As political conventions near, politicians seem more inclined to bleat about their religious beliefs and try to convince the public of their devout natures. They are preaching to a shrinking choir.
Just for starters, a recent poll found that 19 percent of Americans don’t belong to any religion. The “Nones,” as they were labeled, include atheists as well as deists who have rejected organized religion. That’s an awful lot of people to ignore. In fact, they outnumber the folks who have joined the tea party and Occupy Wall Street.
Nor are the Nones operating in a vacuum. These days, more people than ever are turning away from traditional faiths like Christianity and Judaism. Instead, less-known beliefs far from the spotlight have been quietly gaining members. As a public service, I thought it would be nice to redirect political attention to possibly more lucrative arenas.
|Nuwabian Imperial Grand Potentate Dwight York|
|Founder Malachi York|
Consider for example, Nuwaubianism. It was founded by Malachi York (left) now in prison for money laundering and child molestation charges, but that’s not surprising. Founders of religions, including Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, usually face persecution by unjust authorities. This faith does have some unusual tenets that will require some hard swallowing: such as everyone has seven clones living around the world and that women “created” men through genetic manipulation.
Then there’s the Church of Euthanasia, which has taken on the issue of overpopulation. It recommends that to save the planet, members should kill themselves. The four basic tenets of faith are: suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy. Overpopulation would cease to be a problem if we all converted.
Another group that is gaining interest is Raëlism, a self-described atheistic UFO faith. According to its founder, former race car driver Claude Vorihon (left), Yahweh is an alien who spoke to him in 1973, revealing that all people were created through DNA techniques by another alien named Elohim. That’s the same name used in the Bible for God, but it’s not unusual for one religion to borrow a god from some other religion’s pantheon. That’s where the names Allah and Yahweh came from, for example.
Kemet is the rebirth of ancient Egyptian ideas. Adherents believe that there’s one god, but he manifests himself in multiple minor deities. That has ties to the Cuban mystical faith called Santeria, which believes in an unreachable god who has a legion of spirits so God doesn’t have to bother with lowly humans.
Yoruba, the largest native African faith, also shares many traits with other religions. Believers claim that fate is linked to thoughts and actions. Death is not an end. Rather, like Hinduism, it simply is part of a cycle as a person moves to unity with the supreme deity, named Olodumare.
Mandaeism is an ancient faith that was once declared a Christian heresy, but has endured. It rejects Jesus and focuses instead on John the Baptist. Followers also spurn all other religious leaders, like Moses and Mohammad, considering them false prophets, too.
Let’s not forget a small cult that worships Peanut’s cartoon character Charlie Brown, or Thelema, founded by English mystic and drug addict Aleister Crowley (right), who borrowed from ancient Egypt and added some magic and homespun philosophy.
None of these religions – and there are many more – have wide followings now, but neither did any of the major religions of the world at one time. Abraham, according to the Bible, began Judaism with only his wife and two sons (one of whom he tried to sacrifice.) How many followers did Buddha have when he died? A dozen? Mohammad convinced his son in law Ali to convert, but struggled to find believers after that and eventually had to flee his hometown.
Christians love to point out that Jesus only had a few followers who knew he existed as if it’s something special. Actually, no major faith started with more. Most had less.
Yet, somehow, they all grew. So has the Mormon faith, begun by Joseph Smith in upstate New York. He only had a few followers for many years. That’s also true for Scientology, which was started by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and now claims Hollywood stars among its members.
There’s no telling where the next “true” faith will come from. The only reality is that religions have life cycles: old faiths die; new faiths replace them. As one ancient Egyptian once moaned – quoted in the book Man and His Gods – “If Osiris never lived, then mankind has lived under an illusion for 2,000 years.”
Osiris (left) never lived.
Religion is the illusion. Since surveys increasingly indicate that people are rejecting the old, tired faiths and looking for new ones, politicians should stop praying for votes and get on this bandwagon before they find themselves not just talking to empty minds, but to empty buildings as well.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.
You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1