Look at what L. Ron Hubbard did. People will line up to read the most obviously specious crap. I understand why Americans become Christian. They grow up with it and simply absorb it. But why in the world does someone decide to become a Scientologist. This is a religion whose innermost secrets are rather obviously the invention of a sci fi author. And guess who that might be?

I'm sure Scientology made LRH a bundle and right now I'd like to get off my Top Ramen and chili dog diet and ride around in a stretch limo with a champagne bar and a cadre of bodyguards and a bevy (whatever that is) of 20 year old porn actresses. That would be when I'm not in international waters in my 400 ft yacht.

To get there, I need to invent a religion even more outrageous than Scientology. 

What should its core beliefs be? Is it possible to outdo LRH?

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Scientology starts out touting full religious freedom, and can claim it's just another "victim" of outside critics. But deeper into the teachings is where they start to explain what's wrong with all other belief systems, and become isolationist.

This does sound a little familiar....;p)

I'm going to take a ridiculous notion and consider it seriously here, because this project requires uncovering some of the basic principles that underlie any religion.

These are some of the core elements that I think a religion needs to have:

  • Get followers to believe that the religion is providing some material, emotional benefit, or nebulous "spiritual" benefit no matter whether it really is or not. (This is especially important if you are requiring people to put in many volunteer hours or "donations".)
  • Promise a reward that they will never see in this lifetime, but will "certainly" be given sometime after death. These rewards will vary based on actions in life and devotion to the principles of religion. The greatest rewards are usually reserved for those who are most devoted.
  • Make followers believe that by following the wisdom of the religion that they will be a "good" person.
  • Make followers feel unique or somehow special from everyone else.
  • Rely on ritual and place followers in settings where they feel compelled to participate in rituals in order to insert the religion into daily practice.
  • Provide a social group which can reinforce beliefs against outside influence.
  • Save the really crazy stuff for after you have the new followers completely enmeshed, or raise kids with it from a young age so it seems normal.
  • Reinforce the belief that only this religion has some special authority or particular knowledge that no one else has, and anyone else who says that they do is lying or has been lied to.
  • Make followers believe that if they do not adhere to the principles of the religion or reject them, then they will suffer disastrous consequences, if not in this life then in the next. The consequences can vary based on action, but the worst are usually reserved for people who turn their back on the religion.

As far as beliefs go, I'm not sure it matters as much as making people believe rightly or wrongly that what they are doing is benefiting them, telling them what they already want to hear, and making promises for a bunch of stuff that the religion will never have to deliver. You could make people believe that you are the reincarnated form of an alien prophet from a long dead Martian civilization, that all life on Earth was originally Martian, and that it is humanity's destiny to bring life back to Mars. It doesn't matter how ridiculous your story is as long as you convince them through "experience" that there is something to what you are saying in the small parts. If they believe you have the small parts right, then they'll assume you have the big parts right, too.

People are kind of dumb like that.

Promise a reward that they will never see in this lifetime, but will "certainly" be given sometime after death. These rewards will vary based on actions in life and devotion to the principles of religion. The greatest rewards are usually reserved for those who are most devoted.

It strikes me that this is how a lot of short cons work. "You've inherited an Irish manor house and $3.7 million from a distant relative. Send us $2000 and we'll handle all the paperwork for you."

Thank you.

Yesterday afternoon, the minister of the church my girl-friend and I attend came by our apartment to talk. The minister & I finally had our little talk about 'why' I attend.

While I suggested that my philosophy & science training gets in the way, I find the members to be good people, principled, open minded, and 'good souls'. That many times I find 'the message' to be a challenge and offering me more questions than answers. That I attend because my girl-friend is also a good soul, I desire to support her in her spiritual path, but I will need to offer my opinion on many issues to maintain my sense of honesty. That as my intellectual path has matured, I have determined that revisiting the concept of the 'sacred', might be reasonable, as an addition to my understanding of environmental responsibility.

While I have 'joined' the fellowship, I can not be a 'true Christian', but will try to be a 'good man'.

The minister seemed to leave happy with her visit, with ideas for the food bank, a fellowship garden, environmental stewardship promotion, and maybe a deeper understanding about 'fellowship'.

I think there is more than enough 'crap' pretending to 'religion', maybe it is time to grow some bones of deep principles... 

James - "the concept of the 'sacred',"  - in my opinion, this is one of the things that religion gets right.  It has an evolutionary explanation (so everyone's happy I guess).  Therefore it's the fabled meeting point between science and religion. 

Emerson: "No facts are to me sacred; none are profane"

While Christianity is horseshit and some particular sects and individuals are actively evil, I've known many a good Christian. Kind, generous, well-meaning, and humble. My father and mother were among those. My mother was quiet about her beliefs, but when I was a child, if I made an unkind or despicable comment about a minority (homosexuals, blacks), he would remind me that "We are all God's children." He lived the life, too. He hired a black secretary, the first black person in the administration end of the company, and he also employed a rather obvious gay man, though his gayness never came out of the closet till he came down with AIDS.

A lot of them are really sweet, there's no two ways about it. 

A lot of them are really sweet, there's no two ways about it. 

By them, do you mean Christians or racial and gender minorities? Just joking, I'm sure you intend both. I have a hard time passing on amphiboly..

Actually I guess that's just ambiguity and not amphiboly. Boy is my face red.


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