Tuesday 28th of May 2024

the commerce of religion...


Neo-charismatic Pentecostalism is the perfect creation for – or the culmination of – an age defined by digitisation and globalisation. Adherents are signing up to a lifestyle brand that is designed to appeal to a new generation of consumers who know what we want: experiences, flexibility, and the ability to connect with people just like us.

In repackaging old ideas into the ways we interact in today’s world, this updated version of evangelical Christianity has been able to tap into changing social norms.

Because we have come to conflate valuing something with paying for it, the new Pentecostal movement has turned everything we associate with religious worship, such as devotional music, pastoral care, and confession of our sins, into commodities for sale.

Startup culture has come to religion. The gospel of growth, market share, and monetisation has found a solution for a problem that didn’t exist.


• Elle Hardy is an Australian-born writer living in the United States


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The pope may have wished he thought of that:

 Elle Hardy:

Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious denomination in the world, with an estimated 500 million adherents – and as prime minister Scott Morrison showed last month, Australians are not immune to its charms. While the Pentecostal movement’s popularity is unquestionable, its theology and practices are less so.

Today’s Pentecostals aren’t tongues-talking, snake-handling hicks in rural American outposts. They’re Justin Bieber and various Kardashians singing uplifting songs at megachurches in cosmopolitan cities such as Los Angeles, Seoul, Lagos, São Paulo and Sydney. Fire and brimstone sermons have given way to Spotify playlists, self-help courses, stadium spectaculars, and Instagram posts which are, above all, designed to serve as an inspirational reflection of yourself.




As we know (or should ALL know), religion is like a theatre of the absurd. ALWAYS HAS BEEN. In the past, the main motivation to believe was that we wanted to avoid going to hell thus we accepted the floggings. The metaphysical discussion was a private affair between us and god — all motivated by a ruthless organisation that had to persuade us to go to war on behalf of king and god when called upon. Our suffering and pain would not be in vain was the message — and that same message is used to motivate Daesh and its suicide bombers and kamikaze fighters in another religious organisation, which "we" (the USA) sponsor to get rid of "socialism". And to think of it, the same message is used to motivate the US's little wars.


But we've gone soft in the head and love sugar. We're couch potatoes, though contrarily jogging to collect points on a small electronic machine that tallies our "steps", so that we don't end up in hospital too soon, while listening to pop music on earphones...


We now prefer rewards — strawberries, brandy and cream — rather than glorious pains (we always did hate the pains, but the authorities kept on dishing punishment to keep us in line, because lets face it we did not know shit). Scientific discoveries came along to remove the original sin — not Jesus, though we still think the idea of Jesus is a good idea as a saviour... We can delegate and repent... and reoffend...


The psychology of Pentecostal is simple and uses the technique of elation, happiness and community sharing the shampoo while singing in the shower but not touching each others' genitals. It is the theatre of the new religious hubris, and young people raised on milk, allergies and entertaining pop, as well as developing addiction to thumbing iPhones, cannot avoid be taken by the similar addictive songs and the rowdy spectacle. I can sing! Pass the collection plate. NEVER FORGET THE COLLECTION PLATE, otherwise the movement dies in the bum of debt.


The whole idea of the modern theocrumbodeistardy pentecostuliomastering is to collect money, thus encouraging people to be successful AND HAPPY in their well remunerated jobs, because "why not be happy"... And of course, the more people join the congregation, the more "people can help each other" by employing other people of the congregation, a group of singing deluded morons, still believing in Noah's Ark, for profit. This HAS BEEN the way the Freemason have operated at the elite level. Now the bogans of the shire have taken their own profitable hubris into their own hands. Reality has lost ground to the illusion of the smiling continuum. And this light-weight theology of the individual in a group of happy-clappy, supersedes the gloom and toil of sharing equally in godless socialism, doesn't it? 


It's a capitalistic combo. Religion it is not. Green policies, ecology, and saving the planet from burning fossil fuel? What? As long as you take your own rubbish from the staged place of singing, all's well in the best of the world.


Lunatics? No... airheads. 



profiting from exclusivity in marketing jesus...


The Congressional hearings debating the bill demonstrate the degree to which Christian Scientists explicitly asked for unique protections for the book based on its status as sacred work. For example, Robert McClory, an Illinois Representative and practicing Christian Scientist delivered testimony in support of the Bill, claiming that "the unique character of this volume suggests the importance of ― even the need for ― extending the copyright." McClory continued by describing the role of the text as the central focus of Sunday services and defended the "purity of the text, which all true adherents of Christian Science find both essential and complete," thereby requiring "faithful preservation." Others emphasised that only copyright allowed the Church to guarantee that the book as received by followers was precise and accurate so that "they might expect to derive solace and comfort" from the teachings.

While this Bill passed, it was later recognized as unconstitutional in a 1985 case United Christian Scientists v. Christian Science Board of Directors. The ruling in this case claimed that the Private Law "was openly sought and passed to secure prospective advantage for the hierocracy of one particular religion, and to no discernible advancement of the general welfare." In other words, the law was not neutral toward religion as the U.S. First Amendment demanded.


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learning from the religious voodoo doll...

Harris has since set up the Center for Humane Technology and started the Time Well Spent movement, which, he explained at the conference this week, is about trying to reclaim time and attention from digital devices. 

US media has called him "the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience".

"For technology to gain control over humanity it doesn't have to hack human strengths," he told the conference.

"We're all looking out for when does technology get stronger than humans - when it's going to replace us and take our jobs.

"But just by hacking our weaknesses it can take control.

This has already happened: "Prediction has already overtaken the human species."

... to draw you deeper

Tristan uses the example of watching one video on Youtube and then going down a rabbit hole and snapping out of the trance hours later.

"You're like what the hell just happened to me?" he said.

"It's because the same moment you hit play it wakes up an avatar voodoo doll version of you - it has one of these for one out of four people on Earth - and it knows exactly what video to play next because it simulates on that voodoo doll.

"[The Youtube algorithm] asks, if I tested these 100 million variations of videos which one would cause you to stay the longest?"

Now consider that 70 per cent of Youtube's traffic is driven by the algorithm, and people spend about 60 minutes a day on average on the platform. 

With a billion users, that means about 700 million hours a day of human attention is being determined by a computer.


In effect, the algorithm takes control of what people are thinking and feeling.

The same is true for any social media or tech platform that makes money through having active engaged users; there is an incentive to hold their attention, and the best way of doing this is through crazy, hyperbolic content.

Tristan also uses the example of Facebook groups.

"A new mum joins Facebook to meet other mums and trade advice ... Facebook comes along and wants to recommend groups for her to join.

"How does it choose what to recommend? It says what's the most engaging group for a voodoo doll who join mum's groups? 

"What do other voodoo dolls that join mums groups like to join - that keeps them engaged a lot?

"What was one of the top recommendations? Anti vaccine conspiracy theory Facebook groups.

"If you join one anti-vax conspiracy theory Facebook group - now the algorithm is calculating what tends to keep people like that engaged.

"Right after that you get pizzagate, flat earth - the whole conspiracy theory matrix."




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Though this "Google" process of Voodoo Doll is done with "algorithms", the old ways was to draw you into a "room of belief" (a church, a mosque, a temple) and make you accept about "your" soul (your own religious Voodoo Doll) which "you" controlled but the Devil "influenced". BULLSHIT. The "new (google) way" is the old way with a new technical tool: electronics. My phone, which I only use for friends to communicate with me, constantly reminds me that I "should update my Apps" (I cannot use Apps because I got them all blocked). I say bugger that. All your Apps are conducts to an open map of your stupidity and willingness to be manipulated...


The New churches such as the Pentecostals (see at top) have realised the value of your own gullibility. The "old" churches were running out of psychological manipulative steam in a modern world. The alternative of pure freedom with ethical relationships is actually "frightening" to the youth, because decisions are our own in a social and scientific context. Now, rather than being coaxed by the "pomp and Circumstances", the new "religious" way is with Pop music and Bogan togetherness — while Christ is still the major idol (why reinvent the wheel), a crucified voodoo doll, to "save us" from crap. Clever but even more wicked.



god is a woman with no pants...

Hailey Baldwin rocked the 'no pants' trend during a casual daytime stroll with Justin Bieber — and she accessorised with a $6,000 purse...


  • On Thursday, Hailey Baldwin stepped out in Los Angeles with fiance Justin Bieber for a casual daytime stroll.
  • Bieber looked comfortable in a grey hoodie, matching grey sweatpants, and a white T-shirt.
  • Baldwin wore an oversized, striped button-up shirt, and no bottoms.
  • The model accessorized with a $US4,200 ($6,000) black Fendi Peekaboo purse and £350 ($US458) hiking boots from House of Holland.
  • It’s not the first time Baldwin has rocked the “no pants” trend.

Stars in Hollywood can’t seem to stop ditching their pants, and Hailey Baldwin is no different.

On Thursday, the model stepped out in Los Angeles with fiance Justin Bieber for a casual daytime stroll. While the singer looked comfortable in a grey hoodie, matching grey sweatpants, and a white T-shirt, Baldwin opted for an oversized, striped button-up shirt and no bottoms.

She accessorized with chunky, gold hoop earrings, a $US4,200 black Fendi Peekaboo purse, and £350 ($US458) hiking boots from House of Holland.


Please accessorise for your Sunday Hill-song-ding-dong...  Read from top... 

and fuck the rest of the world...

President Donald Trump said that his administration was making religious freedom a priority, including helping to have people once again say “God” and “Merry Christmas.”

At a National Day of Prayer ceremony held Thursday morning at the White House Rose Garden, President Trump touted his efforts to advance religious liberty.

Noting that “we proudly come together as ‘One Nation, Under God,’” Trump went on to talk about a conversation he and Vice President Mike Pence had about the supposed increase in open faith expression since his campaign began.

“People are so proud to be using that beautiful word, ‘God,’ and they’re using the word ‘God’ again,” stated Trump.


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Obviously Jesus was born in America in a Buick... and Jesus was against Maduro in Venezuela... and against Assad in Syria and against ... all the other dudes that Obama and his predecessors bombed to smithereens... Let's pray:   Oh mighty goon with a gun in heaven... you know the rest...

was scummo a space invader with garlic breath?...


The pair were free to roam the stage during the contest. At one point Mr Morrison stood close to Mr Shorten while grilling him over Labor’s proposed tax* increases.

Mr Shorten stepped away and quipped that Mr Morrison was a “classic space invader”.

The line prompted laughs from the crowd and the debate’s host, Sky News journalist David Speers.

Asked about the encounter on Saturday, Mr Morrison said he was “simply trying to encourage [Mr Shorten] to tell the truth and to look me in the eye”.

He couldn't do that either. He scurried away,” Mr Morrison said.

Wisecracks and stunts isn't how you run a country. I'm happy for Bill Shorten to put on a cabaret performance in a debate but that's not how you run a country and that's not what Australians want to see.

Senator Keneally, who is travelling with Mr Shorten throughout the campaign, declared the encounter was Mr Morrison’s “Mark Latham moment”. Ms Kenneally was referring to Mr Latham’s aggressive handshake with then Prime Minister John Howard on the eve of the 2004 election which many believe damaged Labor’s chances.


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Had Scummo eaten garlic before the debate?...





scummo wacks himself with his own words...


Seriously though... He looks stupid, doesn't he?....

the election campaign is mired in a bizarre distant galaxy, where the winner is the party whose candidates are the last to be formally disendorsed.

On Friday night, Morrison was labelled a “space invader” by the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, for getting a little too close during a televised debate




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making scummo sing...

cashing in


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not loosing the joy of being alive...

Marty Sampson, the worship music writer who recently revealed he is “genuinely losing” his faith, clarified that while he hasn’t “renounced” his Christianity, it’s nevertheless on “incredibly shaky ground.”

Sampson, known for penning lyrics for Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United, Delirious and Young & Free, responded through Facebook comments to a Christian Post op-ed titled “Reaching out to a Hillsong leader who is renouncing his faith." In it, columnist Michael Brown said he prays Sampson “would have the integrity of heart to seek the truth earnestly, with humility and passion, and that all others with questions will put those questions on the table.”

After emphasizing he truly wants answers to his questions, Sampson admitted he’s “struggling with many parts of the belief system that seem so incoherent with common human morality.”

“If most of humankind had a choice, would we not rid the world of the scourge of cancer? Or sickness and disease? Why doesn’t God do such a thing? Of course there is an answer to this question, but the majority of a typical Christian’s life is not spent considering these things,” he wrote. “Questions such as these remain in the too hard basket.”

The artist, who has been with the worship team at Hillsong since he was 16, clarified he wouldn’t say he has “renounced” his faith but would say “it’s on incredibly shaky ground.”


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It's not for me to counsel young Marty Sampson, one way or the other. The one thing I can do is sympathise with him when faced with the dilemma of belief versus whatever. It's very painful to abandon the security of faith and waddle in the space of uncertainty. It is well known that Gus is a full-blown rabid atheist for the main premise that religion — especially organised religions — doesn't make any sense, and is only maintained in the mind of people through brainwashing and repeat of silly mantras.

Realising that life has no purpose is a bugger of an acceptance — but the only one to make — and create one's own destiny by being kind to other people (except our silly politicians and Alan Jones) while minimising our own participation in the destruction of the planet. This demands a lot of energy in trying to understand the universe's real processes and life from a scientific viewpoint should we wish to know better, without loosing the joy of being alive. GL

cranking up the delusion with electronics (pass-the-plate)...

As Christian churches throughout the US face widespread decline, one church is bucking the trend. But is Hillsong a triumph of marketing or faith? 

If someone were to choreograph an ideal concert audience, it would look something like this. 

Everyone has their hands up and everyone is swaying. The opening bars of each song are met with a roar of frenzied recognition. For the few who don't already know them by heart, the lyrics beam down from massive screens flanking the stage. 

The songs sound expertly engineered to elicit an emotional reaction. The melodies rise, fall, then rise again like a more dramatic version of Mumford and Sons. The band, Hillsong United, had sold out the Anthem, among Washington's favourite venues. 

The collective style of the 10 members on stage is mirrored by their audience: skinny jeans, over-sized T-shirts and tattoos. This uniformity makes the fans look less like a crowd and more like a congregation.




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Hillsong was born in Baulkham Hills, Sydney, Australia.


When the old stained-glass windows in crumbling old churches stopped doing the trick of brainwashing your mind with images of Christ in pain or "doing miracles", modernity came along (without you understanding anything or creating your own purpose) and the grand delusionists of Hillsong saw a marvellous marketing opportunity. 


Young and free, and cashed up, kids and their parents living in a dead-end paradise, "The Hills", had no philosophical ambitions but to have their bourgeois aspirations be entertained. The remnants of Father Xmas and Christian indoctrination were still in the mind of many people, but the traditional dullness of the lying catholics, the uptightness of the methodists and the arcane desuetude of the Anglicans did not match the new wave of pop music concerts. In this desolate paradise, what else but to plop a huge concert hall with tax exempt Christian values of making it rich, while behaving good and not killing anyone at most time, while killing time with exhilarating fun?


Legend has it that Brian Houston, the inventor of Hillsong with his wife Bobbie, had a few problems with his dad having fiddled with underaged kiddies, but this was nipped in the bud. Daddy Houston was kicked out of the "church". Frank Houston, had been a pastor in New Zealand and Australia who abused as many as nine boys over the course of his ministry.


Hillsong Church has thus attracted support from high-profile politicians, especially from the Liberal Party of Australia. It also use and value celebrities — those with movie credits or a microphone. See, it's a conduit to easy morality, often used by believers of right wing politicians who espouse "Christian values" while still indulging in "realism politics" — these ruthless ideals that create empires and steal from other countries — as long as they're not your next door neighbour and wear towels on their head... Hillsong is a fantastic control mechanism though cash and joy, through inane catchy songs and complex spectacles of happy deception. It's refined brainwashing with less silly hell and more whitewashed paradise, turning "The Hills" into the community spirit centre of the world's deception — often "speaking in tongues", that is to say meaningless garbage.


Hillsong has infected the world with its electronic happiness, from Moscow to South Africa, from the UK to the USA. It's a fantastic system which pleases Big Brother, as long as people don't wake up from the Matrix... I believe you can contribute with your Visa/MasterCard/bitcoin, possession or debt. Hillsong is a kind of electric, almost carnival atmosphere... the people full of anticipation and excitement. The electronics weave their magic as crowd controls, taking kids off the streets into a space not unlike Harry Potter's... Beaut.


Gus is a fierce atheist.



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chicken wings, sports, politics and religious truths...

And the word of the Lord came back to Scummoriah …

This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”

— Zechariah 7:8-10


American “breastaurant” chain Hooters has given up on Quebec, abruptly closing its two restaurants in the Montreal area. The chain, known for chicken wings, televised sports, and objectifying women, closed its doors with no notice, according to the Journal de Montréal...
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inheriting the rotten earth...

poor poor


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not frank about frank...

Hillsong Church leader Brian Houston has told an inquiry he did not report child sexual abuse claims against his father to police because the victim was over 18 when he came forward.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is examining the handling of allegations against William Francis Houston, better known as Frank.

Brian Houston said he was told in October 1999 that a man in his mid-30s, known as AHA, had come forward to reveal that Frank Houston had abused him about 30 years earlier.

• Sex abuse pastor ‘still preached’
• Hillsong pastor ‘blamed’ victim

He told the inquiry he was in no doubt that a criminal offence had been committed.

“Rightly or wrongly I genuinely believed that I would be pre-empting the victim if I were just to call the police,” he said.

“If he decides to go to the police he can, or if anyone else decides to go to the police they can.

“If this complaint was about someone who was under 18 then and there, I am absolutely certain we would have reported it to the police.


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gossip-scummo tells porkies by omission...

'Gossip': how Scott Morrison continues to avoid questions about Brian Houston

The government has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid answering whether the PM asked the White House to invite the Hillsong founder. Why the secrecy?

It has been dismissed as “gossip” by the prime minister, but in the two months since the White House state dinner, the government has gone to extraordinary lengths to try to avoid answering the simple question: Did Scott Morrison ask the Trump administration to invite the Hillsong founder, Pastor Brian Houston, to the dinner?

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Morrison had been “determined” to bring Houston to the White House, with several rounds of discussions between Canberra and Washington before the idea was vetoed by the White House.

The concern over whether the invite was appropriate is that questions still remain about the Hillsong founder’s failure to report his father’s child sexual abuse confession to the New South Wales police.

The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse heard that in 1999, Houston’s father, Frank, had confessed to him when confronted that he had abused a child in the 1970s. There are several other cases from around the same time in both New Zealand and Australia.

Houston did not report his father’s confession to the NSW police, the royal commission found.

Houston has maintained he believed it was not his place to report the crime, because the victim, Brett Sengstock, was an adult at the time Houston became aware of the abuse and could report the crime himself. Sengstock has refuted this claim.

The report on the potential invite came while Morrison was in the United States with an Australian press pack which immediately questioned the prime minister about the story. Morrison refused to answer any questions on it:

Journalist: It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that an invitation was sought to the White House for Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston who’s a friend of yours and that was not backed? Can you tell us what happened there?

PM: I don’t comment on gossip.

J: So it’s not true?

J: Did you actually put a request in for him to…

PM: I don’t comment on gossip or stories about other stories.

J: Does that mean it’s not true though?

PM: It means it’s gossip.

J: But it…

PM: It means it’s gossip.

J: But not true?

PM: I’ve answered the question.

J: True or not true?

Then on 2 October, the PM again refused to answer the question when asked by then Sky News host David Speers, and suggested there were “rather aggressive statements” being made about Houston.

“I’ve found that all a very unfortunate incident and particularly for those who are very upset about some issues that have occurred many years ago as well,” he said.

“But it’s a straightforward question whether you suggested his name for this dinner?” Speers asked.

“No I don’t think it’s helpful David. I mean there’s one unpublished source, comment, coming out of allegedly…,” the PM responded.

Speers: But you can clarify this?

PM: Well I don’t feel the need to comment on those things David, I really don’t. If people want to put their –

Speers: But why is that though?

PM: Because David I’m not going to go into the habit of just because one journalist somewhere in the world talks to someone who won’t put their name to it, and all of a sudden apparently we got to play 20 questions. That’s just not how I’m going operate. If people have an established source who’s prepared to put their names to things well that’s a different matter.

When Labor raised the story in question time in mid-October, Morrison accused Labor of casting aspersions on Houston.


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brian was invited...

After months of dismissing questions about the issue as rumour and gossip, the Prime Minister has conceded Hillsong founder Brian Houston's name was put forward to attend a state dinner with United States President Donald Trump last year.

Key points:
  • The Wall Street Journal first reported the Prime Minister wanted the Hillsong founder invited to the White House
  • Scott Morrison has repeatedly dismissed questions on the issue as rumour and "gossip"
  • He has now conceded Mr Houston's name was put forward, even though he was not given an invitation


The glamorous event at the White House last September was attended by Mr Morrison, his wife Jenny and a number of other Australian dignitaries.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report Scott Morrison wanted Mr Houston to be with him at some events during an official visit to the US, including the dinner.


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So, why would Scomo fiddle and fudge about this issue? Was it to hide that he is a Hillsong lover? This and the sports rorts issue show a desperate man who is prepared to hide the truth for self-promotion as a miracle hard-cheese. Not very Christian, is it?

danching and shinging...

The organisers of a Hillsong Church youth camp being held near Newcastle have been accused of "pure arrogance", after a video emerged showing participants singing and dancing inside a tent. 

Key points:
  • Hillsong Church is holding a multi-day youth camp near Newcastle
  • Vision on social media shows attendees singing and dancing
  • Changing to COVID-10 restrictions have forced the cancellation of music festivals

Changes to public health orders came into effect on Tuesday that banned singing and dancing at music festivals, forcing the cancellation of the Grapevine Gathering scheduled for the Hunter Valley this weekend.

The three-day Hillsong "summercamp" is being held at the Glenrock scout camp south of Newcastle. 

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said holding the event was "pure arrogance".

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic

"It's very, very disappointing, after we've had two local music festivals cancelled. 

"This is the exact behaviour that health experts have deemed too risky at the moment, yet the organisers of this event seem to feel it's absolutely fine for them to do so.

"This is an absolute slap in the face to the people that have lost work as a result of the current rules."


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There are 2576 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 193 are in intensive care units.

On Saturday, police confirmed they had decided not to issue a fine to Hillsong for a camp in the Hunter Valley, after videos of attendees singing and dancing without masks sparked public outrage.


“NSW Police have attended an event in the Newcastle area and spoken with organisers. Following discussions with organisers and after consultation with NSW Health, no infringement will be issued,” said police in a statement.

“Event organisers are aware of their obligations under the Public Health Orders, and NSW Police will continue to ensure ongoing compliance.”


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NOTE:  Had it been a pop/rap music event, fines would have rained down on the people like hail... But smack Hillsong Butt? Remember when singular people in open spaces would cope a $5000 fine for not wearing a mask or being too close to their friends, or there were three of them when the limit was 2 persons?






not only christianity…...

Profit before pilgrims: Saudis may have forgotten Arab hospitality, but it’s still alive in Iraq


Once a destination immersing Muslim pilgrims in the experience of a common faith, unity and equality, management of the Hajj today runs on the engine of commercialization, wiping out centuries of tradition.




Omar Ahmed



Arab hospitality is said to be a legendary and integral part of the culture and customs, and can be defined as karam, or generosity. In the Arab context, the tenets of hospitality, such as welcoming and hosting a guest in one’s abode, can be found in the traditions of the three Abrahamic faiths, but it is also rooted in pre-Islamic cultures and rituals associated with ‘Bedouin Arab hospitality’.

For centuries, this was embedded and practiced in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

However, over the past several decades, Islamic hospitality in Mecca has “exceeded its religious and social boundaries,” and headed toward “the economic aspect of  hospitality,” which now characterizes the experience of Hajj pilgrimage.

New rules for the faithful

This year’s Hajj will commence on 7 July and will see a significant increase in pilgrims – 1 million, including foreigners – compared to the restrictions put in place during the pandemic for pilgrims, with only 1,000 Saudis allowed in 2020, followed by 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents through a lottery system the following year.

However, the number of Hajj pilgrims this year still pales in contrast to the pre-pandemic levels of 2.5 million participants from around the world, representing the rich and diverse ummah of the Islamic world undertaking a fundamental pillar of the faith.

Other changes this time will include new rules introduced this month by the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj, namely those affecting Muslims in the west, who must now apply for an e-visa through a government website, called Motawif.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that “pilgrims from Europe, America, and Australia can register electronically” for this year’s Hajj season through an online portal which “includes various options of packages, support services, and a multi-lingual communication center around the clock, in addition to the possibility of issuing visas electronically, which will facilitate the pilgrims’ endeavor to perform Hajj via easy and accessible procedures.”

Faith in a lottery

Through bypassing traditional, established routes of using Hajj tour operators and agents, it is claimed the service will “reduce costs at competitive prices.” Nevertheless, the move shocked and upset many Muslims whose literal journey of a lifetime has been affected by the new lottery system.

Aside from the expensive tiered pricing structure, with the basic ‘Silver’ starting at $5,986 and ‘Platinum’ beginning at $9,768, those who thought they were fortunate enough to get through the system have already reported technical issues, having paid up in full and none the wiser as to their visa status.

Commerce and capitalism

It’s not just potential pilgrims who have been impacted, but Muslim travel agencies as well, with this sector expected to collapse as a result of the Saudi government skipping the once-vital intermediary or middle man.

Since 2006, it has been compulsory to book Hajj packages through licensed travel companies to provide transportation and designated lodging.

Yet, what we are witnessing today is the latest development in the commercialization of the Hajj, replete with the ‘excessive capitalism’ that has been taking place in recent decades amid the near total destruction of the ancient Islamic historical sites of the Hejaz.

… And politics, too

It is not just the demise of the spiritual aesthetics of the pilgrimage that has marred the Hajj, but also recent political controversies, such as the revelation that one of the investors in the Motawif portal has close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a hardline Hindu nationalist party that has been instrumental and complicit in inciting anti-Muslim hatred and implementing discriminatory policies.

Meanwhile, ahead of the pilgrimage, human rights groups launched a social media campaign, called ‘Hajj is not safe,’ alluding to accusations that the Saudi authorities have been luring dissident pilgrims from overseas, before detaining them and repatriating them to countries where their lives would be endangered.

A bygone era of hospitality

As previously mentioned, local Meccans have for centuries fulfilled the role of Arab host by welcoming pilgrims into their homes where they would be fed and sheltered, and treated as part of the family.

In some cases, the owner “would vacate most of the house, keeping only a room on the roof for himself and his family.” This was before the advent of high-rise, luxury hotels that now adorn the holy city.

Unfortunately, these traditions are simply that – traditions of a bygone era. Today, pilgrims are required by law to stay at expensive hotels, adding to the obstacles already in place.

However, while the Saudi authorities may have forgotten about the importance of Arab hospitality in relation to the Hajj, these ideals are still present in neighboring Iraq, particularly during the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage commemorating the 40th day after the tragedy of Ashura in Karbala.

The Arbaeen pilgrimage was banned under the reign of Saddam Hussein, and later was frequently targeted by Takfiri extremists.

Nevertheless, it has been described as the largest annual religious pilgrimage, drawing in five times as many people as the Hajj.

This is largely due to it being more cost effective and hassle-free for the mostly Shia pilgrims, but it also illustrates that millions can still go on pilgrimage without the extortionate rates and policies.

A tradition still alive in Iraq 

Recognized in 2019 by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the provision of services and hospitality during Arbaeen has “deep roots in the Iraqi and Arab tradition of hospitality” and “is an immense display of charity through volunteering and social mobilization, and considered to be a defining element of Iraq’s cultural identity.”

Seeing it as their duty, a vast number of people “contribute their time and resources to providing the pilgrims with free services along the route” that include makeshift camps (mawkibs) and free overnight lodging in their homes.

During last year’s procession, one popular British youtuber and a convert to Islam, Jay Palfrey documented his participation in the Arbaeen, describing it as “one of the greatest shows of human kindness, generosity and compassion you will ever witness”.

Regrettably, the Hajj, which is a religious obligation, will become more difficult than ever for the average person, with profits before pilgrims as the clear priority.

However, as Iraq continues to show, it needn’t be this way.

While it may be gradually receding from Saudi Arabia, where it matters the most, the tradition and culture of Arab hospitality is alive and well in Iraq.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.














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Gus Leonisky is a fierce atheist.