Repent my sons and daughters and your sins will be absolved are well known words to any one that has some knowledge of the Catholic Church. The ability to seek forgiveness and be forgiven is the bedrock of Catholicism and until now I have never really critically looked at this ‘perk’, mainly because I am more atheist than Catholic. But it occurred to me the other night, somewhat weirdly while drinking red wine that this 'perk' is perhaps one of the most cunning marketing strategies ever implemented by an entity.
I theorise that the Catholic’s right to have their sins absolved led to less risk averse followers; a necessary element for the development of big bucks (risk and return). Further, the incentive to take risky sinful behaviour incentivised participation (including donations) at church because sinners required forgivness. This created a feedback loop where Catholics sinned and improved their chances of earning higher incomes; attend church to repent, and then sinned again.
The revenue received by the Catholic Church was spent on global expansion and support for less fortunate Catholics. In fact the Catholics developed the first form of insurance where a fraction of donations were set aside and invested into an annuity (an investment that produces steady cash flows) so that widows in the parish could be supported.
The sin and be forgiven strategy worked extremely well up until the end of the 20th century when developed nations begin to turn away from religion - this is known as the securlisation phenomena. It is not fully clear why this occurred but undoubtedly smaller family units, increased wealth and education had something to do with it.
Catholicism still continues to grow within developing nations under the same feedback look, but based on the experience of developed nations this strategy has an expiry date as the population becomes richer, which is what the catholic feedback loop propagates.
While this strategy has breed dependence and facilitated the expansion of the church the Catholics are now in a position where they have to rebrand if they wish to grow. I will leave that discussion for the next time I have a glass of red wine.
I admit the bow drawn is a little long...possibly over done, albeit food for thought.