One of the great virtues of market forces is that they consistently reward investors who can correctly predict future events. Whenever two people disagree about the plausibility of some event, you can create a financial instrument whereby the one who’s right can profit at the expense of the one who’s wrong.
The Christian community in America, particularly that section of it aligned with the religious right, commands vast wealth and influence. Although atheists are beginning to make our mark, we’re still routinely outspent and outlobbied by the legions of Christian conservatives and their wealthy leaders. It would be greatly beneficial if we could use the power of the market to redirect some of that wealth away from them and to us, where we can put it to better use advancing the cause of science and reason, rather than promoting regressive superstition. But what deal can we offer that they will accept?
I think the religious doctrine of the Rapture is the lever we need. Vast numbers of believers are completely convinced that this event will happen in the near future, and unlike natural catastrophes which might happen by coincidence, it is an unambiguously supernatural aspect of their end-times belief. If, as they say, they have no doubt that it will occur, we can give them a chance to put their money where their mouth is – and to take money away from us if we’re the ones who are wrong. What believer could resist that opportunity?
At first glance it might seem impossible to design a financial instrument that centers around the Rapture. After all, if the Christians are right, they won’t be around to collect. But I have a solution: I call it Rapture Bonds.
Here’s my offer to the believer. Choose a time period – a year, five years, ten years – however long you think is needed to be sure that the Rapture will happen sometime in the chosen interval. Choose a dollar amount. I, the investor, will loan you that amount of money. During the agreed-upon time period, you can use that money in any way you see fit to advance the cause of Christian evangelism: print gospel tracts, pay missionaries’ salaries, donate it to televangelists, or whatever else you like.
However, at the end of the chosen period, you must pay me back the entire principal, plus all the interest it’s been accumulating during that time. This would be similar to the balloon mortgages that some homeowners take out, which also have a lump-sum payment at the end.
What happens if the Rapture comes during your time interval? Then, obviously, you can’t be held liable for the debt. In fact, the bond agreement will have a clause which states that the debt is unrecoverable if the debtor is declared legally dead without there being a body. If you die in the normal fashion, however, your estate is liable for the bond repayment.
In my opinion, this is a great way for Christians – and atheists as well – to really put their respective beliefs to the test. If the Christians are right, then we atheists have given you free money you can use to promote God’s kingdom at our expense. If we atheists are right, then the money flows in the opposite direction. The best part is that you can enter into it no matter what you believe. I designed this instrument because I believe it will channel money from Christians to atheists, but a Christian investor could enter into it in the equally confident belief that the opposite will happen. The facts of the world will end up determining who’s right, and the money will follow.
I personally don’t have the funds to offer this plan on any significant scale. But it might be something for a canny, freethinking investor to consider.