Analysing Pope Francis’s performance in comparision with competing brands

Apr 21, 2014

Discussion by: catphil

The Economist (19th April) analyzed the performance of Pope Francis as follows: (summarized version):

When appointed CEO “of the world’s oldest multinational”, he had found a crisis situation. Pentecostal competitors were stealing market share in the emerging world, including in Latin America, where Francis ran the Argentine office. In its traditional markets, scandals were scaring off customers and demoralizing the sales force. Recruitment was difficult, despite the offer of lifetime employment in a tough economy. The firm’s finances were also a mess. The Vatican bank as a vortex of corruption and incompetence. The board was divided and weak. Francis’s predecessor had resigned “amid dark rumours that the founder and chairman, a rarely seen elderly bearded figure whose portrait adorns the Sistine boardroom, had intervened”.

In just a year, the business has recovered a lot of its self-confidence  Global retail outlets were increasing their activity again. The sales force now talks about a “Francis effect”. How has a septuagenarian Argentine succeeded in galvanizing one of the world’s stodgiest outfits? Essentially by grasping three management principles.

The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. This new focus has allowed the company to spend fewer resources on ancillary businesses, such as engaging in doctrinal disputes or staging elaborate ceremonies. The “poor-first strategy” is also aimed squarely at emerging markets, where the potential for growth is greatest but competition fiercest.

Along with the new strategic focus, the pope is employing two management tools to good effect. One is a brand repositioning. The other is a restructuring. He has brought in McKinsey and KPMG to look at the church’s administrative machinery and overhaul the Vatican bank.

Will it work? Established critics maintain it is all incense-smoke and mirrors. Others insist that more sweeping change, including a bigger role for women, is needed. "The chairman’s attitude is unknown. Some analysts interpret the absence of plagues of boils and frogs as approbation; others point out that He moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform."


Would participants in this site be interested to comment on this analysis, and particularly, offer similar ones with respect to the efforts of competing brands to gain or maintain market share?


25 comments on “Analysing Pope Francis’s performance in comparision with competing brands

  • I think the comparison of the Catholic church to greedy self-serving corporation is apt. I do agree that Francis is good for business, but I don’t buy junks.

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  • 2
    Mr DArcy says:

    What a lovely piece of writing ! As always with satire, pretty dam close to the truth !

    This corporate “re-branding” now ? From where I’m looking it consists of kissing a few smelly feet, saying that atheists are kind of OK. And expressing empathy with the poor. Quite why Almighty Jesus allows “the poor” to exist, must be so that the RCC can empathise with them.

    My crystal ball tells me that contraception might also be permitted within a few years, and possibly a few women bishops and cardinals.

    I won’t hold my breath !

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  • He’s still a Jesuit, so highly dogmatic and conservative theologically. Don’t expect more than window dressing in terms of outreach to church-considered inferior/minority groups (LGBT, women, atheists) ….. but on the other hand he seems to be a humble man who wants to reform the organisation. That said, he’s up against the established Curia (compare US president v congress) so it won’t be easy or fast. He does not have absolute power, even over his own organisation. The analogy of corporate marketing is very apt, but even more clever in that the figurehead seems to genuinely believe his own words – gives him even more cred with the faithful.

    My quandary now is that although I would like to see an end to the corruption, paedophilia, hypocrisy and so on, the upshot is that as he tries to “do the right thing” he strengthens the church and draws in more and more of the credulous to his cause. I live in Rome, and Francis was pulling bigger crowds to his audiences in January and February, than Benedict was getting in the height of summer! There is a genuine catholic revival going on, much as I would wish to believe otherwise.

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  • The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor

    That clearly isn’t true. The “core competence” isn’t what you want people to think about when they think about your corporation. It’s what you are really good at and what actually brings in revenue. So BP may want people to think “Beyond Petroleum” when they hear the name but the bottom line is they are still in the oil and gas business and THAT is BP’s core competence not renewable energy. Renewable energy is part of their branding strategy, it’s what they want people to think about BP.

    So in the same sense “helping the poor” is what the Catholic church wants to be known for but it clearly isn’t their core competence. A lot of the money they bring in comes from people who are motivated to restrict abortion and the rights of women and they still spend a lot of their money on activities designed to do that. Any rational analysis of the evidence tells us that both those things are highly correlated with helping the poor. I.e., if you want to help the poor one thing you will do is educate poor women about birth control and encourage them to practice it. So it’s incorrect to say that their core competence was or is “helping the poor” anymore than BP’s core competence is moving the world Beyond Petroleum.

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  • 5
    Reckless Monkey says:

    In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

    So it’s incorrect to say that their core competence was or is “helping the poor” anymore than BP’s core competence is moving the world Beyond Petroleum.


    I’m belwildered by the affection for him. Or rather how easily we forget what is really going on when a kind smily face is put in front of an organisation like the Catholic Church. I’m willing to conceed that personally he may wish to change these things, however what does it say about the claims of this church that can not just come out as morality dictates and for just one example open the church records on pedophillia.

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  • In reply to #5 by Reckless Monkey:

    In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

    So it’s incorrect to say that their core competence was or is “helping the poor” anymore than BP’s core competence is moving the world Beyond Petroleum.


    I’m belwildered by the affection for him. Or rather how easily we forget what is really going on when a kin…

    I agree with everything you said except I can understand (even though I don’t agree with) why some people in the US, especially people on the left, seem to like Francis. It’s the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory. Even the mildly positive things he says about helping the poor drives the base of the Republican party crazy and some liberals think that anyone who pisses off Fox News pundits can’t be all bad.

    Of course the reality is he may say nice things about helping the poor and he may even occasionally wash a poor person’s foot and not ride in a limo but he hasn’t really done anything as far as I know to change the systematic support of the RCC for fighting some of the things that poor people need most like birth control education.

    I also agree on the Pedophilia and think it’s the same issue. He has said things a bit more rational and empathic about the scandal than the last Hitler-youth pope but he hasn’t really done anything significant. And he could do significant things if he really wanted to. As you said open up the records. Also, establish a zero tolerance policy for charges of pederasty. Every charge goes to the cops with no chance for internal review (aka whitewash). It’s what an organization really does when there has been wide spread corruption and when it’s clear that the internal processes aren’t adequate for policing itself, the only serious answer is to make some external body responsible for responding to complaints.

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  • 8
    susanlatimer says:

    Every charge goes to the cops with no chance for internal review (aka whitewash). It’s what an organization really does when there has been wide spread corruption and when it’s clear that the internal processes aren’t adequate for policing itself, the only serious answer is to make some external body responsible for responding to complaints.

    Yes. Why is that so complicated?

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  • 9
    Reckless Monkey says:

    In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #5 by Reckless Monkey:

    In reply to #4 by Red Dog:

    I agree with everything you said except I can understand (even though I don’t agree with) why some people in the US, especially people on the left, seem to like Francis.

    Actually, I think we are completely in agreement on this. I can believe it may be possible that he is powerless because it is a monstorous political organisation and the Popes powers may not be what they are proported to be. Therefore he may well know that he has bugger all chance of changing anything really. My stance on him if this is the case is he should get out and blow the whistle he he was the paradime of virtue he is being painted as. While he sits on his hands in my mind he is complicit in any future crimes committed under this regime. I suspect he is a smiley face on the same old organisation.

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  • So, Francis presents a kinder, gentler, more empathetic face of the RCC, but it’s still the same organisation. Unless he makes a few substantial changes while he’s in office, the next cab off the rank could revert to the type we’ve seen in the past. He needs to experience a revelation or two while he holds the top position, ( perhaps in the area of priestly celebacy and contraception). That would make a good start and possibly stem the tide of deserters. Further revelations could encourage returning a great deal of the accumulated wealth to the people whose lives have been blighted by the actions ( or lack of action) of the clergy.

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  • 11
    Cairsley says:

    In reply to #3 by RomeStu:

    … as he tries to “do the right thing” he strengthens the church and draws in more and more of the credulous to his cause. …

    That bothers me too. Thousands of outsiders and freethinkers may see that Pope Francis makes little or no difference to the Roman Catholic Church’s policies and practices, but also that his more engaging style is attracting the credulous and regaining public esteem lost under his predecessor’s papacy, even revitalizing the church’s membership and outreach. For this reason I would be happier if his predecessor were still in cathedra, to be succeeded by an even more repulsive pope, for the collapse of this ancient organization of superstition and conceit would be a boon for the world.

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  • Ever hear of The “Prophecies” of Saint Malachy ?

    This may be the last Pope !
    Francis I
    In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremêdus iudicabit populum suum. Finis. (In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed [in accordance with Revelation 18:4-20], and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)

    On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of the Jewish Society of Jesus, former right hand man to Jesuit Superiors General Pedro Arrupe and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was named Pope Francis I after St. Francis of Assisi whose full name was Francesco di Pietro (Peter) di Bernardone, an Italian who was once a beggar in Rome, effectively making Bergoglio “Peter the Roman.” Francis I is the first Jesuit and the first from the Americas to be elected Pope. He is the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Pope Gregory III, who served for ten years (731–741). Francis I is well-qualified to be pope of the cloven hoof, fulfilling Revelation 17:11; 13:3-10 and I Thessalonians 5:3 and the final prophecy of St. Malachy. If this be so he will also fulfill Brother Branham’s prophesy of the final pope after the brief ‘hot stage’ of World War III: “I believe, one of these glorious days, when this united confederation of church goes together, and the new pope is brought out of the United States and put over there [in Jerusalem] according to prophecy [Daniel 7:25-25; 8:23-25; 9:27; 11:32-35; Revelation 13], then they’ll form an image like unto the beast [the United States and Rome’s (once) Protestant daughter churches]” (Acts of the Holy Spirit, p. 12:87).

    According to Daniel 9:27, Revelation 13 and 17:10-18, Satan will incarnate the last pontiff who will deify himself and break Rome’s covenant with the Jewish banksters. It is claimed Malachy made only 111 predictions and that the Benedictines devised pope 112 in order to dissociate their order from the “Beast” so that John Paul II’s successor should be the final pope. However “Gloria olivae” resides still in Rome as Pope Emeritus, His Holiness (sic) Benedict XVI, and it appears Malachy’s prophecy of popes 111 and 112 are intended to be conjoined in accordance with the two popes mentioned in Revelation 19:20, and 20:10. This scripture is reinforced by the fact Pope Benedict was the first pope to receive the Ring of St. Peter after it was re-instated by John Paul II who did not wear the ring, and contrary to custom Pope Benedict XVI did not destroy his ring but “disabled the seal” and now wears the ring contemporaneously with Pope Francis I, enjoining both to St. Peter—something that has never happened in the history of the false church, but fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy!

    It is amazing that they really break down the inconsistencies here but fail to address the obvious ones

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  • 13
    stuhillman says:

    In reply to #12 by GFZ:

    Ever hear of The “Prophecies” of Saint Malachy ?

    This may be the last Pope !
    Francis I

    Well, that’s some pretty fancy analysis and I commend you for your scholarship. Unfortunately there isn’t a “Beast” and all the scriptures on which you base your work are simply made up by a bunch of ancient, bronze age, con artists. Sorry ’bout that but lets get real for pity sake.

    In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremêdus iudicabit populum suum. Finis. (In extrem…

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  • 14
    catphil says:

    By the twenty first century, the Chairman and Founder of the world’s oldest conglomerate appears to have lost control of the situation.

    In a world of diverse and poorly managed small firms lacking clear objectives and control mechanisms, He had started a business through a pilot scheme by choosing a selected group of people and providing them with a mission statement in the form of ten broad guidelines or “Commandments”. However, after a series of audits regularly conducted over a period of some 2000 years had consistently revealed that this group had diverged from company policy, it was determined that a new brand had to be created. Consequently, a radical measure, in the form of a new Managing Director, with a close family relationship with the Chairman, was appointed to implement the new corporate strategy. This charismatic leader (popularly known as JayCee), brushed aside the older practices and created a range of new products more attuned to the world market. After his violent death, organized by competitors fearful of losing market share, JayCee was elevated to the title of Managing Director Emeritus, and his sayings and approaches to management were set down in a textbook which was to become the best selling work of all times translated in 200 languages. JayCee’s successors and followers were able to negotiate a strategic alliance with the public sector of the dominant world power at the time-the Roman Empire- which led to a rapid expansion of activities. The remnants of the original pilot company were consequently badly mauled in most markets, though aggressive negative advertising campaigns accompanied by a number of restrictive and discriminatory market practices. Staff and consumers were at times physically eliminated.

    After some 600 years, and following the report of consultants, it was recommended to diversify the product range to cope with pent up demand in emerging markets outside the Roman Empire (which had been losing its grip). To this effect, the Chairman briefed a promising and talented person from outside the mainstream of the Empire and revealed to him some new management principles. This new leader (popularly known as Mo), thus developed a new kind of product, combining some of the earlier designs of the original pilot scheme as well as those of the subsequent JayCee-inspired processes. The management methods and practices concerned were also set in a textbook which also became very widely read and translated, and provided detailed guidelines for those working in this new subsidiary. This textbook was so revered that to burn or otherwise tamper with its copies led to violent riots by the staff and consumers of this franchise. This new subsidiary rapidly increased its sales and came into direct competition with the JayCee brands, leading in many instances to violent interaction between salesmen and consumers of the respective products.

    At the same time, from the point of view of the Chairman, centralized coordination became increasingly difficult to exercise, as the local brand managers in the various branches started to promote pirated versions not in full conformity with the original copyrighted products. In fact, given the large number of closely related products marketed under similar names by the various sub-units of the main subsidiaries, it was increasingly difficult to determine which were the genuine products and which were fakes.

    The point was thus reached in the 21st Century when there was much confusion within the Chairman’s conglomerate while, outside it, an increasingly significant group of potential customers were obstinately abstaining from consuming any of the products on offer-diverse as they were. The Chairman appeared to be unable to control, or even monitor, events. Inevitably, some market analysts speculated that He may have died, and others that He was in very poor health, similar to President Bouteflica, since He was less and less seen or heard.

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  • 15
    Linda TX says:

    RE: #12 by GFZ: “Ever hear of The “Prophecies” of Saint Malachy ?
    This may be the last Pope ! Francis I (2013-)”

    From: Linda, Yes GFZ everyone has heard of St. Malachy’s Prophecies and they have been debunked even by the Catholics.

    Catholic Online:

    Paging ‘Peter the Roman’: Debunking the Prophecy of St. Malachy‎

    When the Prophecy of St. Malachy was first published by a Benedictine monk in 1595, St. Malachy had been dead already for 447 years. There is no record of anyone ever as much as mentioning the prophecy before that time.

    Furthermore, the monk, who incorporated the alleged prophecy in his book about the history of the Benedictine order, included notations indicating the names of the 74 “popes” who supposedly fulfilled the first 74 prophecies. That list in itself is erroneous; in several instances, it leaves out legitimate popes in favor of antipopes, those false claimants to the papacy who surfaced at various troubled moments in the history of the Church.

    The mysterious phrases of the supposed prophecy – including specimens like “Sign of Ostia,” “snaky man,” and “the fruit of Jupiter will help” – seem far more explicit and accurate when applied to those 74 popes (and antipopes) who reigned between Innocent II’s immediate successor, Celestine II, and the year 1590. After that, the majority of these papal descriptions make little or no sense in relation to the corresponding heirs to the Chair of St. Peter. Usually the attempt is made to connect the prophecy to the pontiff’s name, family, place of origin, or symbols on his coat of arms, but it usually takes quite an imagination to make that leap.

    The relative accuracy of the papal descriptions leading up to 1590 and the complete lack of historical evidence that the Prophecy of St. Malachy even existed before that time leads most historians to consider it a forgery. The theory goes that the prophecy was conveniently compiled in 1590 in order to influence the papal conclave of that year in favor of Cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli, who as bishop of Orvieto (from a Latin word meaning “old city”) would have been a perfect match for the prophecy of Pope No. 75, Ex antiquitate Urbis (“from the old city”).

    If that was the ruse the forgers had in mind, it didn’t work, as the cardinal-electors went for a reluctant candidate named Niccolò Sfondrati, who became Pope Gregory XIV in December 1590 after a two-month conclave. (Interestingly, although he reigned less than a year, one if his first official acts was to forbid, under pain of excommunication, all wagering on papal elections and the duration of pontificates.) Still, St. Malachy fans today rationalize Gregory as a fulfillment of the prophecy, noting that Sfondrati’s father was born in Milan, and Milan is an “old city” in its own right. So there.

    Consideration of our popes of recent memory illustrates the difficulty even true believers face in making these prophecies stick. “Shepherd and sailor” is said to apply to Pope John XXIII because he hailed from Venice, a port city. “Flower of flowers” is claimed to fit Pope Paul VI because of the fleur-de-lis on his coat of arms. Pope John Paul I, “of the half moon,” is said to have been elected on a night when there was a half-moon in the sky. “From the labor of the sun” is a stretch for Pope John Paul II, who came from the East (Poland), from which the sun rises. Pope Benedict XVI is “the glory of the Olive”; the Benedictine order (of which Pope Benedict was never a member) was once known as the Olivetans.

    Which brings us to Pope No. 112, “Peter the Roman.” Here, St. Malachy and/or the forgers give us a full-blown prophecy:

    In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.

    Now if only it were that simple. A cursory scan of the list of papal electors reveal several cardinals whose names include Peter, Pierre, or Pedro, all of whom would qualify as “Roman” by the simple fact they are prelates of the Church of Rome. (And if the cardinals were to buy into the Prophecy of St. Malachy but wish to forestall the destruction of Rome – “the city of seven hills” – and the Final Judgment for as long as possible, they might want to consider selecting the youngest and healthiest Peter among them. I’m just sayin’.)

    We can rest assured that the cardinal-electors won’t be giving these so-called “prophecies” as much as a fleeting thought in their deliberations. This forgery didn’t sway the conclave in 1595, and it won’t be a factor in 2013, either. I’d even be willing to wager on that – if it were not an excommunicable offense.

    Gerald Korson is a career Catholic journalist with more than 30 years’ experience as an editor and writer, including nine years as editor of Our Sunday Visitor national newsweekly (1998-2007). In addition to OSV, he has been published in numerous Catholic print and online journals including The Catholic Answer, Lay Witness, This Rock, Columbia, The Catholic Voice, Catholic San Francisco, The Montana Catholic, Extension, Catholic Almanac, Mercatornet, Catholic Pulse, and Catholic Online. He and his wife, the parents of 11 children, make their home in Indiana.

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  • Wow thank you so much for the info, I did post that as a tongue in cheek sort of statement. There are some other prophets that mention this but like most of it , it is filled with riddles that are not easy to decipher . They could mean anything. Like Nostradamus .

    What is very interesting is how the Catholics jump to disprove such a thing, not so much the prophesy itself but one could only hope right ?

    It is amazing that they would discount this, but not the other unprovable people and events. The gospels, the entire thing is a fraud when the people it is about did not exist or did not do what is claimed. The virgin birth, the resurrection are just as false as any prophesy. There has not been any prophesies fulfilled since prophets began telling stories.

    Why defend one severely twisted story, against possibly the most logical end to the church ?

    Makes me think it has a hidden self destruct button somewhere or an expiration date. They must have wondered how long they could keep the charade going before people got wind of the largest scam ever perpetrated on them.

    All things must end, it is inevitable. I would quote prometheus here…

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  • 17
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  • 20
    Alan4discussion says:

    It’s the 21st century and they are still making serious claims of working miracles to qualify as saints – with thousands of sheeples looking on in admiring amazement!! !!!!

    Pope Francis has declared Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints, in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. –

    The process of saint-making is usually long and very costly.

    ..But presumably the Vatican can’t think of more worthy causes for the use of money from its followers.

    But John Paul II, whose 26-year reign ended in 2005, has been fast-tracked to sainthood in just nine years.

    Many among the huge crowds that gathered as he lay dying cried out “santo subito”, which means “sainthood now”.

    By contrast Italian-born John XXIII, known as the Good Pope after his 1958-63 papacy, had his promotion to full sainthood decided suddenly and very recently by Pope Francis.

    The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says there was a political dimension to this.

    By canonising both John XXIII – the pope who set off the reform movement – and John Paul II – the pope who applied the brakes – Francis has skilfully deflected any possible criticism that he could be taking sides.

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  • 22
    Howard Brittain says:

    I cannot lie – I do find this new guy very likeable. And compared with his predecessors, that is a major leap forward for the RCC. And clearly this guy is very talented.
    The article above is very good. a nice analogy to explore Francis’ role. He clearly has excellent marketing talents and instincts. He is also decisive, confident in the face of the old power bases, and has many admirable empathetic and compassionate qualities.

    However, to engage with the article’s analogy … he can play with the marketing, the image, the focus and the language ….. but there comes a time when all of those things come to a natural end, and he has to deal with the core product.

    For RCC members, he cannot avoid eventually dealing with his appalling policy on contraception. Then homosexuality. Then women in the church. Then abortion. If he doesn’t change the product, his image makeover won’t take him more than a few steps forward.

    For us Atheists, well … there’s nothing much he can do about that is there 🙂

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  • It’s an axiom of history that a monarchy is strongest if the monarch is an able, popular leader, and most likely to fall if the monarch is weak, dislikable and incompetent. It appears this is true of popes too. The future is easy to predict on this. For as long as he’s sane and in control, Jorge Bergoglio’s (I hate political pseudonyms) church will grow. But that won’t be the end of it. There will continue to be a roller coaster ride as there always is with monarchies. Some of you may have heard of Nero, Charles I, Louis XVI, Nicholas II and Haile Selassie. This is like the sea pounding dangerous shoals. Sometimes the rocks are exposed and sometimes they’re submerged, but either way they’re still there and can still break ships. The same is true of the roman catholicism. Sometimes its irrationality is obvious and sometimes it’s hidden — but it is always there.

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  • Excellent article, love the satire. I won’t nitpick the details of “core competencies” etc like others above, after all, this satire isn’t an “independent” report, it could well be promotional material or a favourable writeup applying positive spin in an attempt to boost the share price.

    In reaction to some bible-pusher tracts handed out in the street locally, and before I saw this article, I wrote my own counter-tract, in the same format – A4 folded into 6 pages – with plenty of font changes, boldface, italics and underlines, explaining concisely how all religions are scams, it even has a bit about “market share”. It’s a PDF, formatted ready for printing. Can I upload it here? Mods?

    I’m happy for anyone interested to make use of it as they please, and I’d like to see improvements. I imagined it would be for handing back when a tract is pushed at me, on the basis of “I’ll read yours if you read mine”. Haven’t had the chance to hand any out yet. It hasn’t been published elsewhere, it’s all my own work, and I hereby donate it to the public domain. To save effort in making changes, I can also link the original editable file, it’s a .ODT file, if anyone asks, Mods permitting…

    PDF Tract – Every Religion is a SCAM

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