Does having an image of Christ on my car dashboard make me a better Christian? Does going to church every Sunday make me one? Does it help my chances to go to heaven if I say the Rosary every day and teach Catechism at my church?
The biggest disservice organized religion (OR) has done to God is to tie the concept to objects. Hence today a Vellankanni or Lourdes is more important than Mumbai or Singapore in the Christian scheme of things. Or Mecca is more important than Hyderabad in the Islamic scheme of things. Or Kashi is more important than Delhi in the Hindu scheme of things.
The concept of franchising was perfected by OR long before Disney came along. Statues, pictures, rosaries and oils have for long been used by OR to fleece and imprison the needy and the helpless. Strangely, the very institutions that built this huge industry feel no shame when criticizing television preachers who promise the same vague concept of heaven in exchange for money. Instead of helping people find, respect and love the God within themselves and the people around them, they urge us to say rosaries, make offerings and kneel before statues and images.
In fact, so large have these collectibles become that they have replaced the very concept they were supposed to represent. It is a case of the minister replacing the king. An act, no matter how innocent, of disrespect towards an object of religious reverence is enough to start a riot where that most holy of all God’s gifts – life – is taken indiscriminately.
This attitude of the object being greater than the concept also gives people with an intent to insult or harm the perfect target. For example, if we treat the physical book on which the words of the Bible are printed as nothing more than a book, then nobody can use it to incite anger or violence. Words and thoughts cannot be so easily insulted, for that you need brains and intellect, which such violence mongers usually never have.
The franchising model is used by OR to water down the core religious messages and paradoxically it gives the weak a way out. It is no longer necessary for us to forgive someone who hurt us to be good Christians. All we need to do it go to church on Sunday.
God must feel like a football player who finds himself wealthy without having played a single minute of competitive football. The God’s managers have built this enormous system that has very little, if anything at all, to do with God but at the same time ensures that God stays in the middle of all of it.