Is religion equal to wealth?

Mohamedarif Suleman – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

This is a rare question that most of us faithfuls – regardless of our religious affiliations, dread to ask.  In fact, while most of us have an automatic response system to such a “blasphemous” and aethistic question, most of the times, our answer is no.  This is mostly because we have not ourselves experienced any such social or cultural treatment to warrant the acceptance of such a statement, not so much because we are dead sure about it.

Of course, the religion of God, is not one that demands monetary gifts from us.  Some older religious that have stagnated over many years of fanatical ritualistic practice, are today, for instance, thriving on adherents being able to share financial wealth in exchange of say, divine assistance, forgiveness or the removal of calamity.  Notice that this is different from sadaqah, whose beneficiaries are in truth the needy and the destitute, because collecting money in exchange of a good reward is an institutional plan and plot in many instances, or so it may be argued.

In a news story by Allan Buckingham (Beta News; Nov 2012) entitled: Religion plus IT equals big money and parishioners will foot the bill, the author raises many eyebrows with this assertion: “You may not think of your local church as an IT hub or even a small business, but guess again! It turns out that these humble houses of the holy are expected to become a global IT spending machine over the next few years. In fact, according to a recent report, this branch of the tech economy could generate as much as 40 billion dollars by the year 2017. And, this isn’t just a United States phenomenon, but a global one.”

Many such stories are also heard of in different places – in fact the entire garb of elaborate ritualistic processes is conceived to be a method of money related activities.  Sample the following fee-based religious practices from money.co.uk:

Scientology:

Established in 1952 as a successor to dianetics, the Church of Scientology has always been a controversial entity. It has been criticized for taking money from vulnerable people, and reports of suicide and financial ruin caused by the extortionate fees incurred as a Thetan are not unheard of. Rumour of harassment and covert surveillance of its followers are also rife. The Church of Scientology claims to have over 8 million followers worldwide and 3.5 million in the United States alone, but a 2008 survey showed that just 20,000 American individuals identified themselves as Scientologists.  Notorious for: Its controversial beliefs, celebrity following and extortionate fees.  The subscription based religion charges to allow members to progress up the religious hierarchy. It costs around £168,700 to reach Operating Thetan VIII, the highest rank in the Church of Scientology. Newcomers to Scientology are thoroughly scrutinised financially and, according to many sources, often encouraged to take out loans if they cannot afford courses.

Catholicism:

The Catholic Church isn’t without its critics. The traditional bells-and-smells Catholic services extol the virtues of a life without possessions, and an existence free of money. However, the Catholic Church harbours some of the world’s greatest and most exquisite works of art, and vast gold deposits stored around the world.  Number of followers: 1.181 billion worldwide and rising.  Fortune comes from: Mostly priceless works of art, but the Catholic Church were implicated in the disappearance of plundered Nazi gold, discovered in a shrine in Fatima, which the Church admitted to having in 2000. Tourism to the Vatican accounts for some of their income.  Spends on: Upkeep of an extensive international network of churches, compensation payouts for abuse victims (totalling over half a billion dollars in the USA). It is also one of the largest provider of humanitarian care and relief aid in the world.

These are just some of the truths behind the facade, where crafty individuals and groups have organised themselves as a religion or a cult, that thrives on some kind of membership fee or remissions.  Even closer to home, there are instances of some form of taxation which purposely creates a class society that is then hard to break.  The rich will inevitably rule over the poor.

The question to ask here still stands.  Do you think religion equals wealth? Whereas Islam teaches the welathy to understand that they are simply “power houses” placed in society to light up the others, do Muslims really take that seriously or are they busy vacationing, dining and enjoying the finest luxuries of life?  Is a Muslim community supposed to replicate the model of another society that in the name of organisation, taxes its own people and applies a heavy unspoken fine on anyone who questions, or is the spirit of fraternity and true theocracy the important driving forces?
If your community centre discriminates you as one who has less, financially, and subjugates you on account of your ill-placed circumstances, must you not then be asking these pertinent questions if indeed this form of organised religion is for our own good or for some other motivation?
Soon, the world order will change even further, is it not amazing that a Muslim leader can lament how poverty surrounds his environment, and expresses helplessness while he alone sits on the wealth of hundreds of other people? Is Islam prescribing such leadership or asking people to instead distribute wealth (of course, not foolishly so as to impoverish themselves).
This week, the San Fransisco Bay Garden reports in their piece Poverty among plenty — and it’s getting worse thus: “The Associate Press reports that there are increasing numbers of homeless and poor people in Silicon Valley. The piece almost sounds like something I would write:Simply put, while the ultra-rich are getting even richer, record numbers of Silicon Valley residents are slipping into poverty. “In the midst of a national economic recovery led by Silicon Valley’s resurgence, as measured by corporate profits and record stock prices, something strange is going on in the Valley itself. Most people are getting poorer,” said Cindy Chavez, executive director of San Jose-based Working Partnerships USA, a nonprofit advocating for affordable housing, higher minimum wages and access to health care. The causes for the growing disparity are complex, but largely come down to one thing: a very high cost of living. The median home price is $550,000, and rents average just under $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in this region that is home to many of the nation’s wealthiest companies including Facebook, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Google. For a family of four, just covering basic needs like rent, food, childcare and transportation comes to almost $90,000 a year, according to the nonprofit Insight Center for Community Economic Development. “The fact is that we have an economy now that’s working well only for those at the very top,” said Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. “Unless we adopt a new approach to economic policy, we’re going to continue going down this path, which means growth that does not really benefit the great majority of people in this country.”
The floor is now open for your thoughts and comments…please take time to share on this important matter.
Share Button

Leave a Reply