Saturday, July 5, 2008


Into the void created by the collapse of the state stepped a whole range of religious and ideological organisations, even, on occasion, criminal enterprises. Bandits with Robin Hood complexes. Drug Barons financing hospitals and day clinics. Football teams funded by blackmarket booty.
Evangelists handing out religious tracts with aid packages. Food for prayers and conversions. Medical treatment for believers. Free meals at church services. Clothes emblazoned with religious platitudes.

Huge amounts of money are being expended in the slums and rookeries, on the refuse islands and shanty towns. A furious contest for souls is being waged wherever people are poor and vulnerable, susceptible to bribes and crocodile tears.
Free childcare is an opportunity to mould the minds of the young, and teach them the importance of saving the souls of their parents.
Miracles are staged at every opportunity. Charlatans surreptitiously administer medicines and pray vociferously over their patients, praising God at the first sign of improvement.
Stooges rise from wheelchairs, raise arms to heaven, dance merry jigs of gratitude.
Every church fights for a larger share of the market. Every two-bit cult, every self-declared prophet, every would be revolutionary. Fishers of men all.
No avenue for indoctrination is left unexplored. Radio stations broadcast the Word. Musicians in every conceivable genre. Computer games. Children's stories. Free concerts are staged in the slums. Books are handed out. Games.
Some neighbourhoods are effectively run by a particular sect. They operate as states in minature, extracting tithes and worship in exchange for public services. Religious law operates in these places, sometimes deeply barbaric and intrusive. Sexual lives are rigorously policed. Injudicious words can result in utterly disproportionate punishments.

Religion is big business and the marketplace is a competitive one. Advertising, PR and merchandising outlays are on a par with those of the major corporations and their techniques are no less sophisticated. The heads of the bigger churches pull CEO wages. The churches themselves model themselves after the old cathedrals in their desire to overwhelm the senses.
Services are held in huge auditoriums with preachers elevated on stage, voices massively amplified. There is extensive use of gold, marble, porphyry....
A range of special effects and light displays take the place of stained glass and clouds of incense.
Stirring music rumbles from high-end speakers. Sound and image and the Word are used to push the worshipper into a state of high suggestibility. Awe. A suspension of the critical faculties. Singing and chanting in unison is used to foster a mob mind, the sense of being carried along by a force greater than any one individual. In some cases sacraments include mildly psychotropic drugs.
Ancient techniques of oratory, passionate cadences, emotive language, call and response, crescendos and lulls are mined mercilessly. Savage fears and furtive desires are invoked and maipulated.
And it is working. Huge profits are being made. Thousands and thousands are attending services.

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