Cheat Codes in Life
Sapphire “ignites the power to attract riches.” (More here
.) And hanging red paper firecrackers insures you against being burgled and from accidents (NYT
). The thesis underlying these ‘hacks’ is that life is a game, there are hidden cheat codes in the game
of life, and living a successful life is partly a matter of finding these hacks. The belief in this thesis among people who believe in God is startling because it is a demeaning conception of God (and life). Nonetheless, such beliefs are common.
Guaranteed Outsized Returns
Posted in front of many Hindu temples is a claim of guaranteed returns, which likely guarantees return visitors. The general format is similar to the claim made by the priest in this video
: “Whosoever worships … Shri Suryanarayan in this temple on a Sunday [will have] all his wishes come true.”
The lyrics of common folk hymns follow the same format. They promise,
Sins will be forgiven. “Whoever sings this arti will be forgiven their sins.” (From here.)
Happiness and wealth. “The one who sings the arti every day gets blessed with happiness and … riches.” From here.
Happiness and nirvana. “One who recites [Chalisa] one hundred times, becomes free from the bondage of life and death and enjoys the highest bliss.” From here. (Don’t be daunted by the 100x as the length is just 80 sentences. 8000 sentences for nirvana! Yes, please!)
Sons. “Without you, sons won’t be born.” (Here.) There are more extreme versions that I am too lazy to dig up. But sons did lead me to an epic adventure. I spent a bit of time collecting data on the children of key characters in the two major Hindu epics, Ramayan, and Mahabharat. The median number of children is two and the average is 11.5. The sex ratio is nearly 18, and if you take out people with 100 or so kids, it drops to 5. (More here.)
Quid Pro Quo
A new research article
that provides “experimental support for the hypothesis that insurance can be a motive for religious donations.” The authors “randomize enrollment of members of a Pentecostal church in Ghana into a commercial funeral insurance policy. Then church members allocate money between themselves and a set of religious goods in a series of dictator games with significant stakes. Members enrolled in insurance give significantly less money to their own church compared with members who only receive information about the insurance. Enrollment also reduces giving toward other spiritual goods. We set up a model exploring different channels of religiously based insurance. The implications of the model and the results from the dictator games suggest that adherents perceive the church as a source of insurance and that this insurance is derived from beliefs in an interventionist God….”