Religion is one of the most controversial topics in the world today. With only four major faiths, that are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and numerous ‘baby’ religions on the rise, the need for spiritual fulfillment among the human race has increased tremendously. Many people are attracted to new and dynamic faiths as they feel that they bring meaning to their life and death and give them a purpose of why they are on earth.
Globally, in states with adaptable governments such as the US, Canada, and Russia, there are quite a number of religions that have come about but they are still unable to gather as many followers as the mainstream religions, hence unable to climb up the religious hierarchy. They develop a set of new scripture or modify existing ritual practices to differentiate from an ancient religion. Often, when one hears of a new religion emerging, they discredit the prophet who claims to have had a vision that revealed an unknown fact to him. A majority will conclude that either it is a certain cult transpiring or that they are being duped.
According to religious scholars, modern-day new faiths originate from existing faith traditions and practices, as did Christianity from Judaism, to identify with the followers they want to attract. As they say, the known is much safer and comfortable as compared to the unknown. From this, they are able to connect with a number of people whom they share and convince them of their new revelation and in turn, convert them into followers.
However, there are a number of reasons as to why these new faiths do not evolve into mainstream religions. Government plays an important role in regulating religion despite the state and the church in many states being separate entities. Some state governments encourage state religion, hence making it difficult for new faiths to reach their full potential. For instance, in Indonesia, it is a punishable offense to initiate or encourage a group of people convening for the purpose of religion. Indonesia is an Islamic state and such actions can be viewed as efforts to overturn the government. With state administration supporting one particular faith, they persecute the followers of other religions trying to ensure that state religion is fully complied with. For instance, Constantine the Great and many of his other predecessors persecuted Christians in the empire; however, he began embracing the elements of the faith, hence Christianity being the most dominant religion in the empire.
Global accessibility via internet access has provided new faiths with an added advantage. ‘Prophets’ have more ways to spread their faith and teachings. However, with numerous new faiths on the rise, it is difficult for one particular faith to acquire a large mass following. Religion entrepreneurs have to find new and dynamic ways to distinguish themselves from others to gain many followers. For example, according to religion scholars, early Christianity distinguished itself from other pagan faiths by concentrating on the afterlife and the possibility of eternal salvation and heaven. They found ways to make believers willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their newly acquired faith.
What we see today are mostly cults which cannot withstand the test of time because more often than not, the founders are in it for their own benefits or selfish reasons. An example in recent times is the Branch Davidians which was headed by David Koresh in their fenced in Texas compound. This cult propagated unlawful acts which led to a collision with the US federal government and its eventual tragic end.
New faiths or ‘cults’ as other people would like to refer to them are a naturally occurring phenomenon among the human race. For a new religion to be prosperous, they need to offer their followers an offer they cannot refuse and give them reasonable answers as to their issues in life. It is advisable for the faith to be in line with the scientific understanding of the world as people treat scientific claims with respect. All in all, the faith of an individual depends on his/her needs in life. You cannot force a particular faith on him/her.