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Don’t be Naive: It’s Your Responsibility to Protect Yourself From Con Artists

By Kamakshi Dadhwal

Paseka Motsoeneng is widely known as “Prophet Mboro,” leader of the Church of Incredible Happenings. The South African prophet recently claimed that he ascended to heaven on Easter morning and took pictures of heaven with his smartphone, according to a report by BBC News. Although he was previously charging 5000 rand (i.e. about $340) for each picture and managed to receive substantial media attention for his claims, he has now “lost” the smartphone after being approached by several news reporters for a comment. Every time I hear such news about some cheating “prophet,” “guru,” “baba,” or “imam,” I am appalled and deeply disappointed. These religious leaders will loot the faithful of any and every religion possible, all in the name of the big G. However, whose fault is this long-established culture of extorting money in the name of religion? Can we really just blame the cheaters and call it a day, or is it clear that people of faith are equally at fault?

Let me be very honest and say that I am a person of faith. I believe in God as much as one could and don’t think that all believers of both a monotheistic and polytheistic Ultimate Reality, no matter what they name Him/Her, are idiots who can’t tell faith from scam. Nevertheless, there are many people out there who fall into the sinister trap of con men, disguised as religious leaders, because these believers refuse to question what is in front of them. Is questioning so bad, when it comes to God? I think not. And it can save you money, even thousands of dollars, to open your eyes to what you are being shown by some crook.

After all, one’s faith is internal to oneself and sometimes external to the community around. Yet, some of us waste no time in connecting our faith to our money, our relationships and our social interactions with people of other beliefs. Many a times, such ignorance leads to insensitivity; only God knows how many times it has led to religious warfare. Many other times, it leads to blindness and stupidity. That’s when people like Prophet Mboro, televangelists and Radhe Maa come into play. Such con artists know that many religious people can be vulnerable to brainwash. So they use it against believers in an effort to become rich and gain power. Evidently, they do gain wealth and command over the lives of people who see them as legitimate “intermediaries” and “doorways” to His/Her divine command.

If we could think clearly about what our respective personal relationships to God are, it seems almost obvious that He/She wouldn’t want our money. He/She doesn’t need us to bribe Him/Her or some devotees in order to make our lives meaningful and worthwhile. If He/She exists in the way we imagine Him/Her in almost every religion, then He/She is benevolent and giving. And if anything, He/She is probably more likely to want us to give to those who are born underprivileged. Then why do so many of us find ourselves in the mousetrap laid out by fake prophets and priests? It feels as if some believers get rid of their reasoning thinking it cannot coexist with their faith. There are some who are in helpless situations in life and forget that hope cannot be bought. Further, there are some who feel the need to justify their belief to others. And so, they give to the countless babas, prophets, imams and shamans who know all too well that they can make millions off of God and His/Her followers.

We ought not to put the entire blame of religious scams on thieves like Prophet Mboro. The people who fall into their trap are equally responsible. There is no way to get rid of religious scams without attaching oneself to God rather than a middleman. This isn’t to say that we don’t need someone to help us understand the clauses of our chosen religions. Some of us may always need them, and that is acceptable. However, no matter the faith, no matter the place, no matter the religious manuscript you follow, there is always room for common sense and reason. If some people are gullible enough to willingly give their money to con men, then there is no point in putting the con men in jail or out of business. There will always be the next spiritual guru just waiting to get on the easy-money train and that is the fault of the blind believer.

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