Casinos and Churches Make a Good Living By Exploiting Others

slot machine
Image by Aidan Howe from Pixabay

When you put your money in a slot machine, you do so because there is a chance you could win something. The flashing lights and sounds may have some appeal, but it is the possibility of the payout that hooks you. It may be unlikely that you will win big, but there is a chance. If there was a 0% chance (because the machine was broken) and you knew this, you would not put money into the machine.

Clergy aim to convince you that investing your time and money in Jesus (or whichever fictional entity they prefer) will benefit you. The time and money they want you to invest are by no means trivial. As an adult aspiring to be rational, you realize this sounds like a long shot. You might not even find out if Jesus has paid off until after you die! But if they can convince you that there is a chance, you might gamble. After all, an everlasting jackpot sounds pretty good. It might even justify the considerable investment you are being asked to make.

Conning the Gambler

The skilled clergy understand your hesitancy quite well, and they sweeten the deal a bit. Not only is there a "heaven" to look forward to, but the time and money you need to hand over aren't that bad. You can invest over time, and we're only talking about a small portion of your income. It would be great if you behaved better, but there are ways around that (e.g., confession). You don't have to change your behavior as long as you give them power over you and pay lip service to the mass delusion. They amplify the imaginary rewards while minimizing the real costs.

The appeal of what they might win is not the only thing pulling religious believers to the game. They face tremendous social pressure to conform. Almost everyone they know is playing. They know they'll be judged harshly if they refused. Even if they have questions about the merits of the game, they'll keep quiet to avoid social disapproval.

Atheists are by no means immune to this either. Many former religious believers have a difficult time letting go of some of this. This is a testament to the strength of this kind of indoctrination. I've known atheists who have struggled with fears of hell for years after they no longer believed in gods. You've heard of religious trauma, haven't you? There's a reason why many believing Christians are eager to play the "what if you're wrong" card. Playing on the fears of others is often an effective way to manipulate them.

Religion as a Broken Slot Machine

As hard as it can be and as long as it can take some of us to recognize, we are dealing with a broken slot machine. We somehow missed the "out of order" sign, but it is there. Heaven is a useful lie, and whatever they are asking of you to earn it is too much. The brilliance of this con is that most people will never realize they've been conned. They will be dead, and there is little reason to think that consciousness survives death. That means there won't be any "you" left to discover that they were lying or mistaken.

When we walk into a casino, we know why it is there and why those who run it are doing so. The same should be true for churches. We should remember why those who run them are doing so. Like those who run casinos, it isn't because they care about us; it is because we are useful dupes. They can make a decent living by exploiting us.