How many people does it take to make a religion?

There are tons of religions out there – hundreds of them, in fact.

But as new thoughts are emerging, you may find your beliefs don’t quite identify with any of them.

So you’re curious about what it takes to start your own religion. How many people do you need? What’s the process? How does it work?

Read on to find out everything you need to know.

How many people does it take to start a religion?

We usually associate religions with masses of people and towering majestic churches. But is that really necessary? How many people do you really need to start a religion?

This is a question that has no small amount of confusion.

And that’s because people may mean different things by it.

Really, it only takes one person to start a religion. All you need is to define for yourself what your beliefs and practices are, and live by them.

However, you would be the only one who practices the religion, or is even aware of it.

Though it’s very real in your own mind, some people may question if it’s really a religion if nobody else recognizes it.

That’s why many people go by the proverb “one person is a thought, two is a discussion, and three is a belief.” 

If you want your religion to be more traditional and organized, it’s good to start with at least three people. 

It may not sound like a lot, but it’s all you need — and of course, you have infinite room for growth afterwards. 

In fact, some of the world’s most popular religions today started with just a few people. 

Can anyone start their own religion?

Next, you might be wondering if you’re allowed to create your own religion.

The answer is yes.

Anyone of legal age can start their own religion — and many people do.

It’s actually incredibly simple. You should check the law of the country where you live, but many countries have no rules or regulations about what you need to do to start a religion.

In fact, during a national consensus, many people put “Jediism” from Star Wars as their religion. There was no organization or registration that happened before this. People just started identifying with it. 

So all you need is a belief system, a name for it, and people who will follow it. Even if it’s just you at first. 

What do you need to start your own religion?

As we’ve said, you don’t need a lot of people to start a religion — it can even be just you at the beginning.

But then, what is it that you need?

Let’s go over the bare minimum basics.

A name

In order for anyone to identify with a religion and express that they belong to it, they need a way to call it.

Think of a name that encompasses what your religion stands for.

A set of beliefs

Of course, the nature is a religion is that a group of people believe in the same things — so the next thing you need is a set of beliefs.

But these aren’t just any beliefs. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection says:

“Religion typically concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death.”  Social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences, are not “religious” beliefs protected by Title VII.”

In other words, religious beliefs deal with “big picture questions”, and provide people a framework with which to understand and experience the world. 

These beliefs can include a belief in a God, or they can be moral or ethical beliefs about what is right or wrong.

What else might you need for your religion?

As mentioned above, you don’t need anything other than a set of beliefs, a name, and at least one follower to create a religion.

But that’s just the bare minimum.

If you take your religion seriously, you probably want to give it a bit more structure and organization.

This is all depending on the particular beliefs and values that your religion follows.

You could consider any of the following things for your religion.

A logo

Aside from a name, a logo is one of the easiest ways to make your religion recognizable. 

You can use it as a profile picture on social media, on any documentation you have, or on various accessories in order to identify with your religion and help others do the same.

A written set of beliefs

Beliefs are still valid even if they are not written on paper.

But it can help organize them better if you put them down on paper.

This is especially the case when your religion starts to spread to more people. If it travels just by word of mouth, people can easily misinterpret things.

Having it formally written down somewhere is a way to make sure everyone can access the same information and be on the same page. 

A hierarchy

Not every religion needs a hierarchy, but many of them do.

Is there any particular organizational structure? Who will be in charge? What roles and responsibilities do people in the religion have?

These are some questions it is helpful to define as your religion begins to grow.

Practices and traditions

Having a set of beliefs to stick to and guide you throughout your life is great.

It can also be nice to have concrete practices, rituals, or celebrations to follow.

Beliefs live only inside your head, but rituals give you something to do in the real world.

They can also bring people with the same beliefs together and help them connect with each other.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection explains what defines these:

“Religious observances or practices include, for example, attending worship services, praying, wearing religious garb or symbols, displaying religious objects, adhering to certain dietary rules, proselytizing or other forms of religious expression, or refraining from certain activities.  Whether a practice is religious depends on the employee’s motivation.  The same practice might be engaged in by one person for religious reasons and by another person for purely secular reasons (e.g., dietary restrictions, tattoos, etc.).”

Places of worship or pilgrimage

Like rituals, defining particular places of worship or pilgrimage can give a more concrete nature to your religion.

People will have a physical space to connect with each other and engage in their beliefs together. 

A strategy to spread the word

Your own beliefs are the only thing that really matters in your life. But if you want to create positive change and help others, you may want to attract more people to your religion.

For this, you need a way to spread the word in order for people who can identify with your religion to hear about it, and have the chance to join it.

Some religions do this through traveling missionaries. But you don’t need to go that route just because others have in the past.

You can even go modern and spread the word through entertaining social media posts. 

As long as you have a way for new people to easily find out about your religion, it will be able to grow and thrive. 

Legal recognition as charities

If your religion deals with money in any way, it would be a good idea to become legally registered in order to avoid getting into trouble with the tax authorities.

If you become registered as a charity, you can become tax-exempt.

If you plan to pay any people as employees, you will also need to get an employer registration number. Don’t forget that income taxes still need to be deducted, even if you have tax exemption. 

Legal issues around money can be quite complex, and they are highly specific to each country. Not to mention, they can change from year to year!

So if money will be involved with your religion, be sure to consult a lawyer to find out what you need to do. 

The right to solemnize unions

This is not a necessity, but many religions have the right to solemnize unions — in other words, make people get married. 

Of course, this depends on the particular values and practices in your religion, including whether or not you believe in marriage.

But there are other kinds of unions you can choose to solemnize as well.

If you want to get legal recognition for this purpose, be sure to consult the law in the country where you live. 

How to start your own religion

Now you know the number of people, as well as the basics that you need to make a religion.

So how do you put it all together?

The most important thing is to get started, and you’ll learn the information you need along the way.

Here is a rough guide to give you an idea of what to expect.

1) Consider your motivations

Consider your motivations How many people does it take to make a religion?

If you’re starting a new religion, you’ll have a strong and compelling reason why.

This is not something that’s formally required in order to make a religion, but it’s very helpful in order to guide you through your future decisions.

What has led you to do this? There could be a number of reasons:

  • You don’t relate to any religions that currently exist
  • You have great knowledge or insight that you’d like to spread and share
  • You’d like to be able to solemnize unions such as weddings or other ceremonies
  • You’re critical of other religions
  • You’re doing it just for fun

There is no right or wrong answer here. 

But as you can tell, depending on the reason above you would approach starting and developing your religion in a very different way. 

Different things may be needed, or become completely unnecessary.

So take the time to consider this now and you’ll make things much easier for yourself down the line.

2) Ask yourself the big picture questions

As you know from the sections above, a religion needs to give people a way to understand the big picture questions in life. These could include:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • How did the universe originate?
  • What is our purpose on the planet?
  • What happens after death?
  • Why do bad things happen?

A religion provides people with a framework to help them grapple with these difficult questions. 

It could be through a story of the universe, or it could be just a set of principles that people remember and abide by. 

Now is the time to define what these are. 

3) Choose a name 

Next, you’ll need to pick a name for your religion.

The best name would be one that people with similar beliefs to you can relate to and identify with.

If you can, you should make it reflect the beliefs, values, or essence of your religion.

Here are some examples of names of religions that have been invented:

  • Discordianism
  • The Church of All Worlds
  • The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
  • Scientology
  • Eckankar

But if not, at least aim to make it memorable and easy to understand. 

Consider if the followers of your religion come mostly from a particular place, and how easy it will be for them to pronounce.

And definitely check to make sure the word you choose doesn’t mean something else in another language! 

4) Consider what else your religion needs

At this point, you’ve already got your religion.

But take a moment to consider if you think you will need any of the other things we mentioned above.

Perhaps you want to be able to collect money, or perform particular ceremonies. Make sure to get the legal permissions to do these things, or you may run into big trouble with the authorities later. 

You may also want to designate particular special places or objects for religious practices, and define what these are. 

5) Spread the word

It only takes one person to make a religion, but chances are you have bigger ambitions than that!

Now it’s time for other like minded people to hear about your religion, so that they too have something they can identify with to guide and help them through their life. 

Many religious founders recommend starting slowly. Focus first on talking to people close to you about your ideas.

Some of them will spread the word to their friends and acquaintances, and so on and so forth.

In this way, the number of people who know about your religion will slowly start to expand, and those who feel drawn to it will be able to easily reach you. 

When you have built a stable and trusted group, you can come up with a more organized and large-scale way of spreading the word to other people, if you wish. 

Make sure you clearly establish any rules needed for how the religion will be organized and managed at the beginning, to avoid problems and misunderstandings later. 

Final thoughts

Now you know how many people it takes to make a religion, as well as several other important questions to boot.

You’ve got everything you need to know to get started, and now it’s time to take action. 

Have courage, and you’ll be sure to create amazing change! Remember, every religion out there first started as an idea in a single person’s mind. 

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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