On Facebook, a contributor posted a quotation from a freethinker who characterized all religious as "cults."  I agree with that, but express a cavil with his further contention that "this is all they are."  No, no, no, they are all something else. Every religion is a business, and some if not most are Ponzi schemes. A "business" is an endeavor by which one person or group of people make and sell something (or provide a service). What religions do is make up something -- a myth -- that they sell through the advertising of scriptures. Dogma, and particularly the dogma concerning sin (what people feel guilty about) and concerning death and the possibility of an afterlife.

The Priesthood is my term for the collected ministers, priests, preachers, &c. who engage in the business of selling a myth and the related dogma. Just as with a corporation, someone at the top gets all the toys and enjoyment, e.g. the Pope, who retires to Castle Gandolfo, there to sip the finest vintages -- Dom Perignon and Chateau d'Yquiem, et al. -- and relax in luxury that would make Donald Trump blush. Make no mistake about it: religions are businesses. The megachurches only embraced something they call the Prosperity Gospel because they felt so guilty about having air conditioned dog houses, more residences than the McCains and Romneys, and so much cash salted away their families -- or the next religious leader -- could never spend it in fifty lifetimes. It is hardly coincidence that the Prosperity Gospel came about after the televangelist scandal.

It is time we started taxing religions. Forget the 1%, let's go after The Priesthood.

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They are religious professionals and should be held fully responsible to the public. The should carry professional indemnity insurance so that when a member of the public sues them for civil wrong they are able to pay monetary damages awarded. It should be clear they have a duty of care to the public under the principles of contract and tort  as well as a professional relationship with their subject.

Excellent point.  My wife is looking into forming her own business as an independent social worker.  As such, she MUST be insured against malpractice, and as it turns out, the insurance premiums aren't that bad.  She has told me many times that no one goes into social work for the money, and social workers don't make that much.  There are pastors and priests out there making SERIOUS money, and if they are operating as a social worker (and many do), they should have the same qualifications and meet the same requirements a social worker does.

Once again Loren, you're right!

Right Loren. I think the churches are businesses and should be taxed.

Let's go after the 1% and the Priesthood.  Of course, religion is a business and a very lucrative one.  The grandson of the founder of Scientology says if you want to be a millionaire, just create a religion.

Seconded.  Inequity is inequity, regardless.

And very suddenly, I'm reminded of a part of Copland's A Lincoln Portrait, a portion of the narration in the second half of that marvelous piece:

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.  This expresses my idea of democracy.  Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, Is No Democracy.

Maybe we don't have slaves and masters ... but the extreme and widening distance between the haves and the have-nots is approximating that other model and entirely too well.  The disempowerment of the middle class by the 1% has much the same effect in the overall view of things.  If things go much further, our supposed democracy will be reduced to a de facto plutocracy / aristocracy, run and controlled by that same 1%, while the religious class tries to pacify what's left of the middle class into accepting this as the new order of things.

Sorry, but I'm not having any ... nor should any of the rest of us.

"If things go much further, our supposed democracy will be reduced to a de facto plutocracy / aristocracy, run and controlled by that same 1%,"

you don't think we're there already?  i'm not so sure that we aren't. 

Every year, on the fifteen day of the seventh month (Chinese calendar), a lot of Chinese in the Philippines would go to the local Buddhist temple to participate in festivities. What I found disconcerting is you need to make a payment (donation) to the temple if you want the monks to include the names of your departed family members in their prayers. These poor deluded folks are brainwashed into believing that their death relatives are living in some supernatural realm, and the only way to keep them comfortable is to make sure the enterprising monks pray for them. In some countries like Thailand, monks go around with begging bowls, not these ones from Philippines - they go around in Mercedes Benz.

even Christ was against organized religion and priests, read all of Matthew 23.  he calls them vipers, fierce wolves in sheep's clothing who don't eat or let others eat, etc.

Interesting comment in light of a Religious Dispatches article about Rick Warren using the story of Daniel to make a statement about dieting.  These guys will cull anything and everything from their Booble that they can twist and distort to make a buck.  What will Warren be writing about next: a how-to on selecting good cigars?

We as a society have, over protests of those like me, established churches, especially those of Christian flavor, as somehow in service of public good and so deserving special treatment.  We have to do such things because formal society (govenment) has not, and arguably should not be given power to run every minute aspect of social life.  If we don't want one overriding controller we have to acceede some power at some levels to institutions already holding it.  Churches have taken this and run with it and in my opinion have jumped the shark.

I'd like to see special priviliges for churches eliminated, with emphasis on "special".  Many of these organizations, regardless of delusion, perfom useful social functions.  Fine, and good on 'em!  Identify those functions just as would any other non-proft charity, and pay taxes on the rest.  My hunch is that this would result in an overall large tax increase on most churches, but maybe not.  We do, after all, live in a society where Karl Rove can set up a multi-billion-dollar advocacy outfit and pass it off as public service.

}}}}

Well, there's the problem.  The Super PACS have had the official stamp of approval from the Nine Nutty Professors.  (Well, five at least; the others have more sense.)  If one tried to tax the churches, they would sue and appeal all the way to the SCOTUS. Then, just as they found approval of AK-47 ownership in the 2nd Amendment, they would find approval of tax-free religions in the 1st.  That is, taxing the churches would be thought violative of the same clause that is designed to prevent any one religion from taking over and establishing a theocracy: the establishment clause.  How ironic, then, that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act is justified by the chief justice as being within Congress's taxing authority, yet religion is not.  These guys do as they please.  The rest of us suffer the consequences, whether at the whims of Rove's lobbying group, the NRA, or the churches.  There will always be that fat-headed, jowly Roman Catholic Antonin Scalia mouthing off about the Church being untouchable.

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