"About twenty years after the ascension of our Saviour, it came to pass, that there was seen by the people of Renfusa...within night, (the night was cloudy, and calm,) as it might be some mile into the sea, a great pillar of light; not sharp, but in form of a column, or cylinder, rising from the sea a great way up towards heaven; and on the top of it was seen a large cross of light, more bright and resplendent than the body of the pillar. Upon which so strange a spectacle, the people of the city gathered apace together upon the sands, to wonder; and so after put themselves into a number of small boats, to go nearer to this marvellous sight. But when the boats were come within (about) sixty yards of the pillar, they found themselves all bound, and could go no further; yet so as they might move to go about, but might not approach nearer: so as the boats stood all as in a theatre, beholding this light as an heavenly sign.--Bacon New Atlantis.
A spectacle that introduces wonder and marvel precedes the introduction of a idiosyncratic version of the Christian religion on Bensalem (accompanied by further miracles). As commentators have noted, the reader later learns that the members of the Society of Salomon's House are fully capable of creating the recounted spectacle and other marvels. Given the docile and orderly nature -- itself a marvel -- of the citizens of Bensalem, it's hard not to infer that a properly managed and crafted religion can help pacify a population; New Atlantis shows the reader how this is done. (The previous sentence is compatible with the existence of other forms of pacification.)
A natural question to ask is what problem is the introduction of religion meant to solve on Bensalem? There are hints throughout New Atlantis, that in the remote past [recall] Bensalem had suffered some kind of civil war (or turmoil) that was only settled by King Solamona, who along with other constitutional reforms, founded Salomon's House a few hundred years before the marvelous introduction of Christianity. My own -- anachronistic, Spinozistic -- guess is that the members of the scientific society recognizes that religion is needed to offer the promise of salvation to the non-elite (i.e., the vast number of folk not members of the House of Salomon, who seem to have found the key to extending life indefinitely but don't seem intent on sharing it with the population at large).
Anyway, I was reminded of Bacon's oblique presentation of how religion was deliberately introduced into society because I was discussing Cavendish's presentation (with Jon Shaheen) of a similar phenomenon:
With that shot off his pistoll into the breast of the chief Priest, wherewith he straight fell down dead; the noise of the pistoll, and the flash of the fire, which they never saw before, and the effect of it upon the Priest, strooke them with such a horror, and did so terrify them, as they all kneeled down imploring mercy, and forgiveness, with trembling limbs, and weeping eyes, whereupon he told them, there was no ways to avoid punishment, but first to fast two dayes from any kinde of nourishment; Next, not to open their lipps to speak, and then to obey whatsoever he shall teach them, as being sent from the Gods; bidding them go home untill their time of fasting were out; and then to return to the Temple again.--Margaret Cavendish, Assaulted and pursued Chastity.
Here the lead characters of Cavendish's short story overawe a native/savage population. What's central in the episode is not the murder of the chief Priest (who was about the sacrifice and cannibalize the heroine,who is disguised as a man, and her/his adopted father) as such, but rather the fact that it is done with unknown technology, which, due to unfamiliarity and surprise, generates awe-inspiring effects (sound, fire, death). This becomes the occasion of the introduction of a new (Deistic) religion, after the two days of enforced fasting, by a (self-appointed) prophet who abolishes human sacrifice.
That is, Cavendish (whose more familiar Blazing World plays with and rejects themes from New Atlantis) and Bacon both show how technology can be marshaled to create marvelous appearances that are taken as divine signs and, thereby, used to create political power. While it may be tempting to read in these stories a kind of retrospective unmasking of the great monotheistic prophets-legislators, one may also see in them a kind of prophecy (inspired, say, by the Spanish Conquest) of the European, imperial projects.