A Brisk Business in Selling Hope by the Wick – New York Times


People-watching in Paris’ many churches, you quickly notice how many coin-based thunks and clinks emanate from the votive donation box. A quick calculation of the varying sized (and priced) candles burning reveals that there’s generally about 200 Euros burning uselessly at any given time. The atheist entrepreneur’s dilemma: Promoting religion and magical thinking in exchange for – CA-CHING! – easy money from suckers.

Hispanics have long lighted them for loved ones and for luck. But devotional candles are increasingly kindled by anyone with a wish or a prayer, and as a result, they are now a lucrative and growing niche in the $2 billion candle market in the United States.

“The reason why these kinds of candles fly off the shelf is they have a job to do,” said Neil Foley, professor of Hispanic history and culture at the University of Texas, Austin. “You find marijuana in your daughter’s drawer, a bill is due, your son is arrested – you burn a candle to your favorite saint to help you out.”

My favourite line, as you may expect, is that last one. Drug-using daughters? Overdue bills? Criminal sons? Maybe it’s time to stop praying for intervention via expensive lumps of melting wax and actually take some responsibility yourself.

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