About 20 years ago, I came across a profound article about the Four Irreligions. I wish I could direct you to the original source, but it seems not to be easily found. The four irreligions can be better said as “the state when a religion strays too far away from its original message.” The author surmised that when a religion deviates from its true path, it goes in one of these four directions.
IRRELIGION OF SUPERIORITY
Followers of the irreligion of superiority believe they are holding on to the true faith. They feel that followers of other religions—or even similar sects of the same irreligion—are heathens heading straight for hell because they have not chosen the right path to God.
Followers of the irreligion of superiority are still friendly with other people of other faiths but their contempt still shines through them. Because the followers of the irreligion of superiority are already on the right path, there is no need to move forward in terms of any self-improvement.
IRRELIGION OF HOSTILITY
Followers of the irreligion of hostility are not so friendly to those of different faithn. This irreligion can somehow justify being contemptuous and unfair of their treatment of different believers. Taken to an extreme, followers of the religion of hostility can wage terrorism, war, and murder of the infidels in the name of their religion.
IRRELIGION OF INSULARITY
These followers minimize contact with their outside world as much as possible. They fear the outside has evil influences that can pull them away their safe religion, even to the extent of alienating family members who have made a different religious decision. So it’s best to pull like-minded people together to reinforce each other’s religion as being the right religion.
IRRELIGION OF COMPETITION
Followers of the irreligion of competition are constantly looking for new converts. New converts pull resources from other religions or sects to this more competitive religion, strengthening the religion community and making it more attractive to new seekers. The proof of righteousness is the size of the religious community.
THE RELIGIOUS CYNIC
Most religious cynics would see most religionists belong to one of more of these four irreligions. There probably is a degree of truth to this position as religionists are not perfect beings and can develop their psyche a little ways along any one of these four irreligions. The "bad" is more visible than the "good".
For example, many religionists prefer to associate with fellow members. We could call this “insular.” But we should also recognize there is a commonality between people of the same faith, which creates this association. This helps build a community and support group, which is a part of being in a positive religion. Cynics would usually overlook the positives aspects of many religions.
And whether we want to admit it or not, all of us belong to a religion or value system of some kind. For example, I spent about eight years of my life with alcohol as my god, buying into traditions of my heritage and the marketing of the alcohol companies. Instead of going to church on Sunday and saying “glory hallelujah”, I was in the pub on Friday and Saturday evenings in the pub saying “Let’s buy another round”—and proudly wearing my hangover the next day as a sense of accomplishment. I had a great contempt for abstainers and a lesser contempt those who could not drink themselves silly on occasion. I did my best to convert others to my religion of that time.
Hopefully this leaves the reader pondering on how to evaluate religion (or value system) so that we can tell the difference between true religions and the irreligions. I will just offer this quote to give readers something to ponder over:
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men.