Ideally, all you need to start a religion anywhere in the world is just one person. Globally, there is no legal issue at all involved in starting a religion.
You can begin yours in as little as 2 minutes but acquiring the legal privileges for your religion can be very daunting, and more challenging would be convincing and attracting followers to your religion. To enjoy tax privileges, you will be expected to sign over your taxable possessions to the church.
In the United States, there are basically no requirements at all to start a religion. It is not even mandatory to register with the IRS.
According to reports, every attempt to force religions to register has been considered a direct violation of the First Amendment of Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
Owing to the First Amendment of Constitution, you don’t even need “a history, a leader, a place to worship and a routine to worship” especially since worship is not a requirement of religion. No uniforms, no church, no rules, and no exact number of people.
All you need to start your own religion is to “formalise” or “live” your beliefs. You can choose to believe anything you want, and if you can attract one person to believe with you, then you have a “church”.
However, once money becomes involved and to ensure you don’t get into trouble with the tax man and authorities, it is advisable (not mandatory) to register some form of organization (for instance, a non-profit). Howbeit, this requirement would vary per country and state though, so you will need to conduct extensive research and also ask questions for adequate clarification.
In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service makes rules about churches and religious organizations intentionally vague to respect the religious liberties outlined in the Constitution. Note that the organization makes reference to members of the clergy who are ordained, commissioned or licensed.
However, every religion and denomination acknowledges clergy differently, and the IRS is barely interested in investigating the validity of religious groups’ practices and beliefs.
Also have it in mind that wages a church or religious institution pays to its ministers for assuming religious functions are not subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes. These religious functions include: taking on priestly functions, conducting religious worship, and controlling, conducting, and maintaining religious organizations that are under the authority of a church or denomination.
However, every penny a minister earns in their religious capacity is subject to Self Employed Contributions Act taxes, unless he or she applies for exemption.
Howbeit, note that churches or religious institutions actually are not mandated by law to file an application for tax exemption. Your church may choose to do so, maybe, to offer members and contributors peace of mind that their contributions will notably earn them tax benefits.
How to Start a Religion in the United States
If you are eager to create change and you intend to do that by starting your own religion, then note that you can actually start one in as little as 2 minutes. Although it may take quite an effort to organize your religion and get it officially recognized, it will be very rewarding especially when you see your work lead to a thriving membership.
Choose Your Concept
The first question you will need to answer is: Why do you want to establish a religion of your own? Have it in mind that many religious beliefs were established because the existing ones did little to offer spiritual satisfaction to individuals.
Understanding why you intend to start your own religion will help you create a resounding plan for a thriving membership. Starting a religion will require a concise amount of planning. Note that you can begin by writing down your ideas about why you intend to invent a new religion.
Understanding the basic reason for your religion’s existence will be very imperative if you are eager to be successful. Religion can be anything, so understand what feels right for you. Remember that before he took issue with Scientology, Ron Hubbard was a science fiction author. Play your strengths!
Choose A Name And Establish A Core System Of Beliefs
The name of your religion is expected to reflect its purpose and core system of beliefs, so do not choose it carelessly. Take your time to consider the central beliefs or messages of your religion, and try to inculcate these in the word or phrase that will function as its name.
Feel free to take your time in this phase. You may not need to specify how your believers feel about anything at the moment, especially since the theories of belief evolve as your group expands.
You can leave the implicated things for later, things such as nursing practice and children’s education, and select two or three basic dogmas. In your belief, what is considered holy and sacred? Some examples include pirates, aliens, and vegetarianism.
Or you can consider the Buddhist ideas and avoid the dualism of the entire concept of the sacred/profane. The exodus from Egypt and in Jewish Bible might also be ideal as another section on historical events. There are so many options. However, don’t forget to leverage your creativity and enjoy yourself with anything you select.
Design Your Routines And Principles
Note that without a significant ceremonial component, very few religions succeed. Have it in mind that rituals and principles can indeed help to connect a new group and develop a feeling of commitment to the new religion in new faiths. Also, note that the ritual may be quite rewarding mentally.
These routines and principles might also contain philosophical arguments, which can deduce how your religion views the world differently than others. Moreover, the decision is how tight the rituals will be and how it augments with your belief structure.
Symbolism is a pertinent component of religion, and you may always design a ritual that elaborates your religion’s emphasis and this is why you should do this first and foremost.
Seek Legal Status
Note that churches that are seen as non-profit according to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 501© (3) are more or less considered tax-exempt. In the United States, you do not have to apply for this protection if you meet the code’s guidelines.
However, this tax exemption can offer extensive financial and legal protection to your religion, allowing it to practice freely according to its principles and rituals.
In the United States, the IRS uses the term “church” extensively, using it to qualify any recognized religious group. Note that the major guidelines for recognition notes that any revenue the church earns may not be used to financially benefit an individual or shareholders, or to influence political decision-making (lobbying).
Also, note that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will consider whether or not a religious group officially qualifies as a church if it meets some combination of features.
Tax-exempt status lets religious organizations enjoy special audit protection. Nonetheless, it is critical to keep adequate records of all your finances. These may include salaries, expenditures, money collected from members of your religion, etc
Choose Your Role In Your Religion’s Leadership Structure
Will you be the General Overseer? The holy one, an enigma, or just a member of the same community? Or perhaps the anonymous founder who instills your invention in the world? Both Christianity and Islam began with one prophet.
However, regardless of your position, schedule, and social setting, a religion may make or break you. Take your time to consider if the society is ready for it before you declare yourself the next Lord. A mentor could be more idealistic if you want to learn the ropes.
Go Out And Advertise
Have it in mind that it is more vital than ever to get the word out about your religion if you want to grow its members. Ensure that your religion has active representation on all social media, make flyers to distribute in your community, give away T-shirts, etc.
Reports also have it that most successful religions have congregations that meet often. If your religion has services or worship procedures, consider holding them several times a week. In addition, 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.
People will more or less become regular members of your religion if you provide them with a comfortable place to visit. Irrespective of what your religious services entail, consider having them in a comfortable environment that is easily accessible.
In the United States, there isn’t really such a thing as being “officially recognized as a religion”. The US code tries to avoid talking about religion altogether. There’s no list of official religions or necessary requirements to be considered a religion.
The IRS recognizes churches as tax-exempt, and they’ll more or less take your word for it. However, just remember “with great power comes great responsibility”. As a religious leader, others normally hand their power over to you.