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Wealth abuse, taxation and religion

By Brian Morris - posted Friday, 11 March 2016

For three long years the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse heard tragic testimony from thousands of victims of abuse perpetrated by prestigious religious institutions. And there seems no end - whether to the depths of child exploitation, to inaction by churches for preventative solutions, or to delays in compensating their victims.

While child abuse has been the criminal underbelly of Christianity - most recently exposed - there is another epidemic on which all churches have remained silent, and equally miasmic with indifference.

Wealth abuse is a global phenomenon, evident long before globalisation. It's become a crisis in every nation as the rich become even more obscenely rich, while a burgeoning underclass struggle for survival.


A miniscule 0.1% of America's most wealthy own almost as much as the bottom 90% - this from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. It's an exponential wealth gap that's exploded in all nations since the rich/poor chasm of the Industrial Revolution, and widened further during the Great Depression.

And the churches say and do little other than tut-tut and hand-wring at periodic conventions, in obscure reports on social deprivation, or with 30-second news grabs to show that they "care". They know exactly that behind the illusion and thin veneer of widespread prosperity the non-rich are simply not coping.

True, the pursuit and hording of wealth is as old as time. But historically, societies that became top heavy with wealth - in the hands of too few - fell prey to rebellion. One of the most spectacular was the Fall of Rome, but France and Russia are two classic examples of popular revolution. It nearly happened in Britain in the depression when unemployment hit 30%, and topping 70% in parts of Wales and Northern England.

But poverty has always been the corner stone for religion. The influence and domination by all churches flourishes primarily is impoverished societies, where education and social opportunity are minimal. 90% of Catholics are poor. It is the theme of a recent book, 'Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide'.

It's illustrated, too, by one well-known quote from Christopher Hitchens about Mother Teresa, when he said; "Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God." And it's in this mindset that retreat into supernatural belief seems to become the only option.

Christians have laid claim to the economically dispossessed from the very outset. Matthew 19:24 makes it clear: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."


So where is the religious muscle-flexing to condemn this shameful wealth gap that exists? Where is the political influence and hard-hitting media campaigns the churches unleashed when calling for Religious Freedom, or their demands for exemptions to anti-discrimination laws to challenge gay marriage, or their frontal assaults on the Safe Schools program?

Instead, Christianity influences the creation of wealth and maintains its symbiotic rapport with governments and the social elite who perpetuate capital inequity. Indeed, it was Calvinism that eased biblical restrictions on avarice and usury, paving the way for the full development and exploitation of laissez-fair capitalism.

Now, while experiencing rapid congregational decline, the numerically small church hierarchies somehow retain a cultural and political dominance. They maintain the presence of being spiritually elitist and eschew all scientific evidence that undermines their biblical foundations. This, itself, breeds ignorance among their diminishing flock. And they continue to champion and personify Christianity's privileged elite, and reinforce an archaic 'class structure' through their penchant for pomp and ceremony.

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About the Author

Brian Morris is the director of Plain Reason.

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