Do you want people to bow down to you whenever they see you? Do you want people to worship you, and think you're God? If they don’t think that you’re God, being God’s Chosen One is almost as good. People should trust
God you completely. People should hand control of their lives and/or money over to God you. Otherwise you’re not doing it properly.
Starting a new sect or a new church of an existing religion can be done similarly.
 Doctrines and rewards
- First convince yourself that you have a special relationship with God, the gods, the Aliens, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Other World, Chuck Norris, Goats or something else wonderful and holy. (You don't have to convince yourself provided you can convince your followers, but it helps.) Anyone can be a self-proclaimed prophet; you just have to proclaim yourself to be a prophet. Then convince your followers that you have a special relationship with God, the gods, the Aliens, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Your followers should be ready to evangelize for your religion. They may well lose their old friends who are now bored to death with hearing how wonderful your religion is. That’s not a problem. Your followers just get more dependent on their relationships within Your Church.
- Develop a load of impressive sounding respected religious doctrines. These can take many forms, provided you and your followers are on the right side and the others are on the wrong side. Alternatively all religions are different paths to the correct side which naturally is your side. You should speak and/or write with a load of incomprehensible religious or scientific jargon that looks and sounds impressive. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just needs to be impressive. Optionally, make up new jargon for yourself: that makes your religion special and unique! Your Sacred Text should ideally include wonderful Miracles which are convincingly demonstrated. These miracles prove that the Sacred Text is true. Only a God as wonderful as the God of your religion could possibly have done these miracles. The miracles certainly really happened because the Sacred Text says so and the Sacred Text must be true. As far as potential inconsistencies goes, either make sure there are none so you can bash at other religion's holy books or stick to industry standards to hide behind a veil of mysticism. Don't make only a few so it will have holes to be attacked or too much that it becomes incomprehensible.
- Convince your followers that believing what you tell them will bring wonderful rewards. A really clever trick is to persuade them that they will receive the said rewards after they die. That way, if they are disappointed with the rewards, at least they won't be able to whine about it to you! Convince your followers that in order to receive the above rewards they should believe you unquestioningly like little children. Questioning what you say undermines their own rational thought, which is outright bad and spiritually weak. Your doctrines are The Truth! The scientific method
and rational thoughtdon’t apply, and your way is the only way to rational thought. Followers must believe The Sacred Text in its entirety. Children must be taught the religion before they are old enough to see it doesn't make sense.Their children must be taught the sacred religion when they are young so they will come to the understanding that this is the only way to make sense of anything and enjoy these wonderful rewards of adhering to your way. (Teaching children while they are little will also fulfill any legal requirements regarding not leaving children at home alone, as parents should be busy most of the day and night working in/for the Church.) Selective adherence or belief just won't do: followers must believe so strongly that they will be fed to lions rather than deny your precious teachings.
 Doctrines and punishments
- Convince your followers that not believing what you tell them will bring terrible punishments now or after they die. That way they stay scared even if nothing bad happens. If scientists say parts of The Sacred Text don’t make sense then those scientists are "an abomination." Your followers must avoid any education which might contradict The Sacred Text. Ideally followers should simply study Sacred Texts, worship, and gather together goods for you.
Children must be taught the religion before they are old enough to see it doesn’t make sense.Their children must be taught the sacred religion when they are young, so they will escape various punishments. Prescribe punishments for those in your community who don't believe The Sacred Text you have written.
- Convince your followers that they should think critically about all other religions and doctrines. If other doctrines are irrational or unscientific, let them know it is virtuous to point this out. If the followers of other religions follow silly ideas like little children, naturally that is a bad thing. Those who follow such teachings deserve to be fed to lions.
You are on the way to getting your religion started. What should your moral code be like? There are two possibilities.
- The first is to make the code so hard that everyone is bound to fail. That way your followers will be forever grovelling over their various shortcomings and coming to you in supplication, hoping that you will forgive them or put things right with the Higher Power/Powers. Brainwash your followers properly. They should spend half their time feeling inferior because they can't keep your unrealistic moral code. They should spend the other half feeling superior to those who don't even pretend to follow an unrealistic moral code. See for example Fundamentalist Christianity and Scientology. A hard moral code will suit you if you are sadistically minded and keen to dominate your followers. Naturally, as God or as God's Chosen One, you yourself are above criticism. (Roman Catholics traditionally practised self-flagellation as do some Protestants. Shia Moslems self flagellate as well. Requiring that could appeal to you.)
- The alternative is a moral code that is easy to follow. That way your followers are pleased that they can do as expected and stay faithful. You can share and enjoy whatever orgies or other lax moral things your followers do. See for example Raelism.
Like any other serious endeavor, you have to plan ahead to be a successful messiah, leader, spacepope, or whatever. You need to think about your timeline before you get awkward eschatological questions or are tempted to preach about "the end times" because you've run out of actually useful advice to distribute. Are you a short-term or long-term prophet/pharaoh/Tom Cruise? You need to decide this up front. It is a given that your new religion guarantees a cataclysmic end of the world, with paradise for the believers and torment for the sane. (This is, in fact, a requirement to qualify for insurance.) So the operative question is not if, but when. Is D-Day ongoing, coming soon, or is it in the nebulous, far-off future? If you want to build yourself up to a long-term, respectable religion, you need to be vague regarding when it'll all go up in smoke. Very vague. Contradictorily vague. Indecipherably vague. With adequate vagueness and a few charismatic preachers, you can guarantee your cult's existence for millennia. But if you want some hot, hot heat, you can opt for the doomsday scenario. The end is nigh! By claiming that the end is soon upon us, you might not create a lasting religion, but you can make up for it with feverish intensity and CNN coverage after your ritual suicide. If you're good, though, and plan ahead, and don't all commit suicide, you can have it both ways. Look at Christianity! Jesus told his followers that he would return in their lifetimes. And the suckers are still waiting, and most importantly, shelling out their hard earned cash. Now THAT'S a religion worth starting! With proper planning, anything is possible.
Alternatively, if recycling is one of your doctrines, you don't need a timeline. Things can be constructed to continue indefinitely. This may conflict with many conventional doctrines that relates to rewards and punishments after death (but then again, the same idea of "breaking out of the cycle" can be used both as a reward and as a punishment.) so make sure you plan ahead to incorporate everything if you are using that to avoid having a timeline.
- Avoid locations where other people may — based on past experience — suspect you to be a nutjob, especially in the initial stages of your path to
dominationpreaching the salvation. Have lots of armed bodyguards if you have to be in those places.
- Start your own website (and by extension, familiarize yourself in using social media). Tell people that you are sure the world will end in
2012(Insert date/time, preferably after you cash in and fleecomplete your scriptures so you have something to show to your prospects). Only your followers will be saved. Everyone else will be destroyed/enslaved by the followers youthe Higher Power(s) for all eternity. When the world doesn’t end, revise the date (Optionally, lay claim that your actions caused the delay so you can save more people, or that the end is already happening slowly, and you and your follower are staying so you can save more people). Tell your followers that any natural disaster came upon people because they sinned against the aforementioned deity to whom you are intimately and inextricably linked. If the people killed in the disaster were apparently virtuous, tell your followers that these poor unfortunates sinned in their hearts. In case most of the victims happens to be your followers, an alternative can be said that your deity request these victims to fast-track to the rewards you said they have been promised.
- Tell your followers to expect that unbelievers and family will hate them and criticize them and make up stories about you — The True Messiah. That way, when friends and family criticize the true believers and newspapers reveal the truth of your sordid sex life You — The Messiah — will be able to say, "See, it's happening exactly as I predicted. These things must make your faith stronger!".
- Tell your followers that blessings and curses are real, powerful, and tangible. Only you have power to give/remove curses or give/remove blessings. Tell them they're already cursed but you can remove the curses. Optionally, tell them if they leave your religion
you will curse them againtheir blessings will expire/be removed. Make up some frightening jargon about a generation curse or something.
Variant. Tell your followers that those disciples you have empowered can overcome the curse of whatever.  Those who have studied diligently your sacred mysteries can also discover hidden messages, defeat curses and obtain blessings. Naturally, learning the divine mysteries is very expensive. Give a free introductory course to get them interested and frightened.  Later, they start paying. 
 Nice thingies
Right now everyone is hopeful and scared. It’s time for the next step. Require your followers to provide you with any nice thingies that you like to have including:
- give you a large part of their incomes. It would be prudent to apply for tax-exempt status and give them tax receipts as a "benefit" of joining your religion.
- give you their virgin daughters as brides if you’re into women (Or perhaps their wives, husbands or lovers — as some people consider virgins to be seriously overrated, and hey, it's your religion so you make the rules.)
- give you handsome considerate male lovers if you’re into men,
- have mating rituals performed by your followers as part of your religious rituals in case you happen to enjoy voyeurism.
- perform mating rituals yourself as part of your religious rituals in case you happen to enjoy exhibitionism.
- give you cheese, wine, beer,… nice healthy lentils or beans, healthy lentils will certainly make a good impression with the faithful. There’s one problem.
GOD DOESN’T FART AND NEITHER DOES GOD’S REPRESENTATIVE.God isn’t subject to flatus and neither is God’s representative. If that need arises, tell your followers that you wish to meditate alone to provide them with spiritual benefits.
If you follow the steps outlined above you should have it made for the rest of your life. Don’t worry about what will happen to you in the afterlife. There’s no evidence for any.
Robert A. Heinlein knows better than to take these sort of bets now.
 See also
- How to start your own destructive cult
- Joseph Smith, Jr.
- L. Ron Hubbard
- Truth - make
your"the" truth BIG for a successful religion