Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Religion

I've been thinking about starting a new religion. I want it to be a success, and I haven't had any visits from angels, spirits, deities, or other religion-founding sources, so I guess I'm on my own. I've thus been forced to think about what the requirements for a good religion might be, and I've come up with a few:
Doctrine: Of course, you've got to have a doctrine. What the doctrine is really doesn't matter much. What does matter is that the doctrine has to be a mix of how-to-live-a-good-life advice with some really hard-to-believe tenets. I mean, if a religion were based on science, it wouldn't be a religion; it would be science. Now a lot of doctrinal points that are hard to swallow are already taken (virgin birth, earth 6000 years old, day of the sabbath really important), so I can either go ahead and use someone else's doctrine or invent my own. Best would be to invent my own. I can borrow from science fiction, I guess. The number of outlandish doctrines should be kept to a manageable number -- three is a good one, I think. And remember, the emphasis should be on the outlandish, but there should be enough of the live-a-good-life that the membership can actually exist on the planet. Remember what happened to the Shakers and the Jonestown group.
A Conduit: The best religions have a pipeline to deity. Religions that rely on sacred texts alone tend to splinter and to fight with each other. A charismatic leader, on the other hand, can shift doctrine to suit the needs of a changing world. He (or she) can get a revelation that we all need to eat more broccoli, and voila! the church is healthier. The leader also becomes a magnet for new converts. Let's face it, a leader with lots of ethos beats sound doctrine every time.
Rigor: Those religions which demand a lot of their people seem to thrive. From those to whom much is given, much is required (That's a quote but I don't know if I got it right; hence no quotation marks). People don't value something that's free. So, in my religion I will require both money and time. The money because even religious leaders need Ferraris, and the time because it keeps people occupied and out of trouble.
Isolation: Not total isolation, the way some religions separate themselves from the "world," but a degree of separation. One of the best ways to do this is to teach your people to distrust anything that is printed, broadcast, aired, said, written, or mimed by any "unapproved" source. This has two benefits. First, it can be used to keep believers away from annoying counter arguments and from science in general. Second, it creates a category of sin, which means that curious people will also be feeling guilty about it.
Sin: The concept of sin is a wonderful one for religions. Let's face it; you can't have a religion without sin if you want to survive. Sins don't exist naturally. That is, there is no such thing as a sin in nature. In nature, there are acts and there are consequences. So, both sin and law are inventions. The neat thing about sin is that it isn't subject to the will of the people, the way laws can be. If the religious leader says, "This is a sin," then it's a sin. End of story.
A mark: Really good religions have something about them that tells non-believers who they are. Best is some item of clothing that is an announcement. A hat, a hairstyle, a tattoo -- these are all nice. This gives the members of the congregation a sense that they are set apart from (translation: better than) other people.
Just six simple things, and you're on your way to world domination.

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