Pass Go, Collect Salvation, Despise Others

A medieval Jewish source on the Rhineland pogroms of 1096 has the martyrs in the afterlife refusing to talk to the non-martyrs. “You shall not enter our company”, they say, “since you were not killed in sanctification of the name as we were.” Thus, salvation as social rivalry; let us cut our inferiors dead. The venerable rabbis somehow contrive to sound just like adolescent girls refusing to allow a fashion failure to sit at their lunch table. And indeed it is the same mechanism: human beings are hierarchical, and whenever they are not in a position to compete in the real and important hierarchies, namely the economic and political, they will invent new leagues. They can then define the criteria so that they can start at the top, indeed, the top is wherever they are.

Martyrdom is, however, rather an onerous way of staking a claim in an alternative hierarchy so as to thumb one’s nose at those who enjoy a high position in one of the established ones. On the other hand, this exclusive martyrs’ proclamation was by definition formulated on their behalf by someone who had not themselves been martyred; it represents the thinking not of the dead but of those still playing the game on earth. Lighter versions of the same principle may then be applied; one makes a sacrifice of some sort, which according to the rules of the new hierarchy guarantees a rise in status. Pass Go and collect your 200 dollars. The usual procedure is to make a very public and ostentatious renunciation of some physical pleasure, such as alcohol. Consequently one could once hear people, on being asked if they were Christian, replying, “Of course I am, I don’t drink”. Or it might be dancing, or extramarital sex, or pornography, or games of chance, or swearing, or extreme avoidance of other religions’ iconography.

The renouncer will inevitably be price-conscious and jealous of anyone who obtains the same benefit from a smaller sacrifice. This is normal economic behaviour; who wants to buy a good for the posted price only to see how the next in line gets to buy the good at a fraction of that price? If the teetotal Christian meets a drinking Christian in heaven, therefore, he would have to conclude that his sacrifice of alcohol was unnecessary. Anyone who claims the salvation, that is, the place in the alternative hierarchy they have invented, without having made the appropriate sacrifice, must therefore be treated as a queue-jumper and sent to the back. The house rules of any religious group are thus a cartel-like enforcement of a minimum price.

Posted on January 28, 2010 at 11:14 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Social-Status Tech

2 Responses

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  1. Written by dwasifar
    on January 27, 2010 at 03:18
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    @Grinebiter: “Who wants to buy a good for the posted price only to see how the next in line gets to buy the good at a fraction of that price?”

    Come talk to the Microsoft fanatics who post slurs and insults over at my blog whenever I post about Linux. 🙂

  2. Written by Grinebiter
    on January 27, 2010 at 09:36
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    So Microsoft fanatics ought to believe that everyone will be saved, even the wicked 🙂

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