Holy Vending Machines

Andrew McArthur writing on the money grabbing racket called religion. 

“Take my silver dollar
Break it into quarters
Shove ‘me in the godly machine”

A couple of years back, my wife and I went on vacation to Puerta Vallarta Mexico; get a little sun, get away from it all. Some of you are familiar with the drill. For those who do not indulge in this practice, I highly recommend it. It's good to relax on occasion.

As it happened, prior to our trip we had been discussing the Theory of Evolution. As part of that discussion I showed her a graphic representing the various developmental phases of a Human fetus. To say the least, she was taken aback by the gill slits and the tail, both of which are clearly visible early on. I could tell the image and explanation had impacted her beliefs a bit, but also knew it would take some time for her to process the new information.

It seems everybody gotta have a Cathedral

It's something we do when we go to a place we have never been before; we take a tour of the local city. There's one thing you can't help but notice when visiting any large Latin-American city; everybody has a Cathedral. Not Just a church, a Cathedral. This is an important distinction. Cathedrals tend to be grand displays of religious architecture, whereas churches tend to be significantly less imposing. We usually pop inside for a look and the Cathedral in Puerta Vallarta was no exception. It was ornate. It was opulently festooned with frescos and statues all paying tribute to Jesus or the Madonna ( no, not the rock star! ) all in all, an artistically satisfying experience.

Once we had passed through the heavy wooden doors, I happened to notice immediately to our left was a display of what I took to be the same graphic regarding foetal development I had shown to my wife only a few days before. I say “what I took to be” because a quick glance showed a few notable discrepancies between the instructional tool I had used, as compared to the version the Catholics had chosen to display. Gone were the gill slits! Gone was the tail! Damn, I think maybe it must have been a miracle! 

Is ignorance really bliss?

I could see uncertainty blossoming in my wife's expression. I asked her only one question: if they are willing to lie about this, what else do you think they might be lying about?

Fire bad! Live in cave in dark, eat cold food!

Religions have a vested interest in keeping their populations ignorant. More than one study has shown a direct correlation between education and the propensity to believe in god. The thing about knowledge, the actual real thing, is that once most people acquire some, they have a tendency to develop a taste for it. This is obviously anathema to any religious doctrine or dogma, and so god mongers everywhere tend to land one the side of “Fire bad! Live in cave in dark. Eat cold food!” But I digress.

The title of this piece is Holy Vending Machines, not why Religion Loves Ignorance, although that may be an idea for something down the line.

As far as I know, the lighting of candles for the souls of the dead has been a Catholic tradition for centuries. In and of itself, I see no real harm in the practice (other than the harm religion in general inflicts on people,) and of course this service was available at the Cathedral we visited. But there was a catch. The candles in this church were kept under in a clear plastic box, and we're obviously gas fuelled. The box itself was attached to a gizmo which allowed people to insert pesos in order to cause a candle to become lit for a couple of minutes, after which, the flame would go out and the parishioner would move on. The lineup for this version of Dial-A-Prayer did not diminish in size the entire time we were there. 


What struck me most about this blatant bit of godly extortion was not the fact it was happening; I know enough about the operations of the Catholic Church to understand that at the end of the day they are not so much concerned with the eternal soul, as they are in maintaining an eternal inflow of money. No, what struck me the most was the obvious lack of economic prosperity evidenced in those who waited patiently in line for the opportunity to do their bit in lining the coffers of this Draconian institution. These were people who could ill afford to give! They were not clad in fine cloth like the members of the clergy. They sported little in the way of gold jewellery ( with the notable exception of the small crucifixes some of them wore in some fashion.) These people were poor.

It made me angry, and still does to this day; the obvious greed of this supposedly godly bunch of priestly pontificators, in stark contrast to the obvious lack of economic success of their prey. Even my wife ( who is a christian ) was shaking her head at the unmitigated gall of these Collection Agents for Christ.

You often hear tell of the good works done by the emissaries of the church. They will unhesitatingly fill your ears with tales of monies and services provided for the poor and downtrodden of this world. What they inevitably fail to mention, is the despicable ways they go about extorting money from those same poor or downtrodden. It's as though I were to tell someone to give me ten dollars, then upon returning five of those dollars to the community, in which they reside, expect praise for my largess. If you need any proof of the disparity between income and outlay of cash in the Roman Catholic Church, I suggest a visit to Vatican City, or you can simply take the time to visit a Cathedral near you.

What's next pay-pews? 

Andrew McArthur is an Atheist Republic blogger and newsletter contributor.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

8 comments to ''Holy Vending Machines "

  1. My favourite religious robber stories are the tales of the relics back in Medieval times, when some thieving shyster would return from the Holy Land with "a thorn from the Crown of Jesus", or some such shite. Then the poor would make pilgrimages to give the church their hard earned pennies. A fucking scandal, yet some still believe it is an institution for good.

  2. And they are still at it today Dick Turpin wore a mask these gangsters were a collar

  3. Peter

    no doubt there's much to criticise when it come to religion. Yet one ought to be wary of throwing the baby out with the baptismal font.

    Formation and sustenance of a stable society generally benefits from inputs which encourage co-operation and minimise potentials for internal conflict. Taken in the round positive contributions of religious influence ought be acknowledged too.

  4. HJ
    I can't agree. The world would be a better place without religion. It is a money making power racket and always has been. There are good people in religion (like my dear ma) but they would be equally good without religion. The RC church in the article burnt thousands of people while still alive, buggered thousands of children then covered it up, murdered thousands of illegitimate children through neglect, encouraged a culture of misogyny and kept countless millions under their spell and in ignorance by claiming the only way to avoid eternal suffering was by giving their lives and money to the church. It is a truely evil empire and other sects and religions don't fare much better. What positive contribution to humanity outweighs the evil inflicted? What good works need theism in order to be given? Throw the baby out with the baptismal font, the world doesn't need religion.

  5. Peter

    there's no insistence that you agree with me inherent in my comment. Its merely an invitation to consider other perspectives.

    As an educated person I'd have hoped you might acknowledge that absolute positioning is rarely the whole story. Evolutionary success of any trait dictates that it has merit or confers advantage. That religious practice endures, in all its various manifestations across time and location, more than suggests some inherent positives.

    Perhaps the world doesn't need religion. Yet the actuality suggests that humans for by far the largest number do ... and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


    from another perspective, rather that highway robbery, it just may be a simple trade; churches and their agents offer a service and some people choose to buy. Generally its a mere invitation to treaty rather than coercion.
    That the article above fails to grasp this comes across, as trite and juvenile. The worshipers are driven by needs, perhaps to remember a deceased loved one (grief), to be absolved of some transgression (guilt) or to deal with health difficulties of their own or those of a loved one (hope & compassion).

    Religion for many, sells hope and peace of mind, its provides rituals and affords community. Those of us without faith ought to be generous enough to leave them to it ... don't you think?

  6. I visited quite a lot of churches and Domo (cathedrals) in Tuscany while holidaying there over a couple of years. It's the only place to really view Renaissance art. The ending of Byzantine influence in art and the emergence of the Renaissance period was truly beautiful to behold....especially when we consider that all we have here is a fuck’n stained glassed window to someone killed in the Boer War....if you ever get the chance visit the Domo in Siena...the art is mind for the gas candles, well, it is the 21st century and wax candles are more expensive to maintain!!!!!!

  7. HJ
    Yes there are inherent benefits for society but one does not need a belief in the supernatural to have these benefits. Atheist "churches" provide good works, community spirit, comfort in the group, charity etc without a belief in the supernatural, but for good people to do evil does require theism.

  8. Peter

    people have capacity for evil acts as well as for good deeds. There are myriad drivers for behaviour. Beliefs are but one of those. Yes, religion is one of several systems that shapes and supports beliefs but no religion in its totality can be deemed necessarily malevolent.

    To critique religion without allowing for context and without allowing for in the round positives too is blinkered and unbalanced.


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