This weekend, Klaus-Jürgen Grün enjoyed making good use of time spent travelling in trains by doing some writing and reading. Finding a “train companion” motivated him to write this new text for the IF blog.
A Bible salesman promotes his ware by saying: “If you have Jesus, you have life. If you do not want to miss true life, read the Bible”. Deutsche Bahn AG prints the slogan in the handouts that inform passengers in InterCity trains about their respective connections. The salesman offers his internet address www.werjesushathatdasleben.de and I am sure he will find customers.
Promising real life, however, the slogan twists our understanding of reality, instead of making us fit for real life. We cannot deny that someone reading the Bible can get the impression of just having met the entrance to real life, just like a chain smoker will have the impression that his addiction will never physically harm him.
In the case of smokers, society has intervened. Society believes that smokers must be saved from themselves and passive smokers must be protected against the avoidable perils caused by the dangerous life-style of smokers. We have a law that forces cigarette advertisers to explicitly state the high risk for your health and life if you enjoy their products.
Why do we believe that our health might not suffer just as much from the about-face of our natural perception of reality, i.e. the promise that we will find real life through the Bible? Wherever you look your experience tells you that shifting your mental powers from real-life objects to an other-worldly, imagined, magical and only virtually existing truth is highly dangerous. If, appealing to the mental power to just believe strongly enough in the real value of the paper, you hand on a foul cheque, you will cause considerable damage in the real world. People buying shares the value of which exists only virtually trust in the same magical mental power of a mere thought as the one the Bible salesman is offering in his illusion.
After all, a foul cheque is no different from a bond gone sour in that reality does correspond with what it says on the paper. These foul cheques rouse expectations they cannot deliver, and they also promote the tendency of humans to consider pious expectations more real than a solid perception of reality.
Our loan system has been seriously wounded through the false credo (credo = “I believe”. It is no surprise that the most important financial terms are derived from the Bible: “creditor”, “debtor”, “credit”, “e-mission”). Just because we humans never learned to distinguish adequately between merely imagined and actual values, we tumbled into a financial crisis that makes all former crises look tame. To be sure, we can say there will always be crises, but sometimes they grow into revolutions. So what if the current crisis marks the end of capitalism? That is definitely a possible scenario, and if it happens, then we will have no reason to lament about the sacrifices this crisis demands from us.
The only thing that is really regrettable is what an enormous bureaucratic effort we make in order to, for example, minimise the harm done by smoking. We claim that we want to protect the rest of society against the loss of reality smokers suffer when it comes to evaluating the health risk they themselves take. At the same time, the sources of magical concepts are permitted to enhance, exploit and satisfy with undeliverable promises the already weak sense of reality of the Germans by spraying incense that is beneficial their own profit and interests. Instead of doing their duty and pointing out the dangers of deficits in rational human thinking, they are allowed to poison the human mind so drastically that humans will eventually no longer be able to live in the real world.
But we humans are easy prey to seduction. Give us the belief in the reality of mere letters, instead of using real words for what is real. Similar to the inscription on every pack of cigarettes, there should be a warning inscribed on every Bible:
“The content of this book may be harmful to your concept of reality.”
Translated by Evelyn Gemkow