Are You Being Served?

Why do we call our religious rituals “services”? Whom exactly are we serving? The normal supposition is that the answer is “God” – that we are serving him by our praise, our alms, remorse and our intentions.

Well and good. But why then are these occasions still called “services” when they revolve entirely around testimonies of healing or economic blessings bestowed on members of the congregation? Apparently the service here is running in the opposite direction, from God to us. Given the amount of money extracted from the poor people who typically frequent such churches, so it should; God should indeed perform some services for them in return for all the money his servants are raking in.

It is true that God is not performing these services for everybody present. But it can be demonstrated in the laboratory, on both ourselves and other animals, that reinforcement is actually strongest when the reward is possible but not inevitable. This is why gambling (“a tax on stupidity”) is addictive. And gambling is indeed what is happening in such churches. The poor people are paying their widow’s mites, and excitedly hoping for a win on their lottery tickets in the form of healings or economic blessings. For that matter, this was no doubt what the original widow was doing; so that Jesus was praising, not her giving of alms, but her patronage of his Father’s casino.

Posted on July 22, 2009 at 20:54 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Economic Tech

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