Why America Loves Religious Con Artists

The Lard magically brought my attention to this glorious article in the latest edition of Reader’s Digest magazine. It does not mention religious con artists (for obvious reasons, I think), but what is said in the article certainly applies to them as well.

Con artists are greedy hucksters who sell us possibilities that never come true.

This is what religion is all about, and religious con men have been selling the masses an invisible and imaginary product that they can’t claim until after they die for thousands of years. The Catholic Church has made a fortune off of the myth of Christ. Pope Leo X is alleged to have admitted as much with this famous quote: “What Profit has not that Fable of Christ Brought Us!” The Christian Church has been selling the promise of salvation and eternal life for two thousand years or so now, and it’s nothing but a myth and a lie. Death gives every appearance of being the end of our conscious existence, so there is nothing to claim and no awesome afterlife with Jesus to enjoy after this life is over. Faith healers such as Benny Hinn always have been and always will be con artists who make fortunes bilking gullible and often desperate people out of a hell of a lot of money. People like Joel Osteen (pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX) and Joyce Meyer have made fortunes off of selling “feel good” spiritual/religious bullshit to their followers. Paul Crouch (founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), now deceased) and Pat Robertson (founder of Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)) have made fortunes off of religion, thanks to constant pleas for money in exchange for promises of blessings from an nonexistent God. Brother Pat at least used to make quite a show of pretending to be hearing from God on his 700 Club TV show, claiming to magically know of their ailments through the power of the Holy Spook and claiming that God was healing them, especially if the viewers in question would simply reach out and touch their TV set in faith! I’m not sure if he’s still doing that or not since I have not watched the show in years, but what I once took seriously when I was a believer, I now find amusing and entertaining. But, of course, it’s also sad because those same gullible people allegedly being healed are often bilked out of their money as well. And then, of course, there are televangelists such as Robert Tilton (of Farting Preacher fame on YouTube) who make a fortune promising gullible believers that if they send in a $1000 “vow of faith” that God will open the windows of Heaven and rain down financial blessings upon them. And, of course, Robert Tilton gets rich while the gullible religious fools are left $1000 poorer, and the sad thing is that these are often desperate people who didn’t have the $1000 to spare. Oral Roberts was famous for his “seed faith” concept which made him a fortune, and of course it has been copied by many televangelists with lucrative financial results for them. The point here is that religion is nothing but a scam and a con game, and it’s been running successfully for thousands of years, because credulous people who want it all to be true keep buying into the myths and the lies and the false promises.

The curious thing, as the University of Pennsylvania historian Walter McDougall writes, is that “far from despising flimflam artists as parasites or worse, American popular culture habitually celebrates rascals as comedic figures.” Think of the movies of W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers; think of The Sting and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Even bleaker depictions, like David Mamet’s, get us to admire the dexterity with which con artists persuade people to part with their money.

This is often sadly true, but I find nothing at all admirable about religious con men bilking gullible and often desperate people out of a ton of money. People such as Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and the late Paul Crouch are not people who should be looked up to or admired, and of course neither are con men such as Oral Roberts or Robert Tilton. They should all be despised for the heartless con men that they are. But instead, gullible religious people flock to hear them and eagerly part with their money hoping to receive financial blessings or divine healing from God in return. And, of course, the false and empty promises go unfulfilled 100% of the time, yet people never seem to learn, so the con game goes on unabated by that pesky thing called REALITY.

As the sociologist Alex Preda writes, “Talent for persuasion is key: After all, the public must be convinced to part with their money on the basis of the simple promise that an idea will yield profit in the future.” Successful entrepreneurship involves hucksterism, the ability to convince investors and employees that they should risk their money, their time, and their effort on you. Like a con artist, you’re peddling optimism. As Mel Weinberg (the model for Christian Bale’s character in American Hustle) put it in Robert Greene’s book The Sting Man, “It’s my philosophy to give hope … That’s why most people don’t turn us in to the cops. They keep hopin’ we’re for real.”

Persuasive religious con men have been convincing gullible and often desperate people to part with their money for centuries, promising a glorious afterlife or divine healing or financial blessings in the here and now in return. And, of course, the glorious afterlife is a myth that the faithful will never receive, as is divine healing. And financial blessings in the here and now for turning cash over to a televangelist? That will, of course, never happen either. Most, if not all, televangelists should be in prison for financial fraud (at the very least), but because the con game is popular and is bought into faithfully by millions of gullible believers, the con men stay free to enjoy their ill-begotten fortunes.

Of course, the fundamental difference between entrepreneurs and con artists is that con artists ultimately know that the fantasies they’re selling are lies. Steve Jobs, often enough, could make those fantasies come true. Still, that unquantifiable mélange of risk, hope, and hype provides both the capitalist’s formula for transforming the world and the con artist’s stratagem for turning your money into his money. Maybe there’s a reason we talk about the American Dream.

I have little doubt, personally, that most religious con men know that the bullshit (lies, religious fantasies) they are selling is just exactly that — BULLSHIT. They certainly are living the American Dream of self-made wealth, but not in the way I would want to do it. They are criminals and they should be viewed as such, yet the religious public loves them. I find nothing worthy of admiration in making a fortune off of bilking gullible and often desperate people out of millions of dollars by selling them a pack of myths and lies and false promises. Yet, no matter how often these con artists are called out publicly for the charlatans that they are, the con game will go on because people want to believe that it is all for real, and religious con men will continue to make a fortune off of that unfortunate hopeful but gullible part of human nature.

New Creations in Christ?

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

This is one of the first things new Christian believers are taught after their conversion, is that they are new creations in Christ, and that their old sin natures are dead and gone, crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). New believers soon find out, however, that though they are religious now, their old “sin nature” keeps cropping up and interfering with their good intentions to live an exemplary Christian life. The Christian life is depicted as a constant battle between the flesh (the old dead sinful man) and the Spirit (the new man, the new creation in Christ). Paul discussed this spiritual battle at some length in Romans, chapter 7. And Paul reminds us in Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” In Romans 12:1-2, Paul advises us to renew our minds and not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

But is any of this actually for real? Is there such a thing as spiritual rebirth (John 3:3-7) and transformation (Romans 12:1-2), or is it just something that sounds good on the surface but isn’t actually real? Unfortunately for Christians, the latter happens to be the case. There is no God, and therefore there is no such thing as salvation or spiritual rebirth. There is no Christ to be made new in, and no Holy Spirit to transform their lives and lead them into all truth (John 16:13).

So, the Christian life, rather than being a real battle against real spiritual forces (see Ephesians 6:12) (a forged book, by the way) and the old sin nature, is a battle to try to live up to impossible standards. Christians are expected to be “perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect (See Matthew 5:48). And, of course, every time a Christian believer fails to “be like Christ” and falls far short of the ideal perfection of God, which of course is often, religious fear, guilt, and shame set it. It’s a never ending roller coaster of managing to live right for a while by sheer willpower (though the claim is that it is by the power of God), until, inevitably, a sinful thought or act occurs, and then the believer must ask forgiveness. And then, inevitably, they will sin again, and once again the religious fear, guilt and shame set in, and the believer has to ask for forgiveness. And, of course, believers sin all the time, because nothing about them has changed, expect for the addition of religious beliefs that have the potential to do them a great deal of psychological harm.

God is not for real, there is no such thing as sin, and there is no such thing as salvation. Humans have no spirit or soul that needs to be saved or “reborn”. Fundamentalist Christianity is a miserable roller coaster ride of trying and ultimately failing to please a nonexistent God, and the result is many trips through the hellish depths of religious fear, guilt, and shame.

No matter how much religious activity a believer engages in (prayer, praise, worship, Bible reading), the result is still exactly the same. After the religious high wears off, it’s right back to the miserable roller coaster ride from hell. Real, lasting positive transformation rarely occurs, and if it does, it is of course due the the person’s own efforts to improve themselves rather than the Holy Spirit transforming them from the inside out.

Of course, rather than living lives that are victorious in Christ (see Romans 8), believers are left with the disappointment of still being exactly what they were before they got “saved” — imperfect, fallible human beings. The forged book of 2 Peter claims that we are partakers of the divine nature of God (2 Peter 1:4). But, yet again, it is another false belief and false promise. There is no divine nature to partake of, so believers are left high and dry once again, to live with religious fear, guilt and shame on the spiritual roller coaster from hell.

If you are a Christian who happens to be reading this, then please think about it! Aren’t you tired of the sin/repentance sin/repentance roller coaster of religious life? Isn’t it time to jump off of the religious roller coaster from hell, embrace the world as it really is, and live a life of JOY and FREEDOM? The ironic thing is that religious believers are promised a life of blessings and happiness in Christ, but happiness only actually comes, in most cases, when believers walk away from the faith and face the world as it actually is head on, and they learn to accept themselves as they are — imperfect and fallible, but good. There is no God. There is no such thing as sin. There is no such thing as salvation, and there is no Christ to be made new in and grow in.

I couldn’t possibly be happier these days as an ex-Christian atheist! I am no longer on that religious roller coaster from hell, and I haven’t been for sixteen years. I am FREE, and you can be too! Glory!

Please Forgive Me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Please Forgive Me?

This heartfelt letter to God, posted here with permission, was written by an ex-Christian who posts as “Margee” on the Ex-Christian.net forums. In expressing her struggles with faith, I believe Margee speaks for many — if not most — of us who consider ourselves to be ex-Christians.

It has been my experience that fundamentalist Christians do not treat those who leave the faith with much love, compassion, understanding or kindness. Instead, those of us who have left the faith are conveniently marginalized as having been “false converts” who never really possessed “saving faith” or as the unfortunate victims of the Devil‘s deceptions and lies. This arrogant, condescending attitude toward former Christian believers affords those who are still within the fold (cult) the ability to callously brush aside the deep emotions and careful reasoning of the “backslider” or “apostate”. This unfortunately prevalent attitude displayed by professing Christians also has the no doubt unintended effect of confirming for those of us who have left the faith the wisdom and correctness of having done so.

If you happen to be a Christian believer, I strongly urge you to put aside your preconceived ideas and beliefs about former Christians and hear the sincere, heartfelt cries of a woman who once wholeheartedly shared your faith, but who came up empty-handed when she searched for God with her whole heart while in the agonizing throes of a crisis of faith. Don’t just read the word. Feel the emotions behind the words and try to put yourself in Margee’s shoes, and by extension, the shoes of all of us who consider ourselves to be ex-Christians. Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Dearest Heavenly Bible God, Father, Jehovah, Jesus, Holy Spirit, The Creator of the Universe,

I come to you with the utmost sincerity of my heart, to talk with you. I have wanted to please you all my life. I have searched for you all my life. I have wanted to be one of your chosen. I never wanted to even worry on this earth about going to your hell. So I tried to be good. Yes, I screwed up quite a few times, made quite a few mistakes, but they told me it was because I was ‘blood and ‘flesh’ and that you were like the potter, taking this ‘blob’ of sinful clay and turning me into a diamond. I have always asked for your forgiveness and to give me another chance to prove myself unto you. I always wanted to strengthen and prove myself for you – but you did not want to prove yourself for me, no matter how much I prayed.

Please forgive me for missing any signs that you did try to give me.

I have also, throughout the last 30 years, asked for more faith because I always felt as if I didn’t have enough. I was honest with you about this. I told you everything. I confessed everything. I was told by many, that the ‘mustard seed’ was good enough and that’s all I had to have. But I wanted more than a seed of faith. I wanted big faith; enough to convince my mind of you, enough to stop the questions that I continued to drive you crazy with. Enough to move all the mountains in my life.

Please forgive me for this lack of faith that I had during all the past years.

I even joked with you, so many times that YOU were the one who gave me this inquisitive personality. You are supposed to be all powerful and therefore you could have changed me. I asked you to change me. Why didn’t you? Why did you hesitate? Were you testing me all along like you did your servant, Job? I was even straightforward about that and told you that I would not pass that kind of test. Then I asked you why you would even want to test us? Why would you – a loving, kind father, even allow this devil you allowed to fall from grace, sit by our side and watch as we suffered through many horrific things in life? We are your children. You made us. You created us. You didn’t answer.

Please forgive me for my reservations with this issue.

Now I am learning that you might not be there at all. You have watched me at my computer. You have seen the research I’ve been doing in the past 5 years. You have seen and hear me questioning the bible since the night I was ‘saved’. I have asked you a hundred times in the last year to show yourself to me. I have screamed in agony. I have told you that are about to lose me. I have asked you if you care that I am falling away from the faith. And still you do nothing. You don’t even kill me. I was honest before you concerning this ‘doubting Thomas’ syndrome.

Can you really see what’s in my heart? If you can, and you are truly a loving entity – will you please forgive me?

You give me no clues whatsoever. The world is falling apart. We are killing each other. There are murders, rapes, poverty, and slavery. There are people fighting over whose land is whose and bombings everywhere. Do you see this? There is torture, starvation, cancer, drowning, dismemberment, and very painful diseases. You are supposed to be ‘all knowing.’ You could give us the cure for cancer and yet you remain silent. There is an epidemic of depression and suicide and thus far – you do nothing. How could a good and powerful God who loves you stand aside, unmoved to action, while such things happen?

Please forgive me for being angry at you.

My biggest problem with you is you are supposed to be all powerful, you are supposed to be all good and yet all this evil exists. They have reassured me that when I get to heaven, you will explain all these mysteries to me. Why wait? Why not explain them to me now? Why not appear at the bottom of my bed in the late of night to have a talk? Why not appear in the sky (or wherever), even one community at a time and tell us that ‘’you will bring all things together for good’’ as you promised in your bible. So many unanswered prayers.

Please forgive me for questioning your invisibility and indistinguishable lack of presence.

You are hiding from me so effectively, that the world looks just as I would expect it to look, and be, without a God running the show. It doesn’t have any of the characteristics I would be anticipating to find, if there was a caring, intervening, superseding God. All of my attempts to confirm your existence have come up empty handed. You are hiding so successfully. I have to admit that in order to believe like I did for years, I must do it by ignoring the contrary evidence. I must resolve to this concept called ‘faith’. You are hiding so stubbornly, I must conclude, among other things, that you do not want or care if I believe anymore. If you wanted me to believe, you think would show me evidence in a thousand obvious ways, because my heart has yearned for the proof.

Please forgive me for giving up the search.

One last quick discussion. Why didn’t you make us the way you wanted us to be in the first place? It could have been so simple – you are god! Why tempt us in the garden? Why make hell? Why scare people? Why would you do this to us? I have been taught that all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour will go to heaven, but the amount of reward in heaven will be directly related to how closely each one followed God’s will in his life. I really tried to do this. Likewise, all those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell and will be punished to the degree of how much evil they committed in their life.

Why did you need to resort to human sacrifices to ‘satisfy’ the sin disease – which you created and tempted us with in the first place? Why be so cruel? Obviously, I will go to this hell you created for people who reject. It’s not that I want to reject you – I just don’t trust you anymore. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, of a person or thing; confidence. It is the confident expectation of hope that someone really cares for your well-being. It gives you confidence in the certainty of the future. It is a loving person on whom one relies. It is the condition of one, to whom something has been entrusted with, like custody or care. It is a commitment of love, and that love would not hurt you.

Please forgive me for not trusting you anymore.

I loved you for a long time and yet, you scare me with hell? And then you tell me that you are a loving God. Would you be affectionate and forgiving enough to take my hand and walk in hell with me?

I really wanted to believe in your existence, but you have gone to extraordinary lengths to make that difficult for me. The world looks just like there is no Bible God to me and I am heartbroken. It saddens me from the bottom of my heart to admit that I do not believe that the Holy Christian Bible is the ‘Word of God’ anymore. It grieves me very much to say goodbye to the God of the bible. It is your ‘Holy Scriptures’ taken literally from all over the world has made the planet into the mess it’s in today. Please forgive me for saying this.

One last prayer of forgiveness:

I pray that you will understand all my questions and forgive me for not believing the ‘Holy Bible’ that I was brought up to believe in. I am asking for your forgiveness for my doubting. I am asking for forgiveness for not really believing in you – but please – before I end this letter – would you always try to remember the heart that searched long and hard for you?

I will forgive you – if you will forgive me.

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart – Your Child, Margee

LINK: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/44259-please-forgive-me/