Micronational religion – a perspective

OPINION — Whether it is a micronation that seeks independence from a real country, or one that simply desires to simulate the workings of a real country as a hobby, it is common onto both models to seek the development of a unique cultural identity. Often this is through the creation of a unique flag, coat of arms, settlement names, etc. In thriving for that unique identity, some also seek to create their own unique religion, or at least establish their own interpretation of an extant mainstream religion, as a means of solidifying that identity.

Such an undertaking, I think, provides a unique glimpse, focused within this small microcosm of the Internet, into the motivations of those individuals who, throughout human history, have created the religious dogmas that have taken hold of billions of human minds.

In the near-fourteen years that I have participated in micronationalism, I have been fortunate enough to observe all the spectrums that this dynamic community has to offer, or at the very least, the Anglophone sector. I’ve watched as dozens of micronations seek to create their own religions over the years, though as an atheist I have never directly dabbled in such mystical undertakings. Yet, I cannot help but be intrigued by how religious development in micronationalism has been motivated. In a community of only hundreds, largely isolated from one-another except for a digital medium, the undertones that have led to the creation of the wide range of religious dogma through human history is no less evident. It’s fascinating, I think, whether your opinion about the nature of the universe is derived from mysticism or science.

Perhaps the most fundamental motivation for founding a religion in this community that I’ve observed has been the individual (or group of individuals) dissatisfaction with the dogma or management decisions of existing major religions. This dissatisfaction has invariably been directed toward the Christian religions in the Anglophone sector, as most participants were largely encoded into those sects by their respective parents.

In micronationalism, it’s never hard to find a person who thinks that he or she can “do it right”, “do it better” or otherwise believes he or she already does everything both right and better. This personality trait, along with the festering dissatisfaction, invariably leads some micronationalists to try to “fix” the failings of their religion by founding their own version of it. Many will use their micronation as a platform to re-think or re-tool their personal religious beliefs into a religion that “gets it right.” To be fair, when you’re often comparing “getting it right” to what the Vatican’s track record is, they’re probably off to a better start. These new dogmatic beliefs are created in localized “Churches” within the micronation, with many being officially adopted as the state religion, especially when the micronation is led by the disaffected believer, as many micronations are nothing more than one’s lonely kingdom.

This fundamental motivation is often combined with a desire to create, or add to, a unique cultural identity for the micronation, sometimes as a rallying point for its participants. The beauty about micronationalism is that you can dabble in any subject you wish to explore and this in turn contributes to the uniqueness of the micronation in which one participates. I’m a terribly boring bureaucrat myself, but much more creatively-inclined individuals in the community, spurred on by their dissatisfaction with the religion of their parents, have created backstories underpinning their new religions that are quite interesting works of mysticism. Whether or not these religions are ever intended to be treated serious is immaterial; what’s important is how their dogma is created.

I’ll share two brief examples of micronational religion. First, the Church of Alexandria, predominantly inspired by Catholicism, has developed its own foundation story (based on a Saint Natsnet, who was taught by Jesus Christ) complete with a concise version of the Old Testament as its ‘Holy Scripture’. Second, the Mercian Christian Church aims to fuse certain Protestant and Orthodox beliefs as a means of creating not only a cultural identity and state religion for its namesake micronation, but to also provide a “conscience” for the State (herein enters the political aspect to religion that impacts the world on a daily basis).

This employed “pick-and-choose” approach to defining beliefs, with a dash of uniqueness by focusing on a certain founder or foundation story, combined with political backing, is reflective of how every mainstream religion today was created and defined throughout their respective histories. Yet, here in our little corner of the Internet, individuals who would be classed as “common folk” by the “holy leaders” of the world have shown that with a little education, creativity and motivation, they can create their own “holy books” and religious dogma. Give these individuals a little charisma, some money and a desire to propagate their personal beliefs mainstream, and we’ll have a new upstart religion in no time, with its roots right here in micronationalism. Move aside, Mormonism, Jesus Christ really lived on Sealand and his holy words were found buried in the data haven servers!

Archmidias, the King of Archmidian, which is a founding State of the Mercian Christian Church, said it best when he was encouraged to abandon the plan to found the Church by another person. “I have every right to form a church or any number of churches if I so desire,” he said. And right he is. People just like Archmidias are responsible for every religion that human society has ever embraced, though some have obviously been more successful than countless scores of others.

Given the small size of our community and the digital divide, it’s unlikely that any of these micronationally-founded religions will ever survive let alone thrive. It does however underpin a reality, I think. That being that religious dogma can be created by anyone, no matter what class or country from which they herald. Perhaps the micronational experience can provide a cautionary tale: what many consider “divine” and “the word of God” is, at the end of the day, merely a human construct.

Micronational religion – a perspective