I created my own religion. Kind of.

I have challenges with authorities in my life so I created my own.


Lassi Viitala

8/15/2022 7 min read

I created my own religion. Kind of. After 1,5 years of self-reflection, I have finally explained myself what I want to do with my time here.

Some months ago, a friend asked me what the most valuable outcome of my walks was, a total of five million steps worth of thinking about life. That’s about 1 000 hours of thinking.

My first answer was that I am not searching for “ideal” anymore. Such does not exist. Only life exists where just one thing is constant – a constant change.

The second answer is more complex. It’s the religion I created for myself that guides me. I will explain below why I felt the need to create one, why I call it a religion and how the actual religion guides me.

And let it be known at this point, that I value and respect individual free choice. You are free to have your own guiding principles in your life, I value them and am in no way saying this is the right one. This is my guiding principle. If you like it, use it as you wish.

Why I felt the need to create a guiding principle for my life?

After making an exit from a startup I was co-founding and growing for almost 8 years, I did not feel like my life was going into a direction I’d enjoy. So, I did what I always do when I face hard problems. I set off solving it. I quit my comfortably paid job and started thinking. I read books, walked, thought, talked with other people, and wrote. I did that until I was one day reading Leo Tolstoi’s Confession – a short work on his own struggles to find a meaning and purpose for his life.

I found myself in exact same struggle. (If you have read or will read it, fear not, I was not self-destructive like Tolstoi. He had spent much more time struggling with the issue at the time of writing the book.) The core of the problem was a simple question:

If you had the opportunity to do anything in your life, what would you do?

Damn. Think about it. If you had no restrictions in your life, nothing to force you do anything. What would you do with your life? You might want to just be, relax in hammock, travel, paint, build, found a new business and whatnot. But at some point, you run into the same question over and over again.

Who am I? What is my life purpose? Where do I believe?

No matter how we choose to spend our time here, it’s always restricted by something. Most of us, including me, still have earthly restrictions like a family to take care of, and financial obligations to buy food and shelter to keep us alive, but whatever extra time there’s left after that. What restricts how we use that?

I was “lucky” enough to try for a moment living like almost nothing restricted my life. No external or internal barriers. And I have to tell you, facing life’s total randomness without any guiding principles is exhausting. Every single situation and decision you face in your daily life screams the answer for questions who I am and what should I do here. By this time if you say, “just buy a jet ski and go have fun”, I have to disappoint you and say it will be fun for a limited time only. And I was definitely not wanting to step into the eternal distraction-pleasure loop. Such loops are the ones that destroys our planet.

So, I needed an authority in my life. I needed a guiding principle I can lean on in everyday life. I needed something I don’t have to question its existence and validity all the time. I needed something I can just believe in and follow. I needed a religion that fits me.

The essence of my guiding principle

There would have been plenty of ready-made alternatives to choose from. But I am the kind of person who won’t very easily just pick someone else’s fact and believe in it. So, I found a loophole in my logic. If I make my own religion, I can take it as my authority. Tadaa!

I like simplicity and conciseness, so I made it in a form of a formula. Of course.

Here it is:

(If you use mobile, you have to scroll down at the end to see the formula, sorry. I suck at responsive design.)

Umm… excuse me?? A good question there at the back. Let me explain!

The issue this formula, my religion, is trying to solve is simple. How can we help as many people as possible live on Earth sustainably and subjectively judging happy?

That’s the core of my guiding principle. And also, my life’s purpose. I want to help people live happier and more sustainable. So, we can fit more people here. More happy people equal more joint happiness. Simple, hah.

Ok, let’s dive into the formula then. Let’s start with the constant on the right. Our Earth has a fixed capability to support life. Fixed resources, fixed ability to contain pollution etc. And we have only one Earth. (I’m simplifying a lot here. There are technologies to play with the constant too, and we can always help Musk to populate Mars, but I excluded them from my religion, because I can.) What this means, is that if something on the left side of the equation changes, something else on the left side must change too because right side is constant.

Then to the left side. Number of the people on Earth is simple. It’s the number of people on Earth. At this second, 7 967 407 438 to be specific. Well now it’s already 7 967 407 524. Looks like 86 new beings entered the planet while I was writing five words. Ok so this number is growing fast it seems. Which is good. People are awesome!

The next one, average consumption per people requires more thought. It’s a symbolic variable describing how much an average people on Earth consume. Food, clothes, homes, cars, jet skis. Whatever that produces some utility for people. I have one home and one car. You might have a bicycle only and live in a tent. You consume less than I do from that perspective. This is not about how much natural resources it takes to produce and use that car. This is about the brain chemistry and utility. Why and how much we need for a happy life?

The last bit, resource efficiency. This is a factor describing how much natural resources we need to produce that utility above. How much metals and energy we need to make a car? How much energy from Earth we need to dig and transform to use that car? It would be super cool to have a car that takes us from place A to place B by putting no stress at all onto the planet’s ecosystem. That would be high resource efficiency according to my definition.

Let’s examine the dynamics here. If right side is constant and the number of people on the left is growing fast (1 554 new humans since the last figure already), something else has to change too. Either we have to consume less per person, or we need higher resource efficiency. Or preferably both.

But wait, what if that is not happening? What if average consumption per person is also growing? Well then, the resource efficiency better be increasing fast indeed.

Ok… what if it’s not? I mean, it’s a closed formula. Here comes the final piece. What drives average consumption per person? Because I made this all up, I have the power to believe in anything here. So, I choose to believe our consumption level is linked into our happiness. I believe, happier people consume less. When we feel exhausted with our lives in the middle of daily hurdles, we easily opt for the quick dopamine the consuming “stuff” gives us. We go drive a jet ski. And next summer with a more powerful jet ski. We dive our attention into games. We watch Netflix. Shop new clothes. We eat ourselves happy. See the pattern. If we find happiness and purpose in our life with ways that comes from us inside, we don’t have to find the dopamine rush outside to keep us sane. Hence, we consume less.

Now, I am sure you either know or will find scientific papers to prove me wrong here. Save your time, I am not looking for a science debate. I am describing where I have chosen to believe in my life. You may freely choose your own.

So, let’s simplify the meaning of this simple formula:

  • Number of people are growing

  • Earth has fixed capacity to host us

  • We would fit more happy people here if we had higher resource efficiency and would consume less per person

How do I live according to my religion?

Cool theory. How am I using to guide my life in practice? Well first of all, just by having this religion and believing in it makes me a happier person. And when I feel like I’m guiding my efforts in my life to improve the formula, I get that sense of purpose from the inside. That fact alone makes me consume less and improve the formula. Neat!

Also, I have selected the projects I want to advance based on this formula. I am working on with three projects:

  1. Optimizing the energy production, transfer, and consumption, namely focusing on district heating networks in Europe. Our ways of producing and delivering energy is super suboptimal today. I’m putting focus on getting closer to the ideal. Produce and deliver just the right amount of energy to the people who needs it, just when they need it. Nothing more, nothing less.

  2. Helping people to live longer and happier by aiding in cancer immuno-oncology treatment research and commercializing innovations there. Cancer immuno-oncology treatments have the promise to cure bad widespread cancers altogether. And it may even bring light to cure other immune system related diseases too.

  3. Helping people to feel better. I have a vision of a listening-based online ecosystem between people. When we’d listen more what others have to say instead of shouting out our own ideas into the void like I am doing here right now, I believe we’d be a happier humanity. Hence, a peer-to-peer based communication platform based on listening each other would be awesome. We have social media, but it’s based on talking and not listening. As it happens, there exists a Finnish startup with very closely related ambitions. So, I’m doing what I can to help them make it reality. Also, I do quite a bit of 1-1 coaching walks to create meaningful connections with people and gain the mutual boost for sense of purpose.

There it is. My religion and authority I created for myself to give me a sense of purpose and a practical guide to focus my efforts also on action rather than just mere thinking.

Needless to say, I hope, that this is my own subjective opinion. You might disagree, which is perfectly fine. We all must do whatever makes us happy. One thing I’m pretty certain though:

If we don’t know who we are, we have a tough time finding our own life’s purpose. If that’s the case, pick one existing that feels good or figure out who you are and make your own.

And because of my first answer to my friend, life is a constant change, so are my thoughts on here too. Tomorrow, they might look different.

Oh, and I have never tried a jet ski. Maybe that’d solve everything after all. People seem to have fun with them.

My guiding principle. Resource efficiency, consumption, sustainability, Earth