We’re Christian because It’s Cheaper

There’s a village in Cambodia that’s fertile grounds for missionaries trying to convert residents to Christianity. It seems to be working, too. 80% of the locals are now Christian.

But it’s not because they believe in the divinity of Jesus or the power of prayer.

It’s just a cheaper form of bullshit:

Sev Chel, 38, said she made the switch because when she used to get sick, it could cost her hundreds of dollars to appease the gods with a sacrificial package that might include a cow or buffalo, a chicken, bananas, incense and rice wine.

“So if I sold that buffalo and took the money to pay for medicine, it is about 30,000 riel to 40,000 riel [for them to] get better, so we are strong believers in Jesus,” she said. “If I did not believe in Jesus, maybe at this time I would still be poor and not know anything besides my community.”

Kralan Don, 60, said he and the four other members of his family began attending the church about five years ago because of their poor standard of living.

We believe in Christianity because we are poor; we don’t have money to buy buffaloes, chickens and pigs to pray for the spirits of the god of land or the god of water when those gods make us get sick,” he said.

Somewhere, a church group is claiming victory for these conversions. But really, money was the only thing that got saved.

I wonder which religion is going to undercut Christianity’s prices…

(Thanks to Jamie for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Greg

    Such a shame that these people aren’t acknowledging that they have really moved on not to true belief in Christianity, but to trusting in the wonder of evidence/results-based science, i.e. they’re spending their money on medicine that actually works.

    • Majshark

       Facts:  Women who are recovering from drugs, trafficking, or other/similar issues via medicine,  3%; success rate of recovery through faith via ministry 94%.  Just have to be humble enough to have a change of heart.

      • The Other Weirdo

         Huh?

      • snoofle

         Citation needed.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        You’re funny.

      • M J Shepherd

        You have an extraordinary claim, sir. Get with the evidence-producing.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Fact: Percentage of statements made by Majshark on this post so far that use ambiguous terms and percentages without any citations, 100%; Percentage of people reading the statement so far who can even  understand what it’s claiming, much less be persuaded by it, 0%.

        [For data citation, see replying comments up to and including this one.] 

        Just have to be humble enough to clarify and actually back up what you’re claiming.

        • Randomfactor

          No, no, $cientology claims similar numbers.  You just don’t count anyone who “falls away” from the program as being in it anymore, so your “success” rate skyrockets.  But the truth is that every program (AA, for example)  has about the same success rate as going it alone.

        • X-ray

          82% of people make claims on the internet of a statistical nature, which is accurate up to 68% of the time, but only 51% believe facts on the internet, despite that only 34% of claims are actually cited, and only 12.99381% are actually to trustworthy sources.

          I cite this information from myself, which is a source that is 100% correct. :P

    • http://www.facebook.com/joequincy Jon Peterson

      From the quotes, I gather that the sad part is they may not be educated enough to tell the difference.
      Over here in the U.S., we take for granted the level of understanding about the world that is shared with us through our education system… but that knowledge isn’t innate. Millennia of discoveries have been passed on to us, because we were lucky enough to be born where there is a system to do so.

      The people in the village may honestly believe (and the wording of their statements implies as much, at least, as I see it) that the act of converting is what has provided them with the improvements in their lives… rather than the  medical benefits that the church is only providing to them after they say they’ve converted.

      Of course… you won’t see that church clarifying the difference anytime soon.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    I have always figured that this was a major reason why Christianity gained ground in Greek and Roman societies.  Rather then propitiating a dozen gods, you only need to grovel to one.  Bundling gods is a good deal, relative to the alternative.  Hopefully it won’t take 2000 years to figure out that the new god is just as indifferent to them leaving as the old one was.

    • Stev84

      Romans were already used to new gods coming along every now and then. As far as religion is concerned it was a relatively pluralistic society. They frequently incorporated the gods of conquered peoples into their own pantheon. It was a good way to integrate them into the empire.

      There were other religions that became very popular at the same time as Christianity. Look up Mithraism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/keithacollyer Keith Collyer

       if one god is cheap, no gods should be even cheaper, and just as likely to work

  • http://twitter.com/UAJamie Jamie Bernstein

    Greg, if you read the article, you’ll see there’s an Atheist at the end who says that he has just decided to not believe in any religion at all.

    • Greg

      Good for him! One down, way too many to go. : )

  • Artor

    This reminds me of a story I heard. I’ll paraphrase it here; When Xtian missionaries were moving into Scandinavia, converting the Vikings, they initially reported great success. Whole families were coming down from the hills to be baptized and given a clean white shirt & a loaf of bread. At one of the baptism stations, there were so many respondants, they ran out of shirts and loaves. An irate Viking berated the priest on hand with something like, “What kind of shoddy deal is this? I’ve been baptized 15 times and I’ve always gotten a new shirt & a loaf of bread! If you can’t do better than this, then I’m off back to Odin!”

    • The Other Weirdo

      Excuse me?  Ran out of loaves? Why didn’t they just use their Jesus-brand food replicators, just like it says Jesus did. I know it’s true because the Bible says it’s true.

      • X-ray

        No! It’s not in the Bible because I personally dislike its implications. Despite that I refrain from reading the Bible, I know its content better than you.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      At one village in France, the monks ran out of baptismal garments, and gave the Viking crew strips of white cloth instead.  Offended, the Vikings slaughtered the monks.

  • Guest

    I’m an atheist that studies Buddhism… I discard the reincarnation BS and focus on the mental exercise, meditation, and compassion that is found in Buddhism.    These people in this article are a hybrid of “animism” and “buddhism”.  But the story focuses solely on their “animism”.  It’s a shame they let go of their Buddhist roots since that served them better and cost them less than Christianity.

    Why am I sharing this?  I think that modern Buddhists and Atheists (or Agnostics) can co-exist very well and learn from each other.  The Atheist cause might be best served helping folks like this turn stronger towards their Buddhist roots and away from deities in general.

  • http://www.hitchslap.blogspot.com/ Gav Davies

    So, really, religion is just a commodity like MacDonald’s.  If one fast food chain is selling a product at a cheaper price you would be tempted to switch and change your loyalty. This story is exactly that, except religion doesn’t have a god dressed like a clown.

    • Randomfactor

      Just the reverse, in fact.

  • LesterBallard

    Have you noticed that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, seem to find the most converts where people’s lives are kind of shitty?

    • Pseudonym

      I’m pleased you agree that religion is sometimes better than the alternative.

      • LesterBallard

        You are way the fuck off.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    It’s sad that the people fall for that BS. It’s also disgusting that the religious people take advantage of them that way.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Just imagine how much money and time they could be saving if they were Atheists.

  • Michael Brice

    I am not too worried about Ms. Chel, her bullshit detector seems to be functioning. Only a matter of time until she figures out she can skip the jeebus parts and go straight to the doctor.

  • http://seldomwrong.blogspot.com/ SWNID

    Wow. You don’t get it, do you? I would expect more sensitivity to the cultural dynamics in the speech act so leanly narrated in this piece. I could hope for some acknowledgement of the correlation between this statement and the notion of God’s grace that underlies Christian theology, or even with the historical impact of Christian theology on social and economic conditions. But no. You have just one category to describe belief in anything not endorsed by your precious brand of logical positivism, so eloquently expressed with a vulgar compound noun. Let me just say that I would find this Cambodian gentleman and his family to be more interesting conversation partners than what I’m finding in this post.

  • Pronghorn

    Atheism would be at least as cheap, maybe cheaper than Christianity, but these people don’t seem to be taking advantage of that cost savings.

  • http://twitter.com/nistha Nistha Shrestha

    Stories like these always make me thankful that proselytizing is illegal here in Nepal.

  • Skadi meic Beorh

    Not surprising that Christians are seen in this light, since we do not in any way present the power of God to the world. Thank you for your thoughts. Maybe you will meet a real Christian one day. In the mean time, you could do something radical with your energy and become one yourself, thus either absolutely disproving the concept or absolutely igniting the world with the fervor of the Creator. As it stands, you may be a friendly atheist, but where is your spine?

    • snoofle

       How can you become a Christian if you don’t believe in it?  That doesn’t even make sense.  Or are you saying that we should just say we are and do Christian stuff so that we may suddenly see the light? And why don’t you just become an atheist in the same way?  Nonsensical.

      • Skadi meic Beorh

        You know what I am saying, why parse it? Bring me anyone who is sick, and the power of Christ through me will heal them. Better yet, bring me a dead body, and the person will live again. But you won’t, because you won’t put your action where your mouth is. I will. That is the difference between a real Christian and anyone else.


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