The 10 Commandments of the American Religion
- Posted by James Altucher
If I stand in the center of Times Square New York City and said something like “Moses didn’t part the Red Sea” or “Jesus never existed” everyone would just keep walking around me, ignoring what I said, etc. Whatever, they would be thinking, I have things to do, very important things that have to get done. And this guy is clearly crazy so not worth my time.
But if I stood there and said, “going to college is the worst sin you can force your kids to commit”, or “you should never vote again” or “World War II was not a holy war” or “never own a home again”, I would probably be lynched on the spot.
The American Religion is a fickle and false religion. Used to replace the ideologies we (a country of immigrants) escaped from with tenets that don’t withstand the test of time. With random high priests lurking all over the Internet, ready to pounce. Below are some of the tenets of the American Religion. If you think there are more, list them in the comments.
For me: I’m not religious. I want to be happy. Every day I want to do things that increase the odds of my happiness and quality of life. Every day I want to do things that reduce the obstacles to my happiness. That’s it. Nothing more.
The Ten Commandments of the American Religion
-#1 Own a Home. The American Religion wants you to have a home with a white picket fence. Why would the high priests of the American religion want that?
- So then you owe the banks money for 30 years or more (after second, third, fourth mortgages). The banks need to borrow from your checking account at 0.5% and then lend right back to you at 8%. That’s how they make money and its one of the largest industries in the country.
- So you are not flexible as to where you can move. The job market is ruled by supply and demand. Supply of jobs in an area is finite. So they want to make sure you can’t move so quickly so that demand only goes up (you can’t move and more and more people hit the age of 18 or higher)
- Note that many people equate owning a home with “having roots”. Its as if owning a home connects you in some immortal way with the 3 billion year old planet. Your roots are now connected to it. It’s linking “home ownership” with the “fear of death” that every religion attempts to assuage (through “heaven”, “reincarnation”, etc).
- [See, Why I would Rather Shoot Myself In the head than Ever Own a Home Again.]
- #2 Go to college. There’s the myth that going to college leads to “a better life” or a “promised future”. Almost like how the contract Abraham had with God would lead to Judaism being a group of “chosen people”. A couple of points:
- Statistically, there’s no proof that smart, ambitious, aggressive people, won’t benefit enormously from a five year head start against their peers who choose to spend five years doing homework and drinking beer and going to frat parties. (don’t quote me the stat about the differences in salaries between college grads and non-college grads because there’s enormous selection bias in that stat and its like comparing apples and oranges right now).
- The government needs to pay off $74 trillion in Social Security in the next 50 years. They have to make money somehow so student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt for the first time in 50 years. Imagine that, we send our young, fresh, children off to college and then 5 years later (5 years is average time spent in college by those who GRADUATE) they come out owing the government $100,000+. Thank god the government gets to exploit our kids so they can pay off the promises they made under Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War.
- There are so many exciting alternatives to college. I list some of them here. I’m excited for my children, because I hope they have experiences that will change their lives forever rather than sending them into the rat race so they can end up ignorant, in debt, and working at nonsense jobs so they can pay off the gangsters who have guns pointed right at their heads.
- One anecdote: the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit. He was a young man in the stadium. He’s a salesclerk at Verizon. I have nothing against that job. Anyone can do what they want. But he also has $150,000 in student loans to pay back. Why couldn’t he get a better job with his college degree? Why did he just give Jeter his ball back. Jeter is going to make $100 million in the next few years. This guy could’ve paid his loans back and been free. Freedom is everything. He wanted to be a “good guy”.
- The American Religion needs you to be in debt. Needs you to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to read the same Plato you could’ve read in the bathroom at your local library. “You’ll have a better life”. “life is secure now”. Yes, you are fully secured by the shackles they hand you on graduation day.
- [See, Living Life Is Better than Dying in College]
- #3 Holy Wars. Everyone argued with me in my post about “Name me a war that was worth it”. Apparently some wars are “holy” and can’t be argued against. All I want is to prevent 18 year old kids from dying. That’s the basis of my argument. We can argue all the history we want after that. No matter what the war is, I will never send my 18 year olds off to war. I’d rather go in their place if there was a forced draft.
We can all agree Vietnam was no good. Korea was probably no good. Iraq was no good. But are other wars “holy” and justified. When other countries (UK, for instance) released their slaves in 1833 we had to fight a war to release the slaves. And note that the slaves weren’t released until 1862, when Lincoln, who could care less about them, was afraid we were going to lose the Civil War, a war fought over whether or not the North could still control the tariffs of the Southern cotton when the Southern states seceded (as was their right). And if we had never fought the Revolutionary War (a war fought over Sam Adams’ taxes) Britain would’ve set aside money to buy out all of the US slaves in 1833. Both wars were senseless. And what about WW II? Time had Hitler as “Man of the Year” in 1938. What a bunch of fools we were and still are.
No matter what the argument is: don’t send 18 year old children to their death. If you want to fight a war, go yourself and fight it, or be willing to admit you would fight it at the age of 40.
-#4 The US Constitution. There’s no document more sacred (as it should be) in the American Religion. And yet, just like the principles of the Bible are often forgotten by its highest adherents, ditto goes twice over for the US constitution. For instance, who has the power to declare war? The House of Representatives according to the Constitution. The House hasn’t declared war on anyone since 1941. The US Constitution is HOLY HOLY HOLY in the American Religion. Until those moments when we break the rules. Then everyone looks the other way. “We had to do it that way”, is the common refrain. “To protect our way of life.” Someone is always protecting me and my way of life. I’m fine thank you.
[See my post: July 4 is a Scam]
- #5 Charity. Because the American religion, unlike most religions, doesn’t have a strict code of ethics giving to charity is often considered the sign of a “good person”. A couple of points on that.
- Giving to charity costs money. So the best people in the American Religion then are the ones who have the most money to give.
- Volunteering is more and more difficult for people who have to pay back student loans and exorbitant home loans. Good luck volunteering when your children need to be fed or when you are an indentured servant thanks for your advanced learning in the ivory tower.
- Let’s go over the math of every dollar you spend on charity. When you give $100 to a major charity, most of that goes into the bank. They then invest the money. On the interest they make on their investments, a percentage of that money goes to actual charity, another percentage goes to salaries. So for every dollar you give to charity, about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support. Now lets break that down even further. How many charities have executives making over $500,000 a year. A lot. And lets say it’s a medical charity. Now most of the money is going towards drugs that costs billions of dollars to approve. See the next point.
- [See my post: A Better Way to Donate to Charity]
- #6 The Food & Drug Administration. What is this organization? Is it in the constitution? Does it do any good? The FDA requires that drugs go through trials to prove their safety and effectiveness. That sounds good right? Before you give an 80 year old man a drug for cancer lets make sure it doesn’t kill him. Meanwhile lets send 18 year olds off to wars that the Constitution hasn’t approved of since 1941.
It costs billions of dollars to build those trials and the FDA can shut you down at any point. Companies raise those billions from charities and from individual investors, who usually lose all of their money when the FDA shuts down a trial. But whats the solution?
Well, we have the internet now. We have social media. We have “word of mouth” on steroids. That’s what technology and innovation is for. Lets get the drugs out there. We can all see what scientists worked on them and what their backgrounds are, we can all read the patents, we can read real-life experiences from people using the drug. The Internet will conduct “virtual trials”. Will people die? Yeah, but people die in FDA trials also. Will more lives be saved? Of course! Many drug companies just give up (they can’t raise the money even if their drugs are miracle drugs). Now they can get those drugs out there and we can really see. I want the FDA out of my body and let me ingest whatever I want, particularly if I have a terminal disease.
- #7 Voting. When I wrote the other day that I don’t vote I got quite a bit of violent email. That I was somehow ruining the country. Really? I live in New York. So I know my vote is meaningless no matter which way I vote. And I’m tired voting for congressmen who supposedly represent my interests but then make deals with lobbyists, other congressmen, for bridges to nowhere, and then gets hired as vice chairman of Goldman Sachs after he “retires” after years of government service. I’m fine representing my own interests and I’d rather vote directly on issues.
Why can’t I just vote on the Internet? I can read all about the issues there. I can vote directly on bills, presidents, wars, drugs, whatever I want. If I can vote directly on issues, instead of sending a “representative” in my place, the costs of lobbying will go from the millions to the billions. Maybe things would actually get done in this country. In the article below I explain why all the initial reasons for the legislative branch of congress (as it stands now) are obsolete. And the beauty of the US Constitution is that it can change.
[See my post, Politics is a Scam - Why I Will Never Vote Again]
- #8 Political parties. We’ve basically had 2 parties for the past 200 years. With occasional offshoots. I don’t believe in any parties. Even tea parties, libertarians, democrats, republicans, etc. It’s all ways for a select few to push through an agenda that is going to change constantly over the years anyway. This is not a new opinion. Most people hate the two-party system. So let’s change it.
Again, with the Internet, I’d rather be a one-man party and just vote for what I want on every issue. I’m perfectly willing to read about the issues of the day and vote directly. I don’t need to have my congressman represent me. How many ethics scandals are going on in Washington DC right now? And, how many should be going on that we don’t even know about? I’ll tell you how much: A LOT. How do I know? I know.
- #9 The media is the “Fourth Branch”. There’s this weird idea that’s developed over the past fifty years (enouraged by the success of Robert Redford playing Bob Woodward in “All The President’s Men”) that the media is somehow a “check” on the other three branches of government. This is ridiculous but people still don’t get it.
A few months ago everyone was getting panicked that radiation from Japan was going to get washed up on the shores of San Francisco. Did that happen? Of course not. But the media doesn’t apologize for the thousands of people who got sick taking iodine pills, or who spent weeks away from supposedly radioactive areas.
Then last week was the whole “debt ceiling scare” and will “America default”. Every week there is a new fear. I obviously don’t think the media should be shut down. But there certainly should be a greater sense of responsibility than simply scaring the hell out of people with a new topic every. single. week. I am so bored of the “fear of the week”. I’d rather watch Snooki all day long then another “fear of the week” analysis from the pseudo-experts who are desperate for screen time.
- #10 The Frontier. My kid has to read about “Lewis And Clark” this summer as she prepares to go into the fourth grade. The “frontier” is a very beautiful, almost spiritual concept. The idea that we can always expand, always improve. For the first several hundred years after the Europeans took over the United States we expanded into every unmapped territory.
What Went Wrong with the frontier?
We’re missing out on the more subtle points of the word “Frontier”. For the past several decades we’ve expanded into the frontier of technology, creating everything from computers, to rockets that go to the moon, to the Internet, and many cures for many diseases (polio, smallpox, etc). But now our innovators, technologists, and creators have to pay down their homeowner debt, their credit card debt, their student loan debt. They have to vote for people who never truly represent them and get us further and further into trouble. The government puts more and more hurdles in front of our creators.
Who knows what further twists and warps the American religion will take to destroy us more than we’ve already been destroyed. At the end of the physical frontier is the ocean and we’re all being pushed into it until American and everyone in it drowns.
I love this country. But I get sad when I see all of the above. When 18 year olds are sent to get killed while 60 year olds can’t get the drugs they need to survive. Where the government and banks and even charities take all my money. Where commercialism in its worst form conspires to take the remaining dollars of my salary.
I’m not political. I’m not in any party nor do I believe in any political philosophy. For me, I believe in the impossible. That change, even at a mass level, only comes from the inside of each individual. That if each person tries to remain physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally health, and spiritually healthy, then the country itself will rise to new heights never seen before in the civilization of man.
A height without mythology, without the dream of immortality, without fantasy notions of a “better life” that turn out to be just lies. Without deeper and more complicated mechanisms to control the masses. Where mediocrity is not rewarded with power over the creators. I’m asking for too much.
Today I’m going to do what I always do. And it has nothing to do with anything in this article.
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