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Christianity Admin on 29 Nov 2006 01:38 am

Using St. Joseph to sell a house

If you listen to NPR and if you are interested in the economy, you are probably familiar with the show called “Marketplace”. This is a show that normally discusses business, stocks, economic news, etc. in a rational, intelligent way.

Tonight they deviated from their normal format and aired a commentary by Mike Hickcox, who works for United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee. Mike talked about St. Joseph. According to Mike, he was able to sell his house, even in a poor real estate market, by burying a statue of St. Joseph in his yard.

Yes, that’s right. Otherwise intelligent adults were discussing the use of a buried figurine to improve home sales. And NPR was willing to waste 2 minutes of air time promoting this superstition. Here’s what Mike had to say:

“we dropped St. Joe into his basement sales office next to the For Sale sign on a Saturday morning anyway. Lo and behold, people viewed the house on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we got an offer.

I can’t say I’m a believer, but what can you do?

Our directions told us to dig up our very own Underground Real Estate Agent and take him with us when we moved. We did.

We’ve made an offer on a new house. The instructions tell us to put St. Joseph in a place of honor when we get there. We will.”

[Full text]

This is a classic illusion. It is very similar to the jug of milk illusion, and just as ridiculous. Here is a basic fact of life when selling a house: eventually, every house that needs to get sold gets sold. What happens is that you put the house on the market, and if it doesn’t sell in a month, you lower the price, or you put on a new coat of paint, or you change the ad, or… And guess what – the house eventually sells.

Burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard has no effect on that process. If it did, then people who used St. Joseph would be able to get substantially more money for their homes in substantially less time than people who didn’t, and that fact would be statistically obvious to everyone by now.

The fact is, whether you use Saint Joseph or not, your home is going to sell. Every rational, intelligent person knows that. The belief in St. Joseph is pure, unadulterated superstition.

Why did NPR run the story? Because a story like this gives NPR a way to pander to the superstitious religious people in the audience. NPR has been doing a fair amount of that lately, as has Time magazine and most other media outlets. In November of this year, half of Time’s cover stories dealt with religion:

Time cover Time cover

and just a few weeks prior there was this:

Time cover

It is amazing to see intelligent people believing in rank superstition. And it is even more amazing to see media outlets like NPR and Time pandering to them.

6 Responses to “Using St. Joseph to sell a house”

  1. on 29 Nov 2006 at 11:44 pm 1.Jimson said …

    I will say it again: people believe in God because God gives them hope.

  2. on 05 Dec 2006 at 11:55 pm 2.Anonymous said …

    “Does GOD want you to be RICH?”
    What a ridiculous title.

  3. on 08 Dec 2006 at 11:12 pm 3.Erick said …

    I will say it again: people believe in God because God gives them hope.

    Hope never produces truth. However, I can hope for something to happen without appealing to religion. Once you actually BELIEVE the desired supersticious outcome will come true, however, can even strike you back even worse. Belief doesn’t just lead to supersticion but also to false expectation. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the people that audition for American Idol who ‘believe in themselves.’ Sure it sounds positive in the short run, but its actually worse than teaching people about abandoning such absurdities. Not knowing the mysteries of life only seems scary to those theists who can’t seem to picture themselves any other way.

  4. on 10 Dec 2006 at 11:17 pm 4.Mike Hickcox said …

    Whoa – Admin — is life so serious that you don’t smile? Is it so tough that you can’t have fun along the way? Is is so complex that you must shield yourself from some of it?
    As you said, “Tonight they deviated from their normal format and aired a commentary by Mike Hickcox, who works for United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.”
    That’s right; it was a deviation — from the straight numbers to a look at the “quirkiness” of life. Websites and stores sell 2-million St. Joe statues every year for subterranean real estate work. That’s a phenomenon. And that’s what the commentary was all about. The “Underground Real Estate Agent” is part of the culture of America. St. Joe didn’t sell my house; but (Lo, and behold) participating in the craze was great fun, and I had an experience shared by millions.
    As it turns out, Marketplace isn’t just numbers; it’s also look at the people and the habits that are part of making the world go round, and of making the numbers add up.
    People are made up of more than rational facts — beliefs and feelings and habits and hopes and superstitions and phobias and all matter of emotions are also a real part of the human experience. To ignore them is to be unaware of a significant piece of what drives humans to act.
    You can also look at it this way: if you sold 2-million of these little statues per year at $7 each, you would recognize how a phenomenon like this has consequences that show up in ways anyone can see. You could take that to the bank.

  5. on 12 Dec 2006 at 10:42 pm 5.Loi P said …

    I was reading a part of that article “Does God want you to be rich?” It sorta reminds me of my half-brother, David. He’s a hard-core Christian. My Dad was telling David that he should go out and make more money. David said he didn’t want to be “tempted” or something along those lines.
    I love my half-brother David (he’s my fave half-brother) but I still find that creepy.

  6. on 13 Dec 2006 at 2:06 pm 6.Kevin said …

    I have heard that sacrificing a chicken in your back yard will also help sell your house ;-)

    Sounds ridiculous, but then again, so does this statue nonsense.

    It’s amazing the human race has survived this long.

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