Trick or Treat season is once again upon us and who tricks us better than religion? They get lots of treats from those they trick, so today I’m addressing a few of their methods.
Humans are storytellers and some people tell stories with the desire for them to be believed. So playing on the natural human tendency to believe things sets the hook. And isn’t it amazing the myriad unbelievable things that people can believe?
Use peoples’ needs. Sometimes, if you want to sell something, you have to establish a need for it. If you’re selling hair spray, you need to show that it’s an asset to have well-kempt hair. If you want to sell deodorant, tell ’em they stink. Conversely, find out what they need or think they need and invent something that will give it to them.
And this works well for people who are already religious. All you have to do is find something that they’re dissatisfied with and you can give them a new and improved religion that promises them more than their last one did.
If there isn’t anything that they need, invent something. Make up a story of how they were born in sin and are therefore sinful and you’ve got the remedy that will relieve the sin. Sex is a nice tool for this since people already feel guilty for having sex. There’s that old fundamental zealot’s fear that someone, somewhere might be having fun.
So, once you have the mark convinced that they need help, you can reel them in. Now we move on to the sales pitch.
Overcoming objections. Every good salesperson must know that the potential client is going to come up with objections to your sales pitch. So you have to have quick rebuttals to those objections and religion has ’em. But the beauty of it is that you can make up anything you like to fit the bill. So, if your mark protests that it says in the Bible that every eye shall see Jesus when he returns but that’s impossible since the world is round, all you have to do is reply smugly with, “That’s why television was invented.”
Make up whatever you like. You can just read through a holy book and make up conclusions that you come to from what you read, even if you have to invent connections never intended by the author.
Apologetics is almost a science. You are essentially inventing a new story to excuse the older story, to elaborate on its possibly missing elements, to clarify the unclear. If goal posts get in the way, just move them.
If the non-believers think you’re a whack job, tell them that they’re just like you. This equivalence will bring them down to your level. Say, “You believe things just like I do! You believe that the sun will come up tomorrow morning.” How can anyone argue with that? Never mind that the sun is a large object in relatively the same place and the earth revolves, or that any reasonable expectation of outcome is a manifestly different usage of the word ‘belief,’ show them that they’re just like you and they’ll cave.
Invent strong penalties for not believing. It’s no longer kosher to slaughter everyone who doesn’t believe what you tell them, but you can threaten with threats of hellfire for eternity. After all, what could be worse than that? Tell them that their entire family will refuse to see them anymore if they don’t believe, or that they won’t have the same political rights you do. It never hurts to persuade when you don’t have the power of the thumbscrews and rack.
Appeal to hubris. Isn’t it great to be one of the elect, the chosen, the True Religion? Aren’t we (insert color here) better than (insert another color here)? Isn’t it obvious that we (insert group here) have the right beliefs unlike (insert other group here)?
I’ve barely touched on the more obvious tricks and may come back to this subject in the future. Clearing out the cobwebs of belief goes clear into our psyches and those of us who were once religious may not even be able to see some of the tricks by which we once were influenced.