That's thing one. Thing two is this Times Online article that PZ Myers thrashed on Pharyngula. Now, I don't disagree with Dr. Myers - I mean, after all, he would know. The shit is just common sense, and he's a doctor - that's just a winning setup for being right. This is a thought experiment, though, so I want to ask: what if we're wrong? If we're wrong on this one, and somehow, for whatever reason, it actually turns out to be the case that some people need religion, then... shouldn't they have the best religion possible?
That's the hook, and here's the pitch: let's hedge our bets on the principle of skepticism (you know, take precautions just in case we're wrong), while also taking into account the idea that "religious belief [is] a path of least resistance for many people," and have a little fun at the same time! Let's give the religious moderates the path of least resistance we'd like them to take, as a sort of cultural triage to save the world from the very worst evils of religion by building a better one until we can eliminate it completely. Let's reverse-engineer religion, see if we can find out what makes it tick as a mind-infecting idea, but design it to have good effects: an intelligently designed memetic symbiote built to oust the obsolete organic model, until we've outgrown the whole thing as a species.
It worked for L Ron Hubbard (building a religion, not making the world a better place), and I think I'm smarter than he is. I also think I'm a better person, so I'm going to try to do a better job than he did: I'm going to try to maximize the social cohesion aspect, minimize the bigotry and insanity, maintain the mystery of faith and sense of mythic storytelling, deliver a code of conduct in line with the best humanist ethics I'm aware of, and top it off with some metaphysical ultimates that in no way conflict with science (I promise!). This religion is going to be reason-proof and reason-friendly, if you can believe it! For bonus points, I'll try to future-proof it by working in some sort of auto-correcting update mechanism (something like, "listen to the scientists, even if this book disagrees with them").
Still not with me on this one? OK, let me put it this way: imagine yourself in the tragic dilemma of needing to pick a religion to be the One Truth of the Universe. I know it could never happen, but still. My goal is to build a religion that would be an easy choice. See? It's like a game!