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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
If anyone required further proof of the parasitic nature of religion, this sums it up quite nicely:
The Vatican says it was profitable in 2010, after three years of being financially in the red.
The Vatican said Saturday that it made a profit of more than $14 million last year on revenue of about $356 million. That contrasts with a loss of nearly $6 million in 2009 and losses in 2007 and 2008 as well.
The separately administered Vatican City State also was profitable in 2010, with earnings of more than $30 million on strong ticket sales at Vatican museums.
Despite the 2010 profit, the church said that donations from churches worldwide – the so-called Peter’s Pence – fell nearly $15 million to just under $68 million. The Vatican offered no reason for the decline in donations, but sexual abuse allegations against parish priests emerged last year in Europe, traditionally a top region for donations.
At least the Vatican is being open about the fact that their crumbling religion is little more than a giant, multinational corporation with hundreds of millions of customers. Other religions are not quite so honest, but at its core religion is little more than a rather transparent gambit to acquire ever greater wealth and power.
I come from a deeply religious family. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents subscribe to a particularly fundamentalist version of evangelical Christianity, and I grew up as a fervent believer in the paradoxically loving and wrathful, polytheistic trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If you’ve ever seen the documentary Jesus Camp, you’ll have a fairly accurate picture of my experiences as a child.
Thanks to copious quantities of pot and a year in the liberal oasis of Portland, Oregon I was eventually able to overcome the trauma of a fanatical religious upbringing, but every time I return home to visit family I am inevitably dragged along to at least one service at their preferred baptist church – one of a shockingly high number in a comparatively tiny town.
On my most recent trip, I was somewhat surprised to find that an elegant – and wholly unnecessary – new sanctuary had been built along side the old one. The funds for this, of course, had been gleaned from the unsuspecting working and middle class members of the congregation, virtually all of whom were struggling in their own way to survive during these trying economic times.
From his shiny pulpit at the front of the glistening sanctuary, the pastor then had the gall to devote virtually an entire sermon to a rather shameless attempt at extorting still more money from the hapless group of the faithful. The paltry 10% of one’s income allotted by the traditional concept of tithing was not enough, according to this young, charismatic pastor: what really counts is the money you give above and beyond that minimal tenth. Standing under the pleasant lighting, his voice booming over the expensive sound-system, his audience seemed to buy into it – literally – with ecstatic fervor.
And so I watched ordinary, hard-working Americans forking over money they could scarcely afford to part with, shystered into doing so by a smooth-talking conman straight out of seminary school. People like my own sister, who struggled to support her family on a single income, gladly dipped into their pockets to give to a worthless cause that hardly needed their money, convinced that God would reward their charity by bringing them great riches. You have to spend money to make money, right?
Religion, like much of modern politics, is nothing more than a shameless ploy to swindle the little guys. And just as the broad masses adhere blindly to one particular political ideology without any apparent regard for reality, so too do the pious unquestioningly devote themselves to whichever religion in which they happen to have been indoctrinated. Logic, reason and facts have no role these mythical worlds of politics and religion, which is perhaps the very reason these are the two topics that must never be broached in “civilized” discourse.
Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims and Jews — each represents the very worst of the human species, the repulsive tendency for tiny, elite segments of the population to take advantage of and manipulate broad swathes of the rest, playing on positive human traits such as compassion and an innate sense of ethical standards in order to empower and enrich themselves. And the masses, in their turn, willingly embrace an idiotic and illogical view of the world which rejects the uniquely human capabilities of critical thinking and reasoning, and instead exhorts them to treasure the insidious vices of faith and belief.
The Catholic Church, in spite of two decades of horrific sexual abuse scandal, had a profitable year in 2010. So, too, did the Republicans, Democrats, Baptists, Pentecosts, Sunnis and Shiites. There is little indication that 2011 will be any different.