How to Start Your Own Religion

Sunny


I'm thinking of starting my own religion ....

You know, for something to do ....

Last semester I took a course called Cults and Religious Controversy, taught by the lovely and talented expert in new religious movements, Susan J. Palmer. In this course we studied all sorts of different off-the-cuff religious movements including the Solar Temple, the Raelians, the Children of God, the Hare Krishnas, the Heaven's Gate and the Branch Davidians.

There are apparently hundreds of religions out there at any given moment. Anyone with a little charisma and a new idea can start one. I've got a surefire formula all figured out.

Here's how it's done, in case you feel like starting one yourself. (Now is a good time because of the coming end of the millennium and possible apocalypse.)

Part one: In the style of "do it yourself" greeting cards, pick one option from each section and string them together to create your own story of a prophetic vision and foundation for a new religion.

Eg. I was minding my own business, happily watching television when suddenly I was contacted by the spirit of a long-dead yogic master via a ghostly apparition that appeared before me. I was taken outside my body and a message was delivered to me. The message was this: The end of the world is at hand.

Your turn.

You were minding your own business, happily: doing your laundry/ walking in the woods/ sleeping/ sitting on the toilet/ watching television/ taking a shower at the gym/ getting drunk in a bar/ driving along the Jacques Cartier Bridge/ clipping your toenails/ making soup.

When suddenly you were contacted by: God/ aliens/ the spirit of a long-dead yogic master/ the tooth fairy/ leprechauns/ the cat people/ the man in the moon/ Keith Moon/ the mother goddess/ your mother/ Mackenzie King.

Via (section optional): the invasion of your own body/ your cat/ the telephone/ a spaceship/ a ghostly apparition/ television, radio or other household appliance/ the Internet/ UPS/ Canada Post (yeah right)/ an angel/ a stranger/ the wind.

You were: taken on board a spaceship/ transported to another world/ too stunned to do anything but stand there like a dope/ unable to control your bowels/ taken outside your body/ put into a trance-like state/ overcome by an unbelievable feeling of peace/ suddenly very hungry.

A message was delivered to you. The message was this: the end of the world is at hand/ extraterrestrials created the Earth/ canaries are planning a hostile takeover/ Barney the Dinosaur is the Antichrist/ the creators are angry with us/ you are the messiah/ Keith Moon was the messiah/ Satan is living among us/ the aliens are coming/ computers are the work of the devil/ The Backstreet Boys are the work of the devil/ air is poisonous/ don't eat yellow snow/ God is a pigeon/ the body is only a vehicle for the soul.

Part two: Creating an image.

You must deliver your message to the rest of the world. But before you begin recruitment you should look the part of the religious leader. Experiment with your image until you find the right one for you. You must be comfortable with it since you will have to maintain it for the rest of your life as a prophet. These are just a few fashion tips that seem to have worked for others.

Men should have: thinning hair, worn either long or completely shaved. Facial hair is optional. Clothing should be either drab '70s garb or a single-colour cotton robe or suit. Oversized medallions are good. A vacant, slightly psychotic look in the eyes is good also. (Look up pictures of Rael, David Koresh and Herff Applewhite.)

Women should have: an unintimidating, painfully unfashionable and slightly motherly appeal. (Look up pictures of Elizabeth Claire Prophet of the Summit Lighthouse.) Looking sexy and beautiful is bad because you will alienate half of your potential recruits. Most women will not follow someone they can hate instead. Or you could try the kooky, crazy lady look and wear tiaras, poofy dresses and carry a magic wand. (Look up pictures of Uriel, of Unarius.)

Part three: Concocting a good recruitment strategy.

The last step is to recruit followers who will help spread your message and fund your mission.

This can be tricky. You must entice people into your organization by offering them something they can't resist while setting special rules and regulations that will make them feel separate from and superior to the rest of society. Do as in Part One.

If you follow me you will (select two): attain enlightenment/ be saved while the rest of the world is destroyed/ get to have lots of guilt-free sex/ live forever/ appear on the Jerry Springer show/ travel to distant planets/ accumulate free air miles/ find peace/ find your keys/ never have to pay off your credit card.

But you must never again (select three): see your family/ eat meat/ drink alcohol or coffee/ smoke/ have sex (does not work if you picked "have lots of sex" in Part One)/ listen to music/ gamble/ dance/ work/ wear shoes/ have your own possessions/ watch television/ watch porn/ contact the outside world/ clip your toenails.

So you should have something like: "If you follow me you will live forever and accumulate free air miles but must never again eat meat, listen to music or wear shoes." And voila!

That should be enough to get you started. The rest is up to you. Two last tips: try to avoid committing mass murders or suicides. This is not a good way of ensuring survival as we have learned from the Heaven's Gate, the Branch Davidians and many others. Also, if you have predicted the end of the world, put off setting a date as long as possible. If you must set one, set it beyond your lifetime so you won't be embarrassed at work the next morning.

Good luck! And see you at the apocalypse.

courtesy Elizabeth Bromstein

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