What Does It Take to Found a Religion?

Now that the Senate-blessed Neil Gorsuch has donned the Robes of the Righteous, we have to reconsider the way we live our lives. Not very religious myself, I am now thinking that I should be more active in this area.

So here’s how one might fight fire with fire (and a touch of brimstone). As far as I know, there are no hard-and-fast criteria for defining a religion. For example, Scientology was started by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (who knows, maybe it started out as a joke?), and has been able to gull some of Hollywood’s dimmest stars into joining it.

So what might it take to become a religion recognized by the Supreme Court? My brilliant idea: turn tennis into a religion. Let’s call it Tênis, using the Portuguese spelling to make it more exotic.

Here are some of my p-baked thoughts (hopefully, p > 0.5):

  • Shrines: we have Forest Hills, Wimbledon, Roland-Garros, and Melbourne Park, to which we can make our pilgrimages.
  • Matriarchs and patriarchs: the Grand Slam tournament winners would surely qualify.
  • Club fees: since you are contributing to a religious endeavor, you should be able to include your fees as a charitable deduction on your income taxes.
  • Government grants: as per the Trinity Lutheran decision, if the court surfaces need to be redone, a government grant is not out of the question.
  • Rackets (an obvious double entendre) and balls: they could be purchased tax-free.

I don’t mean to imply that all religions are as shallow as the one I’m suggesting; it’s just that if we are going to remove the barrier between church and state, as Gorsuch, Alito, and Thomas seem to want to do, we should consider how to leverage it to our advantage, or at least to point out the inconsistencies in their arguments.

PS: I originally entitled this post “What Does It Take to Start a Religion?“ but felt that “Found” would be more …. profound.

PPS: I considered focusing on golf instead of tennis, but thought that it might give someone in high office an idea.

PPPS: In adding comments to this post, be thoughtful. After all, this could be the founding Testament for a new religion. I don’t want it to include a shopping list, as in “A Canticle for Leibowitz.”

Author: Mike Maltz

Michael D. Maltz is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice and of Information and Decision Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently an adjunct professor of sociology at the Ohio State University His formal training is in electrical engineering (BEE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1959; MS & PhD Stanford University, 1961, 1963), and he spent seven years in that field. He then joined the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (now National Institute of Justice), where he became a criminologist of sorts. After three years with NIJ, he spent thirty years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, during which time he was a part-time Visiting Fellow at the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Maltz is the author of Recidivism, coauthor of Mapping Crime in Its Community Setting, and coeditor of Envisioning Criminology.

6 thoughts on “What Does It Take to Found a Religion?”

  1. Back in the 80s, a federal judge (Brevard Hand, not apparently the sharpest pickaxe on the wagon) ruled that Secular Humanism was a religion, so I think a whole lot of us are covered already.

    (Yeah, he did it for purposes of allowing the old testament to be taught in biology classes, and he was ultimately overruled, but he laid out the tenets of the "religion" pretty clearly. And then there was the grad student I knew who treated Quantum Mechanics — definitely capitalized in his mind — as a religion.)

  2. I think your new religion will have to make some attempt to explain the Universe (or at least some portion of it) and give advice on how to avoid brutal and unseemly behavior.

  3. For example, Scientology was started by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (who knows, maybe it started out as a joke?) . . .

    According to Theodore Sturgeon, it basically started out as a bar bet.

  4. I'm surprised more enterprising corporations haven't tried this for tax purposes.

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