Religion Sans Non-Believers
I’m trying to come up with a new religion that deals with the problem of non-believers without damning them or going to war against them. Since all religions — though they may have some good insights or advice — are, at their core, irrational, religion only seems plausible when you surround yourself with other people who believe the way you believe. Since your immortality rests on your set of irrational beliefs being true, being around people who have a completely different set of irrational beliefs is discomfiting… at best.
This is why conversion is a vital aspect of most religions. The more people who believe the way you do, the more true it seems to be. And since few like to contemplate the possibility that they are inevitably destined for oblivion (Just Earth? Eww.), people whose different impossible beliefs hold a funhouse mirror to our own impossible beliefs need to be destroyed in some way. Religion is blamed for a good amount of wars in human history, but it’s not the substance of the particular religions that causes conflict, but something inherent to religion as a whole: only one religion (at most) can be right; anyone who doesn’t buy into your fantasy is messing it up for you and all of your fellow believers. They have to be dismissed in some way or another (hell, nothingness, a lower level of heaven, STDs), and sometimes that involves murdering them.
But there has to be a way to create an immortality fantasy for yourself without leaving non-believers to decay.
Judaism kind of does this. It doesn’t actively convert anyone, and it doesn’t automatically damn anyone who isn’t Jewish to a miserable afterlife. Instead, it has The Seven Laws of Noah, rules for non-Jews to follow. The problem is that if you don’t believe in Judaism, why are you going to care about the rules Judaism says you’re supposed to follow as a non-Jew?
If the rules were so lax that any reasonable person could obey them without really trying, that might work, but the ban against idoltry rules out cross-worshipping Christians and anyone who watches E! Entertainment Television. Homosexuality forfeits your immortality claim here, as does eating an animal while it’s still alive (probably not a big deal most of the time, unles you like to eat raw oysters). Using the Lord’s name in vain is against the rules and rule seven, which says that you must have a judicial system that enforces Rules 1 - 6, arguably banishes all of us to non-existence.
So I think there’s still room for a religion that deals with non-believers in a completely neutral way. The only thing I’ve thought of so far is that a religion could be so confident in itself and the rightness of its beliefs, that it dismisses the possibility of a non-believer. There could be people who are unaware of the religion, but to have even heard of the religion is to know it’s true. And no matter what anyone says, or what religion they claim to believe in, they all secretly believe it.
To take this even further, one thing the religion encourages is to loudly repudiate the beliefs of the religion. This is beause it’s so obviouly true, to constantly ridicule and mock the religion can’t put a dent in it. This also further takes care of the problem of non-believers. Since even believers are constantly making fun of their own religion, there is no way to tell a believer and a non-believer apart.
Thus, everyone believes, we all think we’re immortal, and we don’t have to kill each other about it.