Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The first law of religious adherence

In my continuing quest to document the human condition I've come up with what I call:
First Law of Religious Adherence:

The success of any religion is directly proportional to the size of what it promises, divided by the cost of attaining that promise.

It's really quite remarkable how well this works. Check it out:

Religion Promise/CostNumber of Adherents

Christianityeternal life w/an optional golf package
(high promise)
follow no other Gods
(low cost)
2.1 billion

Islam72 virgins
(great promise!)
(ouch, very costly!)
1.5 billion

free from dogma and religious b.s. in this life
(great promise)
no eternal life
(costly, but not as costly as Islam)
1.1 billion

Hinduismsix heavenly levels
live a pure life with many paths to reach that goal
900 million

enlightenment in this life; maybe, or perhaps in the next
(good promise)
sit on your ass with your eyes closed for your whole life, beg for food & renounce sex and worldly pleasures
(wow, very high cost!)
376 million

Based on this chart, I think there is perhaps another great religion just waiting to be started -- one that combines the best promise (Islam's 72 virgins -- but it can be equal opportunity this time -- 72 virgins for both men and women!), with the lowest cost participation (Christianity's 'follow no other gods but me'). We can call it Christilam or Islianity. I think it could break 3 million adherents easy! [That's marketing synergy, baby!]

For a more serious look at changing attitudes towards religion in the U.S. check out Lisa Miller's article, "We Are All Hindus Now" in the most recent issue of Newsweek.

I bet there is a corresponding 1st Law of Politics:

The success of a political party is directly proportional to the size of the promise divided by the cost of attaining that promise [multiplied by a constant that represents the trust we have that the party will actually be able to deliver?]

In fact, I bet that's exactly why our economy and political system are such a mess right now. The Two Santa Claus theory that has defined U.S. politics for the past 30 years really is a version of Christilam -- the best promise (government services and tax cuts) combined with the lowest cost (more tax cuts). Except it only works as a theory of getting elected not as an actual method of governance. Religion doesn't have that problem -- they just get to sell the product -- it's up to God to deliver on the promise.

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