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The Perfect Religion

#16: Sept. - Oct. 2004 (Non-Fiction)
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PeterDF
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The Perfect Religion

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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 afterlife5. 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
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Re: The Perfect Religion

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What about money? A perfect religion would have a way to make money so people would be willing to dedicate their lives to it. If people who are part of the management of a religion know that the more people they convert the more money they'll get, they would be even more motivated to recruit. Therefore the religion would need a tenet proclaiming the moral righteousness of contributing money to it.
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Re: The Perfect Religion

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'Perfect' to what end, or for what purpose? Your list portrays the end and goal of the perfect religion as a combination of ideas, practices and forces to connect groups of peoples to belief systems they would otherwise dismiss as self-destructive, irrational, and ugly.The 'perfect' Religion, as I see it, would involve a network of ideas, symbols, narratives and practices that bring folks together in solidarity for everyday acts of justice, peacemaking, reconcilliation, healing, and increasing joy in the world. This 'perfect religion' would not hide from the tragic and brutal, the oppressive and horrific in life...would not offer bribes for good behavior, threats for unacceptable acts...would not hide from the very best that science, technology, the arts and humanities, and human imagination and intelligence- but would encourage, seek out and celebrate the wonders of the human mind...would offer tools for meditation and language for prayer that provide methods of self-analysis, personal exploration, and communal voicing of grief, fear, and joy...and equip its members with a continuous will to love.
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Re: The Perfect Religion

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ShannonThe kind of religion I meant would be ideal in the narrow sense that it would be perfect for spreading itself at the expense of others. But obviously the more satisfaction it provided to its followers the more succesful it would be likely to be.ScrumfishHmm! This would certainly make it desirable to those who wanted to exploit it to their own pecunary ends. But it was its capacity to spread itself in the world of men which was the criteria I had in mind - maybe I should have made myself clearer.
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Re: The Perfect Religion

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Actually, that was exactly what I was thinking of Peter. If more followers means more money, then there is a built in reward system for recruiting new followers for people in official positions in the religion.
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PeterDF
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Re: The Perfect Religion

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Yes! I see what you mean - ok we'll add that criterion too.
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Bigger is Better?

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Peter,So, 'perfect' as you describe it involves being the best appropriator of minds and bodies, to no other end to increase the numbers of the flock?The 'Perfect Religion' is one that gets more people to join and give of themselves to the organization?Bigger is better is the final word?
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Re: Bigger is Better?

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ShannonNo! No! What I was trying to explore were the reasons why particular religions have survived in the world when others haven't. I chose the word "perfect" in the sense of exploring the question of which religion is "perfect" for the purpose of spreading itself.I guess - because you raised the question - that you feel that religions have an important place in the world, and that they provide some added value to the lives of those who follow them. This of course is the position most people would take, whether or not they themselves are believers. This is a very interesting question, and one well worth discussing. Do you think religions enhance the lives of their believers by providing meaning, hope or a moral compass?
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Re: Bigger is Better?

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Recently I have taken more of an interest in religion in terms of histories & expansion. I've read more on religions in Egypt, Europe and the Middle East. I've noticed that more 'primitive' people would worship practically anything: early Egyptians, for example, would worship a small portion River Nile itself as a big
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