SHEEP FOR SLAUGHTER: SCENES SUCH AS THIS ARE POWERFUL REMINDERS THAT RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS ARE LUCRATIVE BUSINESSES
Karl Marx once remarked: "Religious is the opiate of the masses." Indeed, before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, much of what was deemed "truth" was actually a mish-mash of religious doctrines being spouted as absolute morals and truths by the major religions in Europe, Asia and the rest of the Old World.
Things are much different now, of course. We now know for sure the Earth isn't flat, and that the planets and the Sun don't exactly revolve around the Earth, thanks to the wealth of scientific knowledge that is available to us through education and mass media.
Alas, but old fairy tales simply refuse to die, much to the dismay of intellectuals and rationalists. Religious bigots of all shapes and sizes insist that schools teach Creationism, that God created Earth and its inhabitants in the space of six days, plus one rest day (Strange, indeed, that God needs a rest. Perhaps Man did create God in his own image, after all). Evolution is supposed to be a lie propagated by the Devil (note: Some Christians believe in Evolution), and that abortion is tantamount to murder.
The sheer numbers of common folks who cling to such age-old beliefs are astounding, really, which brings forth the question: Can a daring, desperate and charismatic person pull ofF another Jesus stunt, a-la Messiah style, charm thousands of people and resurrect a new religion?
The answer is a resounding "Yes". In recent times, the emergence of cults, from the suicidal Jim Jones cult (Whole bunch of crazies poisoned to be home with their lord), to the crazy ethnics of the Falungong, it is evident that creating your own religion is not an impossible task.
So just how does one exactly create and sustain a religion/cult? Well, here are some suggestions for all you Jim Jone wannabes, from yours truly, The Beast.
1. WRITE A HOLY BOOK
A TYPICAL HOLY BOOK (THE BIBLE). YOU WILL NEED ONE OF THIS, AND PERHAPS TOSS IN A RELIGIOUS SYMBOL OR TWO, TO ADD A TOUCH OF CLASS (OR CRASS).
The world's major religions need them. From the ancient Jewish torah to the Muslim Quran, the writing of holy books is of utmost importance to any religion. Failure to do so will result in a slow death of your newly-fledged religion.
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.
When writing a holy book, here are some pointers you may want to take note of:
i. Write in a bizarre, obscure manner: When writing a holy book, you should write it in a ambiguous, vague manner. Now you may ask, why would anyone want to read something when they can't really comprehend it? Well, the same can be said of the Holy Bible.
By writing vaguely, you incite interest amongst your members, since they will spend precious hours of their time decoding your "pearls of wisdom". In the course of time, you will be able to release your interpretations at your own pace and time, all the while toying with the emotions of your followers.
The "you are taking the verses out of context" excuse can be also deployed when detractors question the holy book.
ii. Erect a God/ Gods: Now this is a rather knotty issue. While it is possible that you can bestow yourself the role of God (or God's son, or a demi-God), it would not be advisable, because when one claims Godhood, he or she must be capable of performing miracles to wow the followers. Of course, you can try learning magic tricks, but not everyone can make the Statue of Liberty disappear, eh? Not to mention the bad press you may receive (Not that you will care: After all, faith moves mountains. Tsk Tsk).
A easier and much more efficient option, though, will be for you to lay claim as a Prophet. That way, you can claim exclusive access to a imagined deity, without the hassle of performing street magic to the masses.
As for the God in question, you can name a few Gods, although monotheism does have a higher success rate. Besides, monotheism is easier on the human brain (The presence of too many Gods will befuddle your flock).
Or you may consider a few Godheads under one Godhood (E.g The Holy Trinity). Wild claims, such as those depicting of a Man-God borne to a virgin Mother, can be considered. Your Godhead can very well sacrifice his life for the Mankind, as many times as necessary (Remember, Gods don't really die in the strictest sense, they merely go through the mill, before returning home to Heaven). The more fanciful the story, all the more better. It will help to incite the congregation into a feverish fervour.
iii. Write and tabulate a set of rules/commandments:
When writing the holy book, ensure that you drop down a list of wrongdoings, or sins. Since this is a new religion, prohibitions against certain, otherwise crimeless habits (eg: eating pork, masturbating) can be deemed as grave abominations. These rules shall serve as the cornerstones for your fledging cult.
In addition to writing the holy book, you may want to scrible down a set of golden rules into a tablet, or anything that is hardy and cannot be simply bleached away in a washing machine. A good example of this would be the ten commandments, supposedly scribbled onto a stone tablet by God and passed down to Moses. That way, you can lay claim to your role as God's intermediary to the world, while adding a touch of class to your new cult. Kind of like killing two birds with one stone, really.
iv. Use of parables/ story-telling sessions: The use of parables, "actual stories" , and moral paraphases will further endear you to your followers. After all, a holy book cannot sustain a prolonged interest based on a set of moral conducts, with little or nothing else in between.
When writing parables, try to write them imbue sublimal messages into them, so as to brainwash them as completely as possible. This will help to reduce the number of backsliders who will eventually leave your little cult/religion.
When passing off your fairy tales as "actual, historical" facts, remember to use real-time locations, countries and influential people. That will make them look authentic to the followers, although atheists, freethinkers and intellectual scholars will not be so easily fooled (Damn the infidels! Crucify them!).
v. Hell/Heaven: Let's face it, every major religion must have a hell and a heaven. The "carrot and stick" theory is a time-proven method, used to refrain the faithful from ever leaving their flock. Not that it works everytime, but it does scare the wits out of the majority of your flock. After all, who wouldn't want to live in heaven, and avoid a human barbeque at the same time?
THE UGLY BEAST: A PUNCHING BAG FOR YOUR NEW RECRUITS. HE MAY BE UGLY, BUT NO LESS IMPORTANT TO YOUR QUEST TO BE THE ULTIMATE CULT LEADER/MAFIA BOSS
vi. Appoint a fictitious Devil: This one is self-explanatory. The Devil, being the evil guy, is a handy tool when it comes to explain inexplicable questions. E.g:"Prophet, Mr X has been praying constantly, why is it that he was killed by lightning?" "Oh, he had a evil thought at that point, as he couldn't resist the temptation of the Devil, and God had to punish him. "
The Devil is synomynous with hell. It adds credibility to the carrot-and-stick bull, and it is important for you to ensure that the Devil plays a equal and opposite role with your God.
viii. 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.
2. RECRUITING DISCIPLES
Upon completing your holy book, you will be well-placed to seek out your flock. It is unlikely that you will be able to build your church on your own. Choose a set of disciples amongst the friends you can trust as confidantes, and you will be on your own merry way.
These "disciples" are actually your partners-in-crime, so to speak, therefore you must treat them with utmost respect. Defections from your disciples will usually result in a early death of your cult. These are the guys who will offer second-hand testimony (You, the original founder, will have first-hand access to your imagined deity) to the rest of your flock, and will therefore have access to the inner workings of your budding cult. Besides, with their help, you will become more prominent, and hence more well placed to reach out to the "unsaved" masses.
Best of all, you can include the roles of your disciples to your holy book, just to add a touch of mystique to your cult.
Arm your disciples with your newly written bible (Make sure the holy books come in extravagant leatherback), and set them out for recruitment.
3. 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.
4. A PLACE OF WORSHIP
You will require a place of worship for your flock. As your flock grows, you may actually have to rent a bigger place. At some point of time, when your cult has achieved true financial security (minimum a couple of millions to spare), you may actually have to buy landed property to house your congregation. This is where the tithes will come in handy. Never underestimate the power of Money.
5. SILENCING THE OPPOSITION
As your flock grows, 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, for 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: 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 a abused housewife: A little sobbing at the press conference, and in front of TV, tell 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 their stock falls, lampoon them in front of the press. Exalt your God, then inform the press that the fates of your opponents have been preordained by God.
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, force a infidel to publish an apology, or face a lawsuit. A out-of-court settlement will inflict a crushing blow to the morales of those damn infidels.
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 papparazzis. Always remember the Golden Rule: Bad press is always better than no press.
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 prosterity.
Take note, though, the likes of infidels and atheists will probably take pisspots at your holy book, or even your portrait, just for kicks.
As the saying goes, one good turn deserves another.