Thought Experiment: Let's Invent a Fake Religion!

Let's create a deity and a religion associated with that deity.  For this exercise, it isn't really relevant whether we, as the creators of the deity, actually believe that the deity exists--we're just trying to see what it would take to build a religion around an imagined deity and convince people of it.

Name of deity: Let's pick a name and apply an arbitrary gender.  How about...Regina Phalange, female.*  Our religion will be called Reginianity.

Regina Phalange
Regina Phalange, friend to everyone

  • We want people to be impressed with Regina Phalange and not follow any other deities.  So let's make her all-powerful. She's so powerful she made the entire universe.
  • We want people to love Regina.  Let's make her all-loving and benevolent!
  • We want people to trust Regina.  Let's make her very very wise. She's omniscient!
How to spread the news about Regina Phalange?
  • Since Regina isn't about to go door-to-door introducing herself (she isn't real, if you recall), we need to have another way to teach people about her.  So let's write some stuff down: describe who she is, what she's done in the past, and what people can expect from her in the future.  And let's give her some heroic feats. It shall be called the Book of Phalange!
How to convert people to Reginianity:
  • First we circulate the texts that we wrote down. We will say they are directly from Regina.
  • Then we need to convince a few people of Regina's existence and let them go out and convince other people. Those people convince other people. Regina herself is never directly involved since she will be so busy not existing. Humans have to do all the work.
  • To really get people amped up, we can make a few predictions about the future.  We can say Regina will come back on a certain date.
  • The more that people learn about the world, the less likely they are to believe in Regina. Let's discourage people from having friends outside of Reginianity.  Let's also make them distrust people who don't believe.  Let's tell them that non-believers are unhappy and dangerous.  We might even foster a distrust in education.
  • The most effective way to convert people is by creating a negative consequence for not being a member.  And the consequence has to be something that can't be disproven. Something like "your skin will wither" won't work because people can see that the consequence isn't real.  So how about:  your soul will wither.  People can't see their souls!  Or, after you die, you'll go to the bad place Regina made.
  • Let's create a positive consequence of being a member.  How about: after you die, you get eternal riches in the good place that Regina made? The best part is, it's unfalsifiable!
Damage Control:

Obviously, since Regina doesn't actually exist outside of people's minds, reality is not always going to align with what we would expect from Reginianity.  We need to have answers ready for when people ask tough questions.  This is what we would HAVE to say in order to retain members:
  • Why doesn't Regina show herself?
    • Regina doesn't want to. If we saw her, we would have no choice but to love her.  And she wants us to have a choice!
    • She wants us to believe in her without proof (let's give this concept a name so it sounds legit.  How about...gullibility? No, faith sounds better)
  • Why doesn't Regina perform miracles?
    • Regina is perfectly capable of performing miracles, but look, she just doesn't do that stuff anymore. It would interfere with our freedom.
    • Regina IS doing miracles! It's just over here in these superstitious third world countries with poor documentation. 
  • Suffering: If Regina loves us and is all-powerful, why so many hurricanes and cancer and starvation and stuff?  
    • You can't understand the ways of Regina
    • Regina has a plan that you can't see
    • There must be some resulting good from the hurricanes
    • It must be our fault. Humans did something bad so she is punishing us
    • It's because you don't believe hard enough
    • If there were no evil, we wouldn't know what good was
    • All the bad stuff is because of Regina's evil twin, Ursula.  Ursula is responsible for all suffering! Never Regina!
    • Bad stuff is a result of our choices. If there were no bad things, we'd be robots.
  • Why didn't Regina answer my prayer?
    • Regina ALWAYS answers prayers.  She either says, "Yes, No, or Wait".
    • You didn't get your prayer answered because you didn't have enough gullibility...I mean faith
    • She didn't answer your prayer because it wasn't in her plan
    • You didn't pray enough or the right way
    • Keep reading the Book of Phalange! You'll find your answers!
  • Why didn't Regina come back on the day you said she would?
    • She did come back, just not physically
    • She did come back, but you missed her
    • Oops, we just calculated the date wrong. Here's the new date.
    • We said she was coming back when X was fulfilled...turns out X didn't get fulfilled.
This is a fake religion.  These are things we would HAVE to say to preserve people's belief.  Do any of them sound familiar? If so, is it concerning that you've heard these before? 

Is it time to take a closer look at your religion?

*I've been rewatching Friends, what can I say?

Further Watching


Popular posts from this blog

The Zombie Uprising in Matthew's Gospel

Six times God killed people in the Bible

How did Judas Iscariot Die?