Anyone in the computer industry knows exactly what I'm talking about when I refer to FUD, but for those who don't, allow me to briefly explain. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. It's the tool that big companies use to prevent a customer from using a competing solution. There are lots of ways to spread FUD, but the usual ways are spreading rumors of instability, bad customer service or that the company itself is going bankrupt. In other words, instead of convincing your buyer that you have a better product than they do, you simply convince the customer that the competition is not really competition at all. Instead of logical arguments, the FUD spreader uses emotion as his weapon.
Most people in the computer industry know this term because it's one of the ways that Microsoft has taken over the industry. When OS/2 came out, it was a superior product to the still Beta product Windows Chicago (later named Windows 95), but the rumor mill says that Microsoft planted people in trade shows to say that OS/2 was unstable and unreliable. Similar things are happening with Linux. Microsoft knows that in a head to head competition, Linux almost always wins, so instead of trying to beat Linux technically, they're trying a campaign of words. Linux is "untested", "unstable", "not backed by the industry". These are all, of course, not true. They're marketing tactics designed to scare managers into buying the safe choice, Windows NT (which will soon become Windows 2000).
But FUD is not limited to Microsoft or the computer Industry. Christianity has been using this tool for hundreds of years to get converts. Let's begin simply on the issue of Christianity FUD. In Judaism, it is generally recognized that there is no Hell as defined in the Christian Bible. So where does this concept originate? It's a marketing ploy. Dare you take a chance going to eternal damnation or wouldn't you rather go to church? Sure, you can take your chances somewhere else, but just to be on the safe side, isn't it a good idea to become Christian? I know of no other religion which promises such horrible consequences for non-believers as Hell is for Christians. Such thoughts and images are enough to convince even the most stubborn non-believers into "just being on the safe side". Of course, ask them to produce any hard evidence for the existence of Hell and they immediately become angry. The anger isn't even directed at the situation, but at you for asking such a question. How dare you question the eternal order of things? For asking such a question, your fate is sealed!
Perhaps that's not enough FUD though. Christianity did not just target people in general, but like any good marketing department, had a multi-pronged attack. Ever wonder why the Devil has two horns, hooves and a tail? Where in the Bible does it mention that? Where in any holy text does it mention the way the Devil looks? It doesn't. The devil figure we are all used to seeing is a Christian characturer of our friend Herne (and while he has many names, this one will do fine for this article). By spreading cartoon images of our gods and by portraying witches as evil doers, Christianity spread fear about any other religion than their own.
FUD alone, though, is not enough to be successful. To be a success in the marketplace, you must present yourself as the only solution. There are two basic ways to do this. First, you must present your competitor's solution as incompetent and perhaps dangerous, the FUD. Then, though, you must make your solution out to be the only one left. Microsoft does this by proving a cutsie little interface and by expensive marketing. Christianity does this by promising things it cannot deliver. Most notable in these promises it is that of an eternal bliss in Heaven. By not being Christian, you are only less likely to enter this place/state and although there can be no serious guarantee that having certain beliefs or acting in certain ways will get you into this place (for which there is no evidence), your chances certainly cannot decrease.
Another great Microsoft term is "embrace and extend". They embrace their competition, killing them and then extending their reach farther into the market. They do this either by buying them out or by making other moves in the marketplace which will squeeze the competitor into nothingness. Christianity also embraces and extends. Christmas and Easter immediately come to mind. Giant trees in the house decorated with glitter, herbs hanging from the doorways, feasts of ham and other foods that were completely unavailable in desert all sounds quite pagan to me. Let's not even begin to investigate the symbolism of rabbits laying colored eggs. Pagan rituals have been made into Christian holidays.
Those examples are easy though, maybe something more concrete is in order. The Capibara is a prime example of Christianity's willingness to embrace other cultures. The Capibara is a rodent located in South America. It has fur and claws, but spends much of it's day in the water. The local people find this creature to be quite edible and delicious. It's an easy catch and a good source of meat. Unfortunately, it could not be eaten on Friday as it was meat. Not a problem says the Catholic church, which officially decided that because this creature spends much of its time in the water, it should be considered a fish, perfectly fine to be eaten on Friday night.
Other examples of Christianity's embrace include the missionaries set up in the periphery (previously known as the Third World). Missionaries give their services away in return for a loyal fellowship. They impress the locals with technology and gifts but in return request and sometimes require that the locals sit in a church and listen to the preaching. Furthermore, just as Microsoft has its money in all of the computer industry, Christianity has done the same with politics. How many empires have suddenly changed from tolerance to hate soon after Christianity took ahold of the leaders? How many millions have been exiled or killed because they refused to convert? The Roman empire and the Spanish Inquisition are two prime examples of empires which became violently Christian, converting and killing all non-believers, then falling apart as the center of power was moved from domestic and self propagating to external (the Church)? The revenue and thinkers were no longer working for the state but for the Church.
Christianity continues these practices with varying success. Microsoft also continues its practices. The prime difference is that Christianity's hold on people is far more insidious than that of Microsoft. Microsoft, despite all its evil practices, has never roused its user base to violence, nor has it corrupted the legal system in allowing its end user license agree to be displayed in public schools. There are no door to door Microsoft converts handing out pamphlets about the benefits of Windows NT, nor is there a copy of Microsoft Office in hotel rooms. Of the two evils, it's difficult to determine which is worse.