1. Choose a focus . Why are you interested in forming your own religion? Many a faith has been crafted because people were discontented with the status quo. Bobby Henderson, the inventor of Pastafarianism, created his Church with a distinctly anti-Intelligent Design agenda. Buddhism developed initially as a protestant movement within Hinduism, and broke with the caste system as a form of social protest. But obviously, not all religion started as a radical movement. Anton LaVey identified strongly with the carnie community, and consequently he combined a love of flair with Nietzschean philosophy and founded modern Satanism. So look at your own motives for making a religious system. Does it center around a person, an idea, or a physical object? Is it revolutionary or just plain fun? Religion can serve all sorts of purposes, so choose what works best for you. Remember, Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer before he came up with Scientology. Play to your strengths!
2. Next, create a central belief system . Feel free to start small with this step. You don’t have to decide how your followers feel about everything right now, because as your religion grows so will the doctrines of belief. Leave the nit-picky stuff for later, like medical ethics and child rearing, and choose two or three main dogmas. What’s considered sacred in your religion? Pirates, aliens, and vegetarianism are a few examples. Or you could always go the way of Buddhism and reject the duality of that whole sacred/profane construct. Another article of belief might center around historical events, such as the Exodus from Egypt in the Jewish Bible. The possibilities are endless. Whatever you choose, remember to use your imagination and enjoy yourself!
3. Third, design your rituals . Very few religions survive without a strong ritual component. Especially in fledging religions, ritual can help bind a new community together and instill a sense of loyalty to the new faith. Ritual can also be very psychologically gratifying. Why do you think that Neo-Paganism is so popular? Those guys have some great rituals. Now, its your choice how strict the ritual should be and how it ties in with your belief system, but if you’re all out of ideas try referring back to your focus. Symbolism is a big part of religion, and you can always create a ritual that references your focus, and reminds everyone that that’s why you’re doing this in the first place.
4. Pay attention to aesthetics . This means that you should assemble all of your tools and materials, and get started on the symbols and artwork of your new regime. What clothes should your followers wear? What symbol will easily identify them as your followers? Your religion’s visual appearance will be your calling card in the world. What is your theme? Consider colors, design, and nick-knacks.
5. Now you need to choose your own role within the power structure of your religion. Are you the head priest? The enlightened one? A mystic? An equal community member? Or perhaps the anonymous founder, setting your creation adrift in the world? Christianity and Islam both started with a single prophet. Just remember that whatever your role, timing and social context can make or break a religion. Before declaring yourself the next Messiah, consider if the world is ready for that. Perhaps a guru would be more appropriate.
6. Now get out there and advertise, advertise, advertise! Whatever your medium, a soapbox, the internet, protesting at the U.N., you probably want exposure. Otherwise, how will you attract others to your cause? In order to gain official recognition and get those tax breaks, you’re going to need followers, so let the world know you’re here. Try putting an add on Craig’s list.
Quick recap of the steps:
1. Choose a focus, a central theme, idea, or person.
2. Create a central belief system, consisting of 2 or 3 main dogmas.
3. Design your rituals.
4. Pay attention to aesthetics, in terms of materials, symbols, etc.
5. Choose your own role. Who are you in this religion?
6. Advertise, advertise, advertise!
WARNING: Side effects may include martyrdom, madness, and ostracization from society.