A recent editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette referred to how atheists were not invited to the Interfaith Ceremony that began the Democratic Convention:
Democrats will nominate a Christian gentleman who respects others. It’s likely they didn’t invite atheists to their faith service because they didn’t want embarrassing guests. Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that – if they contribute to a diverse humanity – they might get better party invites.
I’ve already commented on other aspects of that piece, but I highlighted a certain part of the excerpt because there’s a very good reason atheists don’t fund hospitals or build shelters or do a host of things that many religious groups provide.
We don’t have the money for it. They do.
By virtue of tithes or donations or guilt-trips, people give to their churches often. Some of that money just goes to keeping the church functioning — atheist groups need donations for that reason as well. But with atheists, at least, no one is obligated to give, and there’s very little left over for other projects. And while I may not like a lot of what churches do with the cash, no doubt they do some good things with it.
But there is a lot of excess money in the religious world.
Some of the nation’s megachurches easily take in over half a million dollars each week.
Reader Siamang made a comment regarding this on another blog and he raises another important question (emphasis mine):
… I want to refer to religion, for fr*ming purposes, as the “xxx billion dollar religion industry.”
I think it points out quite a bit. I’m working on it as a frame. I think it’s potentially very powerful, especially if we always refer to religion as “the 130 billion dollar religion industry in this country.”
So I want to find out how large a sector of the american economy this actually is. This is where it gets interesting.
I can’t seem to find out.
For example, look here:
I might be blind, but it’s not even a listed sector of the American economy. Right?
This is a sector of the economy potentially as big as real estate or transportation. And it’s tax-free.
But it’s not listed. Why?
So I’d like to enlist your help. Can you help me find the number I’m looking for? How large IS the American religion industry? I caught a boston globe article that said that in 2001 the Catholic Church’s revenue in the US alone was $102 billion. That is staggering.
What say, does this sound like a constructive frame to you? I think it’s potentially very powerful, and frankly I’m surprised that it’s an angle I haven’t seen. I’m not talking about just bringing up the excesses of any one evangelist or one pope or one leader of a megachurch. I want to lump everything together into one big pile of tax-free money, and say “this is it. This is the size of the religion industry. This is what it costs our society to save souls.” People balk at what Scientology charges for their religion. I think it’s time we shone a bright light on what everyone’s paying for their indulgences…
Can anyone shed light on Siamang’s important question?