THE CREATION OF
THE FIRST CHURCH OF GENERIC RELIEFS
The following is a Revelation. Unlike past Revelations which were associated with burning bushes, thunder, or long periods of starvation, this Revelation occurred while walking past a home that had been converted into a church of vague denomination, which had two brand new Cadillacs in the garage.
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The history of religion has been like the growth of a tree, with new branches, sects, and splinters peeling and growing away from a former creed. Or seeds falling on the ground growing into new dogmas.
This constant process of fission has spawned innumerable Protestant churches as well as a wide spectrum of virtually every possible religious belief that someone could write down or broadcast. It is time to reverse the trend, and bring all religions back under the same umbrella. Instead of concentrating on the differences between one belief and another (which is often fatal in places like Northern Ireland) there should be one all-embracing religion that concentrates on the good stuff from all beliefs, and avoids the sorts of differences in theology that leads to violence.
There should be the First Church of Generic Beliefs whose principal creed is Eclecticism.
Diety: One basic unifying factor of all religions is the belief in a Diety. All religions acknowledge the existence of a Diety--they just disagree on what he or she looks like, and what language the Diety prefers to speak.
In truth, God is so far beyond the
comprehension of mere humans that the Diety can be
whatever one wishes. If God doesn't like a particular
personification, He/She can set the matter straight by
some Divine Intervention (such as having your tax-exempt
Good and Evil: The second common element of religions involves the concept of Good and Evil. Good and Evil are often personified by the Diety on the good side, and Satan or his equivalent on the Evil side.
One of the major purposes of a religion is to define Good and Evil, and thus set some standards for people so they know the difference between the two.
The second creed of the First Church of Generic Beliefs shall be that there is Good and there is Evil. One should aspire to being Good, and avoid Evil insofar as possible. The specifics of what constitutes "Good" as opposed to "Evil" is left to the individual, though all religions provide excellent examples of each. Pick the ones that suit you, though it's hard to beat the Ten Commandments.
One can personify "Good" and "Evil" in many ways. Gandhi and Rush Limbaugh are examples of "Good" to some people". Network television executives, lawyers and Rush Limbaugh are examples of "Evil" to other people.
"Good" can be seen in a society which nurtures its children, and "Evil" is often associated with allowing guns to be carried by children.
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Beyond the essential ingredients of an all-purpose religion, there are many operational and functional matters to consider.
One must never confuse belief in a Religion with belief in a Diety, as the former always requires some kind of donation. (cf. Mark Twain) However, for any self-respecting Church to spread the Word, it must have a means to transfer some of the wealth of its flock to the Church.
The First Church of Generic Beliefs has available to it the most effective means of fund raising from a host of existing religions, including tithes, selling seats for services on major holidays, and bingo. People have been exceedingly creative in religious fund-raising.
Another aspect of a Church that must be addressed is how to distinguish the clergy from the congregation. Most religions use some sort of costume, such as robes, pointed hats or leisure suits, to identify their priesthood or equivalent. The First Church of Generic Beliefs shall adopt the concept of costuming its shepherds, leaving the appropriate mode of dress for the individual cleric.
A common feature of most religions is some sort of initiation ceremony. You can't just say "I'm a member" and expect to use the costly facilities housing the Church. The First Church of Generic Beliefs shall provide that all would-be members must go through some sort of initiation, just so long as the process is not fatal. A generous contribution to the Church should qualify most initiates.
Religions also usually have a means to disaffiliate someone who commits heresy. Heresy is usually defined as a point of view differing from that of whomever is running the religion at the time. The First Church of Generic Beliefs shall recognize the potential for heresy, but leave the specifics to a future time and circumstance (though it is hard to imagine anyone being able to advocate heresy in a generic religion). All that is required is that any excommunication process not be fatal to the parties involved, and that someone can be reinstated with a modest contribution to the Church Building Fund.
Religions also use symbols as a sort of trademark to differentiate one brand of religion from another. Over the millennia various religions have used stone idols, people stapled to trees, and stars to identify themselves.
The First Church of Generic Beliefs shall have two trademarks: the Umbrella, and the uniform computer pricing code.
There are important tasks to be performed to establish the First Church of Generic Beliefs.
First, you must get a tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service. Though God Almighty Himself may be the founder of a true religion, unless you can get a tax exemption from the United States of America even the Lord cannot help you raise money. It is wise not to own bowling alleys and shopping malls, at least during the initial phase of establishing the Church.
Second, you must form a committee and establish a series of Generic Religious Holidays. There should be a minimum of at least one happy holiday around the Winter Solstice celebrating the New Year, a holiday celebrating the return of Spring, and at least one holiday of at least a day's duration during which members indulge in retrospection about how rotten they've been the previous year, after which they say they are sorry and perform good deeds as penance. Several holidays involving fasting can be thrown in to attract the weight conscious.
Third, you must buy a television station and lease a satellite transponder so you can offer 24 hour a day Generic Religious Programming on cable systems. Not only is this an excellent way to raise money, given the competition for cable channels, the Generic Religious Channel may be the only one a cable system has space for. God may have invented the Heavens, but people figured out how to use the skies to raise bucks.
Finally, and most importantly, the First Church of Generic Beliefs must have a website.
Go forth and battle with the daemons of cyberspace.
And thus endeth the Revelation.
Copyright 1997,1999 by Hugh Holub