I would like to call attention to the conflicts-of-interest and element of self-interest that are often glossed over in religious matters. I submit that making transparent these elements would improve religious discourse and religion itself because the infected pronouncements and declarations could be “re-calibrated,” or revalued, in terms of their credibility.
For example, say I was holding an office in a religious organization and I said, “Any member who leaves this religion risks losing their salvation.” Even if my religious organization taught that membership is required for salvation, the conflict-of-interest both for the institution and myself renders this teaching or pronouncement null and void unless made by someone of another religion (i.e., who does not have the conflict-of-interest). At the very least, we ought to make a footnote acknowledging the conflict-of-interest. Yet how often do we insist on this? My point is that self-interest, either collectively or individually, is not absent from religious discourse, and the related conflicts-of-interest ought to be recognized and treated as such in pronouncements that are tinged by them.
This criterion could be applied to religious texts just as well as religious functionaries (and laity). As an experiment, someone might go through a religious scripture, identifying all of the passages involving a conflict-of-interest for the writer or the religion itself. Removing all those passages, how would the text look? This is essentially a hermeneutic designed to make religion more honest–to hold it and its sponsors more accountable, given the salience of self-interest in all of us.