It struck me that this chain email - and perhaps all chain email - shares a strong memetic resemblance to christianity, in that the things that make chain email work are the same things that make christianity work. Below is a chart comparing some common themes in chain mail and christianity.
|Promise of reward||If you forward this, you will have good luck!||If you believe this, you will go to heaven!|
|Threat of punishment||If you don't forward this, you will have bad luck!||If you don't believe this, you will go to hell!|
|Appeal to mystery||How it works is a mystery, but it totally works||"God works in mysterious ways"|
|Appeal to truth||This is real. It happened to John on his way to work, and John is an honest guy||This is the word of God, and God wouldn't lie, would he...?|
|Appeal to altruism||If you send this, a little girl in Nicaragua will get a kidney||Is it not right to save your loved ones from hell, or just from their sinful lives?|
|Spread the word||For this to work, you must send it to five of your friends||"Go forth and make disciples"|
|Impending deadline||You have to send this within an hour for it to work||You have to repent before you die|
So what do you think? Is chain mail religion in microcosm?
P.S: It also struck me as funny that the play with numbers in the example from my mother smacks of rapture-ready Harold-Camping-esque biblical numerology.