"Repentance alone is of no help; grace cannot be bought with repentance; it cannot in any way be bought."
"If His churches and priests were like Christ Himself, there would be no need of poets."
So speaking of religion, here's a fascinating little fact that just came across my desk. Ever hear of indulgences, or Johann Tetzel? Well, in point of fact, Johann was a German Dominican preacher who in the year of our lordy lord lord 1517 was trying to raise money for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica; Yes that's correct, an integral part of that huge, garish, ostentatious monument to man's power and greed known as the Vatican.
In order to fund this little project, Johann travelled around to towns and villages. Rather than to say to them, "Hey poor people, we're trying to build this monstrous church in Rome that will display Catholic power to the world, how about giving us your milk money to, you know, help a Friar out?", he instead went around singing a little ditty that is now known (by me, anyway) as the Indulgence Rag. It goes: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs." Yes, in point of fact, he created one of Satan's moste potente minde controlle gimmicks, the very first Advertisement Jingle.
Basically the premise is that, if you've been less than good but not quite bad enough to go to hell, you can buy your way out of Purgatory, because the Pope had the authority to tell God who deserves to go to Heaven, and God had to listen. And the Pope would perform this small task for even the poorest meanest villiager out of the kindness of his cold black heart, and for a small, meaningless fee, of course. And not to forget, he would not have even offered the poor people this kindly ease of mind had he not needed cash to build his big crappity church. So there's Papal altruism for you.
I feel that there is something extremely poetic about the world's first ad jingle being composed and utilized by a Catholic priest trying to scam poor people into giving him their last copper in order to build the most gaudy, useless building in the world. On the one side, it's poetic because essentially, advertising in that respect hasn't changed; advertisers would love for people to still believe that buying stuff will save your soul, and in a sense they've continued to create this sense in people. The feeling that buying those shoes or my new Canon Xsi will make us happy, complete in some way. It's a gaping hole in every shoppers chest that can never be filled, and the only thing I'm not entirely sure of is how exactly it got there. My bet is that the Church created this need in people by selling them indulgences, and has continued to exploit it ever since, but even if it's always been there, an integral part of Man's nature, there is no denying that the Church first learned of it and exploited it through Johann Tetzel.
On the other side it's also poetic, because it helps to bathe the Pope and the Catholic Church in it's own ugly light. The questions that weren't thought about in 1517 by dirty uneducated villagers can be easily asked now. So, why does God, whose Son supposedly upended all of the money changer's tables in front of the Temple, give a rat's ass about 2 copper bits when it comes to men's souls? Of course he doesn't. This episode in the Church's history clearly shows what a corrupt, scamming pile of God Turd the Catholic Church really is. They thought they could get away with this because people were stupid and uneducated, but history didn't forget, and now we may still be stupid, but at least we're educated enough to recognize a hustle when we see one. This is what organized religion is really all about; Getting butts in seats by using the fear of eternal hell or purgatory and offering salvation through the application of a little magical formula, and don't forget to tithe on the way out, y'all.
Anyway, the wikipedia page on Johann Tetzel is here, and the article which turned me on to this very illuminating tidbit is here. I'm going to leave this rant with another picture I took during my visit to the Vatican a few years back. It's a shot of the escalator leading up to the Vatican Museum entrance, and it sure looks a lot like many Christain fantasist's idea of the stairway to heaven to me... wonder if that's what the Catholic church was going for? A little not-so-subliminal advertising? What do you think?