Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Religion is Big Business

Why does religion survive in these modern times of high technology, science and reason? Because Religion is tax exempt BIG BUSINESS and those churches who know how to market make the most profits and prophets.

I have always said, even when I was a xian, that religion was big business. While most pastors, ministers, and priests are looking for a comfortable salary and benefits, some people, like those who head big churches and megachurches, televangelists and the like are always looking for a way to get rich, to gain and hold power.

Here is an article from the website True truths: Helping people find the truth about religion.


1. Find an existing demand and/or create a demand
Bingo! Religion gets an A+ for this one. First of all, many people seem to have an internal need for believing in some sort of supernatural, all knowing, all-powerful being. I don't know if people are born with this need or if it just becomes part of them from their life experiences, but regardless of how the need got there, it's there. That’s the existing demand. But where religion has really succeeded is the corollary – creating a demand. Look what they’ve done. They’ve taken old writings, written some new ones, and have crafted a compilation of “inspired” writings - the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, and many others. In these books people are told how they should act, how they should believe, and what they should do with their money and belongings. In Christianity, they have created a scenario where the demand for the product - forgiveness, eternal salvation, and the love of God - is both an internal demand and an externally created demand.

2. Be one of the major suppliers of a product in demand
Microsoft is a great example of becoming a major - almost the exclusive - supplier of a product in demand. For all practical purposes, Microsoft is the only supplier of operating systems for personal computers. Religion has also done a good job here. A large percentage of people in the world are believers in some faith, and for many their religion is the exclusive supplier for their faith-based demand. To be sure, there are some atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers, but there certainly is a large market of ‘believers’. What religions must do is figure out how to attract a sufficient portion of the ‘believers’ to support their cause. Almost every religion will try to convince its followers and the masses that its religion is the one and only true religion, that only by believing in their god, and practicing their faith, can one be saved. One example in religion is Christianity’s claim that only by accepting Jesus Christ as their savior can people be saved. If in fact this is true, then Christianity is the exclusive supplier for those who want to go to heaven and escape the fiery flames of hell. Other religions make the same claim.

3. Convince people they need your product – something good will happen if they have it
Obviously, religion has done a great job here as well. Many people believe that they need religion, they need to be saved, they need forgiveness, they need the guidance of their religious faith and leaders, and they need eternal salvation. Many are convinced if they get baptized, if they go to church, if they follow the teachings of the Bible, and if they tithe to their church, they will receive forgiveness from God and entry into the gates of heaven where they will enjoy eternal bliss with other believers.

4. Convince people that if they do not have your product that something bad will happen
This is the opposite of number 3. If you do not have the product - in this case Christianity and all that goes with it - you will go to hell and burn for eternity. God also may make you suffer or do bad things to you while you are here on earth. Christianity’s done a great job here - either you believe as they tell you, or you will burn in hell forever - not a pleasant thought.

Other section titles are:

5. Insure a healthy profit margin - revenue exceeds expenses

6. Create a product that produces a continuous stream of profits with numerous repeat customers

7. Have a marketing plan to increase sales

8. Employ an effective sales force that is efficient and has responses prepared for anticipated objections

9. Limit overhead costs
The church can limit costs tremendously because they are not taxed on revenues and because many staff volunteer their time and talents to the church. Not many businesses can be run as inexpensively as the church.

10. Build an infrastructure that will continue the business far into the future

11. Have powerful, persuasive, enthusiastic, credible, dynamic leadership
As in business, most, if not all, successful religions and individual churches have great leaders. Whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Billy Graham, or the local priest or preacher, a dynamic personality is required to build and sustain a successful church. Just as a successful business must have a dynamic CEO, a church must have dynamic leaders.

As Bolder Landry of Truth Seekers states:

Your property taxes go up each year because church property is tax-free. Will our national leaders do something about this? No! will believers stop giving money to priests? No! How about revolutionary expropriation? Yes, this is possible but not until sleepy Americans are educated enough to shake off their shackles of superstition.

Church financial power has become an economic colossus at our expense. The only way to destroy this inequity is to attack and expose it.


Tommy said...

The NY Times had some articles about this issue last week.

One thing that stood out for me was the mention of Pastor Rick Warren's defense of an exemption from federal taxes of the portion of their income (about a third) that clergy spend on housing expenses because they service society.

How about that, the U.S. government is subsidising a chosen profession! Doctors, medical researchers, firefighters who run into burning buildings and other people whose jobs require either years or education and training, or are inherently dangerous, have to pay taxes on the portions of their income that they spend on housing, but a pastor does not. I say, if your income as a pastor does not meet your expenses, then find another job!

Stardust said...

One thing that someone brought up to me after posting this is if churches are made to pay taxes, then they would use that to justify their demands to interject their religion into our public schools and institutions. However, many churches are abusing the tax exempt status for their own gain. It’s an extremely complicated issue.

Austin Cline has a good article about this at About.com

Religion, Politics and Taxes

Excerpt:Religious exemptions from taxation is no trivial matter. It is estimated that churches and other religious bodies may own anywhere between twenty and twenty-five percent of all of the land in the United States. This represents a huge portion of the possible tax base and billions of dollars in potential revenue which could be used to fund schools and other portions of the social infrastructure upon which the churches depend, just like the rest of us.

But like I mentioned above, how much influence will the religious expect to have in those schools and other portions of the social infrastructure if their tax dollars are going to support them?

Tommy said...

Of course, one could make the argument that supporters of faith based funding WANT to deprive the government of tax revenue to finance social programs precisely because it will force more people to rely on churches for these services so that churches will have a captive audience.

Stardust said...

Of course, one could make the argument that supporters of faith based funding WANT to deprive the government of tax revenue to finance social programs precisely because it will force more people to rely on churches for these services so that churches will have a captive audience.

On the other hand, I have seen church pastors literally turn people away when they arrived on the doorstep for help. (I worked in a church office many years ago.) From what I had seen while a member of several different churches over the years, and from what I see of my friends and family's churches, churches are more like country clubs. They use most money for their own comfort and enjoyment while waiting to see what might be left over to give to the poor and needy. The country club members come first, and the cost of the "show."

Stardust said...

An article in today's Yahoo Religion News about the rising "counter market".

Is God dead? Atheism finds a market in U.S

Tommy said...

That's because the people in your church were not true Christians Stardust! LOL :-)

When I used to be more of a right wing conservative guy, I know that some conservatives would argue that before FDR and LBJ came along with their government programs that promoted dependency, charitable functions were handled by churches and faith based organizations like the Salvation Army. I think Myron Magnet and Marvin Olasky provided some of the "intellectual" ammunition for this argument, and I recall Bush citing a book written by Magnet when running for president in 2000. Of course, we all remember Bush evoking his vision of unleashing "armies of compassion" if we could just direct some federal dollars their way.

But the example you mention from your own experience serves to highlight the flaws in Bush's vision. Not to mention the fact that churches that really do make an effort to help people who are poor or suffering from drug addiction tend to suffer from compassion fatigue.

Stardust said...

multisubj yb - Just because my site says "thoughts for the freethinker" doesn't mean that I will allow you to proseltyze for Jeebus via my blog. If you have something to add to the conversation about "should churches be taxed" then fine, but to tell me and my readers that "Jeebus loves us" is not acceptable.