Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The CoE is still one of the largest property owners in the UK.

The Vatican is an entire country and no one knows exactly how much it is worth. But when you count up the buildings, art treasures, land, and 'investments' it's not a small number.

Oddly, very little of that wealth is spent on the poor.

Even more bizarrely, the poor are encouraged to donate generously every Sunday.

How much is the Mormon church worth? How much are the various Islamic and Jewish religious organisations around the world worth?

How much does the IRS not claim each year in the US because religious and spiritual organisations are tax exempt?

Clearly we're not in a world where people of like mind gather in each others' houses for a communal shared experience and mammon is of only passing interest.

God regularly gives preachers in the US their own private jets, almost as if they were executives of their own corporations.

God seems remarkably generous like that - especially to mainstream religious leaders.

All of this is possible because of special pleading by religionists, and less special organisations find it hard to match the economic history of established churches.

Now - clearly the roots of religious privilege (let's call it what it is) have nothing to do with actual spirituality, which is a nebulously meaningless concept at worst and an entirely personal and subjective one at best.

Religions are privileged because they tell stories about tribal morals and identity. They dress up the stories with some theatre, which impresses the easily impressed. But at root it's political theatre designed to modify values and behaviour to whatever ends the church in question happens to have. (And as someone else pointed out, most have authoritarian values rather than progressive ones.)

Secularists don't have the same privileges because they don't do the theatre, they (mostly) don't claim to have the weight of centuries of tradition on their side, and they're not in the business of defining morals - although corporates and pols certainly go out of their way to try to influence beliefs and behaviour, which is not entirely different.

(Although usually they're a bit clumsy at it.)

That's really the only difference. Otherwise churches have an interesting history as economic entities which make a nice profit by soliciting and/or demanding donations from the faithful.

Of course your personal beliefs are different etc, etc, but I covered that earlier.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2012 at 10:16:33 AM EST
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