Quick background: When I was much younger I worked for a few telemarketing companies that were, let’s just say, not exactly on the up and up.
Going in, I thought they were legitimate businesses and all I had to do was make some phone calls to folks like myself and let them know about these incredible offers for a low, low price and they could get thousands of dollars of value. It just took a little faith on the part of the buyer. It was a win/win. They got theirs and for telling them, I got mine. (To put it in perspective this was decades before the phrase “win/win” was in vogue.)
I banged around a few of these companies and each time I would learn about what the buyer was really getting and it wasn’t what was advertised. I would become disillusioned and look for a new job. This repeated a few times. In one egregious case I actually contacted the state’s attorney general. (“Dropped the dime” is the colloquial term)
Eventually I landed a job with a legitimate employer but along the way I became interested in the ins and outs of scamming and con games and swore I wouldn’t get hooked in again so I set about arming myself with knowledge.
It’s where this quote comes into play.
“You can short-circuit the two or three neurons that people use for common sense by appealing to their greed. Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things for phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating and religion.” Scott Adams (Dilbert creator)
You see it’s easy to suspend disbelief when what you want or think you need is presented to you on a seemingly gold platter. Note: the gold is usually gilt (or in Judaism or Catholicism, guilt)
At a very young age I stopped believing what I was told about “god” because it just didn’t have any logic to it at all. I was reading a piece on con games and grifter terminology and it was like a sitcom instance of glass shattering realization. The truth has been in front of you the whole time but you never realized until it comes up in conversation or is pointed out to you. (Ever notice how your significant other’s laugh, which used to be cute, became annoying when someone points out it sounds like a donkey’s bray?)
In this case it was the connection between religion and the grift.
Let’s sample some confidence game terminology and match it up to religion examples.
Start with “The Tease” promises of rewards, just a flash of things to come, nothing too detailed, just an enticement. For example I get ads in the mail all the time from local churches in the Tampa Bay area offering fellowship and “answers”. It’s never anything too specific, just enough to get your curiosity going hoping you’ll attend a service and get caught up in the web. Speaking of the web look at the home pages of various ministries look for the tease.
Then there’s the “Hook” the apparent advantage offered to the victim to take part in the scam. The greatest hook of all time is the promise of the afterlife. “If you do as we say and believe as we say and give us your money and forget about anything else that makes sense and is logical, we will provide you with the gift of the afterlife”.
They call it “faith“.
“Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved.” Tim Minchin
What is so great about this con? You have to die to prove them wrong and how many people come back after death to demand their money back? (I’m not talking about with a medical team present on the operating table or the “in the ambulance near death experience” with the obligatory tale of the light. I mean dead. In the grave. Stone in front of the crypt…oh wait where have I heard that story before?
Which leads us to the next term, the “Cackle Bladder” defined as any death faked for the purposes of a scam. Read that again. It doesn’t mean real death. A faked death. Or in some cases more appropriately a faked resurrection. Wow, a grave “mysteriously” empty. BOOGA BOOGA!!! Zombie Jeebus walks the earth exposing himself to his crew. There’s no stopping the incredibleness of this guy. Isn’t faith awesome?
Then there is “The Big Store“, the fake shop, betting house or place similar set up by the con artist. Can you think of a store bigger than a cathedral? Those stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings are really designed to lend credence to the whole concept and to instill a sense of atmospheric awe. The most successful con artists have the biggest stores. Think Sistine Chapel, Crystal Cathedral, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Masjid-al-Haram, Lakewood Church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, well, you get the picture.
The “Goon Squad“, hired muscle that’s used to enforce a scam gone sour. Think the Inquisition, Jihadists, missionaries, onward Christian soldiers, clinic bombers…
There’s the “Long Con” taking a little bit at time, not getting too greedy, in for the long haul with the big payoff (Think endowments). Most religions fall into this category. Look at Trinity Church of Manhattan. One of the oldest and richest churches in the country who recently had the scope of their wealth exposed.
Sure there is the Short Con, going for the quick hit taking as much as you can while you can. The Jim and Tammy Faye Bakers got greedy they take the money and go to jail. They forgot the first rule of tax dodgery, don’t live too ostentatiously, people will pay more attention. Get yourself a cassock or simple black suit with white shirt and black tie, looks official. Looks serious. Not like this guy
There are the “Ropers” or “Outside Men” who bring in the victims of the scam. Evangelicals and Mormon missionaries come to mind. They are taught that it is their duty to bring others in.
Pyramid and Ponzi schemes work in the same manner. Have you really looked at Scientology and the LDS? Look at their structure and how money is collected and sent up the pipeline? If those aren’t Ponzi schemes then Bill Clinton didn’t have sex with that woman…
There’s the “Affinity Fraud“ targeting victims who share same race, religion, politics, culture…basically look at any evangelical churches. Next time you go to an Episcopalian or Presbyterian church look around you. What do you see? More appropriately who don’t you see? The flock appears homogenous.
And lastly and more importantly “True Believer Syndrome” which is the favorite of all con artists: The failure of victims to accept they have been scammed and who continue to ‘Hook’ for the con. Any wonder why the term “Fisher of Men” is used?
Ever wonder why it’s called a flock and the preacher is the shepherd?
Now, think about sheep getting fleeced.
One more, think back on those Sunday school pictures of the shepherds.
Notice the big stick they carry?
It’s called a crook.
And what does it look like? A hook.
Do you hear the stained glass shatter?
On my next post we’ll talk about the beginning of the Judeo-Christian grift and Moses and the tabernacle. Your homework is to read the Pentateuch and pay special attention to Numbers and Deuteronomy. Or as I like to call it “building the Big Store”.
- Edir Macedo, Brazil’s Billionaire Bishop (businessweek.com)
- Why Have So Many Famous Christian Televangelists Been In Jail? (blackchristiannews.com)
- My Coming Out pt1 (whymyfamilywilldisownme.wordpress.com)
- Ka-Ching in the Ka-Church (tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com)