On/File: A Continuing Record of New Movements, Groups, People and Events Impacting Religion

1. Kopimism, a new religious movement that grew out of the piracy and anti-copyright movement, has been considered a parody religion, but more recently it has taken on the trappings of an actual religion, or at least a quasi-religion. The movement was started in 2010 by Isak Gerson in Sweden, which was the hub of anti-copyright and piracy activism, as an outgrowth of the Pirate Party, and has taken root in other countries (no estimate is given for membership). The establishment of the Missionary Church of Kopimism—it gained the formal recognition of the Swedish state in 2012—was more of a vehicle to spread the piracy message of encouraging free downloads and the sharing and exchange of information, but the church has gradually increased its religious-spiritual thrust.

While not exactly holding to a supernatural message, the movement does teach that information and data are a sacred and eternal force that moves the world in the “right direction.” The movement has practices and rituals involving copying (sharing files) both online and offline, its own marriage ceremonies, and a moral code known as the four Ks—“Kreativity, Kopying, Kollaboration, and Kwality.” Unlike parody religions, such as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Kopimism doesn’t seek to undermine any existing religion, and even encourages borrowing from other religions. Some speculate that the future of the movement may move further along the religious spectrum, with an “emergence of a collective ‘cybernetic spirituality’…wrapped up in transhumanist ideals.” (Source: Culture and Religion, 19:3).

2. GodSquad is considered to be the first “gamers” church, seeing its mission as bringing God to the gamer community. The Assemblies of God mission church was started in 2016 and has since gained thousands of viewers. The founder, Rev. Matt Souza, sees gamers as a population that skews atheistic and tends to dislike religion. As of July 2018, the church boasts 1,800 committed members and Souza’s streams draw roughly 4,000 total viewers each week, according to Twitch analytics. Souza estimates that about 10 new congregants join every seven days. The pastor streams for hours every day in addition to giving a weekly sermon, letting viewers watch while he plays games and also fields questions about Jesus and Christianity. He also promotes ethics among his congregants, such as how to be Good Samaritan gamers: “Don’t get too ‘salty’ when you die in a game. In multiplayer games, always thank your teammates for their efforts. Don’t curse. Don’t play Grand Theft Auto—too much sex and needless murder.” The church also moderates chat rooms where gamers can discuss personal problems and have someone pray with them.

(Source: Washington Post, July 27)