Friday, February 6, 2015

How to invent a new religion

Let us say we want to start a new religion. Why, you ask? It is a wonderful Friday morning; thats it.

Now, we are going to about it very scientifically. We are going to pick up the best practices that our predecessors followed, adapt them to the 21st century and then improvise from there.

We need a God. We have seen the ones without God, and they seem to struggle to grow beyond "weird cult". God cannot be a person, we have seen how that fails. He/She cannot be overly mythological as we are dealing with a 21st century audience. God has to be something omipresent but benign, something no one will have an issue with. Sparkling in its simplicity, wonderfully powerful with loads of uncontestable goodness.

We need some Godly material, some testament/veda kind of thing that gives messages from God. The usual guff about not killing anyone, not harming anyone will have to be improved upon a little, now that we have grand legal systems. The material guide must be cloyingly good-natured. So, in case some hyper-rational dudes get all wound up that the backstories do not fit, we can then say "We are saying do not kill your brother. You wouldnt want to disagree with that, would you?"

The material needs to have credibility and must come from some kind of powerful body. Again, as we are dealing with the 21st century, so something packaged as Science might be useful. Also, this must be refurbished every now and then. This is where I think the major religions lost out a bit and had to resort to "reform" and stuff. Let us be very Kaizen about this and institute continuous improvement as part of the original package.

We need a messenger for God. No one really reads the original stuff, so this messenger person must be phenomenal. People must go -  "If he says so, it must be true". The person must have credibility, must have made his money and earned his name in another field and must have wide reach. This is the place that gives room for a tweak. We can look at a model where there is more than one messenger. With scandal and temptation everywhere, and a feral media presence, we cannot take chances with just the one messenger. In my mind, we should look from within the ranks of Hollywood icons, wildly successful entrepreneurs. retired politicians.

We need guilt. This one is obvious. Whats the point of inventing an elaborate religion if we cannot control the masses with some kind of check-back mechanism. Whats the fun in that?  And where there is guilt, there must be repentance/penance.

We need a conversion mechanism. Without this, again we run the risk of numbers not being on our side. We should not take on the existing religions head-on. They tend to get all violent and prickly if we do that. We should slowly co-opt people from within the biggies. At first, they would worship both sets of gods; slowly we would acquire more mindspace, and within a century we should leave no trace of the original Gods. This is what happened to the Pagans. We should target one vulnerable "new Pagan" at a time and slowly create momentum around the conversion idea.

We need to have a modern version of "burning people at the stake". There needs to be some degree of fear. If not fear of death, at least fear of ostracism, (or fear of lack of funding).

We need congregations. Massive gatherings of people where we reaffirm our faith, have a good time and return to our original destinations with good cheer and more stuff to preach.

We should not be geographically constrained. We should have devotees everywhere, without any region feeling aggrieved or under-represented. (This is where our distributed-leadership, local icon model could be better). The moment we have devotees across nations, we can transcend nationalism and push agendas better.

This is the core framework. Because we get to start from scratch, we can try some new stunts also. May be we can pick up a flag, or specify attire; something that screams identity.

Now, if only we had thought of all this 20 years earlier. Someone has beaten us to this. There is already a religion that has been creeping into our existence over the past two decades. It started as a mere cult, but has now reached preposterous levels. Within years, it will be bigger than the big religions. From there on, it will be a small step to banish the existing religions.

God - Nature. If you want to get all polytheistic about it, add Environment, Earth, Water, Resource etc to it. In an interesting irony, these guys have gone all reverse-pagan on the existing religions.

Material: Stuff published by IPCC. No one really reads this. It is periodically updated, is suitably internationally-themed, has Scientific titles adorning its every orifice. Almost all its original fantastical claims have been re-jigged. Now, anyone who contests this is termed a "denier". Any time they come out with a report, everyone from the Economist to the Times of India must carry an update. Ticks all boxes really.

Messenger(s): They started with Al Gore, then they realized that retired or otherwise, politicians have only so much credibility, so went on a recruitment drive. Now, the largest icon is a Celebrity Economist, Paul Krugman. These days, Krugman does not start any article without berating the "deiners" for questioning climate change. If you have noticed, many of the articles will start with "if there was any doubt, that has been removed now". If doubt has been removed now, how credible were you when you said there was no doubt, way back in 2010? is a question you dare not ask.

Guilt: Man is the root cause of all environmental damage, repeat after me for I am IPCC (Imagine this as a rap). The beauty of the material is the fact that even if he/she does not understand any of the climate-model guff (No one does, by the way), some two bit nincompoop can still tell you "I do not understand why you keep talking about scientific evidence. I cannot imagine you want to destroy all forests and do not want to care about the environment."

For real-world purposes, you can now buy carbon offsets. People eat junk food all the time, lay their body to waste with all kinds of things, but are asked to feel bad if they travel in a car.

Penance: Voluntary carbon offsets. People track their carbon footprint, and then offset their "excess" carbon. Need I say more. I am not making this up

Burning at the stake: Scientists who contest anything said about his can lose funding. Republican senators will be called stupid, you or I would be called a "denier".This letter is brilliant. This piece of research is illuminating, wonderfully challenging some taboos. But I guess the people who wrote these are now without tenure.

Pan-national symbol: Green. This is brilliant. No one has adopted a color this favourably before. the other "red" buggers seem benign in comparison. Even climate-agnostics such as 2IIM offer a Green account for the products they sell.

Congregations: Davos, here I come. Of course, if I do make the trip, I must remember to voluntarily offset my carbon footprint.

We still do not know where the green brigade stand on iconoclasm, whether they will fight crusades, or create backtories to fill out the mythology. But make no mistake, this is a religion alright. Across national boundaries, never have a group of people been so singularly driven by a single ideology.

I must state that this article has nothing to do with my stand on climate change. I might be a denier or an aspiring high priest. So, kindly do not brand me as one or the other based on just this article.

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