A Carrot on a Stick, Are Religions a Con

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Do religions take advantage of the innate human desire to matter, to have purpose and to exist beyond death? Was this nefarious? As all religions are different, it may not be a blanket statement that could be made. It does stand though that we must take the word of leaders who tell us how to live or what God wants us to do. We don’t get proof, we don’t get much actually. We have cultural pressure to follow the tribal leader, going with the tribe nomenclature, we can call them the shaman. Members of the tribe would have varying degrees of devotion and commitment to the shaman and to the ideas they teach. Future spiritual leaders have their own path to leadership. Some find this path as an inner devotion to goodness or others as a path to power and notoriety (or even both). So even if any religion started altruistically, it could not be guaranteed that they continues that way.

At least in some cases, we must agree that religious leaders may be in place because they sought power and control over others. What else can we say about leaders of religions that may not live the actual religion they lead? But that they are at least in part, a con artist. They are spinning a tale, selling a story and the measure of their success is their number of followers. Their motivation may be mixed but at least partly, is because they are getting something from spreading the story.

If this is the case in even one instance, why not re-examine our own religions? We’d have nothing to lose? If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed, but if we do have the truth, it cannot be harmed.

If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. -J Reuben Clark.
Religions are “carrot & stick” belief systems. They reward people who adhere to their ideas and punish people who don’t.

Religion many times can feel like a carrot dangled on a stick in front of us, prodding us on to continue or make certain decisions or do certain things with promises of future rewards. At the same time it can have the prodding by fear as well, as promises of future punishment. This is in essence the heaven and hell effect. Many believers seemingly “choose the right” so they can claim some reward in the future or simultaneously avoid some negative repercussions in the future. These are promising spiritual reward for physical sacrifices or action.

I am God’s messenger! What is God’s message? Give God’s messenger money!

For example, we can criticize the catholic church for indulgences, or any number of televangelists taking money from gullible victims, but don’t bat an eye at the current practice of tithing. They are essentially the same thing when you boil it down to a simple equation, give money to the church in order to qualify for eternal salvation. There is a lot of nuance and specifics being glossed over, but essentially giving of our physical means to receive something else on a spiritual level. Mormons are not considered worthy of the temple unless they are full tithe payers, so they would not be allowed to participate in the saving ordinances required to enter the celestial kingdom (mormon heaven) without first continually giving 10% to the church. We are reminded on this annually in tithing settlement, really the only time a family is together before a church authority to report on their standing before the Lord. They report how financially dedicated they are to the work. In essence we have the self proclaimed authority of God, speaking for God telling us that what God wants is for us to give his messenger our money. There is an additional layer of “worthiness” when compared to the historic indulgences where paying is combined with other worthiness factors, but this financial contribution is essential and mandatory too.

Are Religions Conning Us

Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. – Mark Twain
It takes a special kind on con artist to get rich without paying taxes by selling people an invisible product for 10% of their income that they can’t see until after they die.
If you want to know who controls you look at who you are not allowed to criticize – Voltair
It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true – Dallin H Oaks

There does seem to be a spiritual aspect to being human. A sense of wonder and belonging even. Religion fills this space nicely, but we must admit that many religions don’t exemplify spirituality as we get lost in rules and authority and tradition. These are not typically parts of spirituality and the human yearning to belong to something universal.

Cartoon shows Death riding an emaciated donkey and leading it toward a precipice by dangling a carrot, “victory,” from a stick. Robinson, Boardman, 1876-1952.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today

Imagine, John Lennon

Remove the carrot and remove the stick. Find your own inner authority and your own connection to God. Live for today. Be here now.

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