Historically, we've seen religions replace other (mostly pagan) religions. However, something like that happening in the 21st century seems extremely remote. What aspect of the historical world made it easier for new religions to be born and replace other existing ones?

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    I think you're seeing what I might call historical compression. That is, you're taking a phenomenon that happened over a period of hundreds or thousands of years (and is to a degree still happening today) and asking why we don't see it today. But for modern examples, see e.g.Wicca & neo-paganism, the Falun Gong in China, spread of Buddhism in the west, &c. – jamesqf Mar 12 '19 at 4:55
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    Plenty of new religions emerge today. Scientology, Anthroposophy and many more are good examples. – Jos Mar 12 '19 at 5:47
  • Reversing the question: we've seen a very large rise in atheism in the last couple centuries. The reason for this is probably because prior to 19th century physics and the discovery of Darwinian evolution, there was no coherent story on how the world could have come into its current state without supernatural assistance. – Gort the Robot Mar 12 '19 at 14:01

What about Scientology — a new religion founded in the 20th century.

The founding of the major world religions may look inevitable from present day, but contemporaries of Christ or Mohammad would not have been certain of their permanence and influence through the world. Christianity was a fringe religion for 300 years before Rome adopted it as its state religion as a means to consolidate power. That church is now divided into many denominations who do not recognize the authority of the Pope. Islam burst on the scene in one generation, forever changing the world political landscape. Judaism has outlived more other religions than we can imagine. Who knows what will be true in 300 years, we may all be worshiping alien gods with the Scientologists!

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    Though one could certainly argue that Scientology is a long-running confidence game rather than an actual religion. There are better examples. – jamesqf Mar 12 '19 at 17:16
  • If there are better examples you know of, share them, that’s the whole point of this site I believe. All religions could be argued to be cons, it doesn’t stop them from amassing wealth, power, and followers. – user35316 Mar 12 '19 at 22:57
  • I did share a few of them, in a comment to the question. And while all religions could in a sense be considered cons, AFAIK only Scientology has witnesses to the religion being planned as a deliberate money-making scheme. – jamesqf Mar 13 '19 at 4:53

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