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Improving Buddhism

Is it Possible?

Long-term Goals of a Religion

The title can have two interpretations. One is to continue asking about the motives and hopes that a designer of a new religion might have, and the other is to ask what missions should be put into the teaching of a religion that are more than immediate in effect.

 

The founder is an ordinary human being, and the motives of human beings may be diverse, but have been exhaustively cataloged as we have monitored one another for the last few millennia. Motives might be diffuse, such as love or hate for some faction of society, or some collection of individuals. Motives might also be precise, with a definite goal being known and valued.

 

One factor that separates these motives is the period over which they operate. Goals might be initially divided into short-term goals and long-term goals, with the term in question being the lifetime of the founder. The founder may have a set of goals, and the religion can be therefore structured to accomplish these goals. The goals can be further divided into self-centered goals and other-centered goals. Self-centered goals are mostly short-term ones, where the founder wishes to achieve something in his own life that he treasures, for example an exalted role, or the master of a harem or the founder of a dynasty. There might be some long-term goals, if the founder is a person who thinks primarily of the future: he might want his memory to be respected in some particular way, or his sayings remembered and utilized or his image idolized and prayed to.

 

All of these goals have origins in the life of the founder, as do goals in general. If the life of the founder is well-known in detail, some understanding of the motivating events or processes in the founder’s history might be used to better understand why he chose particular aspects of the religion, and what was the expected consequences of each choice. Founders are not necessarily capable of projecting the future, so what follows from some of these choices may not be what was intended. By trying to imagine the thinking processes of the founder, together with his biography, it might be possible to better interpret why he chose particular features and not others. The same goes for the details of the features.

 

The long-term, other-centered goals of a religion’s founder can be quite diverse. The first region of diversity lies in the choice of the target of these goals. It does not have to be a set of individuals, but it can be some agency or organization or state or collective which has rotation among the individuals who occupy positions there or belong to it. The founder's motive might be the diffuse hate of government, and in a governmental system with rotating leadership, there would be no individual who would be the target of the religion’s founder’s goals. If these goals are not diffuse, but aimed toward some faction of the whole human population, there can be many ways the dividing line between those included and those excluded might be drawn.

 

The dividing line can be sharp or fuzzy, in that membership in the target faction might be well-defined and precise, or not precise at all. If men are the target group, the line is precise. If tall people are the target group, the line is fuzzy. The precision of the definition of the target group might be important for some goals, but not for others.

 

If the goal being considered is long-term, with the measure being an average human lifetime, then the faction being targeted will have deaths and births continuously while the religion has force. This means that not only must instantaneous membership be defined, but the rules for entry must be also.

 

Reproduction is a simple solution to the problem of maintaining the boundary line between target and non-target. It could be that the child of parents in the group is in the group, or can become a member of the group if some conditions are fulfilled, or it might be if one parent is a member, perhaps a specific gender. If polygamy is in force, group membership for offspring might be restricted to the first partner or first partner to become a parent. If a harem situation exists, there could be exclusion for some of the children of harem members.

 

If the boundary of the group is based largely on reproduction, there can be exceptions according to certain rules the religion’s founder devises. Perhaps there is some ceremony or learning or actions or payments required. Perhaps it is based on individual judgment of an agent of the religion or or a committee that has the exception-granting power. These are details of the founder’s main choices, and might even only be decided after his demise or in his absence.

 

Some other boundary must be created with a new religion. If membership is voluntary, or open to volunteers from a restricted set of the population, there must be inducements to join. This is a very different type of religion that one based on reproduction. Some ceremonies or learning or other conditions might be imposed to mark the boundary between member and non-member.

 

An individual in either a reproduction-based or a induced-joining group may at some time opt out of the religion. This is probably not a problem for numbers if there is little cause for such opting out. However, in both types of religions, children of members would need to be programmed in some way as to provide them with a desire to stay in the group, or to stay involved with the group’s practices. The control of children’s programming is probably the strongest tool that a religion’s founder has to ensure long-term success of his religion, and to accomplish whatever other long-term goals he may have had for it. In every successful religion, this would be a noticeable feature.

 

In choosing long-term goals, the religion’s founder has a wide range of choices, but one is mandatory. The faction or group that is the recipient of benefits from the religion must be preserved. If the religion is based on hatred or a hope for destruction of a faction, then this is obviously not valid, in fact, the opposite is, but for favored groups, the founder must figure out how to maintain the boundary and preserve the numbers of the group. There would be special means, differing for reproduction-based and induced-joining groups. Once the start-up period for induced-joining groups is over, and some quorum of numbers is established, the founder may modify the rules toward preservation and away from induction of new members.

 

Now that there has been some discussion and cataloging of the possible personal goals of the founder of a religion, it is time to discuss the goals for the religion, or more specifically, the goals for the members of the religion, that might accompany the founder’s goals. However, there needs to be a distinction between goals that are set up for members to accept by the religion and goals that the members have from sources outside of the religion. These two sets of goals interact strongly.

 

As noted already, the first goal that the religion must give to its members relates to preservation of the religion via the programming of the children of members. Goals of the religion do not have to be explicitly stated, but can be discreetly introduced into the minds and plans of the membership. There is already an automatic drive for a member to program their children into membership. If a parent receives much fulfillment and happiness from the religion, and has a desire that his children also be happy, it is quite natural that a parent would follow the religion’s prescribed course of training for his children. The founder needs only to invent a means by which this training can be provided. There might also be some goals laid out by the religion to assist or foster this training, if necessary to back up the natural occurrence of child membership support by parents.

 

Beyond the preservation goal,and perhaps a goal of inducing more membership from the set of people who are allowed candidates for membership, there are other goals the religion might have. Another one, almost as mandatory as the preservation goal, is the support goal. Religions use the benefits of societal production for various purposes. Therefore one main goal of any religion must be to induce the membership to contribute services, products, or in more advanced societies, money of one sort or another. This contribution can be voluntary, or if the religion captures the government and can use it for its own purposes, mandatory from members or even from everyone within a government’s region of control.

 

Other goals are more flexible as to the choices and preferences of the religion’s founder. The goals for members that are religion-related are not invented by the members, but by the founder, in order to further his own long-term goals. If the founder feels great happiness if the members of his religion prosper, then he will seek to set up rules or guidelines within the religion that assist with that. This can involve the combined efforts of the membership, helping one another, or the training of mentors to assist individuals, perhaps a large number of individuals, to achieve success, according to the definition of success the founder espouses. Material wealth might be one definition of success, longevity another, finding good life partners another, fellowship might be another, and so on. Each of these might be chosen by the founder, or indeed, a collection of them. By looking at the guidelines and rules for living that the founder records, these goals of his might be figured out.

 

Describing a religion in terms of the founder’s goals might not be a conventional way of comparing religions, but it is very useful for the purpose of inventing improvements in one, and that is the purpose of this blog.

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