left biblioblography: Skepticism - It's Bad For Business

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Skepticism - It's Bad For Business

Cross-posted at God is for Suckers!dollarsonholyghost

I was walking down Mission Boulevard in Hayward, when I noticed that a large local Bible book store had gone out of business. It's been there since I can recall - well over two decades. (I wish that I could wax rhetorically about it - hearing the hollow wind voicing imaginary voices, sagebrush bouncing past my feet while going on about the whisper of non-existent ghosts being silenced. Alas, it was simply a large, empty shell. Oh well.)

Sufficient to say, it put a spring in my step while I stepped through the crosswalk - but the resident religious loonie was crossing also, and he blathered out his 'Gawd bless you!', to which I replied, 'Ain't no such thing' in passing. This cat hangs out in the local Starbucks, reading his dog-eared bible, chatting with the staff, running over to the door to open it for people, and occasionally telling them the same stupid thing: 'gawd bless you'! I keep saying my little ditty in passing. Getting more than a little tired of him, truth be told. He laughs like Phil Sebben, sans personality (or inflection).

But today I was in the local Safeway, waiting in the Express line, when my eye chanced upon one of those little wire racks containing some of those pocket astrology guides. I'm guessing you know which ones I mean. It then occurred to me, that there's big business in magical thinking. So, there's mucho dinero in the magical thinking industry. How much?

Here's a guesstimate, from MYPATHTV:

The New Age marketplace alone accounts for $44 billion in spending by about 40 million Americans.
Source: LOHAS

Astrology? Here's a real eye-opener, from adherents.com:

"Currently the U.S. boasts some 10,000 professional and 175,000 part-time astrologers... Their clientele consists of an estimated 20 million people, who--during 1969--spent more than $150,000,000 on personal horoscope material. "

I can't seem to whip up some more topical figures(enough Google hits to intimidate even a Google-whacker like myself), but I'm guessing (at the prevalence of astrological TP in the grocery stores) that the percentiles have increased. Let's not even go into those tabloid headlines that seem to mug you while you're waiting in line ('Devil's Face Seen In The Smoke Of The WTC attack!, for one example).

Religioustolerance.org lists the believers in astrology alone at a staggering 31% in 2003 for the USA alone.

Here's a guesstimate, from Hallmark cards (a snippet):

Christian fiction has exploded in popularity in many Christian stores.
Christian music is seeing growth as a genre, jumping from 4.5 percent of the market share in 1997 ($549 million) to 6.3 percent in 1998 ($863 million), according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
VeggieTales, a sales phenomenon in 1998, has spurred growth in children's products and is becoming a staple.

Publishers Weekly states that religious flicks are making money (albeit not hand-over-fist), and, seeing as how the Passion, that bondage-based religious porn film was a blockbuster hit in 2004, this is no newsflash that the American people are heavily invested in belief.

So, yet another degree of angle added to the uphill battle for us: atheism is not only a stripping away of children's fantasies, a denigration of tradition, and a forced admission of reality, it is in fact, an attack on numerous cottage industries that are flourishing within in the cultural meme.

So we need to start questioning not only the epistemology and the source, we should also question the mouthpieces: just whom is in whose pocket? And when we have moronic, easily debunkable crap such as Medium, Saving Grace, and the Ghost Whisperer (only one of these is based on a 'real life story') on the TV airwaves, perpetuating the myths that we as educators are struggling to overcome.

So just bear in mind: when you attack religion, somebody's livelihood is threatened.

Because the metaphor of the ivy growing is so very apt in this infectious meme, I shall (mis)quote Titania, from Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors:

If aught possess thee from me, it is dross, usurping ivy, brier, or idle moss; who all for want of pruning, with intrusion infect thy sap and live on thy confusion.

The roots run deeply: as gardeners, we are apt to lose ourselves amid the chaotic foliage that springs from religion, wade through the spun hedges of twisted labyrinths that seem to sprout wholesale from the minds of those whose imaginations are stronger than their self-awareness or grasp of reality.

Recall this, as the mental calluses spring from the use of metaphorical trimming shears; that we do this to benefit others, members of our species, that the garden may grow free of those infectious weeds of religious fanaticism that have so plagued our history from past to present.

For some day, the mind of Man will be free of the deep roots of that ivy that so clutters it: perhaps not tomorrow, or the next day. But soon.

Till the next post, then.

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