain.

With regard to the first, Sid learns that his ledger postings will initially be entered in an editable review window and must be confirmed by him before being published after a twenty-four hour, built-in delay—the delay designed to give Sid every chance to rethink any rash comment before it is made an irrevocable part of his ledger.

The second distinguishing characteristic of the ledger system is that all entries are automatically made in duplicate—i.e., they are addressed to both the originator’s ledger and to that of the specific fellow Cartist being addressed.  Assume, for example, that Sydney’s neighbor, Elliot, had, in Sid’s absence, rushed Sid’s kid to the hospital when the boy fell off a tree and broke his leg.  The ledger gives Sydney the opportunity to commend Elliot for his Good Samaritan deed by leaving a permanent record on his ledger and a copy on Sydney’s own testifying to his appreciation of another’s good conduct.

By the same token, Sydney can also turn his ledger to advantage by reproving George, his stock broker, for his fraudulent handling of client funds.  Naturally, George can enter his own defensive rebuttal which would be, of course, again recorded in duplicate—one copy in his own ledger and one in Sydney’s.  Had Sydney’s original complaint been libelous, the altercation could thus turn out to be more detrimental to his own reputation than to his intended target.

Thus the system has its own built-in restraints against overuse.  A habitual complainer, for example, would accumulate such a clutter of negative remarks as to reflect more badly upon him than upon those he accuses—clearly a self-defeating exercise.


As mentioned earlier, the sin of deliberate lying is taken very seriously under Cartism, threatening as it does the religion’s very foundations.  One lie begets another and, before long, the well is poisoned in much the same way that doctored experimental data undermines scientific research.  In view of this danger, any member who becomes aware of an outright lie by a Cartist is expected to post a red flag on the accused liar’s site while incurring a white flag on his own page.

A red flag initiates an investigation by the system’s administrative office which, if substantiated, results in excommunication, as every member is warned when he enrolls.  In grey-area cases in which the supposed lie cannot be proved, the outcome can range from a dismissal of the charge to the suspected offender being placed under probation.  Given the seriousness of the offense, there is an appeal process that need not be gone into here.  Needless to add, false charges carry a heavy penalty of their own.


And the above is a bare bone outline of what, I believe, would be required of a computer system to properly launch Cartism into the worldwide web.  Certainly other useful features could be added, but I will leave those to the inventive people who put these  things together.


I would not dare prophesize how Cartism’s fate might unfold.  Indeed, the very notion that it might have a future at all beyond this modest blog sounds as outrageously pretentious to me as it must sound to my readers.  But, I cannot help speculating on the possibility however remote.  Were a website along the lines I’ve outlined instituted, I believe it would attract enough followers to form, in time, a viable community.  After all, Cartism costs nothing, threatens no one, and demands little while, at the same time, confers the benefit of fellowship in a congenial group of mutually helpful people.  Opposition would arise, no doubt, from the traditional faiths, but I doubt that the new religion would noticeably add to the difficulties they already face in an increasingly secular world.

All I can say in conclusion is that, if there is any hope for humanity’s overcoming the formidable obstacles that lie ahead, it rests on its ability to make rational decisions.  And yet, rationality is precisely what the mass of people lack everywhere in the world one looks.  It is in critically short supply.  Why?  Humanity is born with brains whose miraculous functioning is designed to arrive at rational decisions, but, right at the start, we encumber those vulnerable instruments with memes that retard their thought processes.  Cartism, I believe, would help exorcise people’s brains of those memes and give reason to hope for a better world.





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