Priestcraft 101

Priestcraft is the art of getting people to accept you as a representative of God. It is one of the oldest cons and one of the most rewarding, because your victim will give you the same honor and respect that is normally reserved for God. In other words, everything they own, all their possessions, their service, their love and affection, their devotion, will be yours alone. All in the name of God.

The first trick is recognizing a potential mark. This is someone who is ready for the solutions that only God can provide. Your perfect mark is someone just on the cusp of the existential crisis, which all people go through who do not yet know God. They are scared. They know that the way they are living is not right, that is not working; and the realization has begun to sink in that there is nothing they can do on their own to solve their problems. This is your moment.

The False Spiritual Teacher shows up as a savior, as the answer to all those problems. Because God is the answer, and you are coming as the representative of God, with what you will convince your mark is the one true teaching of God. This is what you are selling: all of the good things that the truth brings–freedom, peace, confidence, security.

The trick to running this con successfully it is to catch your victims before they have enough time to ground themselves in the truth. If you give them a chance to find out the truth about God on their own, it will be too late. Find them before that happens. Talk to them about the pain and trouble they are facing, living without God. Tell them how easy it is to change everything, just by accepting the truth. Talk to them about God’s love, about the peaceful, free life He has promised those who follow Him.

Now, the mark is yours! Teach him the ways of serving God–paying tithes (to you), volunteering to help run your organization, going out to proselytize new converts, to let you keep getting exponentially richer. Don’t forget to also teach piety though. You must maintain the facade. Teach your mark to be gentle, kind, honest, and helpful. This will give you great credibility.

But beware. There is only one thing that can mess up the good thing you have going: the real truth! You must make every effort to keep your flock away from anyone who is teaching the truth about God. Teach them to read the Bible your way, so that nothing they read there will every contradict their faith in you. Teach them not to trust anyone who has a different point of view on God from what they have been taught. It is very important to breed xenophobia and paranoia. The best way to do this is to constantly remind them that yours is the only true church, and to warn them constantly of the dangers of straying away to other, “false” interpretations.

Most of all, do not allow them to think for themselves. The most successful and long lasting false churches are those who can convince their members to put church doctrine, your doctrine, above their own common sense and logic. Warn them of the tricks of devils, who come disguised as angels of light. Remind them every day that their salvation is not from their own understanding. God does not teach them directly, but only through the church and its doctrines.

Don’t worry about the inconsistencies that will inevitably arise in your doctrines. Of course, you should try your best to avoid them (I recommend copying what true teachers say and tweaking the message as little as possible). But remember you will never be able to match your message, pound for pound, against the truth in any kind of debate. So the key is to stop the debate before it happens. Teach your flock that even to question the truth you teach, or hear others question it, even to ask, even to wonder, even to seek explanations, is a sin. Convince them of that, and they belong to you!

One comment

  1. Indeed the most vulnerable phase seems to be that “existential fear” at a point of ontological crisis where the “victim” is experiencing excruciating pain from being impaled at the cross between material affairs of life and the inner imperative of needing spiritual light – that long “dark night”.

    The problem is, most perpetrators of “priestcraft” are also its unwitting victims! Of course the seasoned ones – like your “uncle screwtape” adviser above – become resigned to their fate because the occupation affords them a degree of comfort that eases the pain associated with growth. The most seasoned ones may even bed down in some form of perversion, until caught and rooted out.

    So … que faire? To begin with, in the Christian context, one might find some reprieve in meditating on Love a la 1Corinthians 13 and seek “church” where even “2 or 3” brave ones are gathered – but never surrender your intellect except to that indwelling “christ” spirit – which we can each recognize through it. Once the intellect is free, try maybe exploring different paths – both East and West -and see inter-connections, glimpses of an illusive truth that draws all to itself. This will require much courage since it can shake the foundations of our ontological security. Better to be open than to be closed.


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