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The crumbling foundations of religious privilege

07 February 2013, 07:10
In a momentous victory for fairness and equality before the law for all citizens, the British government has voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing gay marriage. Despite the wails and threats from the Catholic and other churches and the delaying tactics of their minions in parliament, the House of Commons voted 2 to 1 in favour. Another bastion of religious privilege, their right preach hatred and to influence government to discriminate against people who are different, has fallen and another prop of their insidious influence on laws and government has been knocked away.

Thirty years ago who would have foreseen just how dramatically religious belief and the immorality (and all to often criminality) of those involved in the religious industry would be exposed, volubly and loudly criticised and their centuries old privileges publicly questioned. The internet has brought about this welcome development as it has provided a public platform for the exchange of ideas and the uncontrolled and free flow of information and opinion. Thirty years ago who knew of the widespread and organised paedophilia by the Catholic clergy and the clergy of most other religions? These crimes were effectively covered up, never openly spoken about and the media still accorded way too much respect for religious beliefs and the business organisations behind them.

Religion can no longer hide its transgressions and each new expose confirms the criminal nature of many of the organisations which have hidden behind religious privilege and threat in the past.

Just this week the Catholic Church in Ireland, whose clergy have been raping children for centuries, has been exposed as also running what amounts to an abduction and slavery operation where young women had been hauled away, locked up, sexually abused and forced to do unpaid work in laundries operated by the church for profit. One hopes that the survivors will be able to cripple the church financially with their claims for compensation and, if justice is to prevail, that any of the perpetrators are dealt with as criminals and jailed.

Increasingly, democratic countries are becoming more secular in character and overturning laws designed to protect and further the bigotry and clandestine operations of religious groups. Next on the list of religious privileges to be assailed must be any and all government subsidies and support for religious activities and churches, which include tax exemptions and financial support for faith based schools (brainwashing factories) and so-called charities which are nothing more that thinly disguised religion marketing schemes.

Take Scientology as an example. Here we have a religion invented by a scamster who openly admitted to making it all up as an easy means of making money. Scientology is registered by the South African Revenue Service as a religion and thus the millions that they make peddling their “religion” is not taxed and much must be laundered and moved back to the US Head Office. Must we accept this as a bona fide benefit to our society that should be subsidised by the tax paying public? And if the Catholic Church runs faith schools and hospitals for profit, are these profits properly taxed in the hands of the church and just how much flows tax free back to the Vatican to pay for the Pope, his golden throne and jewel encrusted finery? And what of the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Moonies and whatever other brands of insanity used as vehicles to make money by exploiting human gullibility and wishful thinking?

Here is a news report from the past week:

Come all ye faithful - Evangelical Pastor convinced followers his penis contained HOLY MILK

"He has convinced us that only God could come into our lives through our mouth and that's why he would do what he did". Often, after worship, pastor Valdeci would take us to the where the funds were kept at the back of the Church and asked us to have Oral sex with him until the Holy Spirit would come through ejaculation".

Admittedly this is religious criminality at its most extreme but it is religion none the less and operates under the blanket of religious privilege, little financial scrutiny, tax exemption and subsidy. The question is should it? And if it should not then who is to determine which gods a real, which methods of praising gods should get religious privileges and which should not?

When I touched on the subject of withdrawing church tax exemptions and using the proceeds to subsidise our agriculture ( the article quickly accumulated over 500 comments, many from those with a vested interest in maintaining religious privileges, financial non-disclosure and taxpayer subsidies. The howls and puerile justifications are enough to let me know I am on to something.

South Africa may have been in the forefront in recognising gay marriage but is unlikely to lead in confronting and withdrawing religious financial and tax privileges. But I predict that European nations will take the lead and we will eventually follow. As older generations of god believers die off the younger generation, having access to the free flow of information and ideas, will eschew the imaginary gods. As church memberships continue their dramatic decline so will their influence on society. And as governments become more secular in character they will start asking these questions:

How much money is removed from the economy by religion?

How is this money accounted for and how much clandestinely slips through the cracks and lands up funding the elaborate lifestyles of the preaching class?

How much additional tax can be collected by taxing the religious businesses?

What real benefits accrue to society from religious activities?

And when they find the answers the last bastions of religious privilege will be breached?

In the same way that religious opposition to equal treatment for all citizens before the law has crumbled (slavery, gay marriage, people with dark skins having a vote, equal treatment of women) so will their other privileges. It is just a matter of time.

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