Love it, hate it, believe in it or ignore it, religion is big business. The fact that religion is tax exempt in many countries of the world equally adds to its appeal.
But when it comes to thinking out a business, not many entrepreneurs would want to go the religious route because of the dicey nature of the industry, not to mention the fact that you will be open to more than your own fair share of controversy.
But all that aside, regardless of what people might think, it is not to hard to start a religion. While Australia has a strong tradition of secular government, religious organisations have played a significant role in public life. The Protestant and Catholic churches played an integral role in the development of education, health and welfare services.
Today, around a quarter of Christians attend church weekly and around a quarter of all school students attend church-affiliated schools.
The Christian festivals of Easter and Christmas are public holidays. Precise definition of the concept of religion, or of what generally constitutes ‘a religion’, is difficult, if not impossible, because of the intangible and wide-ranging nature of the topic.
This method of defining religion in terms of a mixture of beliefs, practices, and a Supernatural Being giving form and meaning to existence was used by the High Court of Australia in 1983. As part of the ruling, it was stated that:
“For the purposes of the law, the criteria of religion are twofold:
- first, belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle; and
- second, the acceptance of canons of conduct in order to give effect to that belief, though canons of conduct which offend against the ordinary laws are outside the area of any immunity, privilege or right conferred on the grounds of religion.”
The IRS makes no attempt to evaluate the content of whatever doctrine a particular organization claims is religious, provided the particular beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held by those professing them and the practices and rites associated with the organization’s belief or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy.
While Christians are in majority in the country (52 per cent), nearly a third of Australians say that they are not religious. Quite far behind, the other most common religions are Islam and Buddhism. The percentage of Australians claiming they have no religion (30.1 per cent) has gone up by almost 5 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
Australia is becoming more religiously diverse. 52 per cent of the Australian population is Christians (the biggest subgroup being Catholics at 22.6 per cent). 50 years ago, 88 per cent of Australians were Christians. As of 2016, 2.6 per cent of Australians said they practice Islam, 2.4 per cent Buddhism, 1.9 per cent Hinduism and 0.5 per cent Sikhism.
11 Steps on How to Register and Start your Own Religion in Australia
Here are the procedures to follow if you want to start your own type of religion in Australia.
1. Choose a focus
Before you can start your own religion in Australia, you have to first decide where you want to focus. Why are you interested in forming your own religion? Many a faith has been crafted because people were discontented with the status quo.
Buddhism developed initially as a protestant movement within Hinduism, and broke with the caste system as a form of social protest.
But obviously, not all religion started as a radical movement. Anton LaVey identified strongly with the carnie community, and consequently he combined a love of flair with Nietzschean philosophy and founded modern Satanism. So look at your own motives for making a religious system.
You should be able to answer these questions. Does it center around a person, an idea, or a physical object? Is it revolutionary or just plain fun? Religion can serve all sorts of purposes, so choose what works best for you. You know where your interests and strengths lean, so you should think towards that direction.
2. Craft out a central belief system
One thing you must have if you want to start a religion is a belief system. You don’t have to decide how your followers feel about your beliefs right now, because as your religion grows so will the doctrines of belief. Like medical ethics and child rearing, choose two or three main dogmas.
You should also know if they are going to be things that are considered sacred in your religion. Pirates, aliens, and vegetarianism are a few examples.
Or you could always go the way of Buddhism and reject the duality of that whole sacred/profane construct. The possibilities are endless. Whatever you choose, remember to use your imagination and enjoy yourself. But make sure it is something that people can easily identify with.
3. You need some rituals
Very few religions survive without a strong ritual component. Especially in fledgling religions, ritual can help bind a new community together and instill a sense of loyalty to the new faith. Ritual can also be very psychologically gratifying.
Why do you think that Neo-Paganism is so popular? Those guys have some great rituals. Now, its your choice how strict the ritual should be and how it ties in with your belief system, but if you’re all out of ideas try referring back to your focus.
Symbolism is a big part of religion, and you can always create a ritual that references your focus, and reminds everyone that that’s why you’re doing this in the first place.
4. Make your business look the part
Aesthetics is another big part of religion. This means that your new religious body has to look the part. You should assemble all your tools and materials, and get started on the symbols and artwork of your new regime. What clothes should your followers wear?
What symbol will easily identify them as your followers? Your religion’s visual appearance will be your calling card in the world. What is your theme? Consider colors, design, and nick-knacks. All these have to be designed and put together before you legalize the business.
5. Choose your own role within the power structure of your religion
Are you the head priest? The enlightened one? A mystic? An equal community member? Or perhaps the anonymous founder, setting your creation adrift in the world? Christianity and Islam both started with a single prophet. Just remember that whatever your role, timing and social context can make or break a religion.
Before declaring yourself the next Messiah, consider if the world is ready for that. Perhaps a guru would be more appropriate. But in all, your role has to be established first before anything else so you come across as being confused.
6. Register your religion
Religion is regarded as a business entity, so it has to be registered with the government of Australia. A certificate of formation (sometimes called articles of formation) is a document used in many locations to formally incorporate a religion as a legally-recognized entity.
It describes what a nonprofit organization will do, how it will be managed, etc. Churches that are recognized as nonprofit are automatically considered tax-exempt. You do not have to apply for this protection if you meet the code’s guidelines.
This tax exemption can provide financial and legal protection to your religion, allowing it to practice freely according to its principles.
Though tax exemption if automatic for recognized churches, you can still apply formally for it. This might be a good idea if you just want to be sure your religion qualifies for this protection, or if you think that officially applying will give it some legitimacy.
7. Focus on promotion
For your religion to be effective, it needs to be prominent so that people can hear about it. Whatever your medium, a soapbox, the internet, protesting at the U.N., you probably want exposure. Otherwise, how will you attract others to your cause?
In order to gain official recognition and get those tax breaks, you’re going to need followers, so let the world know you’re here. Choose a medium that will give you the best results.
8. Select a name for your religion
Your religion needs to have a name by which it will be recognized. The name of your religion should reflect its purpose and foundation, so do not choose it carelessly. Think about the central beliefs or messages of your religion, and try to reflect these in the word or phrase that will serve as its name.
9. Find a meeting place
Followers of your religion might start out by meeting at your home (or someone else’s). As it grows, you might look for a place that is more public, such as a café, a park, or somewhere else that is convenient. As your religion grows, you may look into more permanent meeting place, such as a rented or purchased building.
10. Hold frequent services or meetings
Studies have shown that the most successful religions have congregations that meet often. If your religion has services or worship procedures, consider holding them several times a week. You will be more likely to increase your religion’s numbers if members and potential members have the flexibility to choose when to attend services.
11. Create a welcoming feel
People are more likely become regular members of your religion if you offer them a welcoming place to visit. Whatever your religious services entail, consider having them in a comfortable environment that is easily accessible. For instance, people that are intimidated by or turned off of traditional religious services might be more likely to attend an informal, coffee-house style service.