Is Religion a Business? The Answer May Surprise You

One pleasant afternoon, I was drinking coffee and speaking with the president of an organization.

"Religion is a business you know." the man told me.

I was not able to reply because I knew that I wouldn't be able to go inside the intricacies of the matter. Talking is cumbersome and prone to error. I would not be able to proofread a delicate matter on the fly.

Various thoughts and memories swirled in my head. Another conversation popped up in my head. This time it was the leader of a congregation.

"Your tithe (10% contribution of income) is not considered giving to the church, it's returning to God what's his. Everything that you have, came from God. Tithing is returning to God. When you give, you have to give beyond what you tithe."

"When you tithe, you cannot do so in installment. It has to be in full."
"You are stealing from God if you do not tithe."
"You cannot tithe to 2 churches. You have to tithe where you get your spiritual feeding. You can't go to McDonalds and pay at Jollibee."

"If you want to be technical about it, it's not supposed to be 10%, it should actually be 11%"

Before you go on judging, let me make a disclosure. I used to go to Church, but lately, I needed to find some answers by myself. My kids love going to Church, I know it's important as it will give them their future spiritual and moral foundation in a scary, scary, harsh and unforgiving world.

But for now, I have to find my own truth.

If any church member sees what I'm writing now, do understand my context and personal circumstances. I do not consider myself active in church. I just go every Sunday, listen and pay my tithe. Er, return my tithe.

If any leader of a congregation reads this, rest assured that I am not attacking you or your church. I am questioning the concept of tithing. I am digging deeper into the rationale about the whole matter. Please. If you want to add something to the conversation, I will treat you like an honored guest. We will have a virtual coffee and speak respectfully and amiably.

If you are an unbeliever, I am writing this for you too. So you will at least understand the practice.

If you are from another country, do understand that the context may differ from yours.

My knowledge is not perfect

Most of what I will be writing is based on a priori reasoning alone and very few first hand knowledge. I do not have first hand knowledge of church finance. I only see what I can see on the outside.

With all of the lengthy disclaimers out of the way, let me begin. Do add your own constructive and emotionless knowledge if you will via the comments section. You are most welcome to correct me if I'm mistaken in anything. I like to be corrected, particularly when I'm wrong.

In light of: Singaporean church leaders convicted of fraud in $23m project to turn pastor’s wife into pop star

A little awkward and unspiritual entertainment... This is a controversial issue in Singapore right now. See the link above.

So is religion a business?.. It depends. 

ANSWER: IDEALLY, every religion is by itself a micro-economic system within the greater economic system of the state.

Hence, Protestant Christian churches thrive in secular Democratic states with provisions for the separation of church and state mandated in the constitution.

This is particularly true for the Philippines.

A. The state handles the pragmatic and political matters governing all citizens, regardless of creed or belief, within a specified geographical region.

Legal Basis:
  • The constitution for constitutional republics
  • The dictator's dictates for authoritarian regimes (Note for potential authoritarian supporters out there, ahem, Duterte)
  • The military junta's law for dictatorial military regimes
  • The politburo's dictates for communist/socialist regimes
B. The various and many churches govern their own congregation's moral, practical and personal lives.

Legal Basis:
  • Religious interpretation of text
  • For Christians, this would be the Bible
  • For Muslims, the Quran.  
Why are there two co-existing systems? Bakit kailangang dalawa ang sistema? Bakit kailangang hiwalay ang relihiyon at estado?

Because different groups have different basis for morality. Iba iba kasi ang paniniwala ng tao kung ano ang tama at mali.

Different groups have different beliefs on what is right and wrong. So if a Catholic disagrees with a Protestant on whether birth control is right or wrong, the matter is settled via public fora, debates, via the law through legislation, via the courts. Ultimately, if there will be a vote, the majority will prevail.

The underlying reason is, yes we are all different, but yes we are still all in the same state or country, we need to coexist if we are going to preserve this nation.

That is the reason why the Constitution upholds this separation. Case in point the Iglesia ni Cristo controversy.

Why did I bring this up? Bakit biglang lumiko sa ganitong usapan ang aking kuro-kuro?

Because, kasi, religion is and should be a choice. Whereas citizenship is much harder to attain through choice. Sa Filipino, madali makapamili ng relihiyon, ngunit ang pagiging miyembro ng isang bansa o estado ay mas mahirap piliin. Kung ang magulang mo ay parehong Pilipino, Pilipino ka, automatic.

If religion is a choice, then you should be able to leave at any time.

If you join a group, you should abide by its rules. Whatever those rules are. 

If you don't like a religion, say a pleasant 'goodbye and thank you'.

I totally agree with that. I actually have a personal issue, but I feel that I should focus more on the concept of tithing in churches.

If the church is separate from the state, then it also needs to function as an organization. Tithes are the lifeblood of these.

Hence a Born-Again protestant church with at least 10 members will have enough to provide for the salary of a Pastor.

An example:

- Pastor 1
   - Member 1 (gives 10%)
   - Member 2 (gives 10%)
   - Member 3 (gives 10%)
   - Member 4 (gives 10%)
   - Member 5 (gives 10%)
   - Member 6 (gives 10%)
   - Member 7 (gives 10%)
   - Member 8 (gives 10%)
   - Member 9 (gives 10%)
   - Member 10 (gives 10%)

Assuming all of them earn a wage equally then
= 10 members x 10% = 100%

Now depending on the personality, economic background, educational background of a. the pastor and b. the entire group, what to do with the money is a matter that is fully up to their discretion. Give with a joyful heart.

a. churches need buildings
b. need salary for pastor
c. need to pay utilities
d. members should ideally help each other out
e. outreach
f. scholarships
g. charity

In short, a church is a group of people, who values a particular interpretation of the Word of God as their guide so that every member can worship (through his own life, through finances, through talent, through time) God.

It's an economic system meant to spread, abide, discuss, follow and live by the word of God. 

It's actually beautiful.
IF the teachings of a church is righteous and bears fruit, and every member becomes productive aka blessed - finds work, has a business, finishes education, have improved relationships.

  • The contributions/tithes increase 
  • Then there would be more room to improve and expand. 
  • The law of attraction will apply, people see you happy they will ask why 
  • You will tell them the truth, they become curious, they join 
  • Blessings go around mutually and with joy 
  •  Everybody happy 
  • People part their ways. 
  • The church breaks up or dissolves.
  • Some parts form new ones, because they realize it's important.

So if the system is beautiful what's the problem? 

God is my problem.

I understand that God may ultimately be the unseen and omniscient guiding force behind all of these. After all, the church, whether you are a Catholic or Protestant is the body of Christ. The church is the body of God. And what is the church? It's not the building, but the fellowship - yung samahan. To me, God is like the law. It is unseen but He is there. My problem is the anthropomorphic push and emphasis given on God as a human himself. That is the rationale behind it.

It saddens me, because then God just becomes a concept. An idea. A representation. A thought. The prevailing spirit within a group. Hence, "God with us"

In this line of thinking, every 'blessing' every 'miracle' then becomes man made or Church made. I guess that's why anonymity is important when giving. If you give the person and give credit to yourself, it creates a lot of complications.

A miracle comes and it came from somebody, and since everything that a member gives should be given to God. Then whatever another person receives came from God. All glory to God.

Why go through all the motions to worship Jesus Christ when he is long dead. People would say, He is alive in spirit. He is alive because I act in his stead.

Look at the monstrosity that Christmas has become.

Even thieves steal more just so they can give gifts? People become incessantly stressed, panicked and running harder for money because they need to give everybody something.

Christmas has been corrupted.

Now, is Santa Claus real? I heard he does not like Philosophers too...

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