In the first part of the series, I mentioned how religion, if managed with business-like savvy, can be one of the most lucrative business schemes ever imagined. Given the huge market and ridiculous tax breaks which few organizations can ever boast of without being the least bit charitable, the next stage, it seems, is to invent your own religion.
While it is possible to start a religious organization without inventing a new religion, the challenge, it seems, lies with having to vie for the attentions of the flock with other similar, anti-rational institutions. Besides, these staid old timers have been around for so long, trying to cut into a piece of the heaven's pie is by no means a simplistic task.
Besides, forming a religion is chic: Not only can you be proclaimed as a Founding Father, messiah, prophet or even a deity; you can still get a shot at having your name etched into the pages of posterity.
Laying the Groundwork for Your Religious Institution
Before you begin building the proverbial castle in the air, you will need to prepare the groundwork for your religion to flourish: How well your religion will progress will be determined by the elaboration of your groundwork. An excellent network should possess fundamentally obsessed followers, plus a continuous flow of cold, hard cash.
With this in mind, let us proceed into the religious world of deceit.
1. Inventing a New Deity
While detractors may claim that it would be quite incredulous and impractical to actually introduce a new deity in modern 21st century civilization, one can actually find evidence of irrational belief in a myriad of bizarre, crazy cults that have surfaced in recent decades: The cult surrounding the pudgy, self-proclaimed deity, otherwise known as Sai Baba, and the really "unscientific" religion named, rather dubiously, as "Scientology".
Like fairies and pink unicorns, deities are really figments of man's demented imagination: All you need is a little imagination and a couple of persuasive tongues and a new deity can emerge amongst the ignorant populaces.
Because deities can neither be proved nor disproved, any belief in your new deity is dependent on one emotionally-charged trait: Faith. If you believe in God, no reason can touch you. Reason can be suspended, at least momentarily, when faith is aroused: Ask the regular Christian why he goes to church every other Sunday; he will say it is on the basis of his faith. Ask him why he goes to the doctor instead of the church every time he comes down with influenza, he will tell you a completely different tale.
Like the Sai Baba, you can claim godhood or sainthood: If you wish to go down such a path, a few magic tricks will come in handy. Stupid children's party tricks, such as turning wine into soda water, walking on sewer water (kind of stinks, but that is the price to pay for being a fucking deity) and the like will enhance the authenticity.
If you prefer not to subject yourself to such strenuous training, a prophet's identity will do. You could, from time to time, roll on the floor, at the same time foam in your mouth, as you feign the "God is speaking through me" trick to hoodwink your enthralled flock. Of course, some infidels will probably think that you might have been exhibiting all the medical signs of epilepsy. Your response? Fuck them. What the hell do they know, those stupid infidels. You are the self-professed emissary of a deity, and the only thing that should matter is, the folks believe in your bullshit!
Whenever possible, stick to one deity. Or try churning out different deities and claim that they are one and five or six deities at the same time. The key is to confuse and conquer: Generate publicity, generate ratings, and rake in the cash. "Confuse and Conquer" is the ultimate key to a resounding victory.
2. WRITING A HOLY BOOK
The world's major religions need them. From the ancient Jewish torah to the Islamic Quran, the writing of holy books is of utmost importance to any religion.
With a religious book, you will be able to secure the hearts and minds of your flock: Not only will you be able to drum your own set of dumb, ubiquitous moral codes into their faith-induced brains; it will also bring focus and unity within your own congregation.
Keep in mind though: A great religious book should never be rational: It must be boisterous, absolutist and finally, tyrannical. Words such as "however", "if" or "whenever" should be limited to the lowest denominator.
Whenever possible, write in obscure, unfathomable parables: That way, your congregation will waste precious time theorizing your bullshit, and such ambiguity will provide you with ample preaching material, as you and your religious leaders begin to proselytize and "spread the Good Word".
A holy book will chart the destiny of your new cult. Your followers will refer to your holy book for their moments of inspiration, as well as their daily indoctrination.
3. The Cardinal Sin
In any religion, it is imperative that the subject of sin comes into the picture. Fabricating false notions of wrongdoings will provide your fledging religion with a narrow focus, plus giving you a chance to wield your "supreme" powers as dedicated by your deity or yourself, if you intend to be the erstwhile deity.
To add more meat to your bullshit, you may consider etching a set of rules/commandments, preferably in sets of tens, hundreds, or anything that goes in multiples of ten (the human brain does harbor a strange obsession with the figure 10) on a piece of tough, almost unbreakable material with regards to the major "sins" which cannot be committed under any circumstances: Rocks, stones and other carbon-based minerals will do just fine. Forget paper or wood: These types of flimsy, organic material rots within a short time frame, and you will want something that should hopefully be the chief cornerstone of your nascent religion for hopefully a long, long time.
Remember to add special exclusivity in your commandments: Apostasy is a sign of grave weakness for any religion, and you will do well to abide by this unspoken rule of religion. Assign the gravest possible punishment for apostasy, and your flock will be scared of out their shitless wits. Never, ever give a single inch of ground to infidels.
4. Heaven, Hell, & The Fictitious Devil
Let's face it; every major religion has a hell and a heaven. Working in tandem with the "Cardinal Sin" doctrine, the "carrot and stick" theory is a time-proven method, used to restrain the faithful from ever leaving their flock.
By blocking rational thought and insinuating the Pascal's wager, you will successfully deduce the backsliding believer's choice into two alternatives: Believe in your deity, and you stand a chance in heaven. Suspend belief, and there is an awful chance of an eternal barbecue.
To further tighten mental and emotional control, invoke the Demon: A scary, throng-carrying horned (or horny) Beast, condemned by you and your deity, always ready to snare unbelievers with temptations, trials and tribulations.
With the inception of the legendary Beast, the theological masquerade is complete.
5. RECRUITING DISCIPLES
Behind every successful religious leader, is a very successful clique. You will need to recruit a very talented, glib-tongued and loyal band of recruits, who will do your donkey's work of spreading the Good Word.
Like the 12 (or 13, if you include Judas) disciples of Christ, this very tight-knit band of disciples will become your family: In reality, these band of brothers will be your partners in crime. They will prepare your groundwork, preach your word, and spread the good news. If your pioneer batch does spectacularly, chances are, your religion will flourish with great aplomb.
You will do well to treat this band of brothers with utmost respect and dignity: Any apostates from this pioneer clique can lead to your precipitous downfall. Typically, apostates from internal cliques are never good news for any fledging creed. If you can keep them happy, your success is almost complete.
6. COLLECTING TITHES
When your religious leader told you that religion was a personal relationship with God, he or she was lying outright in your face. Let's face it; religion is a multi-billion dollar business. It is estimated that money generated by churches in the US of A is more than enough to feed the world's hungry people for months on end.
Depending on your motives and personal greed, the amount of tithe you would wish to exact from your flock will be directly proportional to their paychecks. While it is perfectly fine to demand a certain portion of their wages as a minimum tithe, aggressive demands may alienate certain sections of your flock and force them to leave. Leverage your stock, and you may well be on your way to a thriving cult.
There are certainly a myriad of innovative ways to exact monetary gains from your faithful: Paypals, Mastercards and other modes of payment can be integrated via your religious website. Spread your tentacles far and wide, and watch with child-like wonder as the dollars start bludgeoning your bank account.
As your religious flock gains strength from increasing numbers, you may have to find a permanent roof over their heads. Initially, you may be renting out a dinghy little building to hold your sermons, but surely, as you gain financial stability, you may find that space is a premium you cannot scrimp on. Buying large swathes of land is a good option: Having your religious institution with land to spare will allow room for expansion. Or better yet, purchase prime estate: A posh religious building in a swanky
8. SILENCING THE OPPOSITION
Assuming that your cult manages to survive the initial stages of development, it is inevitable that you will face opposition from infidels who cannot stand the sight of your Holiness. When you begin to face serious opposition, fret not, for this is good news indeed: It is a sign that you have achieved so much prestige and success, that people are no longer laughing now. Initially, they may have passed you and your little band of followers as ignorant buffoons. But they are no longer laughing now. Praise the Lord.
At this point, it is time for you to stand up and be counted.
Your enemies will include:
i. Ex-members/followers of your congregation:
Beware the treacherous turncoats. Expect to see them sprouting hate against you, just as you have done so against all the other infidels.
The best way to deal with them is to take up the role of an abused housewife: A little sobbing at the press conference in front of the media: Proclaim to the whole world that despite their vile tongues, you are willing to forgive them.
Once you have the sympathy vote, you can be sure that membership in your flock will rise, and once the opposition’s stock falls, lampoon them in front of the press. Exalt your God, & inform the press that the fates of your opponents have been preordained by God, as punishment for their blasphemy.
ii. Jealous members of the public:
The success of your congregation will incite jealousy amongst members of the public. This will cause you to lose a few popularity votes along the way.
These members of the public may try to dissuade people from joining your congregation, and may from time to time, publish their ill feelings on newspapers.
The best way to deal with them is to sue one of these infidels for libel. That will shut the rest of them up. When suing, always choose the weakest prey. Better yet, threaten the infidel to publish an apology, or face a lawsuit. An out-of-court settlement will inflict a crushing blow to their egos as well as their pockets
iii. Bad Press: Not much you can do about, really. You can't offend the press. Bribe them to your side, or at the very least do not offend them.
Rather than worry about the press reporters, you ought to harness the advertising power of paparazzi. Always remember the Golden Rule of Weird Publicity: Bad press is always better than no press.
iv. Inciting hatred: Ensure that you insert a few pet hatreds along the way. The essence of religion is the "We are right, you are wrong, and you are going to hell" mentality. Eligible groups of choice will be gays, atheists, infidels and pagans.
Follow the steps as prescribed, and you are well on your way to yet another established faith. If your religion outlives you, you will leave behind a legacy for posterity, plus amassing a huge, personal fortune that will probably allow your future generations to lead a swanking, opulent lifestyle that would have made Saddam Hussein blush, if he was still alive.
Take note, though, the likes of infidels and atheists will probably take pisspots at your holy book, or even your portrait, just for kicks. In fact, you should not be surprised to find your holy book being flushed down the toilet by one of these disgruntled infidels.
As the saying goes, one good turn deserves another.