At the Whitepebble Religious Institute, awed students hang on every word dropping from the lips of esteemed and pious instructors like Tom Weedsandwheat, Tom Loavesenfish, and even Tom Pearlsandswine. These guys make the religion game look so easy that students begin to imagine they can do it too. Of course, they can't, so when the inevitable handful of pupils timidly approach an instructor to ask how to start their very own religion or at least a sect, or if need be, even a cult, our responsible staff always discourages it. It's not as easy as it looks.
Sure, the perceived perks readily present themselves. As founder of a religion, you can assume any title you want. Make one up. The longer the better. Moreover, replacing the second or third syllable of your name with the 'ou' sound (pronounced 'ow'), accenting that syllable, then appending an "ism" generally makes for a respectable and pious-sounding name. Not always, of course. Thomousism sounds downright ridiculous, but that is only because of the rodent, a contingency that will not present itself for most substitutions. Girl names, especially the trendy ones ending in "i," fare especially well. Let's face it, "girl" religions are hot today; the founders generally ask, not so much if they can do better than guys, but how can they do worse? All the same, as a purely practical measure, we do not recommend starting one's own religion.
The trouble is, having started a religion, you have to go and find disciples. Now, you may think that you can find cool ones, but hard experience shows that the cool ones are already taken, and you will get stuck with pinheads and oddballs. Of course, they are disciples and so you have to teach them stuff, but, as pinheads and oddballs, you will find they are absolutely impervious to knowledge, much as are fenceposts, and they will consume every minute of your time. Plus, they continually embarrass you by loudly pronouncing judgement on everyone in sight. You also have to take them on field trips...not merely to the zoo or the fish hatchery, but to mountaintops and desert plains, preferably during extreme weather. How are you going to keep any semblance of a social life with all that running around? True, as a religious organization, all that mountain climbing gear is tax deductible, but the challenge of documentation is formidable. And to top it all, if they really get nutty and start to do things like, say.. commit mass suicide so as to hitch a ride on an incoming comet, the government comes in with tanks and flamethrowers and destroys you, your compound, your disciples, and takes away your tax exemption! Decidely, it is not worth it.
The Whitepebble Institute has always assumed such stern counsel has had it's effect on our students. But we don't know it for sure. They're our students, for crying our loud, not our kids. You can't follow them around everywhere. Recently, though, we've been scratching our heads with regard to a certain former pupil.
It turns out that the next Judge First, Ask Questions Later religious conference is to be held in Krukordistan, a wretched little country if ever there was one. Organizers, however, were offered a good price. So we at the Institute bought a travel book in order to become familiar with the place, and we came across this remarkable paragraph under the heading Religions of Krukordistan. It seems the fourth most populous faith in the country is "Kathouism."
The guidebook describes the group as "relatively recent in appearance. Most scholars fix the date of origin within the past 100 years, but the really smart ones give a time period much shorter....say, just a few years. A very strange religion, its members, mostly cool, though there are some oddballs and pinheads, are forever trekking through deserts and climbing mountains in rotten weather. (the weather in Krukordirstan is always rotten...doubtless that is why the faith has caught on here so quickly.) It's founder, a young woman with a braid, (which her disciples are constantly pulling, much to her exasperation) absolutely insists on being addressed by her full self-assumed title: Most Laudable Audible Very Litigious Double Dutch Duchess of the Sky! Her only formal training appears to be from some half-baked religious institute in the USA, and she is known to keep several irons in the fire in case she may someday tire of religion."
Kathi used to sit in the back row, quietly. Sometimes she would sleep. Sometimes she'd fuss with her hair. Nobody ever dreamed she was paying the slightest bit of attention.