Selling hope

You know those weird religious shops at the swap meets with all the dark-colored banners and crowds of people watching the spectacle of a salesman claiming to have the solution to all of life’s inconveniences? I recently came to resent them. What seemed like a man sharing his faith turned into sheer manipulation the very minute I decided to humor his presentation. What I saw that day and the implications behind it made it crystal clear why youth today find sanctity in atheism.

As a disclosure, I mean not to bash on any particular faith. However, it becomes a problem when one attempts to justify manipulation under the pretense of divine intervention.

On that day, the salesman was selling a fluid akin to water. As more and more people were drawn to his booming voice, he pulled out two glasses of water. He poured a liquid, one he hid behind a curtain, into a glass and declared, “Should this glass of water change from yellow to blue and back again, then all of you would see the presence of God in this area!” I recall being shoved as some man hurried to the front of the stage, eager to catch a glimpse of the miracles promised to him. Instantly, the water alternated from blue to yellow. My father, who isn’t religious but is open to the supernatural, nudged me and said, “Wow! Think it’s real?” What he didn’t know was that the spectacle before him was nothing more than a chemistry experiment shown to fifth graders all over the state.

Something had bothered me upon reflecting on the salesman. I thought about how the crowd just ate his words up. All of them gathering, squishing and gasping as they reached for their wallets and begged for miraculous fluid that the salesman preached about.. What had been a fifth-grade science experiment to me was a sign of divinity to the crowd of people eager for some hope. It is here where the true horror of what happened comes to mind, and I really want all of you to stop and think about the following: Why were people so easily swayed for this one presentation? Would this presentation have the same effect in other parts of California? What if I told you the group consisted of middle-aged to senior Hispanics?

The answers flood in, the minute you think about the salesman’s target demographic. Selling in an area where most did not have the luxury of post-secondary education, scientific experiments can be masqueraded as works of the divine. The fact that someone could use people’s unfair ignorances and circumstances to pry on helplessness is utterly disgusting. People like the salesman hide behind the curtain of religion. In their heads, they shield themselves from criticism because anyone who has the audacity to speak up would make themselves an enemy of religion.

Specifically, there is a practice amongst some religions known as “Word-Faith Healing.” If you are ever up late, try skimming channels until you reach the religious one. It is typically huge group sessions where the pastor talks broadly and makes claims such as “Speak up, and I will heal you of any sickness.” The audience is sometimes filled to the brim with people covered in bandages, and more often than not, it is the elderly who are screaming for any semblance of hope. Because of the many variations, it is difficult to state an exact price. However, for reference, there are cases of pastors charging $300 per hour!

How do you justify that? How can you sit there claiming you are chosen by the divine only to go against the same morals that they preach? People are going into these sessions, promised miracles, only to meet the same, inevitable end that they would have met without spending ridiculous amounts of money. Money is being made off people who struggle to walk and who go to bed not knowing for a fact that they will for sure wake up the next day.

What I want for you to gain from this is the simple fact that manipulation comes in all shapes and sizes. I implore all of you to ask questions and seek truth found by your own means instead of blind faith. It is imperative to learn to think for oneself amidst everything going on in our society today. Whether it be the political world or the economic world to even the humanitarian world, there will always be someone out to take advantage of those who do not know any better.