A real racket

Collectable card games are evil: if they get you hooked, you find yourself throwing money at little foil packets of randomized bits of cardboard, feeding the variable reinforcement schedule. The New Humanist has stumbled onto compounded evil, combining collectable card games with religion. Fortunately, they’re giving the images away for free. If they ever start selling booster packs, though, it will be time to descend on their offices with pitchforks and torches and root out the wicked.


  1. Max Fagin says

    Just like in that Ben Stiller movie (don’t recall the name) where he collects “Heros of the Torah” gaming cards.

  2. Matthias says

    haha i had the same idea, to set religion on the same level as pokemon and i’m sure religion will be treated like that in some hundred years.

  3. Benjamin Geiger says


    More likely that Pokemon will rise to religion status. All hail the First United Church of the Shock Rat!

  4. Curt Cameron says

    What is the deal with these cards? I’ve seen Pokemon and Yugi-Oh cards, and I think there are others. From what I’ve seen, little kids just want to have them. Is there really a game, and does anyone really play the game? It’s incomprehensible to me.

  5. says

    That was in a Simpsons episode, too. The one with Homer and his Barbershop Quartet.

    Bart: Oh boy! Free trading cards!
    Milhouse: Wow! Joseph of Arimathea! Twenty six conversions in A.D. 46.
    Nelson: Whoa, a Methuselah rookie card!
    Flanders: Heh heh, well boys, who’d have thought learning about religion could be fun?
    Bart: Religion?
    Milhouse: Learning?
    Nelson: Let’s get out of here!

  6. says

    I (mostly) gave up on the collectible card crack years ago. I still by a new game now and then (The constructible pirate ships drew me like a moth to flame), but I remember friends missing car and rent payments because they spent entire paychecks pre-ordering cases of cards. Nope, no parallells ro religion there.

  7. Anonymous says

    Oh why did they have to pick on George Lucas…

    I don’t think they’ll get enough buyers, because after all, they’ve ruled out believers of 12 major religious sects.

  8. Focus says

    The referred cards are actually more poking fun at the religions of the world than an actual game. Just read some, like the Jedi card. The Pastafarian is missing however.

  9. SPFS says

    Hey, I think I’ve still got a deck of the Heresy card game somewhere! (Anyone else ever even heard of that one?)

    CCG collecting. I’ve been there. Not sure I ever missed the rent but it came close a few times..

  10. says

    The first set of these was out several months ago, yes.

    I’m not sure they were sufficiently careful; if I recall correctly, Baha’i was not founded by the Bab. He was more of a John-the-Baptist figure.

  11. Boosterz says

    The CCG craze started with a small company called Wizards of the Coast. They made the first rabidly popular CCG called Magic the Gathering. They were also smart enough to patent the hell out of everything involved so every other CCG that has come out since then pays them royalties. Wizards of the Coast also bought SSI after they became rich SoBs off of Magic. SSI was the company that produced the game Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

    To answer a couple of unasked questions:
    1. Yes I was hooked on collecting Magic cards.
    2. Yes I’m a huge geek.

  12. DGKnipfer says

    Hi, my name is Dan and I am a CCG addict. I have been card free for… cool! Is that a beta Black Lotus Card?

  13. mothra says

    The text on each card is written in a style similar to that found in the book: ‘The Savvy converts guide to choosing a religion.’

  14. says

    They could resurrect the POG craze of the mid-90’s. Bottle cap liners depicting stories and characters from the bible. Imagine a kid playing “parting the Red Sea” with his Moses POG. The Methuselah one could be old and wrinkly.

  15. Max says

    “you find yourself throwing money at little foil packets of randomized bits of cardboard”

    No kidding. Looking at my box of Pokémon cards is like looking at a pile of hundred dollar bills… and then putting in a blender.

  16. DGKnipfer says

    Not a huge enough geek. The D&D game system was owned by Tactical Simulations Review which later became TSR (not SSI) . After their second or third round of bankruptcy TSR was bought by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards owner Richard Garfield then sold out to the evil empire Hasboro.

  17. Chris Davis says

    They have atheist/Humanist as having ‘no rules, just individual morality’. Er, bollocks: we’re social animals, and all have an instinctive drive to be nice to others of our kind. Those who don’t are called socio- or psychopaths.

    Chimps and meerkats have it. The only tricky bit is that the definition of ‘our kind’ is subject to modification by society.

  18. Boosterz says

    Typical Magic game back in high school:

    I go first, I throw down a land, tap it, cast dark ritual and use that mana to throw down 3 black vices(black vice: for every card over 4 in a players hand they take 1 damage). Next guy takes his turn, takes 9 damage(out of 20 life) right off the bat from my vices, then he throws down a land, taps it, throws down a sol ring, taps it, and throws down 2 more black vices. The third guy gets up, says “fuck you guys” and takes his cards and goes home.

  19. SteveM says

    It’s not a CCG if the cards don’t have “rarities”. As I recall from the discussion of the first set of cards, this is more a version of “Top Trumps” than it is a CCG. IIRC, “Top Trumps” is quite a bit older than MtG.

  20. Benjamin Geiger says

    I was more of a “how much can we abuse the rules” kind of player. I loved coming up with infinite-something combos, even if I’d never have a chance of pulling them off in a game.

    My favorite was Sliver Queen, Ashnod’s Altar, and Heartstone. Pay 1 mana to create a Sliver token, sacrifice it to the Altar to generate 2 mana, create two Sliver tokens… Throw it in an otherwise awesome Sliver deck and you’ve got infinite flying trampling 6/6 mother humpers.

    Though, I must admit I was seriously impressed the first time I saw a Memory Jar deck go off.

  21. Duke says

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to all CCGs are EVIL. I have played Magic: the Gathering for many years and find the entertainment value far greater than the cost of the cards. In answer to the question earlier in this thread, yes, people still do play the game associated with the cards. Most people I know wouldn’t buy cards without the game.

    It’s no different than anything else, really. When done in moderation, it can be enjoyable and downright stimulating. When you start sticking-up banks for cash to buy cardboard crack, you’ve probably gone too far.

  22. c-law says

    (in Yugi-oh voice)
    “aha! and now i play the attack card: chick tract mailing list! it also allows me to then play the bingo night trap making all roman catholics miss their next turn! coupled with the cognitive dissonance card allready in effect, that deals 20 damnation points to you!”

  23. AVSN says

    Went and looked. Disappointed. Now maybe cards with real info rather than comic jibs might be worth buying.

  24. says

    For the non-Brits, these are based off Top Trumps, a card game for kids, which wasn’t really collectible. CCGs like Magic or Pokemon require multiple purchases, while a Top Trumps set is bought as a set. Of course, they had lots of different sets: I remember the most popular set when I was young was the Fantasy Top Trumps – Aliens & Space Warriors. And I still remember that the worst card of the lot was called “Pet Smet”, and you could always tell who had the Pet Smet card by the pained expression on their face (except the smarter kids who managed to put on a poker face or fake it).

    They also had some real cards too for things like different breeds of animal, various bits of military equipment (planes and rockets and so on), dinosaurs (all the “about 150 million years ago” statistics would make them unsellable to certain more idiotic parts of the populace), sports players, race cars and so on. They still sell them, but they’ve become a lot more commercial with tie-ins to cartoons and wrestling and stuff.

    Wikipedia informs me that there were also some Top Trumps packs sold in the US, but they did them as boosters rather than decks. Which is quite silly, as you really need a whole deck to play (smart on the other hand because they were using them to raise money for charity).

  25. says

    @ Boosterz

    That was the kind of deck I played a lot of. Heavy on Black Vises, Racks, and Millstones.

    The best “rulebuster” deck I ever played against was, I think, the Ashnod’s Altar/Kobold(zero casting cost!)/Enduring Renewal infinite fireball deck. I also saw it used as a life drain, which was less likely to be countered by a 1-mana Blue Elemental Blast. There might have been something else to the combo, I can’t remember now. It’s been nearly 15 years.

  26. Doctorb says

    This is even funnier if you consider that “trump” means “fart” in England.

  27. says

    Oy. So many people that remember Urza and Yawgmoth.

    You’ve just made my day. (Mountain, Raging Goblin, attack, your turn, this is gonna work one day.)

  28. 'Tis Himself says

    I was astonished the lightsaber didn’t earn a 10/10 for weapon… something is clearly wrong with their rating scale.

    The light saber is a short range weapon.

  29. Elwood Herring says

    On the Atheist card: “More often exasperated than offended”

    And Pharyngula is Exasperation City!

  30. Blue Fielder says

    Great, yet another thing I can add to my slowly-expanding list of CCGs I have sitting around. I’ve already got the Pokemon TCG Game Boy game (and a couple decks sitting around somewhere, plus a binder full of cards that was given to me), an old pack of Sailor Moon CCG cards (since I don’t know what happened to my starter set for it), and a whole shoebox (which used to house a pair of my boots – and I have huge feet, so you know this box is big) of Yu-Gi-Oh cards that aren’t being used in decks. Plus, if I can ever get another job, I’m planning on re-introducing myself to Magic.

    Thanks loads.

  31. dWhisper says

    Well, as a sad and poor Magic the Gathering junkie, I may have to go request a few dozen of these… they’re always good for proxies, throwing to the cat to shred, or the occasional trip to the range for target practice.

    I’m just depressed someone beat me to the Simpsons quote… I was just watching that episode the other day.

  32. JamesR says

    Pitchforks and Torches. Huh?? Ahhh C’mon PZ. Get with the 21st century. How about 50 Caliber rifles and Napalm. Let’s make it exciting.
    And as I always say. “Get the Bar’b’Que going, bring the Band and we can make a day of it.

  33. says

    To correct a few errors.

    At the time Wizards bought out TSR, TSR just stood for TSR. It was Peter Atkinson who later sold Wizards of the Coast to Hasbro thinking he’d stay in charge of Wizards while Hasbro would provide distribution etc.

    Hasbro bought Wizards largely to take advantage of the latter company’s Pokemon TCG sales. Unfortunately, the owners of the Pokemon rights had originally chosen Wizards because Wizards had published M:TG, and because of poor reception from Hasbro to their original proposal. So WotC lost the Pokemon license. Atkinson got eased out and a made man from Hasbro put in charge of Wizards. Every few years a new guy gets sent to Seattle in the hope he can turn things around for the company.

    I don’t know how M:TG is faring these days, but from all I’ve heard D&D is in the hands of control freaks and anal retentives. Thus alienating those of us in the hobby who would like to actually play a role instead of all the time killing things and taking their stuff. For that you can have a lot more fun playing Steve Jackson Game’s Munchkin.

    For me the best part of Magic: The Gathering was getting $200.00 for about $5.00 worth of cards. And before I got the last of the money, the bubble collapsed.

  34. says


    I recently started playing Pokemon with my kids (the first game I played it was because I had taken them to play Pokemon with other kids, and one of them was left with no opponent – I figured I’d learn how so they weren’t just sitting there for half an hour when there was a perfectly good warm body available).

    Having learned how the game works, I am quite happy with them playing it (as long as they’re spending their own money on buying it) – lots of planning and strategy, counting by tens, and so on.

    I’ve played a few CCGs in the distant past (I bought a lot of Illuminati:New World Order, and a little of three or four other games, mostly SF ones). If you play a lot, even getting into it pretty hard can still be cheaper per hour of entertainment than going to the movies once a week. If you don’t play much, you probably don’t buy so much, and it can still be reasonable.

    Nowadays I’m more a fan of board games, but I’m glad I have this to share with my kids.

  35. raivo pommer says

    Raivo Pommer


    Die Kapitalabflüsse gestalteten sich in der Branche in Europa und den Vereinigten Staaten allerdings sehr unterschiedlich: Während amerikanische Hedge-Fonds in großem Umfang juristische Sperren nutzten, die eine sofortige Rückzahlung von Anlagegeld an die Kunden beschränkten oder hinauszögerten (Gates), ist dies bei europäischen Hedge-Fonds weniger üblich. Auch gibt es in Europa mehr Dachfonds, in die Privatinvestoren investieren. Diese hatten die erste Kündigungswelle bei Hedge-Fonds im Herbst 2008 ausgelöst. Die Kapitalabflüsse aus Hedge-Fonds waren daher in der zweiten Jahreshälfte vor allem in Europa relativ hoch. Die Mittel europäischer Hedge-Fonds schrumpften nach Einschätzung von Morgan Stanley um 25 bis 30 Prozent.

    In den Vereinigten Staaten beliefen sich die Mittelabflüsse zunächst „nur“ auf 15 bis 20 Prozent. Dies erklärt, warum der weltweite Verband der Hedge-Fonds, die Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA), kürzlich bekanntgab, dass das Anlagekapital der 1200 bei der AIMA registrierten Mitglieder jetzt zum Großteil von institutionellen Investoren gehalten werde und nicht mehr von vermögenden Einzelpersonen, wie dies früher der Fall gewesen war.

  36. Sili says

    The other boys played this based on cars when I was a kid (lo these many moons ago).

    Nope, I didn’t get it.

    But don’t ever ask to see my collection of bandes déssinées