JR'S Free Thought Pages
Religion - the Multi-Trillion Dollar Racket
Religion, Superstitions and other Irrationalities will demolish not only your intellect, but your bank account
By JR, October, 2020
“God is a fascist” – Bertolt Brecht (from A War Primer)
“What mean and cruel things men do for the love of God” - W. Somerset Maugham
“Clergyman: A generic title under which is designated any Christian who consecrates himself to the service of God, and feels himself called upon to live without working at the expense of the rascals who work to live.” - Voltaire
Gods, goddesses, devils, demons, angels, ancient aliens, alien abductions, heavens, hells, purgatories, limbos, miracles, prophecies, visions, auras, saviors, virgin births, immaculate conceptions, resurrections, bodily ascensions, faith-healings, exorcisms, salvation, redemption, messages from the dead, voices from Atlantis, omens, magic, clairvoyance, spirit-signals, divine visitations, incarnations, reincarnations, second comings, judgment days, astrology horoscopes, psychic phenomena, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, voodoo, fairies, leprechauns, goblins, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies, witches, warlocks, wraiths, poltergeists, dopplegangers, incubi, succubi, palmistry, tarot cards, ouija boards, levitation, out-of-body travel, magical transport to UFOs, Elvis on a flying saucer, invisible Lemurians in Mount Shasta, Thetans from a dying planet, New Age gobbledygook, snake oil, divine serpents, etc., etc.
That’s about 60-70 varieties of nonsensical ridiculousness and absurdity - more than Heinz 57- and I expect the reader can conjure up many others I have overlooked.
All these magical beliefs are very much alike in the sense that there is no tangible evidence for any of them. You cannot test propositions which are for the most part non-falsifiable supernatural claims. But as naturally skeptical, yet credulous naďve children, we’re expected to swallow them without question; i.e., by authority or “faith”. The only verification or “proof” for any of them is that they have been “revealed” by some parent, priest, pastor, prophet, psychic, guru, astrologer, shaman, mullah, mystic, swami, psychic, soothsayer or clairvoyant. If you accept an old adage that “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”, all of these mystical phenomena should be, as Voltaire has said, eradicated from the human consciousness or as he declared, “Écrasez l’Infâme”.
Considering the average human brain’s aversion to reason, logic and evidence and preference for the mysterious, magical, preposterous and spectacular, one would wonder why so many of us prefer magical thinking and accept propositions that are not verifiable. Sadly, the opposite is true and religion bears much of the responsibility for this viral meme of accepted ignorance. Billions of people throughout the world embrace these absurdities that most naturally skeptical un-indoctrinated pre-school children would question at face value. Almost all of humanity prays to invisible metaphysical entities and envisions a mystical transcendental realm - and most business leaders, politicians and professional athletes, whether they believe them or not, appeal to deities and other pie in the sky. Mysticism and supernaturalism pervade our entire species, in one form or another, as politicians mindlessly invoke “God Bless America” and pray for the families who have experienced loss of loved ones by natural disaster or the stupidities of war and other forms of gratuitous violence.
Throughout the world, varying from culture to culture, the phenomenon of supernatural transcendence is almost universal. It consumes billions of person-hours and trillions of dollars on a planet whereby millions of prayers to invisible beings are uttered every day, and even more millions of rituals performed. This bizarre infantile spectacle requires, not only a suspension of one’s rational faculties, but a vast hierarchy of priests and personnel, and a vast array of multi-million dollar churches, real estate and ancillary facilities. The cost is astronomical as Americans in 2019 gave $427 billion to churches, a stunning amount more than the national budgets of many countries. Other investment in the institutions of supernatural and superstitious religion is huge as, for example the $2.2 billion deluded Americans spent on psychics, astrologers and fortune tellers last year. Then there are the lotteries (some sponsored by government) and gambling casinos both online and brick and mortar which in any society of decency and civility, would be declared illegal. Despite our apparent commitments to liberalism and self-reliance, some people need to be protected from themselves.
Despite the probability of winning anything of significance being infinitesimal, Americans spent on the average $1000 a year on lottery tickets alone in 2017, most of who are destitute and food deprived poor people. American and Canadians lose about $500 per year on average from gambling which is huge considering there are many people such as me who have never purchased a lottery ticket or ventured into a gambling house or web side in my entire 76 years. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the mathematical probabilities would surely never participate in the irrationalities of lotteries and gambling casinos.
In this mighty morass of “spirituality”, only a few skeptics and heretics dare to inquire: What if all these counterintuitive claims are false? What if no duality of the material and a secondary non-material spirit realm exists, and the entire non-material soul based hypothesis believed in by billions is a fantastical delusion? What if people don’t experience a “life after death”, a notion without a shred of evidence and that many people cannot recognize as a patent self-contradiction? What if thousands of years of wasted precious time going to church, tithing, kneeling, praying, worshiping, sacrificing, fighting holy wars, torturing and barbecuing heretics and other refuse nicks the like was, is and continues to be, on the face of it, a monumental delusion? Investing a lifetime into a known failed enterprise or mass delusion is called the “sunk cost effect” whereby cognitive dissonance will prohibit people from ever giving them up.
What if the emperor has no clothes? What if the whole supernatural domain, including the amorphous enigmatic “soul” and the massive hierarchy and bureaucracy of religious practitioners constitute a multi-trillion dollar swindle?
Scientists and those who accept science, irreligionists, critics, humanists and skeptics feel confident (based on science’s overwhelming epistemic success) that the entire mystical realm is a delusion - a global self-deception. But few Americans agree with these people. They are a tiny fringe, so outnumbered by the acquiescent media and education systems that it’s almost forbidden to present our views – especially our corporate controlled media that does not want to offend advertisers, marketers and their voracious consumers. No television network or mainstream magazine or other mass medium would dare say that religion is bullshit.
Within postmodernist halls of academia these days, some argue that the “truths” of supernatural religion are just as valid as the “truths” of science or the “truths” of history learned through centuries of human experience. Truth for postmodernists has been thereby reduced to utility: whatever appears true to me and works for me is true, which is a conflation of fact with opinion. Postmodernists, which in recent years, like organized religion, has fortunately been waning, proclaim that all knowledge is subjective, the mere perceptions and desires of the believer. Rene Descartes, famous 17th century mathematician and philosopher argued that all I can know with certainty is that my mind exists, is receiving data and impressions but it’s only conjecture that the impressions are a valid understanding of external reality. Notwithstanding Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” proclamation regarding empirical reality as we humans live it, surely we can conclude that postmodernism is dubious at best. In our everyday, practical world, some things are real and others illusionary and bogus. Moreover, some people and institutions are trustworthy, and others are not. Functioning in the real world without these empirical assumptions would be impossible.
If your child develops a severe flu or perhaps pneumonia or if you experience chest pain or covid-19 symptoms, do you call a priest, pastor, faith healer, quack, shaman or witch-doctor to charm snakes, rattle bat bones or chant incantations? Hopefully not; rather you call your family physician, head to the hospital emergency and seek out professional science based medical care. If your vehicle won’t start or breaks down, do you pray for the engine to be repaired? No; you call on a skilled mechanic with a well-equipped repair shop.
In fact, we could reasonably justify an international law that is justified in our daily lives time and again; one that appeals to science, not religion, working for the physical and psychological betterment of humankind. Evidence, reason and logic have been the inspirations for the Humanist Enlightenment and Scientific Revolutions which were resisted and stifled by two millennia of Christian hegemony, authoritarianism, refusal to entertain competing world views and persecution, torture, death and, genocide for those who challenged its tyrannical totalitarianism. This era of religion’s dominance was appropriately referred to by historians as the “Dark Ages”.
Examine religion’s sordid history and one will discover, for example, that Aztec priests cut out people’s hearts to appease an invisible feathered serpent and other magical deities. These priests also strangled children so their tears would satisfy the rain gods; also decapitating virgins after skinning them alive and then dined and danced in their skins to please their phantom gods. Some estimates claim that the Aztecs religious practices sacrificed some 20,000 victims a year, yet today, everyone believes that, like former deceased European gods such as Zeus, Thor and Odin, that the invisible feathered serpent and other Aztec gods did not exist. But someone please tell me the qualitative difference between these ancient gods and the ones believed in by Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism today?
The so-called Thugs of India strangled people to death to appease Kali, one of their countless deities, Kali being the goddess of destruction. Their theological doctrines held that Brahma the Creator was creating lives faster than Shiva the Destroyer could terminate them, so Shiva’s wife Kali demanded her followers hunt down unsuspecting humans and strangle them with rope. Again, estimates say the Thugs were killing about 20,000 victims a year until the equally brutal hypocritical British colonial rulers banned the practice. Today, millions of Hindus still worship Kali as occasional rumors of human sacrifice still emerge, but the rest of the non-Hindu world rejects the claim that there’s an invisible Kali who demands strangulations.
Next, think of the multitudes of “heretics” and “witches” that were persecuted, harassed, tortured and killed by the Holy Catholic Church Inquisition, all in the name of the alleged compassionate “prince of Peace” Jesus. Consider the philosopher scientist Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for claiming that the universe is infinite, the earth being a mere insignificant blip in a vast unending cosmos. Later there was the physician Michael Servetus who discovered that blood circulates through the body from the heart to the lungs. For this “heresy”, he was burned at the stake in Calvinist Geneva, allegedly for doubting the Trinity. All that murder, mayhem, torture and roasting humans alive was declared to be “God’s will”, the celestial ghost who “works in mysterious ways”. And how many epistemic relativist postmodernists would contend that the “truth” proclaimed by the inquisitors and the trillion dollar fraudsters of today’s mainstream monotheisms are true as is 2 + 2 = 4 and apples fall from a tree and not head skyward?
Many of the Enlightenment thinkers and great intellects of the Scientific Revolution thought it obvious that religious mysticism and superstitions would rapidly disappear and that reasonable educated and science minded peoples would realize religion is a fantasy and no more true than a bedtime fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Pigs or Jack and the Beanstalk. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was considered by many to be the final nail in the coffin of religious superstition and especially following the breakthroughs in genetics in the mid 1950s. But strangely enough, they were wrong. Apparently people can only tolerate so much reality, requiring comforting palliatives and myths to get through the day. Christianity at certain rare periods of its existence has had some uplifting credibility such as during the brief era when the social gospel movement was still struggling for recognition but not quite dominant. But the social gospel movement that motivated progressive Christian political social democrats and socialists such as Norman Thomas in the United States and Tommy Douglas in Canada had collapsed by the time prosperity gospel Christian capitalist neo-conservative/neo-liberal zealots such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher finished their demolition of any sense of egalitarianism, justice, mutual aid, solidarity and community. God now wants you to be a greedy “entrepreneur” and get rich as quickly as possible deploying the adage “whatever it takes,” to quote US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as he articulated his strategy to save the reckless banks and big corporations in the current version of the “crisis of capitalism”, a regular “too big to fail” ruse invoked every 7 or 8 years when the system is rendered FUBAR.
Since Ronny Ray Gun’s inauguration in 1980 and his disastrous eight year bloody debt ridden anti-human, anti-nature, anti-union working class bashing term, there has been an upsurge in Christian fundamentalism, including the bat shit crazy Pentecostalism and other sorts of snake oil with their snake charming and incoherent verbal gibberish called “speaking in tongues”. An estimated 35,000 people join the Pentecostal church each day as of the world's two billion Christians and their countless denominations, 25% are now Pentecostals - up from 6% in 1980. I’ll return to this bizarre topic later. And since 9-11 fundamentalist Muslims have, second only to the American Empire, become the deadliest terrorists in the world. The United States, in addition to being the number one perpetrator or global terrorism, is the most religious country in the West, on a par with fanatical theocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran.
Today, that 1980’s counterrevolution era seems as unreal as Woodstock and the American counterculture movement of the 1960s and the dreams of a better world that slipped away. Perhaps most of us were too busy scratching out a living to see the utopian dreams of the 60s vanish. If we didn’t notice those profound cultural shifts, what others are creeping up on us now, undetected in the daily grind of precarious living in a world of low paid jobs, proto-fascist political ghouls like Donald Trump and his cabal of Christian hyper-capitalist zealots and real existential threats in the form of global warming, failing ecosystems, overpopulation and mass extinction of all species except we humans. But that special status for reckless distracted unthinking homo saps will not last for long.
The Perils of Religion
In 1583 in Vienna, a 16-year-old girl suffered stomach cramps. A team of Jesuits exorcized her for eight weeks. The priests announced that they had expelled 12,652 demons from her, demons that her grandmother had kept as flies in glass jars. The grandmother was tortured into confessing that she was a witch who had engaged in sex with Satan. She was then burned at the stake. This was one of perhaps one million such executions during three centuries of witch-hunts.
In 1989 in Moradabad, India, a pig caused hundreds of people to kill one another when the animal walked through a Muslim holy ground. Muslims, who think pigs are an embodiment of Satan, accused Hindus of driving the pig into the sacred spot. Members of both faiths went on a rampage, stabbing and clubbing. The pig riot spread to a dozen cities and left two hundred dead.
A squad of armed Islamic zealots raided a Christian church at Behawalpur, Pakistan, on October 28, 2001, killing the minister, fourteen worshipers, and the church's police guard.
It is said that there is never enough religion in the world to make people love one another-just enough to make them hate one another. Incendiary blends of fundamentalist religion, politics, nationalism, and ethnic zealotry engender countless examples of atrocity in the name of faith and orthodoxy.
In several respects, religious persecution is as vulgar and merciless today than ever before in its horrid history.
James Haught’s book Holy Horrors chronicles the grim spectrum of religious persecution and pervasive immorality from ancient times to the present. Fully illustrated with drawings, woodcuts, and photographs, the book recounts such atrocities as the Crusades, the Islamic jihads, the Catholic wars against heretics, the Thirty Years War in which as many as 8 million died, the Inquisition, witch-hunts and the Reformation. It also chronicles modern-day atrocities, including the Holocaust, the seemingly insoluble Catholic-Protestant schism in Northern Ireland, religious tribalism in Lebanon, the bigotry and callousness of the Christian right in the United States and the barbaric cruelty of the theocracies in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Christian Solicitors at Your Door
Living in the Fraser Valley Bible Belt of British Columbia, one is inundated with solicitous Christian door knockers. Their businesses, like the banks and corporations just can’t seem to balance a budget. They always need mammon; perhaps failing Grade Three Arithmetic.
Yes, they all need money, like the banks and big corporations that demand trillion dollar public bailouts every 7 or 8 years. “Too big to fail” we’re told by the bought and paid for the duplicitous politicians that do the bidding, bribed by what are called “corporate lobbyists” that are no better than mafia pimps.
But isn’t money, like the supernatural entities and other superstitions the religious believe in and worship, merely metaphysical fictions – phantom abstractions?
But these generally polite pious people have not been appearing at my door as regularly in the past; not since their loving beneficent deity and his god man illegitimate son unleashed the covid-19 plague on the world. The reason for this is unknown. It makes about as much sense as the highly paid multi-millionaire baseball players who cross themselves and point to the sky following every home run or RBI. Oddly since the assumption is that God controls everything in the universe, this behavior is absent on a strike out or errant throw on a routine double play. But as I’ve been told countless times as an inquiring kid, God works in “mysterious ways”. Like the dizzy irrational markets in the capitalist system, Adam Smith’s infamous capitalist angel, his “invisible hand of the marketplace” also works in mysterious ways. The reason for god’s crazy ways is simply to placate his boredom; after all it must be tedious lounging about in heaven for eternity with nothing to do but spy on his errant flock.
One might compare covid-19 and other gratuitous human tragedies in our history to God’s immeasurable compassion and kindness as in the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac or countless other tales of murder, mayhem, rape, torture, genocide and other cruelties and barbarisms in the Holy Bible a two thousand year old horror tale the devout call the “Good Book”.
Whenever I’ve been asked by the invariably polite pious door knockers with the not uncommon question: “Have you found Jesus”, I tell them about the time my wife and I took our one and only holiday to Mexico. Every second guy we met was named “Jesus”. These were typically young Mexican citizens working in a Spanish owned five star hotel for $5 a day. Learning about this we just wanted to return home and not participate in such outrageous exploitation.
Here’s one solution to the pious door knockers who want to talk to you about God and Jesus.
Since moving to Chilliwack in the BC Bible belt ten years ago we’ve had many of the major Christian denominations at our door. We also have a new neighbor on our street that moved in from Alberta last year. He’s apparently a Pentecostal Preacher who appears to have frequent evening prayer meetings in his wide driveway, complete with a flame throwing light which on a hot summer night I would surmise, is a fire hazard, despite his special status with God. This guy does not appear to be suffering economically with his two late model vehicles, a large travel trailer and monstrous motor bike (likely Harley or Honda) that must have set him back a few grand. He takes this noisy beast for a few spins through the neighborhood about once a month but it otherwise languishes in his garage, like most car garages, crammed full of superfluous “stuff”. I don’t know the man and I suppose word has got to him that yours truly is one of the neighborhood’s aberrations - a godless heathen atheist mutant destined for hellfire. Mr. Pentecostal Preacher appears to be in his mid-forties with several pre-teen kids and to be always at home tinkering with his toys or tending to the yard. I assume the pastor, like most, only “works” at his “job” for a few hours on Sunday morning delivering a tedious sermon – a cool tax-free business gig if you can swing it.
I’ve been wondering where Pastor Pentecostal keeps his snakes from Monday to Saturday when they are not needed.
Praise Jesus and the Serpent
Perhaps a few of you have seen this clip about how Australian heretics like John Safran deal with Mormons.
For all you recovering Catholics out there, especially those with school age kids, you might want to check this out:
Comedian Louis C K, a recovering Catholic and of late a victim of the #MeToo movement, in order to understand the religion he had crammed into his head as a kid, goes right to the source: