If a product lets buyers down, consumer advocates -- along with plain consumers -- jump into aggrieved action. Sometimes excessively.
I'm amazed that Consumer Reports, a magazine I love and have subscribed to for as long I can remember, still isn't recommending purchase of the iPhone 4 because of a minor antenna reception problem that really wasn't that big of a deal. However, it was a defect that Consumer Reports felt should have been fixed by Apple before the iPhone 4 was released.
This makes me wonder: Wouldn't it be great if religions came with a guarantee that salvation, enlightenment, or whatever, will be produced as promised to those who buy-in to the faith?
And if the spiritual goods aren't delivered on time and in working order, it'd also be wonderful if those who joined the religion after being lured by a fraudulent bait and switch deal could be compensated for the time, money, and devotion they contributed.
The problem, of course, is that Consumer Reports is able to put products through a rigorous testing process. If they don't work properly, such is fairly easy to determine.
With religosity, mysticism, and spirituality though, the purveyors of organized products (religions, cults, meditation systems, etc.) usually promise vague benefits and/or a vague delivery time -- such as after the user's death, at which point it's damn difficult to complain about the product.
Today I enjoyed reading an entertaining and insightful comment from Sunny Jay on a post that I wrote last month. The comment resonated with me and stimulated these thoughts, as Sunny Jay and I both have been members of the same India-based religious group, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB).
Here's the comment, with a few typos fixed:
Hello everybody. All this reading is very entertaining, to say the least, and I have laughed alot but on a serious note...Walking away from RSSB was really psychologically damaging for me. For a long time there was much guilt and remnants of it still swirl in my mind.
Part of me wants to believe but let's face it...I have never met one satsangi [RSSB initiate] who has ever crossed the threshold of the third eye...all this talk in Science of the Soul and other books about riddhis and siddhis and spiritual powers and astral travelling to other regions. Has anyone actually had these experiences? Was all that stuff made up?
I have my own stories about RSSB too and how I got in and what made me leave....but I tend to find it is the promise of a spiritual experience that lures one into asking for initiation. The chance to "die whilst living" and see the "macrocosm in the microcosm". Walt Disney should make a movie about it. Can you imagine the special effects?!
Then I read about this thing called Kundalini. Most satsangis don't utter the "K" word at Haynes Park [RSSB center in England]. It's taboo...dark side stuff...like Lord Vader. What are your thoughts on that? Can anyone testify to a Kundalini awakening besides David Blaine? Probably not.
After being initiated for 4 years and practicing day in day out with all my gusto...saw nothing. I spoke to satsangis about it. The response I got was a joke. Anyway, it's reached the point where I scour the Earth for the Lament Configuration Box from the movie Hellraiser in order to unlock the realms of pleasure and pain...am I on the right path?
I'd say so, Sunny Jay.
(Never having watched a Hellraiser movie, I had to head to Wikipedia to learn what a Lament Configuration Box was. It sounds pretty neat, aside from the possibly undesirable fact that unlocking it leads to hell. Still, you'll end up somewhere interesting, which is more than can be said for the RSSB meditation you practiced.)
Now, I can anticipate the reaction of true believers to this comment. Which would be along the lines of what fervent devotees of any faith say to those who have tried that particular religious product, found it wanting, and moved on to sample other wares.
You weren't committed enough.
You didn't have enough love/devotion/energy/other quality.
You needed to stay with the faith longer.
You got the results you needed, not the results you wanted.
You didn't surrender your ego.
You wanted results, so you didn't get them.
You can't expect to sense the ineffable.
You forgot that God works in mysterious ways.
Well, I suppose the purveyor of any consumer product could come up with similar sorts of excuses. But they wouldn't go over any better than they did with Sunny Jay and me.
Sure, maybe that TV you bought which never showed a picture or sound will start working one day. Maybe.
And maybe God, in his/her/its unfathomable fashion, has a plan for you: to spend $1,000 on a new television and then sit in front of it for the next five, ten, or twenty years, staring at a blank screen. Maybe.
I just believe that when you're promised X if you get Y, and X doesn't materialize -- not only for you, but for everybody you talk to who got Y -- that's persuasive evidence that Y is defective and isn't worth keeping anymore.