As a life-long “atheist” (I prefer to say: someone who doesn’t fall for organized religion) in search of spiritual renewal, I decided to take a hands-on look at the world’s great religions and belief systems. In this article: Christianity.
Stumbling into Westminster Cathedral, London, a man dressed in white robes I presumed to be a priest was in the middle of a religious service. The priest stood behind an impressive altar, with a series of steps separating himself from his audience. Speaking before a small group of people seated on simple wooden chairs, some were sitting on their knees, praying. Carefully observing the events unfolding, I kept my distance and remained standing in the shadow of one of the large columns supporting the cathedral.
Nowadays, cathedrals and churches come with an intricate surround-sound audio system, inconspicuously placed speakers broadcasting the clergyman’s voice for all to hear. In the past, the building’s acoustic design would have sufficed to achieve the same purpose, but the sound-amplifying technology of today helps the priest make himself audible with less strain on his voice, were it not for the fact that he spoke in Latin. Having studied basic Latin as part of my high-school curriculum, I could pick up a few words here and there, but it amounted to nothing coherent.
In all, the altar’s design atop a series of steps, the special dress of the priest, and the spoken Latin separated me, a ‘commoner’, from the holy men. Christianity still treats common people as second-rate believers. Just leave it to the clergy to tell you how to correctly interpret the divine.
The priest went on to conduct a series of rituals, of which I had no understanding, but which seemed to follow a standardized protocol —he had done this many times before — involving candles, bowls of water, and the works. While the priest gave his performance, I noticed a smaller group of people sitting to my right in a dimly lit section of the cathedral labeled ‘confession’. They appeared to be sinners, and had voluntarily secluded themselves from the mainstream audience. Christianity, I concluded, caters to everyone, including people who think they are bad (as well as people who are bad, but think they are good). Apparently, some people prefer their personal purgatory until they feel they deserve better.
Flesh and Blood
Finalizing his ritual, the priest then turned to his two helpers, a man and a woman who stood waiting besides the altar. He gave them something to eat, a small piece of bread. Later I learned this so-called sacramental bread resembled the body of Jesus, Christianity’s prophet. Latin writings on a stone plaque in front of me corroborated this theory. In his day, Jesus allegedly passed himself on to his followers “through his flesh as bread and his blood as wine”. By metaphorically cannibalizing Christ’s flesh and blood, Christians believe they can get closer to Him, an important aspect of this religion.
Next, the priest walked down the steps before his altar to meet his audience, i.e. he “came down to Earth”. Visitors more familiar with the proceeding spontaneously formed a queue. One by one, the priest fed members of his flock a piece of sacramental bread. The Christian church feeds its followers in the same way parents feed their baby children, hand-fed. One woman wearing big sunglasses dropped to her knees. I thought it was an awkward thing to do with a clear sexual connotation. After taking the bread in her mouth, she shuffled on towards a statue of Jesus hanging by the side of a column. There she stood up and rubbed the statue’s feet. I suppose if you’ve already eaten your prophet’s flesh, you might as well tickle his toes.
The Merchants of Faith
The audience members consisted of mostly senior citizens, their age averaging well over fifty. It gave me the impression that the people who attended the service had come here, because they had lost something they hoped to get back. Obviously, they had lost their youth. Perhaps they believed witnessing a series of religious rituals could bring rejuvenation. Was Christianity a longevity cult that tricked elderly people into thinking they might live longer?
The Westminster Cathedral is an impressive venue. To afford such architectural wealth, clergy must have been accumulating it over a prolonged period of time. This organized Christianity thing obviously must have been going on for many centuries. If the people who came here were indeed looking for the Fountain of Youth, surely the priest selling them the lie must be a trained con artist.
Then again, by the voluntary act of entering the cathedral, the audience had already agreed to their being conned. So, in a sense, the priest merely acted as a cunning merchant, no different from modern-day marketing-men willing to sell us useless creams and ointments that supposedly make us look young again.
On to St. Paul’s Cathedral
At this point I left Westminster Cathedral riddled with questions. I hadn’t yet understood a thing of what I had witnessed. In order to truly understand Christianity, I decided to pay another visit, this time to London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Built some 1400 years ago, the St. Paul now stands at the end of a popular footbridge crossing the river Thames. An icon of British architecture, this impressive cathedral once hosted the funeral services of politicians such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Open to public on weekdays, I happened to walk in right before the start of a 5pm service titled “Sung Eucharist”.
A female priestess openend the service by explaining in plain English what Christianity was really all about. The synopsis goes as follows: God sent his only son Jesus Christ down to Earth to live among people. Jesus then gathered a following of apostles to promote His Father’s ways. After a series of events, Christ ended up dying at the hands of the Romans, who nailed Him to a wooden cross for all to pity. After Jesus’s burial, He resurrected and ascended to heaven, returning to his Father. Crucially, in His return to heaven, Jesus took His worldly humanity with Him, thereby bridging the fallible kingdom of man with the indestructible kingdom of God.
Thus, it is through their submission to Jesus that people may enter God’s kingdom. How convenient!
The Greatest Con Job on Earth
Christianity promises people nothing short of eternal life, in exchange for their complete slavery on Earth today. All people have to do is submit to Jesus’ commands, and do as priests say the Bible tells them to. Just as Christ unifies the worldly with the divine, clergymen conveniently put themselves between the masses and the redemption they seek. It’s blatantly obvious that Christianity takes advantage of the ignorance of common people. Christian dogma exploits both old people’s fear of death and young people’s fear of life. Autocratic officials surreptitiously submit their followings to their rituals and dogma’s, and demand in exchange the indoctrination of their followers’ children.
This, obviously, has very little to do with genuine spiritual growth in the benefit of common people. While I am convinced spiritual growth is what most Christians are after, their own foolish desires all too easily cons them into willing slavery. In essence, Christianity caters to the following question: How can you make poor people feel rich despite continuing to exploit their poverty? You promise them eternal life—but only after they die.
Christianity, as it’s currently practiced, is the greatest con job on Earth. Although I can understand why people seek redemption through religion, I don’t buy it. I’m quite happy that life comes to an end. I neither wish for immortality on Earth nor eternal life in heaven. And thus I cannot be conned. This religion is not for me. I’m not a sucker.
Still, I am left to wonder what motivates Christianity’s clergy to con so many people. In case of the Catholic Church, for example, clergymen lower in the hierarchy may have themselves fallen for the Big Lie. But certainly clergymen higher up in the hierarchy, i.e. the bishops, cardinals and popes, must be able to see through their own fantastical lies. After all, they’re the masters of smoke and mirrors. What then drives this ‘inner circle’ of Christanity’s top hierarchy to continue to con people on such a global scale? What is their ulterior motive?
I can only speculate. Regardless of what Christians truly believe, the indoctrination of their children has secured Christianity’s exponential growth for nearly two thousand years. As more and more people fall for Christianity, mostly as indoctrinated children, they provide the Christian clergy with more power. More power over people results in a growing stream of taxable lives. A steady and growing stream of taxes means the Christian organization can build greater cathedrals and more churches worldwide, and thus indoctrinate more people until no more people can be indoctrinated—a Ponzi scheme.
In conclusion, I’m saddened that so many people fall for the promise of eternal life this organized religion claims to offer them. It isn’t real. People looking for spiritual growth are better off without it.