Thursday, October 1, 2009

Selling your house the supernatural way

Supernatural methods are available for many things including selling your house according to this NY Times article. It is really quite simple. St. Joseph is a Catholic saint who intercedes on behalf of many people for many various concerns, including help for families, expectant mothers, selling a house, and more. To enlist his help in selling your house, you can purchase a St. Joseph statue (see here), and bury it in your yard. Some prayer may needed as well.

Many things pop out from the article. First, sales of St. Joseph statues appear to be countercyclical. That is, they sell better during bad economic times. See this earlier post for another countercyclical religious good and a simple supply-demand explanation. Can you think of other countercyclical religious goods? Any evidence for your claim?

Second, about tw0-thirds down, the writer seems to confuse magic and religion. I would classify this as religion because, as I understand it, St. Joseph himself is to be involved and not just the statue.

Third, notice that people report different experiences. Some believe the supernatural appeal worked; others do not. But we can understand that the practice can persist because, first, it is not falsifiable, and second, it is not very costly to do.

Finally, at the bottom we learn that non-Catholics as well as Catholics to use the St. Joseph statue for help selling a home. We often see that people mix practices from multiple religious traditions. One question is why we do not observe more mixing than we do.


  1. In the article it says that many non-Catholics are also buying the Saint Joseph statue and are using it as a charm to try and sell there house. Wouldn't this be more of a "magical" practice. For someone who doesn't know who Saint Joseph is, and the spiritual and religious significance of who he is and what he does, wouldn't that make the statue for that non-Catholic something more in the "magic" realm.

    In the article Gerald Siccardi says that "If you just bury the statue in the ground, you're not going to sell your home" but that you are suppose to pray and understand the "religious" significance of the statue of the person. But for someone who may have no understand of Catholicism or who Saint Joseph is and simply reads that this statue helps sell houses wouldn't that be the same thing as getting any other statue say for example "Uncle Sam" and using it in a "magical" sense.

    Basically, when it comes down to magical vs. religion wouldn't it come down to the knowledge/beliefs/experience of the person to determine whether or not the statue would be religious or just any other magical charm.

    Confused Student,
    Allen Wang

  2. Ruth L.

    Creating your own religion:

    Super random but I thought it was interesting and wanted to share with you. Number 9 seemed kinda wrong because we learned that people are rational when they make decisions so by confusing them could deter them from actually believing in that relgion.

    your question:

    Doing the act of syncreticism has been dated back in history. But every religion claims to be the "true way" . So by mixing religion deviates from what that religion is. Wouldnt it be contradictiong or going against what they rationally, chose to believe in. For example, religion A and B, Zac weighed his benefits and he likes religion A better. Why would he need to mix religion B traditions, beliefs, and styles to religion A.

    but then again dont we kinda do that already but unconsciously like yoga? Correct me if im wrong but isnt it part of Indian religion and it has different meanings. But when we use yoga its more for like exercise??

    *I dont think I fully answered why but thats all I got*

  3. Allen, Your question is a good one, and I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. I'd say that we'd need to ask the non-Catholics before claiming it was magic. A non-Catholic may still believe that God works with Catholic saints, which would be religion not magic.

    Ruth, That create your own religion page seems almost tongue-in-cheeck, doesn't it?

    Mixing practices from different religious traditions might be contrary to what those traditions teach, but it obviously doesn't prevent people from mixing. One way to think of it is that mixing religious practices is like diversifying an investment portfolio. It is very risky to put all your efforts in one tradition when that tradition might be wrong. Diversification is common when facing such risk.

  4. first of all, whoever is selling this type of statue must be a FRAUD. because according to the catholic faith, it was stated in the Bible and mentioned many times by Jesus "not to worship idols" or idolize any statue.
    so the person who is using this method to earn money, he is just using st. joseph's name in order to persuade his audience to buy this product. honestly, a statue is not going to have any power unless you put some magic or curse into it. a statue is just a plain statue; it does NOT have st. joseph's soul in it so why are people being fooled by this seller?
    if anything, this statue works just like a placebo effect. if buyers purchase this item and pray hard, believeing that st. joseph's guidance will lead them to sell their house for a good amount, then it'll happen. well obviously, if they are praying hard that means they are working hard to promote the sell of their house too, so it is bound to be sold anyhow.
    another thing is...mentioned in the Bible, we can pray to saints for guidance, but the saint's God is the one and only God, so if we need anything, we should pray to God and not to any saint because he is just human like us. God is the one with the power and all with nature! so if there are any material possessions in which people say they will bring goodluck ect, it's all fraud. God does not exist in material things, he is One with the nature. and if you need money to purchase such items, the sellers are just using it to their advantage to promote their product; they are not working as God's follower. if anything, if these people really need help in selling their house, they should go to the church instead and pray to God. visiting the church one-twice a week is FREE and you get your prayers answered so why not try that method instead of spending it on some useless statue?

    diana yeh chhay

  5. The reason that I beleive that we don't see more mixing of the religions than we do, especially when it concerns religious charms, is because it is contradicting of "religion" itself to do so.

    The professor argued "one way to think of mixing religious practices is like diversifying an investment portfoli. It is very risky to put all your efforts in one tradition when that tradition might be wrong. Diversification is common when facing such risk." However, religion functions and is centered around Faith. You must put your full trust in God (or whatever religion you believe in) in order to see and receive any type benefit. If you feel like it is too "risky" to beleive in one type of religion, and feel more comfortable by picking and choosing parts of other religions to reap the "good luck" attributed to it..then you are a coward and insensible. By this logic, if a person wanted to sell their house...why stop at the statue of St. Joseph? Hang up a rabbit's foot, a mermaid tail, Zeus' head, a buddha statue, a 4-leaf clover, a horseshoe and a picture of Ron Burgandy while you at it and make sure you sell your house!!

    A person that takes advantage of multiple religions for selfish motives is better off not beleiving in anything at all. Logicially, it just doesn't make sense that a person that doesnt beleive in a particular religion would believe that mixing religions would produce a better outcome. A person that doesnt beleive...simply doesnt beleive. Now of course there all plenty of people out there that are superstitious and believe in this sort of stuff, however it isnt rational to do so.

    Lastly, I would like to make it clear that my argument is aimed at people who mix religions for the purpose of "good luck" or some type of favorable circumstance. People that mix religions because they seek truth and are aimed at finding a higher power are exempt from my argument. These types of people are motivated by deeper callings and are honestly looking to improve their spiritual lives. I respect the latter.

    - Chris Weiskirch

  6. One of the things that the article does not disclose is the particular non-Catholics who bought and believed the statue helped, besides the Jewish woman. Many non-Catholic religious groups believe in St. Joesph such as Lutherans and Anglican churches. The author of the article does confuse Religion and magic, as those who believe in the statue believe that God rewards those who pray.

    On the question of why we do not see mixing as much as we would think; of the three major faiths Christianity, Islam, and Judaism the membership requirements include the acceptance of the faiths order(structure), teachings, and opinions as absolute. This prevents the mixing of ideas from each religion, as questioning the institution is as questioning the deity. With that said a rather large percentage of religious Americans are of Christian faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, etc. all of which believe in the same God and same Christ, hence in a way it can be said that all of those particular Christian churches are substitutes, with their differentiating features being power structure and to some extent the choice of the inclusion or exclusion of certain gospels(many might not believe that the differences lead to eternal salvation or eternal damnation). The belief by non-Christians in the supernatural power of the statue is irrational, as the choice to buy and believe in the statue is not consistent with their values/beliefs in the sense that they are acknowledging the supernatural powers of another deity while at the same time acknowledging the supreme and exclusive supernatural power of their own.

    One side note about Yoga in the US; we believe in the "pop" version of Yoga or the mainstream version. Hindu religion includes yogic practices but is not defined by it. The use of such practices do not involve abandoning ones religion or accepting another. Yogi practitioners sometimes regard themselves not as religious but as spiritual; in a way it makes sense because many say that Buddhism (Buddhists practice yoga also) is not a religion but a philosophy or a way of leading one's life. The incorporation of yoga into other religions/philosophies shows that it is a method to achieve a higher state of consciousness and not one of accepting the supernatural power of a deity.

    That is my rant,

    Ramiro C.

  7. There are a bunch of huge misconceptions that arise with this practice. The most obvious being that the bible shows us that the statue is an example of idolatry: “You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it” (Leviticus 26:1).

    Also, Catholics are not praying TO Saint Joseph as was stated in the article. (I'm an ex-Catholic and went to Catholic school for 13 years and trust me thats NOT what they taught me). That is often the terminology that is used, even amongst Catholics, and it is WRONG!

    The definition of prayer in the dictionary is “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship”. Catholics would agree that they do not worship the saints. That would be another example of idolatry, which is forbidden numerous times, including in the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other god but me” (Exodus 20:3).

    The idea of asking the saints for help, when practiced correctly, is to ask the saints to pray for you, exactly the same way you would ask a friend to pray for you. (Whether or not the saints can hear you and respond by praying for you is a different issue entirely and is debated between different branches of Christianity).

    Also, its important to remember the whole point of Christianity (which includes the branch of Catholicism) which is that Jesus redeemed us of our sin and made us acceptable in God’s eyes “that we may be justified BY FAITH in Christ” (Galatians 2:16). So it is important to put your faith in Jesus and to pray in His name. As the bible says: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

    Sarah M.

  8. Diana, Please remember one of the rules of the class. We will avoid criticizing others' beliefs or practices. Also, the article did not specify what everybody thinks who is using the statues, only what some people think. It might be that some people use the statue in a way quite consistent with Catholic teachings.

    Chris, I agree that many religious groups teach that their way is the best or only way to achieve something. In fact, it could be argued that it is important that they do so to prevent the type of diversification that I'm talking about. But I'm not sure you understand the point I was making. Many people do not have full certainty that one church or religious tradition or magical practice is correct. They are the ones who, despite the teachings of a particular church, will be tempted to diversity. This is not a matter of selfishness and it applies to those who mix religion and magic as well as those who mix religions.

    Ramiro, You say that purchasing the statue is irrational for non-Christians, but I'm not sure I follow. A non-Christian might believe that certain Christian teachings or practices might still be valid even though the person does not claim to be Christian. The same is true for Christians who like certain teachings or practices of non-Christian traditions.

    Sarah, Thanks for your comments on the practice of asking saints for aid. I understand it the same way you said it.

  9. Professor,

    What I meant by stating that the choice to buy the statue was irrational was in reference to:

    "Cheryl Katz, who is Jewish and works with Mrs. Bonadies, said the statue helped her sell two houses as a real estate agent. Now that her own house is on the market, she’s using it for herself."

    If she believes that the statue is magic, like the author states then she is rational to do it because the charm helped her sell houses as an agent, but as Sarah said, and I agree as I was raised Catholic, the supernatural power is in asking St. Joesph to pray for them. Now if you are Jewish, you do not believe that Jesus Christ was the messiah, hence you should also not believe in St. Joesph. Now if you believe in Christ then there might be some reason to ask St. Joesph for aid, as Joesph raised Jesus and by that thought he himself must have been chosen.

    So maybe non-Christians are viewing the statue of St. Joesph as magic, like the baseball player and his socks, and not religion. After all the real estate market could use a little help.

  10. It's interesting that the article ends with the claim about Cheryl Katz, who happens to be Jewish, using the blessed statue as a means for her own benefit. She sees the St. Joseph statues as opportunities to attract potential clients of the Catholic faith. I don't know how far St. Joseph's influence goes in terms of jumping over to other religions, but her quote, "You want to believe in something" reveals to me a real estate agent's plan to boost sales by using another religion as its foundation. It's a clever business tactic in some cases.

    This is an instance where a person has researched on a particular demographic's buying habits. Cheryl has capitalized on their religious influences, which help add those extra percentages to a possibility of a potential sale.

    If, say, a Catholic couple's potential buy of a house is 50/50, then revealing the St. Joseph statue and his benefits could bump that up to 60% in Cheryl's eyes.

  11. Ramiro, Being Jewish does not imply that she does not believe in the supernatural power of St. Joseph. Being Jewish does not imply that she believes with certainty that no other religious group has some true teachings (and there are in fact many Jews who believe Jesus is a prophet or even God). As long as there is some small chance that it might work, even as a Jew and not Christian, she may be quite willing to give it a chance. It may still be religion for her and not necessarily magic if there is a chance St. Joseph may intercede in her behalf. That being said, it might also be magic for her. I think we'd have to ask her.

    Michael, You might be right here that she could mention the statues to her clients if she thinks they will think it might help.

  12. This article is interesting because there are many religious goods that other religions also use to help something or someone in their life. I believe that some people are superstitious and so if they believe that the St. Joseph statue will help them sell their house, then that is what they believe. I myself am Hindu and my mom is a superstitious person. She, like these people in the article, believes many things similar to the statue.

    I have to agree with another student about how at the end of the article, Cheryl Katz, uses the statue to her benefit by luring her clients and using the statue to gain more clients. It definitely makes sense.

  13. Nice post. opened an interesting idea. But I want to say that the faith works. We call Him by different names.

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