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:
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.
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.