While there may be no actual NEED for such a product, I don't see why that tiresome little detail should stand in my way. After all, needs can be manufactured (think about stainless steel wipes and feminine hygiene sprays). America is still the land of opportunity, isn't it? And of P.T. Barnum.
So, let's begin by analyzing the "successful" existing religions--those which, in Tom Lehrer's words, are best at "selling their product." Surely if I can distill the essential ingredients that all these lucrative movements share, I will eventually obtain a rich concentrate of tenets that I can recycle as the basis for my "nouvelle fusion" spiritual stew. Not that these commonalities will suffice in and of themselves. After all, if that were the case, then no NEW NEED could be created for MY personal version of Good News Gumbo.
Nonetheless, it's undoubtedly a good idea to include in my Credo at least some of the tried and true ingredients--before I attempt to tart them up with minty-fresh additives that the credulous good folks "out there" will find so desirable that they will simply be unable to resist sending me a sizable free-will offering in return for a laminated membership/recipe card (or a magic pair of polyester underpants--I haven't yet decided which).
What, then, are the common denominators of the current best-selling religions? Hmmm. Suppose we start by making a (non-exhaustive) list of "stuff people like to believe":
people who suffer are being punished by God
people who suffer will surely go to heaven
people who suffer should get over it
people who exploit others are serving God
people who exploit others are evil
money is bad
money is good
sex is bad
sex is good
bad sex is good
good sex is bad
good food is bad
pork is bad
beef is bad
eating is bad
eating is good only after sundown
God hates gays
God loves everyone
God hates sluts
fetuses are people
infidels aren't people
mosques should not have pictures
churches should not have statues
churches should have statues
statues should have no dicks
the best dicks are circumcised
the best dicks are not circumcisedwomen should keep covered so as not to tempt men, whether the latter are circumcised or uncircumcised
women should not drive, even if they're covered up
heck, we shouldn't even have cars
coffee is bad
wine is bad until you get to heaven
wine is the blood of Christ
the end of the world is coming
it's the Jews' fault
Oh, mercy! the list is endless, isn't it? Whatever CAN we make of it all? Clearly, it behooves us to categorize a bit, if only to make this blog more coherent than Revelation, less mind-numbing than Leviticus.
Category 1: suffering and exploitation. Successful religions seem to manage, somehow, to make both sufferers and exploiters feel happy and holy. The promise of "rewards in heaven" allows sufferers to accept their miserable earthly lot AND feel superior to their exploiters who, the sufferers assume, will ultimately be punished in some fiery bye and bye. Meanwhile, those who exploit are reassured by Comforting Calvinism and "fat little pastors" that God rewards in THIS life those whom he has chosen as his eternal "elect." These Chosen People--invariably rich and usually Republican--are thumpingly confident that their exploitation of inferiors is the predestined working out of God's will.
Category 2: sex. God cares a lot about sex. We humans are, in fact, God's pornography. Evidently, he watches us constantly and, like all pornography addicts, he sometimes has bouts of remorse. Hence, in his manic phase, he tends to encourage our sexual appetites (Hindu Shiva-lingams, Wicca fertility rites, Japanese penis festivals) but, alas, in his depressive moods, he gives over to ranting about depraved queers and slutty women and blasphemous pole-dancers in the Sinai desert.
Category 3: food. God does not approve of most food, especially GOOD food--at least for human beings. His tendency to forbid us mortals any pleasant form of nourishment is undoubtedly a sort of power trip. He wants to make it perfectly clear that he alone is in control and that he alone has the right to pig out on lobster à l'amoricaine.
Category 4: infidels. Truly successful faith groups (unlike flaccid Mainline Protestant denominations and mystical one-hand clapping Eastern sects) seem unanimous in denouncing all dissenters as inhuman and condemned to death, either in this life or in the hereafter. It is therefore OK, to use CIA terminology, to "terminate with extreme prejudice" any such infidels. Heck, God is going to kill them eventually anyway, after which he will cast their sorry-assed souls into hell for all eternity. So bloodletting in the service of religious causes is no big deal.
Well, that seems a sufficient distillation of the Essence of Ecumenism. Now I can start planning my new and improved Gospel. To hell with digging around for buried tablets in the flower beds full of deer shit. I'm just going to let the Angelic Messenger speak to me directly, in whatever language he chooses. I am, after all, a linguist. Hence, I should be able to "get it" at least as well as Moses or St. Paul or Mohammed or Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy. Surely if I follow their edifying example, emptying my mind of any vestige of rational thought, I should have no difficulty whatsoever finding Divine Inspiration for a sort of latter day Sermon on the Mount--a snappy spin on some of the old time favorites (see above) followed by a compelling and thoroughly irresistible new twist as a conclusion.
(Here a bolt of lightning flashes across my computer screen. Is it Moroni? Gabriel? or merely Pythia, the Screen Saver Oracle? Well, no matter: mysterious chiaroscuro stuff always happens when religions are being hatched.)
And then, much as Breaking News Bulletins gush forth from Cable TV, my über Beatitudes spring unbidden and fully formed and infallible from the depths of my internal hard drive. Verily, verily I say unto you, "Give heed now and listen up to the breaking No News Good News of which I am the prophet":
Tenet One: (Exploiters). Blessed are the overpaid CEOs, for they shall create jobs by trickling down on their workers.
Tenet Two: (Sufferers). Blessed are the workers and the persecuted and the poor. They shall inherit nothing (probably not even trickle-down), but neither shall they live long enough to die of Alzheimer's Disease.
Tenet Three: (Sex). Blessed are those whose only sexual act is masturbating in the shower, for they shall be able to keep their abomination secret (unless hair starts to grow on their palms).
Tenet Four: (Food). Blessed are the vegans, for they shall be neither sated nor constipated.
Tenet Five: (Infidels). Blessed are the warmongers, the bullies and the jihadists, for the Lord loveth a good bloodbath.
And now, the NEW stuff that should absolutely clinch the deal.
Tenet Six: (Common Sense). Blessed are those who use their reason to disprove or discredit any or all of the preceding tenets, for theirs is the Kingdom of Man.
And they, alone, shall truly be free.
Dang, I just botched everything, didn't I? Well, I guess I didn't really want to be a prophet anyway. I'll miss the money, though.