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Faith - the conmans tool


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Initial post: 18 Feb 2009 15:17:41 GMT
I do not believe in God, and in my personal opinion, religion in general is the cause of most of the problems in the world. The root of Religion is Faith, the requirement to believe in something that you cannot prove or disprove. Whoever invented religion was a genious, because it simply plays on your fears, do what we say and you will have a wonderful afterlife, dont, and you wont! Simple as that. The clever part is the faith element, written in to convert the non-believers through fear, the fact that no one can prove God exists, thats intentional of course, God planned it this way didnt he? No he didnt, the religious amongst you will argue that to prove his own existence would defeat the object, that he shouldnt have to, yet throughout the bible, God is far from shy of demonstrating his abilities from time to time, neither, supposedly, was Jesus, and now, there is a change of Tactic. Or is it really that we now live in an age where con-mens tricks are more easily unmasked, and we are less inclined to believe the unbelievable. Faith, or the requirement of such, is nothing more than a clever tool that is still employed by conmen the world over to this very day, why is it that we dont seem to recognise this where religion is concerned?

Posted on 18 Feb 2009 20:00:27 GMT
Chris says:
There's far too much for one posting in the above to unpack - Mr Davies is entitled to his view - but the one issue I want to address now is simple - does he believe that all clerics (of any religious perusasion) are conmen? I am not saying they are right (that is another major argument)- but to accuse them of being conmen (surely conpeople?) implies that your local vicar, the Islamic leader, the Buddhist guru, etc etc are all knowingly trying to convince people of something they know to be false, or do not believe.

I would also say (yes 2nd point!) that we do not live in more enlightened times - organised religion may (in Britain - not worldwide) be on the decline - but this is, for many, being replaced by all sorts of 'new age' ideas, many of whom are seen as 'alternative' therapy - Someone talked to me about feng shui in our house - and a whole host of ideas are to be found in that losest of terms 'spirituality'.

Posted on 20 Feb 2009 09:10:02 GMT
As far as all Clerics being con-men, no, that would be a bit too much of a generalisation. I believe that the origin of the religion is the Con. That said, i do find it hard to believe that anybody that spends as much time immersed in their subject as a cleric, would not see through it. I find that the most common reason for religious belief is an actual lack of knwowledge in that belief, people believe because they are told to, by their parents, by their teachers, by their vicar / guru / leader. I can forgive this to a certain extent, butwhen you examine most religious texts, the cracks appear quite frequently, and therefore would have to assume the more enlightened a believer is, the more they perpetrate the con!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Feb 2009 12:42:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Feb 2009 12:44:02 GMT
Guy Dalziel says:
You make a good point about the use of religion as a source of conning people. I don't know if you're saying that all religious leaders are conmen, but I suspect you're merely saying that faith is a tool commonly used by conmen. In America faith is big business, on every corner there's a church and each church is competing to get you in so that it can get your money.
Faith-healers and televangelists have to be the worst of the bunch. We're talking about people who make millions of tax-free dollars by telling people, "you are now cured" with a primitive ritual to go with it. They even encourage people to throw away their medication and you'll see people throwing their medication on to the stage. This is not only dangerous but it's actually quite disgusting.

I'm sure people do feel better for a little while, the placebo effect is quite powerful, but I bet they're back at their doctors a few days later picking up a new prescription and nobody is any the wiser. The old lady who suddenly finds out her diabetes isn't really cured wouldn't suddenly think, "damn, i've been conned", she is most likely to think, "i guess god has other plans for me", and thus the cycle continues.
Nobody questions that the believers believe it, that's why they're so easily fooled. During a video exposing Peter Popoff by James Randi an old woman was asked if she thought what was being said was true, she said, "yes, because I don't think God would lie to me". For some reason it didn't occur to her that Peter Popoff was lying and therefore it wasn't God. It's this kind of blindness that causes people to fall in to these traps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxqRN5vjDHQ

Here is a video about Peter Popoff. 20 years after James Randi exposed him as a fraud and he's right back at it. Same old tricks, new audience, and he's richer than ever.

Posted on 20 Feb 2009 13:44:50 GMT
Guy, youre spot on in what youre saying, but i dont see this as just a problem with street corner preachers and televangelism, i dont differentiate between these people and the church in general. The only difference is that over time we have allowed the church to become an institution, but what they do is no different. They may not be asking you to throw your pills away, but they are asking you to do their bidding, to live your life as they see fit, based upon a promise that they can in no way guarantee. The fact of the matter is that, in western terms at least, religion is big business. I look at it this way, 2000 years ago, the closest thing there was to what we would call a civilised society was the Roman empire, and they saw Jesus christ as such a threat that they killed him. In the same way as the Cultists at WACO were deemed enough of a threat for the FBI to shut them down. If christianity were to be born today, it would be snuffed out in a heartbeat as a Dangerous, self serving cult, and it is only that it is so iingrained in our culture that it is allowed. I have no doubt that what they preach is, in the most part, an admirable way of life. I personally oject that so much of western law is based upon a set of archaic beliefs that are not mine. Now, i have have no desire to marry more than one woman, but is there any reason other than religious intolerance as to why this should be illegal as long as all parties are consenting, no.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Feb 2009 14:29:30 GMT
Guy Dalziel says:
I agree, you only have to read over some of my other posts to know that I'm less than cosy with religion. If people valued evidence over wild speculation - speculation based upon sensory input that has been shown to be faulty - then they wouldn't put themselves in a situation to be taken advantage of.
If there truly is something paranormal out there then we should be able to test it. Our senses are nothing more than primitive instruments that detect light, sound, taste, smell, and touch. To claim that our senses could pick up something that a highly tuned instrument can't is truly ridiculous.

At the end of the day I don't view this as whatever vs religion, I see this as a need to get rid of supernatural explanations. If you install a need for natural explanation in to people then religion by proxy will eventually just fade away. I think Karl Marx may have been right when he said that religion is merely a symptom of a disease. He was, of course, talking about conditions that require illusionary happiness, but I would like to extend that definition to include the disease of supernatural explanations.

Posted on 23 Feb 2009 09:41:36 GMT
Chris says:
I can't disagree that religion is used to con people - Popoff (wish he would) (and others) is a terrible indicment on the gullible of some - as John Sentamu said last weekend history is littered with people claiming to be Christian and not living as a Christian. We know these things are wrong.

But we should define con - Mr Davies says the origin of the religion is the con - but surely one thing that links much of humanity is a search for meaning - an atheistic evolutionary view may say - get real the world does not have meaning in the sense that most understand - but does that satisfy? All religion in its best sense tries to give meaning and purpose - and that is why I don;t think we will ever see the back of religion.

Posted on 24 Feb 2009 14:47:11 GMT
Religion doesnt allow you to find meaning and purpose, it imposes the purpose of another. I have no issue with the teachings of most organised religion, my problem is with the organisation itself. My problem is that at some point a group of people decided to make everyone else believe what they believed, through fear. To say to someone, live a good and moral life, is fine, even comendable. But to say to someone, lead a good and moral life, other wise you will not go to heaven, and will burn in the fires of hell for all eternity, then it becomes blackmail. And then to make it worse, you dont actually know that there even is a heaven or hell, then it becomes a con. It becomes a con because the church is big business, and makes a lot of money. It may be money used for a good purpose in the most, but it is still money raised based upon unsound principles.

How would you feel if Oxfam conned you out of some money, and then used it to feed the hungry. Does the end make it right, no it wouldnt, and they would in all likelyhood be shut down - why should the church be any different.

Other religions do the same, muslims must follow the teachings of the koran to find paradise. This is just the same.

And lets say there were a God, why would he have to resort to blackmail if he were all powerful, he wouldnt need to. In fact the very notion that religion exists, implies the fallibility of God, and therefore would dispute the existence of God, as how could any such God be fallible!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Feb 2009 19:17:48 GMT
Chris says:
I wonder if (and this maybe my fault) confuse religion and faith - faith may be seen as personal, but religion is the organisational aspect of it -and it is faith that can give meaning. Mr Davies said earlier that it was the origin he had a problem with, this is not the case below, as there he says it becomes a con. This may be seen as many people have time for Jesus and his example (the faith aspect), but not for the Church. (the religious aspect) Not true of all, but a significant number, I would suggest, and the same may be true with other religious leaders.

The money aspect I can comment on from the position of the Church of England - yes it is very wealthy - primarily in terms of land (as you would be if you had a building in every community) which are usually valued by the local community, whether they attend or not. Other monies are used for clergy and resources, offering a ministry to the whole community, hence there is a building and a leader when the couple want a wedding, or a funeral is asked for. Yet the implication of Mr Davies is that people are buying their way into heaven, yet those who give the money usually, I would think, do so because they value the work of the church today - not for some future reward.

I also suspect that most Christians wouldn't recognise Mr Davies description of what may be termed 'salvation' (in short hand) - 'eternal life' is a gift to be received, not earned, and from that acceptance a "good and moral life" should be the fruit, the outworking of the faith - not the means. I think that goes a little way to answer the last point that if there is a God then it is not the blackmail that stops him being all powerful, but that he does not force people, but offers a gift.

Posted on 25 Feb 2009 09:33:09 GMT
He offers a gift, but only if you live youre life the way that 'he' see's fit, how is this not blackmail?

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Feb 2009 11:27:27 GMT
Chris says:
Mr Davies, I am not trying to convince you of anything, but simply trying to clarrify what Christian theology would say to your question. Can I use an analogy? (this will be incomplete but I hope will develop a little your question. )

Imagine a married man. He goes on a business trip and gets chatting to a woman he finds beautiful. Does he do what 'would come naturally' or does he step away from that situation. If his wife has says to him 'it would break my heart if you were unfaithful' is that blackmail? Yes is the simple answer - and yet out of the desire for a right relationship the man would know the right thing to do, and even if he is unfaithful, he will (I would suspect) feel guilty. Now if the wife found out (and he is still committed to his marriage) what would his repsonse be? a commitemnt to change and live according to the relationship of marriage, a request for forgiveness.

Now in that story does the wife commit blackmail? As I said yes, but it is done, not because she hates her husband, but because she believes in their relationship, and loves him. So blackmail is the wrong word, I would suggest.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Feb 2009 13:22:17 GMT
Mr Davies,

Regarding your comment, "And then to make it worse, you dont actually know that there even is a heaven or hell, then it becomes a con."

I may be missing something here, but you don't actually know any more than I do that there is no heaven or hell, so surely you are just as much a conman as you proclaim me to be?

With regard to faith, you seem to have fallen into the same trap as Richard Dawkins who appears to assume that there is only one way you become relgious - someone made you that way (whether parents, or through reading a book). The source of person's faith does not have to be either, but could come directly from the source, e.g. God. I believe in God not because I was told about him (and plenty of people did try), nor because I read about him (though I had read parts of the Bible). I became a believer because he talked to me.

Now this argument presents a problem for many atheists, Dawkins included, the only solution to which is to label me as mad (contrary to the actual evidence), which also consequently, allows my rational arguments (well some of them are) to be dismissed as the rantings of a mad man - a neat way of avoiding awkward questions.

Regarding the ethics of marrying more than one woman, you seem to be assuming that Christianity forbids polygamy. I have to inform you that it does not (nor does it encourage it). The Old Testament is full of examples of this practice and it is not considered in any way a bad thing. In the New Testament, Jesus only makes a comment about Divorce, not polygamy and Paul only forbids Elders and Deacons from having more than one wife. Monogamy is something that has been imposed on the church from outside - possibly as a result of cultural trends. It is now only the government that prevents you from marrying multiple wives, not the church. That and the fact that women would probably object to having to share a husband (though I am only guessing on that fact).

Wayne

Posted on 25 Feb 2009 15:10:24 GMT
Tealady2000 says:
I think the believers in this thread are making a very important point - Richard Dawkins does not appear to understand the way that believers feel. The Christians I know do not believe in God because they are scared of hell or are desperate to get to heaven but because their faith brings them genuine joy, peace, comfort and strength on a daily basis.

I had the opposite experience to Mr Burchell - I was baptised and confirmed as a Christian but I never felt anything at a personal or spiritual level. Later, when I started to study genetics, Darwin (rather than God) spoke to me - what a relief! During my career as a research scientist, I have dealt with large quantities of genetic data (including mutations in humans), all of which supports the theory that we evolved by natural selection over hundreds of millions of years from simple life-forms. But I would never expect any scientific argument to convince a believer to give up their faith because I think that for genuine believers (which I never was), their faith is so real to them that nothing can challenge it. This for me is what Richard Dawkins fails to understand.

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 11:11:50 GMT
Mr Burchell

'so surely you are just as much a conman as you proclaim me to be?'

I do not tell anybody else how to live their life, i simply object to the existence of a group / society that does so, ie. organised religion. So no, i do not con anyone.

As for God having spoken to you. My nephew Steve has an imaginary friend called Bob who he claims talks to him, should we form a religion based upon him to.

If you want to believe in something because you believe then fine. And as much as you say youre beliefs were not influenced by society, this being that you claim spoke to you, did it identify itself as God, or did you assume, did it tell you how to live youre life, or again, did you assume based upon christian lore. Whether you believed because you had been told to or not, once you believed in something, you imposed that subconscious knowledge of christianity on your experience and assumed it to be God.

That said, i have no issue with what you believe, but unless you can prove it to be true, you have no right to preach that others do the same, because there are people that will follow mindlessley, and will be taken advantage of. This is what the church does. When i say its a con, its my belief that christianity was an idea created by man, not God, to instill control and provide power for men, nothing else.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 12:31:44 GMT
Tealady2000 says:
Hello Mr Davies

"its my belief that christianity was an idea created by man, not God, to instill control and provide power for men, nothing else"

I don't believe in God but I certainly don't think that the origins of Christianity came from someone deciding one day that they wanted to control and con people. I don't know if you've seen any of the excellent recent TV series on the History of Christianity but in the early days Christians had no power of any kind (indeed they were persecuted and executed). Later on, Emperor Constantine decided to promote Christianity and establish an organised church. Only then did the Christian church become relatively powerful. I think there is a clear difference between origins of Christianity and the control that was eventually wielded by the Christian church.

Another point is that people will be taken advantage of in any area of life where one person can prey on another. If no religions existed there would still be plenty of conmen out there. I get loads of scam e-mails every week - should e-mail be abolished? Did someone invent e-mail with the idea of controlling and conning people?

Finally with regards to Mr Burchell, personally I don't think his message was in any way preaching. He was just adding his point of view to the thread which you started!

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 12:40:19 GMT
Vinogradov says:
In a nutshell, 'Is the Pope (really) Catholic?' (or just a conman...)

Although there are undoubtedly some cynical conmen involved in any religion, I'm convinced that the vast majority of believers (including the Pope!) are perfectly sincere in their beliefs.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 13:37:23 GMT
'Regarding the ethics of marrying more than one woman, you seem to be assuming that Christianity forbids polygamy. I have to inform you that it does not (nor does it encourage it).'

does the idea of polygamy not cause adultry in the eyes of christianity? I mean you can't marry more than once without being an adulterer can you? Or would you get around it by marrying them all at once?

1) "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6 & Mark 10:9).

2) "Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matthew 5:32, 19:9 & Luke 16:18).

3) "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

4) "...whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her" (Mark 10:11 & Luke 16:18), which applies to women as well (Mark 10:12).

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 13:52:27 GMT
TeaLady,

You say the christians had no power until the establishment of the church. What is it when a man stands in a room ful of people, and tells them what they should do and believe, if they do this, that man has power. This is the kind of power i refer to. Influencing a persons fears through implication of eternal damnation, is the same whether commited on a one to one basis, or as a corporation.

As for there being other con's in the world, i didnt dispute that, but how many others are ingrained in law, allowed to function as a legal corporation of sorts and promoted freely however they choose, not so many!

Mr Palmer,

As for adultery, if all parties are willing, when does it become adultery, because God does not approve that makes it wrong?

The church do not condone divorce, 'What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder', one would think that if God were infallible, he would not have joined two people together in the first place had they been suited, and before you throw the 'Free Will' arguement at me, why then, can we not freely choose to get divorced, and then re-marry in a church?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 14:05:33 GMT
Mr Palmer,

As for adultery, if all parties are willing, when does it become adultery, because God does not approve that makes it wrong?

The church do not condone divorce, 'What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder', one would think that if God were infallible, he would not have joined two people together in the first place had they been suited, and before you throw the 'Free Will' arguement at me, why then, can we not freely choose to get divorced, and then re-marry in a church?

LOL I see my sarcasm was a tad too subtle Mr Davies, as I am in total an utter agreement with you and was trying to highlight this point through the scripture that theists would run too.

I have no problem with people divorcing and I wil not throw the free wil argumet at you as I agree with what you say, I was trying to keep it less combative.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 14:09:02 GMT
Tealady2000 says:
Hello again Mr Davies,

"What is it when a man stands in a room ful of people, and tells them what they should do and believe,"

Personally I call this freedom of speech and it is an essential right in any democracy. It happens all the time, for example at political meetings. The people in the room are entirely at liberty to follow the speaker's advice or not.

I agree that many aspects of religious teaching are enshrined in law. My own personal preference is that church and state should be kept separate. However to my knowledge there is no British law saying you must believe in God or you will be eternally damned.

I'm really not sure how many Christians are Christians because they are afraid of eternal damnation. Perhaps any Christians reading this thread would like to explain how important fear of damnation is to them? Did any of you become Christians because you are afraid of hell?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 14:28:40 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 26 Feb 2009 14:34:56 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 14:28:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Feb 2009 14:35:49 GMT
Neutral says:
"What is it when a man stands in a roomful of people, and tells them what they should do and believe, if they do this, that man has power".
(1) Only if they believe him; (2) only if he can force them to believe if they don't.

Of course, if you personalise it and make the sentence, "What is it when Richard Dawkins stands in a roomful of people, and tells them what they should do and believe, if they do this, that man has power".

Having failed to surrender our individual and joint intellect it would appear that Tealady, Mrs Endicott and myself are amongst those denying Richard Dawkins power whereas some postings indicate total surrender to Faith in Darwinism.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 14:48:21 GMT
Vinogradov says:
Not sure I understand that...

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 14:59:32 GMT
I think the difference between faith and darwinism, is that little thing called evidence, that pretty much everyone other than those of a religious nature, has to use to support an argument.

As Far as my endorsing Mr Dawkins 'Power', im not saying you should be an aethiest, im saying i am. Im also saying that belief in something should be youre own, not something fostered by an organisation.

How many christians would live their life the way they do now if the church did not exist, not many i imagine. That is not to say they wouldnt believe in a God of some sort, but they would form their own beliefs.

Incidentally, i havennt even read the bok!

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2009 16:58:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Feb 2009 17:02:42 GMT
Tealady2000 says:
"I think the difference between faith and darwinism, is that little thing called evidence"

One definition of faith is 'belief in the absence of proof.' So no amount of evidence in favour of Darwinism is going to make any difference. A faith that is held at a fundamental, emotional level is utterly real to the believer and is difficult to challenge, however daft that may seem to you. If you were in love with someone, I could say to you - look at this other person, there is lots of evidence that he/she is better looking, wealthier, funnier, a better cook (etc etc) than the person you are currently with - therefore you should be with this other person instead. Would you go off with the other person?
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