Marketing Religion


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Home Page - Index
Authorities Assessed
Old Testament
New Testament
Apostolic Traditions
Church Fathers
General Church Councils
Early Christian History
What Jesus Believed
Who Founded Christianity?
Creation of Doctrine
Origin of Ideas & Practices
The Concept of Orthodoxy
Origin of the Priesthood
Maintaining Deceptions
Suppress Facts
Selecting Sources
Fabricating Records
Retrospective Prophesy
Ambiguous Authorities
Ignore Injunctions
Invent, Amend and Discard
Manipulate Language
Case Studies
Re-branding a Sky-God
Making One God out of Many
How Mary keeps her Virginity
Fabricating the Nativity Story
Managing Inconvenient Texts
Christianity & Science
Traditional Battlegrounds
Modern Battlegrounds
Rational Explanations
Religion in General
Christianity in Particular
Divine Human Beings
Ease of Creating Religions
Arguments for and Against
Popular Arguments
Philosophical Arguments
Moral Arguments
Supernatural Arguments
  • Miracles
  • Revelation
  • Faith
  • Practical Arguments
    Record of Christianity
    Social Issues
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Capital Punishment
  • Penal Reform
  • Physical Abuse
  • Treatment of Women
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Divorce
  • Family Values
  • Children
  • Romanies
  • The Physically Ill
  • The Mentally Ill
  • The Poor
  • Animals
  • Ecology
  • Persecution
  • Persecutions of Christians
  • Persecutions by Christians
  • Church & State
  • Symbiosis
  • Meddling in Governance
  • Interference in Politics
  • Abuse of Power
  • Church Law and Justice
  • Exemption from the Law
  • Unofficial Exemption
  • Financial Privileges
  • Control Over Education
  • Human Rights
  • Freedom of Belief
  • Religious Toleration
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Enjoyment
  • Attitudes to Sex
  • Celibacy
  • Sex Within Marriage
  • Sex Outside Marriage
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Transvestism
  • Prostitution
  • Pederasty
  • Bestiality
  • Sadomasochism
  • Necrophilia
  • Consequences
  • Science & Medicine

  • Ancient Times
  • Dark and Middle Ages
  • Sixteenth Century
  • Seventeenth Century
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Nineteenth Century
  • 20th and 21st Centuries
  • Medical Records Compared
  • Violence & Warfare
  • Crusades
  • God's Wars
  • Churches' Wars
  • Christian Atrocities
  • Cultural Vandalism
  • The Classical World
  • Europe
  • The Wider Modern World
  • Possible Explanations
    Summing up
    Marketing Religion
    Marketing Christianity
    Continuing Damage
    Religious Discrimination
    Christian Discrimination
    Moral Dangers
    Abuse of Power
    A Final Summing Up
    Search site
    Bad News Blog
    Religious Quotations
    Christianity & Human Rights
    Christian Prooftexts
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    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolise power and profit.
    Thomas Paine (1737-1809), The Age of Reason, Pt I



    In this section we look at the factors that might affect the appeal of religion. For the sake of a concrete example,we will imagine a new religion designed specifically to become popular. We will then be in a position to contrast Christianity with this purely man-made religion, with a view to picking out essential differences.  



    Expectations of a man-made religion

    If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.
    Voltaire (1694-1778) Épîtres, 'A l'auteur du livres des trois Imposteurs'.

    No-one imagines their own religion to be a human invention, so if we selected an existing religion for this section we would run the risk of offending believers. We will therefore imagine a religion designed specifically to become popular – a hypothetical religion, whose founders are only interested in success To emphasise the point we can make these founders professional marketeers and salesmen. Their principal objectives are to promote their own worldly success, power and wealth. They seek nothing short of world domination. They have no moral scruple about their actions. They are free to use any techniques that other religions have found effective in the past.

    What will be the principal concerns of the founders of such a religion? Let us put ourselves in their place. The following list might summarise the strategy for marketing our product, and benefiting from its success:

    • Offer incentives for using our product
    • Provide disincentives for not using our product
    • Produce evidence to bolster the claims of our product
    • Maximise market share for our product
    • Seek to become a monopoly supplier
    • Maximise market size
    • Reap the benefits of success

    Let us see what this will involve in more detail. Then we shall be able to compare our hypothetical religion with Christianity.



    Incentives must be offered mainly to attract new customers at minimal cost, so we shall:

    Provide worldly benefits to attract converts. We will have to offer something that people want. Initially the attraction may be relatively superficial. Free gifts and free entertainments for example might be offered. Once the attention of potential converts has been won they will expect something more. Popular standbys are food, a free education, social standing and access to supposedly arcane secrets. For our best salesmen and workers we can provide a share of our increasing wealth and power.

    Promise future benefits. It is not within our powers to offer most of our followers advancement in this life, but there is no limit to what we can offer in the next. Our promises therefore can be unbounded. We can offer eternal life, eternal youth, eternal happiness, wisdom, status, wealth, reunion with dead friends, revenge ... absolutely anything that people want. Not needing to believe our own propaganda we are secure in the knowledge that when the day of reckoning comes our victims will be in no position to claim their hard-earned rewards.

    Advertise a superficially attractive philosophy. Potential converts will need to be given a superficially convincing story about why our god-product is so much better than any other. We must not be too specific about this, because different people will be attracted by different features. Our story must be sufficiently simple that those not blessed with deep powers of reflection will be able to understand it. “Be nice to everyone” might be a popular theme, but clearly we would need to dress it up a bit to make it look meaningful. For those with philosophical inclinations we might add a few mystical truths. We could for example adopt some superficial paradoxes and invest them with profundity. This is an established technique. The ancient Chinese were bemused by assertions such as “Be bent and you will remain straight, be vacant and you will remain full, be worn and you will remain new”. Almost any vacuous statement can be made to look profound when phrased as a paradox. “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength” (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four). The poor are rich, death is life, the greatest things are less than the smallest, and so on. To encourage the fiction that these are genuine matters of deep theological significance we can publish scholarly tomes dissecting them in minute detail.

    We would like to keep our religion internally consistent, but we must also recognise that different people will be attracted by different aspects of it at different times and in different places. We must therefore make our religion as flexible as possible. Perhaps the solution is to adopt a few indisputable truisms as our principle tenets and to adopt and discard other propositions as they come into and go out of fashion. We shall be whatever our potential market would like us to be.



    Disincentives must be provided so that the consequences of buying our product will contrast favourably with the consequences of failing to buy our product. We must therefore:

    Threaten punishment for failure to use our product. We must play on people’s fears so that they can feel safe only within the loving arms of our religion. We will rely heavily on threats. God will punish those who do not accept our faith for their wickedness. They will go blind or lame, they will suffer pain and loss, they will be ground into nothingness, they will die, and after they are dead their souls will be tortured in hell for eternity. We will claim to provide the only vehicle destined for paradise. As Gilbert Murray put it:

    He who believes and is initiated shall be saved; he who is not initiated shall be cast out. That is the normal rule of all exclusive religions, a rule which tends to seem natural and right to those inside and obviously preposterous to those outside [1] .

    We can also play upon guilt. Their lack of belief has shamed their family, their teachers, their priest, and the whole community. How could they have been so wicked? How can they fail to repent?

    For those who are not sure whether to believe what we tell them we can play on their uncertainty. If they have the slightest doubt we shall have a chance. After all they have nothing to loose and everything to gain by believing us and buying our product. Since our religion is entirely bogus we will never be able to convince the rational sceptic. In fact sceptical rationalist views will be a great threat to us, for we do not want our potential converts to be encouraged to think too deeply about the basis of our religion. All we can do is stress the importance of faith, and the severity of the punishments reserved in the afterlife for doubters. We will have to eliminate, by whatever means, those sceptics who oppose our god-product, expose our marketing strategy, or otherwise prove troublesome to us.

    Demonise users of other products. Once we have suppressed or eliminated our opponents we will have to demonise them. We will circulate stories that they were responsible for all manner of horrors. They were wicked and evil, they were unwilling to accept the plain truth, they were bestial, they cruelly persecuted us for no reason. They were cannibals, they were sexual degenerates, they worshipped the devil and sacrificed their own children to demons. They deserved to die for their willful refusal to accept our wonderful religion. This will justify us in whatever actions we have taken to eliminate them.

    We will have to invent a great bogey-man: he will be our enemy and he will take the blame for everything. He will lead people to hell, and he will be responsible for ideas we do not like. We will make sure that he is hated and feared, and then accuse anyone we do not like of being his ally.



    We must actively market our god-product, providing ‘proofs’ of its efficacy, while concealing evidence of its failures, weaknesses, dangers, and other negative aspects:

    Offer specious proofs for our doctrines. If we could prove the existence of our god our job would be that much easier. There are a number of possibilities here. One is to produce pseudo-logical proofs. It does not matter too much that these will necessarily be flawed. If presented properly the most patently false argument will convince most people who want to believe. In any case we can always fall back on the old claim that absolute faith in our doctrines will provide proof of their accuracy. We do not need to worry about why our god should find faith to be so much more a desirable quality than any other. He just does!

    Fabricate evidence to support our veracity. Another popular method of proof is miracles. We can easily lay on a few bogus miracles. The sight of a man throwing away his crutches, or his white stick is always particularly impressive –no matter that he has never needed them anyway. Faith healing is particularly popular because so many people desperately want to believe in it. As well as real or imaginary improvements attributable to faith, there will inevitably be a few spontaneous remissions that we can parade as proof of our powers and our religion’s veracity. In addition we can lay on a little stage magic. For example an exorcism or a disappearing act. Easier still all we need to do is to claim to have witnessed a miracle ourselves. Human nature being what it is, we can be sure that before long others will claim to have been present and personally to have witnessed the same miracle. Magnified by retelling and sanctified by time, our great miracles will be irrefutable within a generation. All religions have masses of such miracles. Again, many people regard martyrdom as some sort of proof of the martyr’s beliefs. Why this should be so is difficult to explain. After all, most major religions have had martyrs in their early years. Nevertheless, if potential converts find martyrdom convincing we must have some. We might attract a few people with mental problems who can be persuaded to die for our religion. This should not be difficult, especially if we tell them the customary story – that they will gain automatic admission to heaven by sacrificing themselves. During the Iran-Iraq war Ayatollah Khomeini could call on whole armies of young martyrs to clear enemy mine fields by walking through them. Boys were given mass produced plastic keys (made in Taiwan) which they were told would open the gates of heaven. Good quality martyrs are ten-a-penny.

    Promote mystical experiences among our followers. We probably need not even perpetrate deliberate fraud. Properly designed spectacles will do our work for us. Splendid ceremonies, gorgeous vestments, heady incense, commanding oratory, music, repetitive chanting and singing: these are all well tested methods of inducing awe. In conjunction with fasting, sleep deprivation, breathing control, physical exhaustion, mortification and other privations they can be guaranteed to induce mystical, ecstatic or otherwise elevated mental states.

    Priests of many religions have astounded their adherents by speaking in an unknown language, sometimes a completely made-up one. Once in a receptive frame of mind adherents will willingly believe that they have experienced whatever we tell them they have experienced. If we can generate the occasional outbreak of mass hysteria (and this is very easy to do) we can expect a number of visions and other mystic experiences to provide divine evidence of our veracity. Even in ancient times the Jewish prophets were helped along by music (2 Kings 3:15) and fasting (Daniel 9:3), and contagious trances (Numbers 11:25). Fasting was used very widely to induce visits of gods, for example at Didyma and Claros. Gods routinely appeared in dreams after sufficient fasting and prayer. If necessary we can even use drugs, just like Pythia did two thousand years ago at the Delphic Oracle. It is well know that people deprived of REM sleep will start hallucinating – so a little sleep deprivation should produce the required ‘visions’ even without drugs.

    Re-write history to suit us. We must produce our own version of history. In our version we shall be the innocent party. We will have suffered at the hands of vicious persecutors. We will have triumphed against all the odds. We will have been the heroes, brave and just, and our enemies will have been evil and cruel. For those who doubt our veracity we will produce forged documents to support our bogus version of events. Using them we can establish whatever stories we choose. We can produced forged legal documents as well. We might even use them as the basis for legal claims to divine sanction and temporal power. To avoid the possibility of a more reasoned assessment in the future we must destroy all vestiges of the truth. We will rewrite history just as other totalitarian organisations have done. We will annihilate all records of earlier god-products, and condemn any happy memories of them as blasphemous. We will burn books and records, and either pull down existing places of worship or take them over for our own purposes.


    Market Share

    We must dominate the existing market by whatever means, establishing the greatest possible market share for our own god-product.

    Target the market. Our biggest problem will be to win over the first few converts, and so establish a market presence. Perhaps we should initially target a particularly vulnerable group such as disadvantaged minorities.. Many religions have succeeded by adopting this strategy. Early Islam for example gained a vast following by targeting women, slaves, and other-underprivileged and marginalised groups. We shall do well to target the poor, the sad, the inadequate, the unreflective, and the mentally deficient. We shall be the opium of the masses. The great benefit of this approach is that there is a very large market. The problem is that it will not immediately achieve our objectives, the acquisition of status, wealth and power. An alternative approach is to concentrate on the rich. They pull the strings of power. They are the fashion setters. Where they lead others will follow, whether it be by choice or coercion.

    In any case, like any good marketing organisation we should take advantage of people’s weaknesses and insecurities. Among the various benefits we can offer the most potent is likely to be social advancement. Perhaps we need some flexibility here. We can shift our brand image from time to time and from one market to another, repackaging the product in order to have maximum impact on the local market.


    Tolerance When it Suits

    We will undertake missionary work to widen the geographical range of our market. We shall of course have to face the problem of overcoming the opposition of the leaders of the god-products we are seeking to replace. Established priests are hardly likely to countenance the loss of their livelihood with casual acceptance. If the priests of the old religion are tolerant and not very bright, we can proceed slowly, gradually taking over their flocks in insensible stages, and simultaneously extolling the virtues of toleration. While we are at it we can also involve ourselves in the established political system, and make an especial effort to convert the local potentates. All being well the old priests will not discern our intentions until too late. Step by step we will have taken over their flocks, their ceremonies, their holy places, and their civil functions. Once we are powerful enough we will dispense with their services altogether. If they see what is happening before we are sufficiently powerful we shall have a problem. We can try to bring them onto our side by recruiting them, or by bribery or blackmail if necessary. If they stand their ground and oppose us openly we can try to ridicule their faith and expose the more extravagant aspects of their religion, and prove the impotence of their gods by destroying their icons and holy places. Alternatively we might try to win the help of our new political friends to guarantee our freedom of worship. If ridicule and political influence fail we shall be left with only one option: the old priests will have to meet with distressing accidents. Their untimely deaths can be attributed to the wondrous but inscrutable workings of our omnipotent deity. Such inexplicable deaths will serve to prove the validity of our own god-product.

    Adopt, Adapt and Improve. We must be willing to tailor our teachings to make them acceptable. What we should do is borrow the most popular elements of other religions and blend them into ours. This is a very common technique. For example Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism; Buddhism from Hinduism, Sikhism from both Hinduism and Islam, and the Ba’hai faith from all of these. As times change we can discard those elements which become unpopular, and adopt new fashionable ones. This may be difficult to justify, but we must do it to maintain market share. Our theology will support and reinforce whatever views are currently in vogue. Above all we must never offend those who wield the greatest political power, at least until we are in a position to arrogate that power to ourselves.

    Capture market share by force when possible. Once we are in a position to do so, we can employ more forceful techniques. We can for example imprison, torture or kill anyone who is not prepared to accept our product. Forcible conversions have always worked well (except against a few exceptional groups like the Jews and Cathars). A good technique is to offer people a straight choice between accepting our new religion and suffering death. Early Moslems enjoyed huge success with this method in the seventh century, capturing around 50% of the Christian market worldwide, in a few decades


    The Importance of Monopoly Supply

    Once we had dominated a local market we can eliminate all opposition. Everyone must buy our product, and no-one must be allowed to buy any other:

    Use thought control to bolster adherence. We will take over the education of children, and indoctrinate them. If we catch them at an early stage before any powers of critical thought have been developed then we shall have them for life. We do not want them exposed to views other than ours, even in later life, for there is always a danger that the brighter and more thoughtful of them will see through our sham. Our best course will be to close their minds. We will tie the religion to politics and nationalism as many other religions have done. We can foster the idea that anyone who disagrees with us is disloyal, unreliable, dangerous and alien. If they disagree with our religion they must disagree with our politics as well, and are likely to want to overthrow the natural order. Blasphemy will be tantamount to Treason. We will also need to exercise censorship over all information media – books, theatre, television, radio, and so on. It is well known that children overwhelmingly adopt the religious affiliation of their parents. So obviously we will encourage parents to bring up their children in the faith. In fact we should punish them if they fail to do so.

    Enforce adherence. We must ensure that as many people as possible join our religion, whether they want to or not. We will insist that parents marry within our faith. We will enroll babies as soon as they are born, and make it an offence for them to defect in later life. We will take over what anthropologists call rights of passage (such as birth, naming, puberty, marriage and death), and we will control access to information and knowledge. If we are able to get away with it, the easiest option is to persecute anyone who does not toe the line. We shall deal harshly with those who try to expose us for what we are, as well as those who refuse to convert to our religion, and those who try to defect from it.

    Exterminate people who are non-compliant. We can exile, or better still, execute people who pose a threat to us. Amongst them will be members of previously existing religions (who we shall kill on the pretext that they are witches or Satanists), people who try to muscle in on our commercial position (who we shall kill as schismatics or heretics), and people who spot us as frauds (who we shall kill as apostates, atheists or blasphemers).


    Market Size

    Once we have dominated local markets, we must exploit new markets until we achieve world domination.

    Promote continuing expansion of our faith at all costs. We want to increase the size of our market. We have already maximised our market penetration we must find ways of increasing the total market size. The obvious way to do this is to look to new geographical areas. Our religion must be a proselytising one. All adherents must be responsible for propagating it. We will promote missionary work, even if we know that it is likely to damage or destroy other cultures. Another possibility is the use of military force. We will declare holy wars against our neighbours. If we win we shall have proved the efficacy of our god, and we will be able to offer the choice between conversion and immediate death. A further way to increase the size of the market in the long term is to encourage our adherents to breed. Without any other constraints a sub-population which breeds at a faster rate than the rest of the population will sooner or later dominate it, and will eventually be in a position to eliminate it. We know that we shall be able to indoctrinate children so we shall be assured of an ever increasing population of followers. It does not matter to us that we might destroy the earth’s ecology in pursuing this policy. Others can worry about that. We are only interested in the success of our product. (Some Moslem leaders are reluctant to advocate contraception, not because of any theological objection, but because of the danger of Moslems being outbred by the Christian west). Above all, we must not make the elementary mistake of earlier groups, like Marcionites, and Cathars who found flesh so evil that they decided not to breed, failed to create a large enough power base, and were wiped out by their enemies.


    Material Benefits

    As soon as we have established a significant market presence, we must start to take advantage of it to provide ourselves with wealth and power.

    Establish symbiotic relationships with the civil powers. Having won over the rich and powerful we must form a partnership with them. This must be sufficiently profitable to both parties. Each will support the other. The religion will give divine sanction to the civil power, and in return the civil power will permit our religion certain privileges. As an established state religion we shall expect to be able to call upon the full force of the law. Indeed we will expect to be able to make our own laws. Any criticism of us or our god-product will be made a criminal offence. Any literature of which we do not approve will be censored or destroyed. Any dissent will be a serious crime, and we shall thereafter be justified in judicially executing anyone who does not profess total agreement with our views. In time we may establish a theocracy. Most importantly we must acquire special rights. Best of all we might be able to raise taxes ourselves, make our own laws, run our own courts and operate our own prisons, but failing this we shall expect special treatment and exemptions.

    Excuse ourselves from onerous requirements. Just as Mohammed received special dispensations from God releasing him from his earlier requirements, we will have to receive dispensations that will release us from anything that we do not like. We will find ways to excuse ourselves from legal restrictions, and from all manner of civil duties, including the paying of taxes.

    Make ourselves Rich. This is the easy bit. We will simply encourage people to give us money (donations and bequests). We will sell spiritual assets. We will tax people, produce, property and commerce. We will demand state funding. We will seize the property of our enemies. If we could mop up the existing religion market, we could be making tens of billions a year.


    Christianity compared to a man-made religion

    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken 
    Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Letter of 3rd August 1650 to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

    Now we have developed a model of a totally venal and cynical pseudo-religion, we are in a position to assess how different a true religion like Christianity has proved to be. In the following paragraphs we shall take a brief look at the major points of convergence and divergence between the two.



    The public buys its opinions as it buys its meat, or takes in its milk, on the principle that it is cheaper to do this than to keep a cow. So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered.
    Samuel Butler (1835-1902), Notebooks


    Provide worldly benefits to attract converts. The initial attractions of our bogus religion are not dissimilar from those of Christianity. It is a well established and widely acknowledged practice of missionaries to attract potential converts by offering free gifts. The phenomenon was so well known that Indians who converted to Christianity for food were commonly known as “rice Christians”. Inevitably peoples around the world who have not previously come into contact with western technology are impressed and attracted. Free plastic beads, cheap transistor radios, colourful clothes: all these will guarantee initial interest. Anthropologist refer to a “cargo cult”, the practice of remote unsophisticated peoples praying for the next ’planeful of goodies to arrive. First noted in Papua New Guinea, the cargo cult has become a widespread phenomenon much exploited by Christian missionaries. In undeveloped parts of the world modern technology seems little short of miraculous. Missionaries are well aware of this and often use it to their advantage. The bringer of technological miracles is seen as a great magician, able to control the divine. Who but a great magician could fly an aeroplane, or use a telephone, or use a photographic camera? No matter that in truth the missionary knows as little about how modern technology works as his audience. Similarly the use by missionaries of western medicines will guarantee that they outshine the local witch doctor. To potential coverts the missionary is virtually divine, so his God must be greater still.

    In technologically advanced societies worldly rewards are less tangible and more subtle: the sad and lonely find companionship in the Church; the middle class believe that it confirms their social standing; millions of fundamentalist evangelicals believe that God will reward them with material success, and for sexual deviants there is the opportunity to mortify the flesh in a socially acceptable setting. In the modern world Christianity has once again learned to market itself as effectively as Coca-Cola, just as it did in ancient Rome

    As in our bogus religion, most mainstream denominations also offer power, wealth and prestige to those who achieve high Church office. The leaders of many denominations enjoy adulation, money, palaces, privileges and titles.

    Many Churches adopt policies such as “Food for Conversion”, “Education for Conversion”, “Goods for Conversion” and “Medicine for Conversion”. These techniques are also used to convert Christians from other sects. For example Irish Catholics converted to Protestantism for food during the Irish Potato famine, known to history as “jumpers”. Medicine for conversion is a long established technique in Africa, and at the time of writing many radical Protestant sects are having great success in South America by offering free English lessons.


    Promise future benefits. In Christianity the biggest rewards are all promised for the next world. The God of the Old Testament never mentioned an afterlife, and consequently orthodox Jews did not and do not believe in one. (All the scriptural threats and curses directed at wrongdoers by the God of the Old Testament are promised not for an afterlife, but for this one). The concepts of heaven and hell were derived mainly from the classical world. Their refinement as methods of reward and punishment was the greatest marketing coup of Christianity. In the Hellenic world,people were accustomed to the idea that gods could grant gifts to those who followed them. You asked Apollo for sunshine; you asked Dionysos for help with your vines. If you were ill you sought the help of Æskelepios, and if you wanted immortality you turned to the god of the Christians. And immortality was popular, especially if it could be spent in paradise. Indeed the idea was so successful that the marketing technique was soon over-used and consequently debased. According to the highest church authorities the Christian sacraments were the ‘medicine of immortality’. Later, it was possible to guarantee a place in heaven by paying a sufficiently large amount of money to the Church, by killing the enemies of the Church, or even by wearing suitable vestments such as a scapular. Ordained priests could preach that the daily reciting of a prayer could ensure salvation.


    Advertise a superficially attractive philosophy. Once again Christianity matches our hypothetical religion. Popular ideas have been developed and unpopular ones quietly dropped. Salvation for the elect, an afterlife, punishment for our enemies are all popular ideas that have been developed. Altruistic ideas such as “Love thy neighbour as thyself” have been appropriated and presented as uniquely Christian. For those with philosophical inclinations mystical truths have indeed been popular. The lowest shall be raised high and highest laid low, Submission to God is perfect freedom, etc. To encourage the idea that these are genuine matters of deep theological significance Church leaders publish books dissecting them in detail.

    Consistency has always been a problem for the Church. It has reversed its views on dozens of major issues over the centuries. In fact it is not easy to think of a single social issue on which it has had a consistent record over the full 2000 years. It has managed this in two ways. The first is to claim that truth is progressively revealed by God, so that our understanding develops over time. This is used with success even when the Church has performed the most blatant volte face. The second is simply to wait long enough for memories to fade. Few people now remember that two generations ago the Church of England held views similar to those of the Roman Church concerning sex education and contraception. In another two generations the bitterness over women’s ordination in the Anglican church may well have been forgotten too. Similarly the question of homosexual priests.

    Having been caught out so many times in the past, the mainstream Churches are now very wary of committing themselves to anything. Whatever society’s views are at the end of the twenty-first century on issues such as homosexuality, racial equality, women’s rights, or vivisection, they cannot conceivably be held to be at odds with the Churches’ current nebulous position. Loopholes are left open for escape, even over the most apparently clear cut matters. For example, no one is very sure about which matters Popes have spoken infallibly. There is no comprehensive list. Has the need for a celibate priesthood been stated infallibly? No one seems to know. Pope John Paul II has even steered clear of making an ‘infallible’ declaration about contraception. When the pressure becomes strong enough, the Roman Church will be able to reverse its current position without having to admit having reversed an infallible position.



    Beware when you take on the Church of God. Others have tried and have bitten the dust.
    Desmond Tutu (1931- ), Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa; speech in April 1987

    Threaten punishment for failure to use our product. Christianity is widely recognised as preying upon people’s natural fears. With a little effort people can easily be induced to develop a fear of death. The way to do this is to emphasise the reality, imminence, and horrors of Hell. As Ouida observed “Christianity has made death a terror which was unknown to the gay calmness of the Pagan”. Eternal punishment has been a key theme in Christianity since early times. Anyone who failed to sign up was destined for Hell. Christians have also suggested that those who fail to heed their divine message might suffer in this world. Dark hints may be made about the fate of those who fail to see the light (1 Kings 18:18-40 is an old favourite).

    Blatant threats are not regarded as acceptable in the modern secular world, so we tend to hear relatively little of stories such as that of St Paul who blinded a non-believer (Acts 13:8-11), or St Peter who, with God’s help, killed those who did not give themselves sufficiently fully to the Christian faith (Acts 5:1-11). Much better to play on insecurities and emphasise the benefits of faith. It is not by chance that guilt is such a major feature of Christianity, nor that advantage is so often taken of people’s fear of death as they grow older.


    Demonise users of other products. Toleration of other faiths has disappeared as soon as Christianity gained a firm foothold. Until very recent times no sort of dissent of any kind was permitted. Any old gods that were still remembered became aliases of Satan. People who continued to worship them were condemned as Devil worshipers. Throughout the world Satanism has been an invention of Christians. There was no worship of Satan until Christians thought of it. Indeed, no one except those in the Zoroastrian tradition seem to have even conceived of a god of evil.

    Any sort of non-conformism came to be viewed as heresy. Traditionally, anyone and everyone who disagreed with the Church was branded a cannibal and a sodomite. The standardised charge sheet often included incest, adultery, rape and murder, all equally unfounded. The worst charge – again applied to all “enemies” – was that of Devil worship or Satanism. Cathars were Satanists, so were the Templars, so were Freemasons, so were witches, so were American Indians, so were the Chinese – everyone in fact who did not accept the Church’s current orthodoxy. Protestants said that Roman Catholics did, Roman Catholics said that Protestants did. According to Catholics Martin Luther had been converted to his Protestant views by Satan himself.

    Any and every enemy was definitively identified as the antichrist: Roman emperors, leaders of rival sects, Genghis Khan, Saladin, Martin Luther or the Pope (according to taste), Napoleon, Hitler, Apartheid, and the European Union have been definitively identified.



    There’s a sucker born every minute
    P. T. Barnum (1810-1891)

    Offer specious proofs for our doctrines. Christianity has demonstrated its legitimacy in all of the ways suggested for our bogus religion. Churches still have a selection of supposed proofs of the existence of God, and continue to maintain them despite their flaws. As they have been found wanting by more and more people, there has been an ever increasing emphasis on revealed religion.


    Fabricate evidence to support our veracity. Historically the ultimate proof of the validity of the Christian Churches have been the numerous and imposing miracles to which they have laid claim. As we have seen, miracle working saints’ bones have turned out to be pigs’ bones, visions and stigmata have been faked, prayers to non-existent saints have been efficacious. Set piece supernatural events (such as exorcisms) which used to be public events are no longer very convincing either. Fabricated evidence includes a vast library of writings now proved to be forgeries, which bolstered a range of deliberate Church deceits.

    The Church has also traded heavily on its martyrs. The blood of the martyrs was regarded as the seed of the Church [2]. Stirring tales of martyrs’ suffering still attract personalities of a certain type, even if most such stories are either fictitious, or really about people who were martyred by Christians.


    Promote mystical experiences among our followers. In early times Christians flocked to deserts where they underwent severe privations – foregoing food, drink, sex, clothing, comfort, and sleep, and sometimes torturing themselves physically. In these conditions they frequently experienced visions. For most others, different techniques were developed to manifest religious experiences. Mainstream churches have developed spectacular and impressive ceremonials, and fostered the idea of mystical experiences. To some extent this has been achieved simply by retaining old fashioned practises – upper class Roman dress for priests, Roman architecture for churches, the use of dead languages such as Old Church Slavonic in the east and Latin in the west.

    The most splendid ceremonies are to be found in the Orthodox Church, closely followed by those of the Roman Catholic Church. Their attraction is supplemented by splendid buildings and gorgeous decorations and vestments, heady incense, darkness, bells, commanding oratory, music and repetitive chanting. The Orthodox Church also stressed the importance of posture and breathing control during prayer. Many converts from Western to Eastern Churches will specifically mention the importance of ritual as a key reason for their conversion. Indeed the whole of Russia adopted Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman Catholic Christianity or Islam, specifically because of its mode of worship [3] .

    In East and West Christian clergy deliberately created an atmosphere of awe and mystery. Over hundreds of years they gradually increased religious ceremonial and fostered the impression that they were in direct contact with God. By the fourth century it was common practice to curtain-off the alter so that the congregation could not see it – a practice which eventually gave rise to the Western chancel screen and the Eastern iconostasis. By the eighth century priests in the Western Church were commonly muttering the words of the mass in a low voice so that the people could not hear them [4] . By the thirteenth century the Host was being elevated after consecration at the Eucharist, and later the chalice was as well. In each case the intention was to enhance the atmosphere of mystery and awe. The Western Church insisted on conducting its services in Latin, as the Roman church continued to do until the twentieth century. (Protestants, trying to demystify proceedings removed chancel screens and alters, stopped elevating the sacraments and used the vernacular [5] ).

    Like many world religions Christianity has used set piece ceremonials to encourage believers to experience mystical or ecstatic states: splendid ceremonies, gorgeous vestments, heady incense, commanding oratory, music, repetitive chanting and singing. In conjunction with fasting, sleep deprivation, breathing control, physical exhaustion, prolonged mortification of the flesh and other privations, visions are produced, almost to order. You can see these techniques in use today at pilgrimage sites like Knock, Lourdes and Medjugorje.

    It is not difficult to account for the trance like states claimed by ascetics throughout the centuries. Similar states may be seen today in many parts of the world, from shamans in northern America to the fakirs in India. Perceptions are undoubtedly affected by expectations. Interestingly, psychologists have shown that the visual judgement of Roman Catholics can even be influenced by the presence of religious authority surrogates [6] . A number of studies have consistently found Christians to be more suggestible than normal, for example religious people have been found to respond better to medical placebos given for pain relief. Another consistent finding in America is that religious people tend to be more submissive, accepting of authority, dependent on group approval, and have a higher than average incidence of hysterical personalities [7] . They are in fact perfect fodder for deception, especially when emotionally fatigued [8] .


    Rewrite history to suit us. The Church has had great success in representing itself as a force for good, despite its record. In the popular mind Christianity has aided learning, supported liberty, opposed oppression, advanced philosophy, encouraged science, promoted public health, pioneered medicine, recorded impartial history, helped the poor, and patronised the arts.

    It is true that it has funded some of the arts, but only for propaganda purposes. The other claims are all exactly the opposite of the truth. Similarly the Church’s rôle has been one of oppressor, rather than oppressed. The Churches have done a most spectacular job in representing itself in a favourable light. It has done this by forging documents, controlling the educational system, writing its own histories, monopolising scholarship, and enforcing strict censorship. How successful it has been is demonstrated by the fact that many people still think that the Church has always been in the vanguard of social reform. Some even imagine that society was once seriously menaced by witches, and that the crusades were worthy, selfless, gallant and holy. We still use the word witch as a term of abuse, and the word crusade to describe a brave and worthy undertaking.


    Market Share

    Love the poor pagans. Be kind to them. Heal their wounds. They will give you their affection first; then their confidence; and then their souls.
    Charles Lavigerie, Cardinal Archbishop of Algiers


    Target the market. As in the case of our hypothetical Religion, Christianity has traditionally targeted two groups: the very highest and the very lowest strata of society. The middle classes followed automatically through social pressure. Early Christians were criticised for praying upon the poor and ignorant, while fleeing headlong from the cultured who were less likely to be deceived [9] . The religion gained influence from the bottom up. Only towards the end of the second century were rich and influential people targeted. – or more usually the wives and daughters of the rich and powerful. So it was, in the early years of the church that heiresses were particularly targeted. When it became apparent in the next two centuries that Christianity was going to become dominant, the upper class pagan priesthood transferred their allegiance and became Christian priests and bishops. Time and time again in the early Church clergymen are criticised for frequenting the houses of rich widows and other women, for fawning over them and attempting to have themselves or their church named as a beneficiary under their wills. In July 370, the emperor Valentinian was obliged to tell the bishop of Rome that he should stop male clerics and ascetics hanging around women’s houses and worming their way into their affections. The abuse continued, families continued to see their inheritances disappear into the hands of the Church, and the next Emperor withdrew Valentinian’s ruling.

    Converted princesses were especially valuable as they were often sent as brides to barbarian kings in order to bring them into the Christian fold. It is for much the same reason that US evangelists are currently concentrating their poaching efforts on the wives of rich and powerful men in South America. At the other extreme the lowest stratum of society is large, uneducated, prone to illness and more than usually credulous. These are the “poor in spirit” referred to in the Sermon on the Mount. The idea of a god who will bless them and who will compensate them in the next world for the privations and miseries of this is bound to appeal to them greatly. Celsus had noted in the second century that Christianity was a religion for old women, yokels and little children. In the twentieth H L Menken provided an explanation:

    God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above them above their betters. [10] .

    Sociological studies confirm Mencken’s intuition, though in less direct terms [11] . On the other hand there is little in Christianity for the self confident. It is not accidental that Christianity regards pride as a major sin. In Universities it is a commonplace that sad and lonely new students are the most likely victims of the ‘God squad’. They are particularly vulnerable at examination time. Psychological inadequates are even more vulnerable. Confirmation comes from a number of studies, mainly in the USA, which suggest that religious conviction is related to factors such as feelings of guilt [12] , neuroticism and other mental disorders [13] , alcoholism [14] , criminality [15] , lack of education and lack of political awareness [16] , lack of family [17] , lack of self esteem and feelings of personal inadequacy [18] . Social pressure is a major factor in determining religious attachments. This is as true for new converts as for others. Over 40% of converts, when asked some years ago, admitted that they had been converted as a result of social pressure or intimidation [19] (judging by evangelists’ modern techniques the figure is probably now much higher). A study carried out on some of Billy Graham’s teenage converts found that the most important factor in the retention of their new religious convictions was the acquisition of new friends [20] . The second most important factor was parental reaction. Class and social status are also important considerations in Church membership. Different denominations precisely mirror different social classes.


    Tolerance When it Suits



    Wherever and whenever the Church has been weak it has pleaded for tolerance. It made this plea before the conversion of the Roman Empire. It made it in Hindu countries, Buddhist countries, Moslem countries, and indeed all non-Christian countries. And it still does. Various Christian sects made the same plea to each other during and after the Reformation. As a good working rule Christian majorities have always enforced their beliefs on others, but Christian minorities have always pleaded the case for tolerance. A little inconsistent perhaps, but an optimal strategy for expansion.

     Promote tolerance when it suits us. In many cases where Christianity is newly introduced to an area it is not possible to enforce its adoption. In such cases the only possibility is to sell the religion. In these circumstances the Church is typically kind, tolerant and understanding. It coexists with traditional native religions, causing as little trouble as possible. Christians are content to share holy places. Historically they have done so even if it has it has meant having alters to local gods in their churches. In some cases blood sacrifices in churches have been allowed. Typically the tolerance has lasted only as long as Christianity has needed friends. Once it has powerful friends it has used its influence to remove all opposition. (In most of the west the Church has lost most of its influence as its friends have lost power over the last few centuries, consequently it has once again needed to become tolerant).

    Keep up with changing market needs. In every sphere of thought, Churches have been revising their ideas as their market has changed. Dogmas, doctrines, practices, policies and opinions have all changed in order to remain acceptable. We have already seen many examples of this.

    Nineteenth century popes consistently said that freedom of worship was atheistic, insane, and an insult to God. It is conceivable that the present pope could say the same, but his doing so becomes less likely every year. Churches opposed freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and democracy until recent times. Now they regard these things as almost integral to their faith. In much of the USA belief in democracy actually is part of many people’s faith – exactly the opposite of the traditional position. One might have thought that the timeless values God’s Holy Church would enable it to formulate consistent social policies, and to stand firm against fickle social fashions. In fact, the mainstream Churches are ever adapting to the modern world. Now that ecological concerns and animal rights have become fashionable we have suddenly started to hear about how deeply Christians have always felt about such matters. In 1990 the Pope announced that, contrary to almost two thousand years of Church teaching, animals may after all have souls [21] . In 1999 he announced, in contradiction of traditional teaching, that it was wrong for states to inflict the death penalty. All of the Churches follow public opinion, never leading it; always waiting until there is an established majority view. Thus, the mainstream churches rarely express opinions on such matters as whaling, seal clubbing, animal experiments, and vivisection. However, should such matters attract a consensus view in the next few years it is a fair bet that the churches will discover that, whatever it is, that has always been the orthodox Christian view as well.

    Churches have adopted the full range of possible opinions about the propriety of gambling over the centuries. When Premium Bonds were introduced in Britain in April 1956, Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, objected to them on the grounds that they were a form of gambling. They would, he said, “debase the nation’s spiritual currency”. Churchmen soon stopped fulminating about this particular evil, when they became widely popular. In recent years Churches, notably the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army, have changed their grounds for opposing petty gambling. In the past activities such as playing card games for matchsticks was condemned as inherently evil and contrary to the will of God. This is no longer seen as a credible position, so now petty gambling is opposed on the grounds that it is addictive and liable to lead to more serious gambling and thus financial ruin. A few stout Christian voices were raised against proposals for a National Lottery in Britain in the 1990’s. But national Lotteries are enormously popular. Moralists risk becoming unpopular by opposing them, so criticism is ever more muted. Churches that objected to the national lottery now apply for, and receive, lottery funds.

    On some issues the Church has changed its mind more than once. For example its views on men wearing long hair have changed as often as European fashion. Each time the fashion has changed from wearing it short to wearing it long, the Church has stepped in to affirm that the new fashion was unchristian, contrary to the bible, and undoubtedly sinful. In the eleventh century the Church decreed that men with long hair should be excommunicated. Men with long hair were immoral, unchristian, criminal and bestial. Such attitudes were revived each time the cycle of fashion came round. In the seventeenth century, Puritans were convinced that every form of vice and iniquity lurked in the long tresses of the Cavaliers. Any man who grew long hair in the nineteen sixties will recall the same accusations being made then by churchmen and by other devout Christians.

    The big problem is how Churches could have been so wrong so often. Even one mistake would be enough to counter the claim that they have privileged access to God’s immutable truth. In fact most mainstream churches have backtracked, dissembled, and reversed their positions on hundreds of occasions. Their values have been continually changing, especially since the rise of secular society. The fact is that it is rather difficult to find a position on any single social issue that has been consistently held by any Church since the earliest days of Christianity.


    Adopt, Adapt and Improve. Throughout its history Christianity has adapted itself to the market in order to remain believable. It has borrowed from virtually every religion it came into contact with in its first few centuries, adopting doctrines and practices with an opportunism that was frequently commented on at the time. Judaism, Hellenistic religions, Sun cults, fertility cults, Zoroastrianism, animism, and resurrection cults – all provided ideas for the nascent Christian religion. All mainstream Churches have changed ground on a vast range of issues affecting all areas of life, always making its position acceptable, if sometimes a little belatedly. The Roman Church’s use of saints, illustrates the more general principle of how facts can be juggled to keep the faithful happy. Many saints were appointed for political purposes, to appease a particular faction. When the Gauls wanted a saint around the beginning of the fifth century, having read about eastern saints, a fictitious biography was produced for Martin of Tours. Written by a friend of his, it soon elevated Martin to sainthood, satisfying the proto-French desire for a heavenly representative of their own.

    In more recent times saints have been created to appease countries like Mexico and Vietnam. Typically there is no very good reason to make a saint, except that the nation feels slighted by not having one, and the Vatican desires friendly relations. As political priorities change so do claims to sainthood. The classic example of this was Joan of Arc. As a sop to the English she was condemned by the Catholic Church and burned as a transvestite (sic); several hundred years later it became expedient to offer a sop to the French, to whom she had become a national heroine, so in 1920 her case was reconsidered and she was discovered not to have been guilty of transvestism, or heresy, or anything else, but to have been a saint. This particular method of courting popularity is currently being exploited more than it has been in the past. Pope John Paul II has created more saints than all previous popes put together.


    Capture market share by force when possible. When the opportunity arose Christians forced people to adopt their religion. Christians have destroyed existing religions, taken over their holy sites and their wealth, and killed anyone who declined their offer permitting them to convert: Pagans, Jews, Moslems – anyone in fact. In the past whole countries have been converted at a stroke. Charlemagne converted the reluctant Saxons by offering the choice of adopting Christianity or instant death. Late in the tenth century Russia was converted when Prince Vladimir (reigned 980-1015), adopted Christianity. His subjects were given the simple choice of Christian baptism in the river Dneiper or drowning in it. He is now a saint Again, in the eleventh century Norway was converted under King Olav largely at the point of the sword. He too is now a saint. The Christianisation of Iceland was much less bloody than usual, though it shows the technique. A Saxon missionary, Friedrich arrived in the tenth century but was forced to leave when his assistant Thorvaldur killed too many locals. In AD 1000 King Ólafur Tryggvason of Norway was seized with evangelical Christian zeal. As Jón Hjálmarsson, an Icelandic historian, relates [22] :

    King Ólafur’s first missionary to Iceland was Stefnir Thorgilsson, a native of Iceland, who started by attacking and breaking down heathen temples, and was promptly exiled. Next, the King sent a Flemish priest named Thangbrandur, who had reached Norway via England. He managed to baptise several of the noble Icelandic chieftains, but as he could not tolerate any opposition and killed several men who spoke against him, he too had to leave the country.

    Further Christian missionaries so destabilised the country that Thorgeir, the lawspeaker, was asked to decide what should be done. A liberal and tolerant pagan himself, he decided that Christianity should be adopted as the national religion, but that the people should be allowed keep many of their traditional practices, including the right to worship in private whatever gods they chose. It seemed to be more than fair. Hjálmarsson says of the conversion:

    The introduction of Christianity in Iceland was a peaceful and almost unique historical event. It was quite different from the prolonged conflicts, warfare and bloodshed which customarily accompanied Christianization in most other countries. This peaceful settlement arose probably more for political than religious reasons.

    Within sixteen years the exemptions for traditional practices, including the liberty to worship other gods, was abrogated. As elsewhere, Christians now denied the liberty of worship that they had so earnestly advocated for themselves. Within a century compulsory tithes were introduced. Soon the Benedictine and Augustinians had introduced the abuses and corruption common in mainland Europe. By the thirteenth century a feudal system had been introduced, and freeholders were reduced to feudal tenants of the Roman Church. Another country had been successfully converted.

    In the centuries to come many other countries would experience the process. Colonisation by European countries from the seventeenth to the twentieth century has generally been accompanied by the introduction of the Christianity which was at best coercive and at worst forcible, leaving a residue of resentment and hatred to this day, particularly in Africa [23] .


    The Importance of Monopoly Supply

    The Oldest and greatest monopolist of all, Holy Church herself, the monopolist in God
    John Strachey, The Coming Struggle for Power, Pt I, Ch 1


    Use thought control to bolster adherence. The key to thought-control is education. Historically the church has controlled education, as well as scholarly disciplines such as history, philosophy, medicine and science. As soon as they are in a position to do so Christians have taken over the function of educating the young. In this way missionaries have been able to convert communities within a single generation. In many parts of the underdeveloped world, education is permitted only to those who embrace the Christian faith. People thus have a great incentive to adopt Christianity. If they do not then they and their children are denied education altogether, and thus also the corresponding privilege and influence. The effect of a selective and carefully designed Christian education has been to ensure continued and unquestioning acceptance of the faith. This continues to work well in countries such as those in South America, Africa, and southern Europe. But the need for intellectual submission is universal. As Roman Catholic Law puts it, in Canon 752:

    …a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act.

    Under traditional Christian methods, children are not so much educated as indoctrinated. The Jesuits have traditionally boasted: “Give me a child up the age of seven, and I will give you the man” (it was taken for granted that a child to be educated would be male). Other denominations have also recognised the power of early conditioning, hence the development of Sunday Schools. The purpose of schools for the Church was never to bring education to the masses, it was to ensure continued doctrinal purity among those with influence. Sunday schools became necessary only when political power started to shift towards the proletariat in the nineteenth century. The danger was that people could teach themselves to read and write, and then give public readings of books such as The Age of Reason. Sunday schools were regarded explicitly as a bulwark against these trends. It was thought that a properly indoctrinated mind would be immune. Until then schools were generally for the privileged. Many were founded specifically for the sons of clergymen. Where the population was already 100% Christian it was not necessary to offer education as an inducement, as it is for missionaries.

    Minds conditioned to one body of dogma seem more than usually willing to accept another. Throughout his life Stalin’s language abounded with reminiscences of the seminary where he was trained. History might have been very different if he had fulfilled his mothers’ hopes of him becoming an Orthodox priest. So too if Hitler and Mussolini had fulfilled their mothers’ hopes and qualified for the Catholic priesthood. Karl Marx and Claus Barbie, the Nazi mass-murderer, both attended a Catholic school at which inquisitors had been trained at in earlier centuries. In most Roman Catholic countries the Church still exercises strong control. Once indoctrinated, children tend to stay in the Church for life, and Catholicism is safe for another generation. The same is true of other denominations in other parts of the world: Greek Orthodoxy in Greece, Presbyterianism in much of Scotland, Mormonism in Utah, Methodism in Fiji, and so on.

    In the USA the churches also maintain a grip on education, despite the supposed separation of Church and State. Somehow religions have maintained an astonishingly high market penetration there, approaching 100% up to recent years. The explanation seems to be that religion has become associated in the popular mind with being a good American. Atheism is perceived as being tantamount to communism, and thus offensively un-American. Certainly atheists and agnostics are subject to criticism and hostility [24] . In Greece Christian uniformity is even greater. Anyone who does not belong to the Greek Orthodox Church is widely regarded as not truly Greek. Until the nineteenth century the whole of Europe had similar ideas. To be European was almost the same as being Christian. Failure to believe made people outsiders, undesirables, dangerous and alien. Churches have always insisted that children be brought up in the faith – hence the prevalence of child baptism. Indeed most denomination take particular care to ensure that people marry only within the denomination, or at the very least that any children will be brought up within it.


    Enforce adherence. After Christianity had established itself under Constantine the practice of other religions was suppressed, a pattern which was to be repeated many times over the coming centuries. As soon as possible, access to alternative theologies and philosophies have been prohibited, as have criticisms of the dominant line of approved thought. As in our hypothetical religion, Christianity has traditionally insisted that people marry within the faith. Babies are generally Christened soon after they are born. They are often indoctrinated at special religious establishments. In the past it was an offence for them to defect once they had grown up. Baptism was compulsory and irrevocable, and any attempt at dissent was punished by death. Attempts were always made to suppress or extirpate schism and heresy whenever it was possible. All aspects of life were encompassed by the Church. Christianity took over rights of passage, e.g. birth (Churching of Women), naming (Baptism), puberty (Confirmation), marriage (Holy matrimony) and death (final unction and burial services), and sought to control access to all information and knowledge.

    The local church was the living heart of the village, affecting all aspects of life. Unless there was a nearby castle it was the village fortress, in which the population could take refuge in times of trouble. It was once stocked with weapons. Many churches are still castellated, and some retain other reminders of military connections: some church armouries survive, and Regimental Colours hang in many Churches around the country. Generally the church had the only clock in the locality, and its bells “tolled” the time. In the church porch villagers conducted business and concluded contracts of all kinds from marriage to business deals – the notice board in the porch is a vestige of this function (when Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses to a church door he was merely pinning them on his university notice board). The incumbent kept all local records, including births, marriages and deaths, and had a hand in all important rights of passage. A great wooden chest stored valuables, including written contracts and villagers’ wills. The nave acted as a confessional, village hall, and sometimes a shopping centre. As well as armaments, all manner of common property was stored there: the great fire-hook for pulling down burning buildings, the cucking-stool for punishing scolds, a whip and tongs for dealing with unwanted dogs, even the communal hearse and coffin. Trials by ordeal were carried out in the nave. Later, Manor Courts and even County Courts were also often held in the nave. The church acted not only as a courtroom, but as military recruiting station, registry, and information centre. Sermons were used to disseminate news, and for official announcements. The only way to learn of important events was in church – any news from a foreign invasion, a royal declaration, a new law, approaching plague. It also acted as a collection point for information for the state, and as a social centre. Church ales, wedding ales, and many other ales were celebrated at the church, and each Sunday it provided an occasion for people to meet, to show off, to gossip and to make dates. Anyone who failed to co-operate or caused trouble was excluded from the church and thus also from village life.

    Medieval churches often doubled as fortresses or castles
    Prieuré et Église fortifiée de St-Michel des Anges
    Ussel, Corrèze, Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes, France.

    Exterminate people who are non-compliant. The Church has an impressive record of killing those who disagree with it. It has been responsible for the deaths of many millions of atheists, Moslems, Jews, followers of Wicca and other non-Christians who wished to remain faithful to the religion of their ancestors, apostates, schismatics, heretics, and blasphemers: anyone in fact who could be regarded as non-compliant. All have been done away with, under the cloak of war or the judicial process.


    Market Size

    …Be fruitful, and multiply…
    Genesis 1:28

    Promote continuing expansion of our faith at all costs. The Christian Church has indeed sought to expand, and has used all possible techniques to do so. It has always been a proselytising religion, sending out missions and using propaganda (the church originated the word propaganda). It encouraged pogroms and holy wars to eliminate or convert the competition. It followed in the wake of conquest and colonisation. Money has also been used to promote the interests of the Church. From the earliest times bribes were paid to get Christians out of state prisons. Ransoms were paid to have Christian convicts ransomed from the Sardinian mines, and Judges were paid to deliver favourable judgements. Soon, the Church would have total power over the courts within the empire, but similar practices have been used wherever the religion has spread.

    Is this advertisement extolling progressive Christianity or criticising it?
    It seems to be an ad by traditionaist Christians poking fun at denominations that
    adjust themselves to modern circumstances in a bid for popularity.

    The Christian Church has also taken care to appeal to as wide a market as possible. For example it avoided the mistake of Mithraism, which was to limit membership to men. It also allowed in slaves and others rejected by other religions. Apart from a few ancient sects it also rapidly dropped unpopular requirements such as the need for circumcision, and the need for alien dietary restrictions. Apart from a few sects like the Muggletonians and the Shakers, most Christian sects have encouraged procreation following the divine injunction “go forth and multiply”. As one might expect sects whose members have multiplied have grown large, while those that have not have died out [25] . Generally, an effective method of ensuring propagation of the faith is to prohibit contraception among adherents. This is particularly effective in overpopulated countries where contraception is practised by other members of the community. The simple truth is that if one group in a population maintains a higher than average rate of reproduction then it will eventually become dominant. This, of course, is a strategy adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. As long as overpopulation does not destroy the world altogether, the Roman Catholic Church is assured of growing influence. Overpopulation will lead to poverty and ignorance, and thus a perfect future market for religion.


    Material Benefits

    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me a steep and thorny way to heaven;
    Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
    And reckes not his own rede

    William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Hamlet I, iii


    Establish symbiotic relationships with the civil powers. As we have already seen the Christian Church soon established a comfortable relationship with the Roman Empire. The Emperor was the “bishop of bishops” and in return Church dignitaries enjoyed significant political power. Christianity gave a degree of stability to a rotting empire, and provided assurances that the Emperor had been appointed by God. In return Christianity enjoyed the monopoly it had desired, suppressing other religions by force, destroying their temples, and seizing their holy sites. Soon the Church was creaming off more than 10% of the income of everyone within its jurisdiction. For centuries Church and State would validate each other, and support each other’s rights, the Church latching on to whoever was in power at the time. As Thomas Paine put it:

    As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter. [26]

    Even now the western world continues many remnants of this relationship. Most notably churches are exempt from certain taxes in most countries, and in some even retain the right to levy taxes themselves. In return the Church endorses cultural values, from the Orthodox national Churches to the All-American sects of the USA. In the past Church Officials even acted as civil rulers, from the Greek Ethnarchs to the many Prince Bishops of Europe (one of whom is still the joint head of state of Andorra).


    Excuse ourselves from onerous requirements. Over the centuries the Church has exempted itself from all manner of civil duties and restraints. It has not paid taxes, has established its own courts of law dispensing its own justice, and evaded all manner of civil responsibilities.


    Make ourselves Rich. The Church was quick to capitalise on its position. Already in Roman times wealthy men and widows were expected to leave a third of their property to the Church. Others were taught to remember the Church in their wills, and to treat “Christ’s Bride” as they would an additional child. Within a century the Church was enormously rich, yet it has continued to benefit from wills, as well as other monetary contributions ever since. The sale of magical charms and holy relics brought in huge amounts of money. Bodies were dug up and dismembered to feed the market for new saints. Bishops and kings mounted raids against established shrines to capture the bones of the more important (and therefore profitable) saints. Relics were rented out to work their routine miracles: everything from curing murrain in cattle by using St Wilfrid’s signet to ensuring a safe childbirth by wearing a holy girdle. Churches siphoned off many billions of pounds for the personal use of their leaders. The money came from compulsory taxes and tithes; selling forgiveness for crimes and sins; selling Church offices; selling future promises (indulgences); seizing other people’s property (having killed or dispossessed them for real or imaginary crimes); taking over other cultures’ religious sites and goods, Government funding, pimping, investment income, rent, donations, and fees. The Church even raised money through professional begging, though the beggars were dignified by titles such as mendicants and quaestores. Compulsory fees were charged for masses and other clerical services. Voluntary fees were charged for a range of privileges from admission shrines of saints, to the right to be buried inside a church. Admission to monasteries was restricted to the rich, and in order to enter they were expected to bring a dowry with them. Unnecessary prohibitions were enforced, then licences and dispensations were sold to allow people to avoid them: permission to marry a distant relative, permission to marry ‘out of season’, permission for a man of illegitimate birth to enter Holy Orders, permission for a priest to keep a concubine. There were hundreds of such exemptions to be purchased from the Church. Taken together the Christian Churches must be, and for a long time must have been, the wealthiest body in the world. And the money is still rolling in. When the pope visits a country, good seats in any Church he visits can be sold for £11,000 or more. It is a rare church leader who is not immensely wealthy. From the Pope, who is probably the richest man on earth, to the smallest American evangelist millionaire.




    All in all, the Christian Church, or rather the principal Christian Churches, have behaved remarkably like our hypothetical marking religion up until recent times. It has engaged in heavy marketing to gain market share and then enforced monopoly wherever possible. Indeed it has matched our hypothetical man-made religion in every respect. No one imagines that Christianity has been merely a deliberate, ruthless, sustained, cynical marketing invention? So how is one to explain this remarkable similarity? The answer would seem to be yet another deep mystery.



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    [1] . Gilbert Murray, Humanist Essays, p 157.

    [2] .The idea is attributable to Tertullian, who wrote “Our numbers increase as often as you cut us down: the blood of Christians is the seed.” Apologeticus, L.

    [3] .Ware, The Orthodox Church p 269, citing the Russian Primary Chronicle which explains how Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, identified the one true religion.

    [4] .Chadwick, The Early Church, p283.

    [5] ,Article 24 of the Anglican Church's 39 Articles says: "It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understood of the people", it also disapproved of showing off the Host. Article 25 includes the following "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them"

    [6] .Pallone, N J , 'Explorations in Religious Authority and Social Perception', (1964) Acta Psychologia, 22, pp 321-37

    [7] .Over a dozen Psychological and Sociological studies confirming correlations between religiosity and other personality traits are cited, and summarised, in The Social Psychology of Religion, PP 97-99.

    [8] .Sargant, W, Battle for the Mind, Heinemann (London, 1957)

    [9] .E.g. “Christians usually flee headlong from the cultured, who are not prepared to be deceived; but they trap the illiterate…” Celsus (2nd Century), in The True Doctrine, cited by Origen in Contra Celsum VI.14.

    [10] .Henry Louise Mencken, Notebooks, 'Minority Report'.

    [11] ."The greater his disappointment in this life, the greater his faith in the next. Thus the existence of goals beyond this world serves to compensate people for frustrations they inevitably experience in striving to reach socially acquired and socially valuable ends. "Davis, K, Human Society, Macmillan (New York, 1948), p532.

    [12] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion p 189, 195-6

    [13] . Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion PP 135-9, 199-201

    [14] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion PP 145-8

    [15] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion PP 148-9

    [16] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion PP 110-1

    [17] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion p 194

    [18] .Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion PP 126-30

    [19] .Starbuck E D, The Psychology of Religion, Walter Scott (London, 1899)

    [20] .Whitam, F L , "Peers, Parents and Christ: Interpersonal Influence in Retention of Teenage Decisions Made at a Billy Graham Crusade', Proceedings of the Southwestern Sociological Association, 19, (USA, 1968), pp154-8.

    [21] .The pope's suggestion that animals do have souls was made on 10th January 1990 and reported in the Bulletin of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare August 1990 (No. 160)

    [22] .Jón Hjálmarsson, History of Iceland, (Iceland Review, 1993), PP 29, 32, 33, 44, 71.

    [23] .For a critical account of Christianity in Africa, see Obianyido, Christ or Devil.

    [24] .Glock C Y and Stark R, Religion and Society in Tension, Rand McNally (Chicago, 1965) and Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism, Harper & Rowe (New York, 1966)

    [25] .No doubt these sects would have had even success had they not insisted on celibacy for all adherents, and had to rely on recruiting converts to keep up their numbers. In the nineteenth century there had been many thousands of Shakers living in self supporting communities across the USA. By the 1990s only eight remained. (The sect is properly called The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming). The last Muggletonian died in England in 1979.

    [26] .Paine, The Age of Reason, Pt II, Conclusion, p 185.




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