One of the biggest obstacles most people have to deal with on their journey to spiritual enlightenment and truth is the ubiquitous 'religious phoney'.
Religious phoneys of all stripes have always been around, but in 2015, they seem to be multiplying at a rate of knots.
Unfortunately I've had decades of painful experiences with religious fakers, who excel at portraying themselves as being the holiest of holies, while at the same time failing to get to grips with a slew of bad habits and evil character traits that would put gangsters like Al Capone to shame.
So without any further ado, here's my top 10 sayings to watch out for. If someone you know starts saying these things, run away very quickly, and don't look back.
1) "I care for you like you're my own child / brother / relative." - What they don't tell you is that half their family fled abroad to get away from them, and / or are in a loony bin, and / or not on speaking terms with them.
2) "I want to be one of the top-ranking spiritual leaders / speakers on the religious circuit" - Nothing wrong with that, you might think - except it's all about their success and status, and has nothing to do with promoting God.
3) "I'm only willing to show up if you can guarantee me that [X] number of people are going to come." - True servants of God know that every single person is a world unto themselves. They don't need a minimum audience to happily teach and help others.
4) "I'm always here for you." - This is usually said at the end of a very hurried conversation, where they just made it very clear that trying to help you solve your big problem is simply not a big priority.
5) "You guys are part of the inner circle." - Arrogant elitism alert! And who's at the heart of this elite, superior, select group? Why, the religious phoney, of course.
6) "I love everyone." - This sounds good in theory, but no real saint would actually ever say this out loud, publicly, to somebody else. When it's actually true, you don't need to go around telling everyone, because they can work it out for themselves without your PR.
7) "I need your help to save the world / save the whales / save my skin" - Again, this can be a hard one to spot, but true religious people RELY ON GOD. They don't ask for favours, or try to manipulate other people into doing stuff for them for free.
8) "I need $50k sponsorship a month in order to make this happen, otherwise, I just can't do it." - It's not enough that this guy wants a shot a being the next Gandhi, he wants to be paid a fat wad for doing it!? When someone is focussing more on their bank account than they are on their holy mission, it's a big flashing sign that their service of God is a career move, not a holy calling.
9) "If you'd have asked me, I'd have told you to do X" - Religious phoneys love to control other people's lives and to liberally throw their opinions around. By contrast, real holy people will very rarely, if ever, tell you directly what to do. And when they do tell you something, they'll phrase it as a piece of advice, not as a direct command, or stinging piece of criticism.
10) "Rules are rules. But sometimes, you can't stick to the rules." - Religious Phoneys regularly look for ways to break the rules that 'lesser mortals' should be following, particularly when it comes to money and intimate relationships.
The following things can also clue you in that you're dealing with a religious phoney:
- They like to name drop - which 'big guru' they learned with; which celebrity they're hanging out with; what politicians call them for advice, etc.
- Their advice never actually helps you, or is completely unrealistic. It may sound good, but either you can't make it work in practise (because only the biggest holy saint could actually pull it off), or when you do follow it, it just backfires, and often leaves you with an even bigger problem to solve.
- They never apologise.