What would make the perfect religion? I was pondering on this the other night and it occurred to me that there are some criteria which would make a religion more successful. The perfect religion must:
1. provide meaning to the universe by means of a plausible cosmonogy.
2. have a capacity for self-propogation. It must tell its adherents to proselytise: to spread the message. And to encourage its followers to have as many babies as possible so that they could be indoctrinated into the faith.
3. provide hope of an afterlife to those who believe.
4. have the capacity for coersion. It must threaten believers with terrible consequences if they don't follow its teachings/scriptures, whether in this world or in an afterlife
5. satisfy a need for ritual.
6. provide a sense of togetherness in a common belief system.
7. allude to an ancient mysticism so that believers can be 'duped' into believing that the ancient religious fathers had access to an esoteric truth that is denied to our mundane modern sensibilities.
8. have a written scripture which is interpretable in numerous different ways so that it can be said to fit with a wide range of different socio/political viewpoints.
Anyone think of any others?
It is interesting that all of the 'religions of the book' provide a pretty good fit with most of these criteria. (At least they did until people like Copernicus, Galileo, Lyall and, most spectacularly, Darwin messed up the first one.) It's true that Jews and Moslems -as I understand it - don't proselytise as much as Christians, and don't expect their women to produce the maximum number of babies, but I think it's fair to say that Christianity has spread more effectively than the others.
All this seems to beg an interesting question: did the modern religions out-compete earlier less effective belief systems in a kind of Darwinian battle of meme-complexes as Grayling seems to suggest in his discussion about how Chrisitianity displaced Stoicism. Or were the founding fathers busily trying to find the best selling points that would find the largest audience - as St. Paul certainly did.
Maybe it was a combination of both. Thoughts anyone? Edited by: PeterDF at: 11/7/04 1:42 pm