Updated: May 2
For those Christians who might be easily offended by this article, let me, as an ex-Christian, remind you of the following verse from Matthew 24:24,
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
The passage is written in memory of my friend, Joe, who was always in his jeans and unbuttoned check shirt. His consistently casual looks often reminded me of John Archer in Help! My Supply Teacher's Magic. Of all the things he had said to me, I recall this particular quote,
"Please stop here! I don't want to hear these things anymore. I've heard enough."
He was talking about the schemers - the shameless, filthy bootlickers who relentlessly plot against one another through imaginable and unimaginable means. When you have gotten past one, another soon rear its ugly head. Their frightening omnipresence outdoes that of zombies; yet their words always sound righteous; their masks are angelic; but that only intensifies their wickedness in the eyes of the sober-minded, leaving them dumbfounded.
Fiction or fun facts?
At this point, you may already have the feeling that what you're about to read below is a fictional story. Take it as such, even though the tricks in this guidebook are entirely feasible, and even practical to some people. My friend advised me that if I was about to portray someone doing something evil, but could only say it without concrete evidence, be prepared to be called a liar, if not a slanderer. So in my antagonists' attempts of deterring me to write about this before I've even started, and accusing me of being an attention-seeking novelist presenting his masterpiece, I proudly and gratefully accepted such early compliments.
This is a guide, so it belongs essentially to the category of non-fiction. But I have to stress that the examples in it are purely fictional, although the practicality of these strategies may hint that the events must have happened in the real world, which means they are real, but they are not. This piece, therefore, is a non-fiction - though highly functional, it is hypothetical, if no one has ever done anything alike.
Don't judge a book by its cover
Neither can we confidently and rightfully speculate someone else's intentions because we are no god. Even if there were an omniscient God who truly knows, he wouldn't speak up until the judgement day. So I'm not going to play his role and say anything about plotters actually using the strategies demonstrated in this guide; I'm merely demonstrating how they could have hypothetically taken advantage of the others by employing these skills. Nevertheless, skeptics in the Victorian era fought the battle against Spiritualism movement headed by the Fox sisters not by exposing them but by topping their demonstrations of paranormal phenomena. Magicians proved that they did a better job in creating illusions and deceiving the mass than their opponents could and yet they never claimed to be truly psychic because their goal was to guide their audiences to question those prevailing extraordinary claims.
Tradition of skepticism
There have been numerous performances and books fighting against (or betraying and unveiling the trickery of) Spiritualism in the West. The aforementioned Fox sisters eventually came clean and died of poverty in their last years after being topped by their skeptical opponents - stage illusionists who viewed and presented Spiritualism as playful stage and parlor acts. This tradition is currently sustained by British psychological illusionist, Derren Brown (and his presence on stage, Channel 4, and Netflix as well). The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) has been the oldest known book revealing the trickery behind black magic, which shed light on the innocent age, until recently where a copy of the Chinese version of the Taoist bible on the same topic, 神仙戯術 (1510), has been recovered.
On the other hand, ancient classics on the tactics and techniques used by various types of Chinese fortunetellers have been underground secrets but the literature was never lost. The basic techniques are a mixture of general statements, facts, guesses and nerve-racking claims wrapped in pseudo-technological ideologies and jargon. The system coincides with the studies of cold and hot reading techniques used by mediums (Barnum effect being the most popularized knowledge to the general public because of astrology in old magazines but it is also just the tip of the iceberg) by modern linguists.
The missing guidebook on how Christianity can be hacked
On Christianity, Brown has just toured in the US and demonstrated his "evangelical miracles" equating typical miraculous demonstrations and even topping what any charismatic pastor could do with the "holy spirit" who not only grants the pastors supernatural power but also apparently follows their cues. There are, however, not yet a printed guidebook like the other classics explaining how you could hack other streams of Christianity and Catholicity and prosper in their religious institutions - not even after this guide is published, unless you print it out.
The Guide Starts Here...
Decide the character you're going to play by asking yourself what you aim to achieve. It'll determine the beginning path and the development of your middlegame. In the opening, there are two types of characters you can choose from: the quick con-vert and the evangelical impastor. They aren't mutually exclusive to each other but the categorization will make the strategies clear for you. Each character has its own advantages for you to gain and potential risks that you have to deal with.
Opening Move #1: The Quick Con-vert
Needless to say, a quick con-vert promises return in a short run while the risk of running it is relatively small. There are both written and unspoken rules of the requirement of gaining a certain religious background before getting certain benefits and opportunities, such as increasing the chance of being admitted to a school, getting a promotion or gaining connections and popularity. If you really want your child to get into that Christian school; or if you want to start or further your career in a Catholic school and the schools ask you to state you religious background, do you just fill out the form by stating "Christian" or "Catholic"? The schools, however, will require you to state which church you're from, when you got baptized and who your preacher or priest is. You'll have to up your game! But if you haven't got prepared, you'll need a quick fix.
Study the genre
You've heard of people who started off in Buddhism or various kinds of religious or even mystical studies and gained popularity by converting to Christianity. If you're not one of them, you need to register that fact. You've heard of people who have survived in natural disasters and accidents alike. They prayed, got rescued and then ignored their survivorship bias, concluded it was Jesus among all possible gods who has saved them. But if you're not one of them, you need to recognize that fact. Focus your study on the genre of conversions, and choose the most economical entrance.
Start with the definition of conversion in dictionaries. "Conversion" literally means change; and the change must be brought to you by the Christian God or Jesus Christ in this specific genre, with Saint Mary, disciples and angels as the only acceptable exceptions (of not being accused of committing heresy) in some regions. Your sudden conversion must be explained away by highlighting an equally sudden miraculous spiritual experience. But you must have basic knowledge for this genre. Don't mention anything related to your deceased grandma even if you intend to let her play as a protagonist in your story. Go straight to the point, use dichotomous stories, put up the good and the evil, and the good wins it all. A typical plot is: I've been rebellious; I prayed to the devil; the devil manifested after two weeks of praying and offering myself to him; I was so afraid that the words "Save me, Jesus!" slipped out; the devil disappeared into thin air. You prayed to God on that night and started reading the Bible since then. Read a novel, or research related CGI effects in adventurous movies; be prepared that someone will request you to state how the devil vanished (because you have seen him with your naked eyes). Don't let their curiosity kill your cat.
Any claim about spiritual encountering will attract hecklers and haters. They may be skeptics, religious leaders of other religions and that of other churches in some cases. The best defense is not to fight at all. First, avoid demonizing other religious figures if you don't have to take this step. Second, suppress doubts before they can be voiced out.
"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - The Art of War by Sun Tze
Set up zombies, as hackers in the digital world do. Layer the responsibilities of making false claims impossible to trace. For instance, if you're a doctor and your clinic is running out of business and you need to be a quick con-vert, try not to claim that you have seen an angel coming down from the cloud. When skeptics confront you by asking you to distinguish a spiritual experience from a psychotic episode as a medical doctor, you'll be in trouble. Try telling people that a patient visited you and asked you whether you have accepted Jesus as your savior before leaving abruptly. Say that somehow the written records of this mysterious figure vanished. Present the record as physical evidence that had convinced you that God sent an angel to deliver a message. So even if the skeptics do not accept that as a fact and point out your fallacy in reasoning, they would look into the vanishing ink sets on eBay instead of calling out your blatant attempt to gain publicity on a Christian tv network. Remember: judging others is a sin, so don't worry when you have everything set up.
Opening Move #2: The Evangelical Impastor
You can follow the 3 steps above to start off your career in a church as an evangelical pastor but to stand out from the rest of mediocre preachers and become a millionaire, you've got to gain popularity and influence. The charismatic leader isn't a bad character to play with but there's another path you may consider.
In order to stand out, you'll need not only the aforementioned convincers as legitimately faithful Christians but also deviating from the biblical norm a little bit. Consider flirting with conspiracy theories, politics, science and technology and you'll have you own science fiction. Tell you audience that the anti-Christ will emerge from the world governments and the FBI is secretly controlled by aliens; spread the fear that technology and climate change will lead us to the end of the world (and perhaps they will); conclude that everything in our modern world was hinted in the Bible and are now confirmed by science - God created us with DNA and the anti-Christ will insert a chip in everyone of you. Make good use of the verses in The Book of Revelation and suit your taste.
In your safe, you should keep a pile of books, recordings and videos from other religions you're not supposed to keep and they will provide you with unlimited flow of inspirations. If you ever get caught, explain away by stating that you're a skeptic of other religions, because the world is owned by those despicable means of Satan. Fill the gaps in your presentation with borrowed items, present your claims as original and insightful. Talk about how pride will lead to disasters; talk about the emptiness in the materialistic world; talk about the loss of morality and ethics and how much you've been disappointed; talk about how life is unpredictable and full of pain. Get them into a trance. Just don't forget to draw that line and praise the lord for giving us hope and purpose to live on so that you set your act apart from that of other religions. Don't worry. It would be the last thing your followers will suspect in your narrowcasting church settings. Take a prevailing Chinese fable in Buddhism, namely "A Blessing in Disguise"（塞翁失馬）, as an example, by which, in some early versions, the Taoists in ancient China came up with to ridicule the Buddhists, you can extract the structure of that story and it'll fit just as perfectly in an evangelistic assembly.
Supporting supernatural claims by pseudo-science is a bit tricky but it is worth a visit. But first, don't be reluctant when you make extraordinary claims because you can't create the sense of novelty without pouring in some mystical elements. Instead of backing up your claims, you only need to prepare a backup plan. You're merely convinced by evidence presented by other authoritative figures. Before someone could openly attack you, they will look into your decoy first.
This technique works best if the authoritative figure is on the other side of the globe and that the audience has relatively poor academic background or restricted access to information. For example, for a Buddhist leader in China to claim that there's strong scientific support for reincarnation, they could recycle materials of Professor Ian Stevenson, because the audience cannot access Wikipedia to learn the truth - the rest of the academic field suggested how he was biased and deceived (one of the ways is that he did not rule out the possibility of the poor Indian children in his interviews imagining to connect with the wealthy families in their supposedly past life). Bombard your listeners with basic knowledge of science telling them what science is about; quote the professor; jump to conclusion. For Christians, there are tremendous amount of secondary sources for you to make any claim related to science that aren't scientific at all; also talk about how insiders knew that Darwin, Einstein and Hawking were Christians who repented for their academic works when they were lying in bed, waiting to die. Ignore what they have actually said and written in their works and notes, just quote the lines of "reliable witnesses" and jump to conclusion. Then, bring up a new topic.
Middlegame: The Returns
When I talked to my Christian friend about planning to write this article, she was beyond thrilled to hear it because of the fake Christians out there. Most opportunists actually get caught during the middlegame, where they are tempted by their own greed and hatred to show their true egos which contradict the values in many religious settings. True schemers have more tricks to play with. Hide your intentions, study the Bible and look for loopholes that could tip the scale in your favor. If the opening moves did not get you what you wanted, calmly wait for your turn.
When you've gotten your promotion in that church, or in that Catholic school, you've got what you aimed for - the power, the reputation, the connections. But don't be tempted to make your next move this soon.
"Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt." - Sun Tze
Keep a list of the money fountains by scanning the records of donations for the institution. Look for what these billionaires are missing in life, things that money can't buy. When you spotted a father funding his big-headed son who dreams of becoming the next J. K. Rowling by spending time writing illogical detective stories in that corner, approach the son and show appreciation. Remember: you're not supposed to have prior knowledge about their social status and financial background, not yet. Ask the son whether he's willing to give a speech for your students as a young talented writer in the next school assembly. Let him sign the books for his new little fans. And no, don't make the move yet. Invite him next year because of the magnificent reception and impression he left for your students. Then, start chatting with him about his family and wait for the day that he introduces you to his father. Now, it's time to put the other pieces together. You're so impressed by this talent that you want to invite him to be a teaching assistant for your school after his graduation. You've already gotten the approval from the priest, aka supervisor, of taking care of this young man and be his spiritual mentor. So why not come to the next job interview day and see if you two are meant to be a match?
Get creative in collecting other patches! But never, ever ask for monetary return directly like those scam emails do. Wait for it, wait for the day that you get to know the lawyer who has lost his wife in a car accident. As a widow, you support him through while he's giving up everything and gradually losing his clients. After hiring the young, talented writer, it is time to introduce your new husband to the billionaire who happens to own a renowned law firm. (The priest will probably complain about you getting a second marriage for a while but bear this in mind: you win some and you lose some; this is the thing you've been longing for. So go for it.)
Dealing with the beast
There's this man who you once trusted. You used to think he was passionate but his passion has exceeded you expectation. And you want to corner him at this point. "I've seen it all," he says to you gently. Bluffing or not, he surprises you, yet you are not intimidated. You remind him of a fact, "Let's not forget I'm the host here, young man." But you know he'll be a pain in the ass, at least for a short while, as he has complicated you plan.
Get to know him; gather information about him. See what he's up to and quietly wait for your turn. Make him think you've given up until you've found the guy who had a quarrel with him and still hold onto the grudge. Form strategic partnership with this guy by listening to him and confirming everything he says to you. Connect with people who are influential in their own fields; connect with kids. Stir up the rumors and emotions in their social circles. Let that someone else cast the first stone and carry out justice for you.
Keeping a black sheep
You know - you should do this all alone and keeping everything only to yourself but you can't take it all alone. Always forgive and support the most disreputable troublemaker. Apparently give them lessons but secretly spoil them so badly that their personality can be so twisted that on the day you need a scapegoat, they'll think it was all them doing the dirty work. No one is going to believe them anyway on that day.
End Game: The Chaos
Everything that has a beginning, has an end. Although you've read some of the hypothetical strategies for abusing Christianity, readers of this guide are warned and advised not to attempt any of these tricks because you aren't the only smart guy. You'll never know when the big-headed and the black sheep would cause you troubles you cannot contain; or since when one of your men had been paving another path for himself which will make all the difference for you; or on which day the chained beast will wake up, break free and invite you to a dance again.
Now that Joe will not hear a thing I say and is forever in peace, I'm pleasantly sharing this guide with you. I also wish to point out, as a former Christian, my critical point of de-conversion wasn't directly linked to the above realization but happened earlier and was more related to the influence of atheistic arguments on YouTube and reading "forbidden" books written by atheistic scientists and former pastors.