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London Atheist Activist Group (informal community) Message Board 1. MAIN FORUM - (non-Islam) › The Economic Cost of Religion

The Economic Cost of Religion

Adrian
KingHell
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 591
I suppose the most obvious issue here is the amount of tax avoided by religions. In terms of the US secularhumanism.org estimated the exemption for religious groups meant foregoing $71bn. It's harder to find general figures about religion per se here in the UK but it's easy to get into 9 figures without any work at all. £100m is the estimated cost of backing down on the proposed charity tax (I'm not a fan of charity as if the issue is a real one then our taxes should pay for it and charities allow the government to abdicate responsibility - the worst case is cancer research where something which will directly affect perhaps 50% of us relies on a fragmented effort supported by charitable donations).

One estimate suggests that the church of England avoids £130m per year and commentators say that's not a great deal of money. Well that would put them well in the top 50 plcs based on corporation tax. Look at the furore companies like Google and Starbucks have caused simply by employing accountants who are legally obliged to minimise their tax liability, using legal methods allowed within government legislation. In turn, the companies have a legal obligation to shareholders to employ those accountants to do just that. They are in fact doing the opposite of breaking the law in any way and simply observing fiduciary responsibility. One can only assume that since the government allow, or rather, created these loopholes, they intended for them to be used. Actually in many countries it's much less of a formula for tax and a quid pro quo - the government in question will agree a figure with the company concerned and in return they won't bugger off overseas taking their jobs with them. It's not always possible to be prescriptive. But in the case of religions they have tangible assets which are easy to track, like property and share portfolios. Incidentally, the church of England has been a big investor in one of the most successful investment sectors for many years now: defence (i.e. arms manufacturers). Way to go.

I think the other thing to consider here is what they actually do with that money. After the financial crisis in 2008 the UK followed the US in lowering interest rates and doing QE (basically printing lots of money, in essence watering down the money that already existed - making responsible savers and those on fixed incomes poorer). It was supposed to put money into the economy and kick-start it, but of course that relied on banks not using the money to strengthen their balance sheets (which they were required to do) and of course because they did that, the money never reached the man in the street and had no such effect. The church behaves in a similar way in that they bolster their capital asset base whilst criticising tax avoidance by big companies and asking the government to "consider the poor". Why doesn't the church get its cheque book out? Paying for social projects etc is another quid pro quo used in countries where they negotiate taxes with companies.

They also cost the economy money by things like not supporting unrestricted trading on Sundays, and I dread to think how many man hours are lost by weekday praying. The money contributed by the meek of course goes to religion and basically out of the economy.

I think the worst example of fiscal irresponsibility is in the bible (one of the few passages I remember from school assemblies I slept through): the Old Woman's Mite. Basically, as you probably know, they are suggesting that it is the right thing to do when you have only one coin left to give it to the church. That this will somehow come back in reward at some later stage because you're pious. Bollocks! It's utterly irresponsible. It's worse than payday loans. Totally immoral. You hear that the Archibishop of Anagram? Immoral!

Of course some people will say the church does sponsor social projects etc. Well so do BP and most big corporations. For the companies they have to run it by shareholders but the church has none and is answerable to no one! If they're tax exempt then there should be a minimum amount they should be obliged to shell out on approved non-partisan projects at the very least.

Add to that the fact that the main religions think of this planet as a waiting room it's no wonder they treat it like shit. One of the biggest problems we face in the world today is over-population. And they've been encouraging that since the year dot. And still are. That is hugely irresponsible. Again fiscally irresponsible.

Either way it's high time there was a proper public debate about the subject.
A former member
Post #: 75
Yes, and in view of what you say, Adrian, the following edited extract from the BBC website is full of irony:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has met Pope Francis for the first time since the pair became leaders of their respective Churches in March... Pope Francis said they shared a common desire for economic and social justice....the Pope had spoken of the need to listen to "the cry of the poor", and ensure that they were not abandoned to the laws of the markets."

Rich words indeed from the filthy rich Christian establishment -hypocrites all!
Georgi L.
Guffaw
London, GB
Post #: 1,644

Jason
SweynTUV
London, GB
Post #: 109
There's an ex-Catholic side to my family. I think they are ex-Catholic mainly because a couple of generations ago they passed through the Irish orphanage system, but that is never spoken of. What they do speak of is the priest breezing into a widows home, seeing a half a crown on the dining table that was supposed to feed her and her three children for the coming week and just pocketing it with a "Is that for the Church? God bless you". That story is three generations old now. It'll be more if I have anything to do with it.
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