Don’t Let This Happen To You
Have you ever wondered what might happen to your children if you were to die in a workplace accident? Have you ever stopped to consider how you would afford an operation and treatment if you or a loved-one were to contract a serious illness? What would you do if you lost your home in a fire, flood, tornado or tsunami? How would you pay for repairs to your car if you were to have an accident? You’d feel pretty bad if you hadn’t prepared for these eventualities, having had all the chances in the world to do so, and as a result being forced to live without a car, house, or flat-screen TV, or worse leaving your children, your wife, your family to pay for your funeral and fend for themselves after you’re gone.
Insurance companies tell us that we are all in peril, at the whim of horrible accidents and trespasses against us. Illness and misfortune wait at every turn, and people are out there who would willingly hurt us for their own advantage. But insurance has the answer; all you have to do is pay. It’s a kind of extortion based on the possible outcomes of daily situations well beyond our control. It’s all-pervading too; accidents in the workplace, car accidents, damage to your home, theft of your belongings, natural disasters, illness and finally death.
I disagree with the whole premise of paying insurance; it’s supposed to make us feel better and safer about our lives, our health and the ones we love, but ultimately for 90% of the time we are simply paying money to these companies to keep them in business. They make us feel guilty about something that has not happened, and may not happen to us, by showing what can happen if a person doesn’t have insurance (of course life insurance is different, since death is inevitable). The payout is, when something bad happens to us, and if we are insured, we have something to help us get back on our feet. Sometimes I am glad that I do in fact pay house and contents insurance, because our house was robbed twice in a six month period, and the insurance more than paid for the damage and loss. Even so, these companies stay in business by appealing to our consciences, not to our logic. It’s a self perpetuating scam that would be unnecessary if our governments were able to look after their people properly, and in this day and age, things many types of insurance are mandatory to help cut down on costs to the government, in the process bolstering an industry of questionable ethics and worth.
So what of the ultimate price, what of the soul? What happens when we die? What sorts of insurance can we take out against that? Well, organised religion has that all worked out for us. The main tenet of religion is that you follow the laws as laid down in the religious text (this is the insurance policy and the premiums), and if you do you’ll be rewarded with everlasting life (this is the payout). It plays on the same guilts and fears of the unknown as any insurance policy, and the payouts are much, much higher. However the premiums of this insurance policy are multitudinous and varied, depending upon which insurance agency (religion) you choose to go with. For some, simply praying to the owner of the agency and showing fealty to his (its) glory is enough. Other policies demand that you cover your women from head to toe, and kill them if they stray. Others still demand a life of total self discipline, guilt and piety, or at least on Sundays when the payments are made.
The payouts and the simple nature of the premium payments are very well publicised. In fact, people will devote their entire lives to the premiums in the hope that the payout is real. The presupposition here is that people have a soul to save at the end of it all, shaky ground to begin with, and that this life is just the beginning of a longer, better life after death.
What are the real costs of the ultimate insurance policy? How much do we have to pay for this feeling of wellbeing? For many it is the denial of the simple pleasures in life, or at a minimum repentance for having enjoyed them. For some it is the price of constant belief in the impossible, despite all the evidence that suggests things may actually be otherwise. For a few, it is cutting oneself off from the rest of the world, and living a life of total piety and service to the community. (Of course, in my opinion, service to the community should be delivered regardless of the perceived payout of the policy).
Just as barely anyone reads and understands the fine-print of an insurance policy, very few read and understand the fine-print of the religious insurance policy. Those that do, and still accept the terms and conditions of the policy, are already sold on the idea. Most simply sign on the dotted line.
I guess if people are willing to pay, then there is no problem with this system, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else in the process. And this is where the insurance policy of religious faith comes unstuck for me. In the process of paying the premiums of religious faith, the actions of the payee can inflict pain or suffering on other unrelated parties. People see it as their right, like insurance salespeople, to tout the “advantages” of their particular brand of insurance, or worse, will be willing to condemn those who don’t choose the particular policy that they themselves have adopted. What’s worse is that these people see it as their duty to condemn those whose behaviours are against the apparent best practices of the policy, regardless of whether these practices affect any unrelated parties at all.
I may be drawing a tenuous analogy here, but I see in both insurance and religion the same ploy being used; the fear of the unknown and unwanted is a powerful motivator. In the case of an insurance agency, the threats and possibilities are real and tangible possibilities. In the case of religions, the possible threats are invented by the same process that delivers the payout; religions tell us that we are born broken, and the only way to be fixed is to toe the line and pay, pay, pay. If we devote our lives to the tenets of the religion, remain pious and true to the books and the doctrines, our insurance policies will pay us back. In the meantime, living on the unknown quantities that are the future, self-perpetuation lifted up by a position of perceived knowledge of certainty is what keeps religion alive.