Prayers for sale–but not for long

Freedom of religion notwithstanding, it seems that certain types of supernatural products and services are downright unworkable, for entirely commercial reasons. Just ask EBay.

Beginning Aug.30, the online auction site will ban the sale of curses, spells, hexes, magic, prayers, blessing services, magic potions, healing sessions and more…

“EBay regularly reviews categories and updates our policies based on customer feedback,” a statement from the company read. “We are discontinuing a small number of categories within the larger metaphysical subcategory, as buyers and sellers have told us that transactions in these categories often result in issues that can be difficult to resolve.”

I can see where this could be a problem. If I buy something that doesn’t exist, and nothing ever arrives, how do I know if it’s been shipped?

No word on whether or not indulgences are included amongst the list of soon-to-be-banned magical services approved for sale to the gullib general public.


    • Randomfactor says

      Nit: “Ponzi scheme” refers to a specific type of fraud, which this isn’t.

      (I used to WORK for a Ponzi, long ago…interesting story…)

  1. Lee says

    I heard a segment on npr about this yesterday. They interviewed a “psychic” who said the problem is that online psychics are usually fraudulent and just take advantage of vulnerable people. At which point i yelled at my dashboard, “as opposed to other psychics!?!”

    • Anonymous Atheist says

      At least then the buyer receives some physical object with some intrinsic value/use, like jewelry or decorative knicknacks.

      In those situations, I could see the claims of magic powers being considered not that much worse/different than the countless sellers claiming common items are ‘rare’ (RARE!!!!!) and ‘unique’ and such. 😉

  2. Anonymous Atheist says

    This is rather amusing news. 🙂 I hadn’t been aware that such things were ever being sold on Ebay at all.

    But I don’t think Ponzi scheme is an accurate term for this. Not every scam is a Ponzi scheme.

    Wiki: “A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to keep the scheme going.”

    (There are no monetary returns to be paid out to people who buy online prayer services.)

    I don’t know if there is some other specific shorthand term that would be appropriate for this type of scam, other than ‘religion’ 😉 , in which the scammers expect to receive money for the promise of unprovable invisible bullshit.

    • Ned Champlain says

      The dividends paid to religious donations come from the “streets paved with gold” after you die. The ultimate pay out and con, because no one can ever prove they didn’t collect.

  3. F says

    It took them this long to come to this decision? They quickly removed one fellow’s ass-kicking service, and that was potentially a very real product.

  4. anubisprime says

    “No word on whether or not indulgences are included amongst the list of soon-to-be-banned magical services approved for sale to the gullib general public.

    From the NYT 2009

    “The return of indulgences began with Pope John Paul II, who authorized bishops to offer them in 2000 as part of the celebration of the church’s third millennium. But the offers have increased markedly under his successor, Pope Benedict, who has made plenary indulgences part of church anniversary celebrations nine times in the last three years”

    Thing is the ‘Catholic Answers’ web page denies the point…

    The Catholic Church does not now nor has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences–but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations. This practice is utterly opposed to the Catholic Church’s teaching on indulgences, and it cannot be regarded as a teaching or practice of the Church.

    Then it twists what an indulgence actually is…

    “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as a minister of redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions won by Christ and the saints” (Indulgentarium Doctrina 1)

    So all is good…money up front…move along there…time is money!
    No reason for it not to be on Ebay…seems to be A OK with the crows!

  5. Stevarious says

    Dammit, there goes one of my backup plans for when I get too desperate and I lose my morality to a blow to the head.

    Ah, well, there’s always faith healer and psychic.

  6. grumpyoldfart says

    I’d hate to be child of parents who have been buying prayers and curses online. Now that the supply has been cutoff things will start getting nasty for the children when mummy and daddy try their hand at exorcism.

  7. Robert says

    “…I’m a dealer in magic and spells,
    In blessings and curses, ever-filled purses,
    Prophecies, witches and knells.”

    Wow. John Wellington Wells on Ebay. I’ve missed so much.

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