You give religions more than $82.5 billion a year

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Matt Yglesias thinks we ought to start taxing churches. “Whichever faith you think is the one true faith, it’s undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines,” he notes. Even if you did direct the money toward the one true faith, it’d still be a bad idea, as “Upgrading a church’s physical plant doesn’t enhance the soul-saving capacity of its clergy.”


Regardless of whether you buy Yglesias’s logic, this raises an interesting question — exactly how much money are we talking about here? If, all of a sudden, churches, synagogues, mosques and the like lost their tax privileges, how much tax revenue would that generate?

Ryan T. Cragun, a sociologist at the University of Tampa, and two of his students, Stephanie Yeager and Desmond Vega, took it upon themselves to figure it out. They’re not exactly disinterested parties; their research appeared in Free Inquiry, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. But Cragun is a serious sociologist of religion and the data seems to check out. The full scale of subsidies religions get is pretty staggering:

When people donate to religious groups, it’s tax-deductible. Churches don’t pay property taxes on their land or buildings. When they buy stuff, they don’t pay sales taxes. When they sell stuff at a profit, they don’t pay capital gains tax. If they spend less than they take in, they don’t pay corporate income taxes. Priests, ministers, rabbis and the like get “parsonage exemptions” that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent and other living expenses when they’re doing their income taxes. They also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes (and benefits).

Cragun et al estimate the total subsidy at $71 billion. That’s almost certainly a lowball, as they didn’t estimate the cost of a number of subsidies, like local income and property tax exemptions, the sales tax exemption, and — most importantly — the charitable deduction for religious given. Their estimate that religious groups own $600 billion in property is also probably low, since it leaves out property besides actual churches, mosques, etc.
 

Written By: Dylan Matthews
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

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  1. The mega church ministers get richer and the poor get poorer.

    In addition to all the lovely tax breaks and other delightful perks of the unholy profession, these opportunists are also churning out books by the score, stomach turning drivel, cramming the shelves of bookstores and decimating our forests.

    Imagine to what good use all that lovely lolly could be put.Billions huh? I’m sure Neil de Grasse Tyson can think of some ways that money can be spent ….

    • In reply to #1 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      Imagine to what good use all that lovely lolly could be put.Billions huh? I’m sure Neil de Grasse Tyson can think of some ways that money can be spent ….

      And the worst part of this is that many of the religious ignoramuses who give money to those churches are the same people who say that way too much money is “wasted” on the space program. And they go on to say “this research into space is useless and that money would be better spent on solving our problems down here on earth”. All of this delivered with an air of moral superiority, absolutely convinced that they have bestowed upon us a great pearl of wisdom (O the irony!!).

      This is one of Tyson’s pet peave. In many debates in which he participated, he reacted quite passionately to that claim, and understandably so. The space program is DIRT CHEAP compared to what these religious BANDITS are costing the US government.

      Religions say they’re all about charity but guess what, they don’t pay one single penny into social security. They don’t hesitate however to invest in spending millions in sending missionaries in Africa to spread their heinous, deceitful, homophobic, poisonous propaganda.

      Like Hitchens said:. These people should be grateful there is no hell to go to.

      • Yes,indeed!It strikes me as absolutey ridiculous that the scientific endeavor which works should be struggling for funds,while unlimited resources are in the hands of the religiots.Mmm,I’ have watched Tyson speak eloquently on the need for such funds,but these people are so shortsighted.In reply to #19 by NearlyNakedApe:

        In reply to #1 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

        Imagine to what good use all that lovely lolly could be put.Billions huh? I’m sure Neil de Grasse Tyson can think of some ways that money can be spent ….

        And the worst part of this is that many of the religious ignoramuses who give money to those c…

  2. With that sort of tax concession to my business I’d be able to support a network of schools, colleges, universities. hospitals, medical research facilities, health care agencies, pastoral care agencies, home charities, overseas charities second to none.

    • In reply to #2 by Lancshoop:

      With that sort of tax concession to my business I’d be able to support a network of schools, colleges, universities. hospitals, medical research facilities, health care agencies, pastoral care agencies, home charities, overseas charities second to none.

      Feel free to use your business income to support those worthy causes. Monies donated to these agencies are tax deductible.

  3. A stunning amount of money, just imagine the good deeds that could be done if this money was used to help the needy. As a sad pedant I was also delighted to see the word ‘disinterested’ used correctly. The fact that it made my day gives you some insight into how shallow I am.

  4. “Whichever faith you think is the one true faith, it’s undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines,” …..Regardless of whether you buy Yglesias’s logic,

    How can you fault it!?

  5. These guys are middle tier. The money flows in the financial sector dwarf any kind of actual ownership, AIUI, and JPMorgan Chase alone, for instance, has assets of $2.5 trillion. That doesn’t make anything right, of course.

  6. The Great Pyramid Scheme continues, designed to syphon the wealth of the world into the coffers of churches, governments, industry and finance industries alike. Slavery is alive and well and Is still used to advance the greed of the wealthy at the expense of the 99% of global citizens struggling for survival. When are the vast minority going to wise up and organize to demand their fair share of global resources? Hopefully the new project headed by Facebook to bring access of the Internet to the entire world will change humanity for the better and move us toward survival of the species instead of the irreality of the immortal soul.

    • In reply to #12 by locka:

      Supposing that some tax concession were justifiable to churches what would constitute a fair tax regime?

      No matter what you think, good or bad, the churches do provide services to the local communities, if you buy into the idea in the first place. Charities, marriage, burial, counselling, meeting place, something to do on the Sunday. All with their own unique ways of proselytizing, of course.

      A large portion of those can easily be replaced by local secular services, and should, to be honest. Non-profit, non-political basis would have to be the root of it though. I am not against the idea itself, donating tax-deductible money to those organisations, but really, this should be quite unnecessary, if the democratic system worked as intended in the first place. It is a sort of admission to failure.

      A humongous amount of the public money is squandered and misdirected, and as we look at the churches dodging taxes, filling their boots, we should also look at where the taxes go in the first place. The system is pretty broken to begin with.

      • In reply to #14 by obzen:

        In reply to #12 by locka:

        Tax should be collected based on how much people need each dollar. After a certain point– once basic needs (clean water, safe food, shelter, sewage disposal and treatment, healthcare, education, transport, a fair judicial system and (roughly in order of increasing contentiousness) law and judicial decision enforcement, scientific research, internal and external military capability (about 50% of US tax expenditure), secret observation and recording of activity, secret assassination of threats) are met by whatever means– the more dollars you have, the less you need each additional dollar, and so a larger proportion can be taken for general use.

        Non-profit, non-political basis would have to be the root of it though.

        Companies and charities are in reality, despite legal restrictions, political entities. There’s no such thing as a non-political organization, except perhaps one that does absolutely nothing. The government is non-profit, though it does have many parasites (and maybe symbiotes) that are not. But again that would be true of any organization that handled substantial funds. Like megachurches. My impression is that one of the ways they take over a region is by creating an insiders’ network of less competitively priced, “blessed” small businesses, and even pass work their way. If you look at evangelical congregations, there is often a lot of talk about “expanding in faith”, a kind of “build it and they will come” spirit. I’m pretty sure this is about passing construction work to local contractors, creating business networks and influence for the church via control of employment and the persuasive power of authority figures (a boss, a “successful” businessman who acts in faith, etc).

  7. ” That’s almost certainly a lowball,”

    Ya think!

    A very, very low ball. What else could you expect? Churches are not opening accounting to anyone and I don’t mean not just anyone, I mean anyone.

  8. If the day ever comes when religions lose their tax exempt status (in any country), we will be able to mark that day as the beginning of the end of religious belief.

    If religions were treated like businesses (which is what they are), they would have to demonstrate their product (a mixture of political propaganda, wilful ignorance and lies) had some kind of existence or positive effect.

    Religions are about three things, 1- wielding political influence, 2- taking money from the poor and ignorant in return for the undelivered and undeliverable promise of something good in the future, 3- laying claim to community support (whatever size the community may be) and asserting it is a religious attribute

    Of these three only the last one is of any value whatsoever and it is a false assertion to claim it belongs to religion or is inspired by it

  9. The old PTL club (praise the lord), was fittingly renamed Pass the Loot.

    Ah Victoria, Joel Osteen’s wife – swimming in money, a reported scuffle with a flight attendant, phony pastoring when Joel’s out on the links, – she can start her own ‘Housewives of …’ show.

  10. Just require of religious organizations the same accountability as of any declared non-profit and eliminate all unconstitutional religious exemptions. Then enforce it without prejudice. Churches are required to follow at least a few of the rules that the rest of us are, but just don’t, and get away with it because cringing officials are afraid of appearing insufficiently religious.

    }}}}

  11. Here are some biblical quotes concerning taxes and wealth:

    “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”
    -Matthew 22:21

    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
    -Matthew 6:24

    “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’”
    -Matthew 19:23-24

    “He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.”
    -Proverbs 22:16

    “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”
    -Matthew 19:21

    “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.”
    -Hebrews 13:5

    The “prosperity preachers” (like Osteen and his wife) are simply hypocritical money hungry liars who obviously avoid and obfuscate the teachings of their alleged “savior”. Disgusting!

  12. Am I right in saying the is approx. 120 countries in the world with a lower GDP? Are my sums just about there?

    I’ve fecked up somewhere…a decimal place no doubt….

    It’s about time these leeches started standing up on their own merits, or lack thereof as the case maybe. Why should taxes better channeled elsewhere be blown on nonsense.

    Surely each god will provide…so let the last religion standing claim the prize. There can be only one.

    This species needs to get a grip of itself.

  13. I do not know that I agree with taxing Churches as a general rule. Something to consider how it could be done without killiong good social work SOME do. I suspect 90% of the churches, for example, do good work in the community, and sponsor various outreaches Those who are the culprits subject of this article are usually self correcting. There will be greedy, crooked people in every area of life. Not sure how we would select them, and spoil the pot. That said, I think any religious organization that involves themselves in politics in any way should be taxed as any 501 that does is supposed to be. Although it is fairly obvious some religions are not doing the work for their prescribed religion, I am not sure it is a politicians job to make that kind of decision. OTOH, if they become political …

  14. Write fairy stories then, claim that Godo inspired them by revelation, puts one In a position of avoiding tax!
    No,No!No they should be taxed and the proceeds used for the promotion and cost of science and engineering; with possible a small mount to support established art and the annihilation of political correctness!
    Religion is a metaphorical parasite!

  15. Pricey clothes, I think Neimanns. She’s had a few plastic surgery procedures. They’re both very expensively groomed. This is a slap in the face to nuns who sleep in cells in the back of the battered family shelters they raise the money to build and then staff themselves. These two are scum and likely belong in Federal Prison for something…

    The Christian Left needs to wake up and call out the nut jobs. They have the numbers and can’t be written off as demons in front of brainwashed congregants. Yeah, I got called that the other day. We just get the silliest of scripture quoted at us, but a bunch of Protestant ministers? And taxation might be the very thing to ignite that. It can be done in the courts and lets hope it happens quickly!

  16. I attend a church here in Chicago and sit next to millionaires and billionaires….much of the work they do they do quietly…They run the best homeless shelter in the city, provide funds for an orphanage for abused kids , founded and support a nursing home that is run with the greatest care for its residents and list goes on….but they do that through their church because government can’t or won’t do it…. or do it well….this is the 2nd oldest church in Chicago….And I am so fortunate to be a part of the work they do…Its not enough to say you are a Christian you have to walk the walk…Olsteen etc makes me angry….Our senior pastor does live in a million $ house called the parsonage but was bought by the church in ’70s for $40,0000. Its old and not fancy its just in a prime location in a gentrified area of Chicago. He also is on 24 hour call and his wife works as a social worker is part of the package….my point being if you want no really functional safe guards then do as suggested..we just need to weed out the phonies.

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