1. Science Goddess says

    I’ve always thought of religion (christianity, at least) as a protection racket. First, they make you believe that you were born in sin (original sin). Then they tell you they’re the only ones who can save you. And you’re going to hell if you don’t believe this stuff. Sounds like Mafia “fire insurance” to me.


  2. Mike in Ontario, NY says

    PZ et al.:
    Scroll back to the comic numbered 477 on Mr. Wiggles’ site. It’s even better!!

  3. E.V. says

    Proselytizer: “I’d believe in God if I was you… Y’know, you have such a lovely family… it’d be a shame if somethin’ were to happen to ’em, if you know what I mean. So… you comin’ to church now or what?”

  4. Mike in Ontario, NY says

    Religion-for-profit has become a big pet peeve of mine. My dear mother, who went from childhood catholic to midlife agnostic and now (heartbreakingly) to fundagelical, is having a very hard time making ends meet. Yet she and her fundytard husband give their church a full 10% of what they have as a tithe. I asked her recently why not give the church her time and labor instead of her money, and she hemmed and hawed about what the bible says about tithing. I asked her about her pastor’s financial health. Guess what? He lives in a McMansion, has two boats, and several collectible cars! I almost blew my stack! I asked her to seriously reconsider who need her money more: her, or her pastor who is living in the lap of luxury?!?! Makes me so mad I could puke.

  5. PGPWNIT says

    Yep, that gets to the heart of the matter. Religion is nothing but a con game.

    I believe all religions start out as a con game….but the longer they live, the leaders actually believe it. Then it is no longer a con.

  6. Alverant says

    Glad I’m not alone. I always figured christianity to be 50% advertising, 49.99% plagiarized from other faiths, and 0.01% original. Ironically the only original thing about that religion is original sin. I haven’t heard of any other pre-christian religion that blames you for something you had no control over.

  7. PGPWNIT says


    I thought an eternal hell was also original to Christianity.

    I might be mistaken, though.

    We should watch out, though. The UN might be coming for us.

  8. says

    Religions that take the form of ‘protection rackets’ survive longer than those that do not.

    I read of this ‘evolutionary theory’ of religion in one of Daniel Dennet’s books, but it probably didn’t originate with him.

  9. Felix says

    I find it baffling that believers just can’t see through it even when it’s explained in minute detail. Well, minute detail might be too much once you’re accustomed to shallow ‘wisdom of ye olde’.
    A:’It just doesn’t make sense – there’s no reason to believe this’.
    B:’But your soul might be at stake.’
    A:’No evidence for existence of soul, sorry.’
    B:’But love exists, and that’s immaterial too.’
    A:’All we know is that love depends on presence of a physical brain and physical processes, whereas the immaterial part is correct by a philosophical or linguistic conceptual definition, it doesn’t make love an independent object.’
    B:’But people do evil, and that’s sinful. Evil exists, so logically sin exists and demands justice.’
    A:’Evil is a human description to label experiences and actions in a moral framework. Sin begs the question of an entity’s will that such sin might violate. No evidence for said entity, so no sense in calling something sin except in a poetic sense. Justice is nice to have, but it doesn’t spring into existence by wishing for it really hard.’
    B:’But we wouldn’t know about evil at all without a moral compass, and surely that must have come from somewhere.’
    A:*sigh* ‘Animals display at least rudimentary morality in accordance with the complexity and comparative sizes of their brain and their sociality. Intersubjective exchange facilitated by speech and writing accelerates and qualifies moralistic growth in social environments.’
    B:’But we’re not animals, we are special creations.’
    A:’Go read a book. Please.’
    B:’You’re rude, yuo’re not accepting anything I tell you.’
    A:’Why should I, I have read the literature over years and understood most of it, asking about things I didn’t understand, while you’re refusing to take even the first step of reading something not made up by relatively (to a fifth-grader today) uneducated ancients.’
    B:’See, you’re ignoring what your heart’s wisdom is telling you. That could turn out to be a grave mistake. You’ll know when you die. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’
    A:’Back to square one, I see. Where do you guys find all those reset buttons? Bye.’

  10. speedwell says

    I completely agree with the sentiment, but that comic is so goddamned ugly it hurts to look at.

  11. tony says

    This is kinda what I was thinking when I first had my ‘attack of sanity’ back around age 10 or so… how was religion (in my case catholicism) any different from other stuff that people were trying to sell me on? The answer eventually came to me: No difference* at all.

    *One difference actually: most ads are regulated and they had better not induce ‘harm’ or make false promises. Not so for religion!

  12. Sam N says

    It’s a shame that advertising gets such a horrible reputation because so many companies are making worthless products. Sometimes people make genuinely worthwhile products and then advertising is essential just so that people know that the product exists. Even better, then the ad doesn’t have to be complete bullshit.

    For example netflix. I appreciated their on-line advertising because I was looking for just that type of service and they have done a fine job providing it.

    But I take the point that religion = worthless products.

  13. Tom says

    Can you believe my company’s internet has banned Mr Wiggles under the heading of “Tasteless”? Unbelievable…

  14. SASnSA says

    Yep, that gets to the heart of the matter. Religion is nothing but a con game.

    I believe all religions start out as a con game….but the longer they live, the leaders actually believe it. Then it is no longer a con.

    But still a major element of the con still exists: blind faith

  15. says

    “It’s a racket” – and, well, people responded to this racket once many people found out… like the reformation, to break away from the main church. Well, kinda. It’s still a racket, but it seems less conspicuous than in the days where indulgences and fake relics were sold everywhere.

  16. says

    “I believe all religions start out as a con game….but the longer they live, the leaders actually believe it. Then it is no longer a con.”
    Then, they have conned themselves. See: 1984, where the biggest leaders are the most fervent believers in their ministry of truth.

  17. cedgray says

    It’s just organisations exploiting our natural tendency for fear.

    Advertisers make us fear that we’re missing out on a great new lifestyle, with associated happiness. Religions make us fear that we’re going to burn in hell for eternity. They both offer redemption, but it’s the kind of redemption that you can’t own or pay off – you have to rent it and make regular payments. It’s a drug that they know you’ll get addicted to because you’re human.

    Fear enslaves you every single time, and they know it.

  18. Qwerty says

    Yea, it’s a racket. My mother started donating to a few charities a few years ago and after several years, she gets about 10 pieces of mail a day. I mean, what the hell does a women living in Minnesota need to support the bishop of northern Alaska. Also, those Sioux schools in South Dakota: haven’t they enough money by now. And all those foreign missionaries.

    And she’s pro-life. So, you mix two rackets (politics and religion) and she gets mail from congressmen who are running for office in other states. Or mail from wingnut bimbos like Phylis Schafley. Once, Elizabeth Dole sent her a dollar when Liz was in charge of the Repulican senate reelection.

    She gave money to one veterans’ organization and now there must be about 10 that ask her for donations.

    And often most of the giving is taken up by “administrative costs” which means the people collecting the money are taking the lion’s share of the giving. Ahhhh….

    *shakes head uncontrollably*

  19. Daniel M says

    wow, that comic is so dark it emits cerenkov radiation…

    nice, that’s going on my list like ‘something positive’ ;)

  20. says

    I believe all religions start out as a con game….but the longer they live, the leaders actually believe it. Then it is no longer a con.

    I think there is enough known about new religious movements and about the history of some religions that suggests they don’t always start as a conscious con. I’m fairly sure some new religions are founded by sincerely deluded people (and others by con artists).

    Also some current religions just sort of came together without being founded as religions*. For instance, I’ve read (in a seemingly respectable history of India – although I don’t remember the author) that Buddha didn’t found a religion but the Buddhist thinkers who followed him gradually incorporated religious practices; I’ve also read the a similar thing happened which the followers of Epicurus. Or there’s the case of Hinduism which has roots right back to the Indo-Europeans (the Hindu gods have Germanic and Hellenic cousins); that didn’t really have a start at which to be a deliberate con-trick.

    *Not even religions have to be intelligently designed.

  21. Alverant says

    PGPWNIT #10
    I thought hell came from the norse mythology. They had a place of eternal torment called Hel, a realm of perpetual winter. A religion invented in a hotter climate would change Hel to be hotter.

    But I do know the greek religion had eternal punishments like pushing a boulder uphill then have it fall back down when it approached the top, keeping water and food eternally out of reach, etc. Almost everything people think is “original” about christianity is repackaging elements taken from one or more existing religions.

  22. And-U-Say says

    “If the racoon offers you a fish, you take the fish!”

    Dr. Dolittle 2

    If you saw the movie you would understand, one of the few funny parts in it.

  23. says

    I’m offering my soul for sale. $15. I figure I’d better sell it now before everyone notices the mounting evidence it doesn’t exist. Includes lifetime warranty. I take paypal.

  24. says

    Timothy writes:
    I don’t get it, what’s “free will”?

    It’s a miracle potion that lets you take the blame for your actions, in spite of the fact that you live in a world that you have virtually no control over whatsoever. Catholics buy the stuff in huge lots.

    I have some for sale. It’s $15 a dose. I take paypal. Includes lifetime warranty.

  25. black wolf says

    “I recall a particular letter from a father of a nine-month-old who wrote to say that even if his religion isn’t true, what harm is it to raise his daughter in Christianity?

    I asked him if he accepted the doctrines of hell and salvation. He did. I explained that in his paradigm, salvation requires a blanket condemnation of all human beings as imperfect for being who and what they are. Salvation and hell don’t mean “imperfect” as in “nobody’s perfect,” but “imperfect” as in “You are so horribly and inherently flawed, that by rights you deserve eternal torture according to god, and as your Christian dad, I have to agree that’s exactly what someone like you, my child, should get.”

    I asked him what he thought it would mean to a little girl to know that her father sees her as that sort of a horrible being—inherently flawed to the point of complete and total unacceptability?

    Initially he attempted to argue god’s love for us and how god wants us to go to heaven and not go to hell. But he couldn’t really find a way to get around the fact that his doctrines meant that he had to say he thought his daughter was inherently flawed and that nothing intrinsic to her could ever be “good enough” to merit anything but eternal punishment. He finally grasped that if there were something she could do that would make her “good enough” to not merit an eternity of torture, then intervention by Jesus would be unnecessary—negating the doctrine of salvation through Jesus. And without someone like Jesus granting her god’s “mercy” (mercy, meaning it’s not what she really deserves, but what god gives her regardless of her undeserving nature), she was hopeless and despicable.”
    from The Atheist Experience blog

  26. Sastra says

    Many times, when people try to convert you to their religion, they don’t really focus on whether it’s actually true or not, and reasons to conclude it is. Instead, they talk to you about how it helped them become better people; it stopped their destructive habits; it gives meaning to life; it allows you the peace of knowing Truth; it’s comfort in times of trouble — and so forth and so on. It “works.” Therefore, it’s True. Or, perhaps, that it’s True, and that must be why it works.

    Sure it “works.” All the religions work. Most Christians would not think that a happy, ethical, strong Mormon family is a slam dunk argument that Joseph Smith must have taken dictation from an angel of God, because how else could you account for the fact that Mormonism works for someone? They can think of a lot of reasons that people might find meaning and purpose in a religion which was, technically, false. Try running the “I’m happier as an atheist” line by them, and see if it shakes their faith.

    But as soon as it comes to promoting their religion, all of a sudden nobody could possibly account for why there are soup kitchens and former drug addicts and satisfied members of their religion unless their religion was really, truly right. Try it, they say. Just try it and see if it won’t work for you. Give it an honest test drive, and you’ll be satisfied too, guaranteed.

  27. Mike in Ontario, NY says

    I’m still trying to figure out if Joe Smith was a complete charlatan, or if he ingested either of the two varieties of fungi native to this area (I live within 10 miles of Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, NY) that cause hallucinations, Panaeolus subbalteatus and Amanita muscaria. Or maybe some ergot poisoning?
    So: ‘shroom head or inveterate liar, what you you guys think?

  28. says

    So: ‘shroom head or inveterate liar, what you you guys think?

    Well IIRC he was a convicted conman, which points to liar. I take it this an inclusive “or” though…

  29. tomhuld says

    The similarity between religion and advertising was noted already by Thorstein Veblen about a hundred years ago, in an essay called “Salesmanship and the churches”. Unfortunately, Google only gave me vague references to it and I can’t find the complete text online. The best line is (from memory) that “All salesmen strive to promise as much as possible and deliver as little as possible. The churches have taken this to its logical conclusion by promising everything and delivering nothing”.

  30. John Morales says

    Sastra @35,

    Try running the “I’m happier as an atheist” line by them, and see if it shakes their faith.
    But as soon as it comes to promoting their religion, […] Try it, they say. Just try it and see if it won’t work for you. Give it an honest test drive, and you’ll be satisfied too, guaranteed.

    Indeed. I’ve since lost touch, but I had a good acquaintance with a someone whose life was indubitably immeasurably improved after his espousal of Scientology and that was his exact argument.

  31. Aquaria says

    Try it, they say. Just try it and see if it won’t work for you. Give it an honest test drive, and you’ll be satisfied too, guaranteed.

    And I say back, “I don’t have to murder someone to verify that I wouldn’t find murder satisfying.”

    But I’ve been saving another version for the right occasion: “So you’re saying I can’t know I don’t like something if I don’t try it? Tell you what: You’re against gay sex, but I’m wondering if you’ve tried it before reaching that conclusion. Or are you telling me that the reason you don’t like it is that you didn’t find it satisfying when you tried it?”

    I know. I’m mean.