Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Religion Is a Business--A Criminal One

It has often occurred to me that religion isn't just a business; it is a criminal activity--part con game, part protection racket.

Generally, the founders of religions are deeply disturbed individuals who want power, money, and sex in abundance and are willing to do or say anything to get them.  First, the founder of the religion (or cult, which is the special name given to new, small religions to indicate their lack of power) realizes the power religion has over its followers and that if he were in control of a religion then he could have almost anything he wanted.  His desire for these things is so great and his ethical standards so low that he determines that this is something he should try.  Then he seeks out those he can recruit to his group. 

He convinces a group of other people that he know things he cannot possibly know--the secrets of the universe.  He promise to share this knowledge and its benefits.  He is happy to accept a small token in return, then another, then another, until the new converts have nothing left and their investment in too great to walk away.

Of course, the converts are told that all such money and other types of wealth collected are to be used to help "spread the word" and thus "save" everyone on Earth from something--strife, ignorance, hellfire, etc.  The end result, however, is to enrich the founder (and, later, his closest supporters) and leave the convert with no way to regain his economic autonomy.  The convert can recoup his investment only by staying and becoming one of those close followers who get the goodies.

As the founders reel in their fish, they follow a formula designed to slowly strip away the autonomy of the individuals they have recruited, such as psychological manipulation, isolation from family and friends, deprivation of sleep and nutrition, thought control through "study" and constant monitoring by others, blackmail, etc.

Once a religion reaches sufficient size to become dominant, or relatively so, within its society, then it begins to take on the features of a protection racket.  It tells non-members that they really need to join for their own good.  Bad things will happen to them if they don't meet the church's current standards for acceptable levels of conformity.  You will go to a very bad place after you die.  But, just as with criminal protection rackets, the bad things that happen to those who resist seem to be perpetrated solely by the members of the organization demanding obedience and payment.

The real threat isn't that some invisible man in sky will punish you after you are dead.  The real threat is that you will be publicly labeled as a "bad person" by the members of the church.  Then the members and their friends and allies will find various ways to show their displeasure, such as de facto economic boycotts, shunning, ostracizing, insults, rudeness, constant attempts to upset you in order to pick a fight or otherwise get you into trouble, constant unjustified criticism of every aspect of your life, spreading of malicious rumors, etc.

Once the cult has sufficient dominance, then membership or obedience of some sort will become required to obtain the favor of its many members who by then will play so many economic and social roles in their society that they will seem to be everywhere.  Even those who don't belong to the church will begin to try to curry their favor and avoid their wrath.  Those who dare to incur the wrath of the church will find that things don't seem to go their way after that. Of course, the perpetrators find ways to shield themselves from prosecution or retaliation.  This is easy to do if you are a member of an organization that will shield you from criminal and civil liability for your wrongdoing--especially if you did it to help the organization, though that isn't a requirement.

Mature, organized religion is very much like a criminal organization such as the Mafia and behaves in a similar manner.  Religions have engaged in extortion, torture, murder, and intimidation throughout the ages in order to achieve their goals--the protection and expansion of their con game/protection racket.

Please read Andrew Sullivan's trenchant article about the pope's response to the ever-burgeoning child abuse scandal.  Particularly note his emphasis on the fact that the church chose to protect itself rather than the children. This is a phenomenon that is not limited to the catholic church, nor even to the hierarchy or clergy of various churches.  Large churches behave very much like the mafia--only using dishonesty and PR instead of guns (usually).  This is just an example of it.

Here is a link to an even better article on the subject:


Finally, these confidence swindlers and their "muscle", the congregation, will develop alliances with those in power. Then the con game becomes part of the power structure. This is religion at full maturity--a parasite intertwined with the vital organs of its host.  Once that point is reached, the con game serves the secular powers as well as the church.

The church promises a blessed, luxurious "afterlife" in "heaven" if you follow the principle expressed in "ora et labora" (pray and work), which means that you should work hard, do as you are told, don't ask any questions, and give your hard earned money to the church. Your reward will come after you have died!  (And if the carrot doesn't work, then the stick is waiting.)  What a perfect scheme for controlling large numbers of people! And all that when the priest caste never, ever provides any shred of evidence that God, Heaven and Hell actually exist.

If you haven't seen this website satirizing religion, I highly recommend it:


Send the link to all your friends, especially the religious ones so that they can get a glimpse of what religion really is through the lens of parody.

This scheme works only with an uneducated, ignorant population. As the general population in many countries becomes better educated and increasingly literate, these tricks no longer work as originally designed, which is why non-belief is on the increase today.  This is also why increasingly desperate attempts by religious groups to retain the privileged status of their religion, such as the continual fights over school prayer and prayer at government functions.  We are also seeing resurgent attempts to make questioning and criticizing religious superstitions a crime (blasphemy laws), supported by politicians who want to increase their power base and make personal gains, such as in Ireland and at the UN.

Non-believers need to understand the nature of religion:  It is a criminal enterprise that cares only for itself.   It will lead us all into the abyss of a new "dark ages" if we let it.  It is not enough simply to de-convert and engage in the occasional discussion or argument.

Religion must be fought in the same way that organized crime is fought.  That fight requires information, insight, planning and fortitude.  It is a long term battle.  It will take decades if not generations.  The battlefield lies in the minds of the public.  Religion could not engage in any of its unethical activities without a great deal of support from its members and members of the public who are either too disengaged to care or to afraid to get involved.  That is the thing that must be changed--the attitudes of those who do nothing.

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