The Freeloaders of Hamilton County, Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee sits in Hamilton County and, like so many cities, it could always use more tax revenue.

Residents obviously pay taxes. So do most businesses.

But not churches. They’re exempt and — bad news for the city — there are a hell of a lot of them in the area, meaning the city is missing out on millions of dollars each year in theoretical income:

According to Hamilton County tax assessor records, 4,020 of the 146,504 properties in Hamilton County are not assessed by anyone and generate no tax revenue. That represents 2.74 percent of all the parcels in the county.

But of those 4,020 untaxed parcels, 2,810 of them are in Chattanooga — which means the city misses out on its tax rate of $2.309 per $100 of assessed value for those properties.

Because the properties are not assessed, there is no way to say exactly how much revenue could be generated if they were returned to the tax rolls.

But even if each was assessed at $24,375, the median assessed value of all properties in the city, that would bring the city $1.5 million a year.

Churches represent over 1,000 of those untaxed pieces of property, land that could (again, theoretically) go to other businesses and generate income for the city.

In other words, while church leaders no doubt believe they are offering an important service to everybody, they are paradoxically hurting the city and its citizens (albeit indirectly).

Obviously, churches don’t deserve all the blame here. They’re playing by the rules. They’re doing everything legally. The problem is that the rules allow churches to proliferate at a cost to the city.

Several years ago, Stafford, Texas was in the news because it had too many churches.

[Leonard] Scarcella is mayor of this Houston-area community, which has 51 churches and other religious institutions packed into its 7 square miles.

With some 300 undeveloped, potentially revenue-producing acres left in Stafford, officials are scrambling to find a legal way to keep more tax-exempt churches from building here.

“With federal laws, you can’t just say, ‘We’re not going to have any more churches,’” Scarcella said. “We respect the Constitution, but 51 of anything is too much.”

… Nilda Martinez, who owns a flower shop between two churches, has had enough. “The churches, they’re everywhere here,” she said. “There are too many; the city should control it. It hurts the city when you don’t have enough businesses paying taxes.”

And that’s the problem. It’s tough for mayors to tell pastors they need to put the city’s best interests in front of their faith, but that’s ultimately what has to happen. Let Stafford be a warning to other cities. Don’t let this happen. It’s tempting to ask pastors to be considerate of this problem when planting their churches… but they’re way too selfish on the whole to let the city’s revenue interests get in their way.

If we were smart, we would pass laws to tax churches. They’re a multi-billion-dollar business that would actually help everyone if they gave some of that money back to their communities.

(Thanks to Alex for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Golfie98

    Wow – churches giving something back to the community – now there is a novel idea.

    • Dave G.

      Apparently you don’t spend much time working disaster relief or first emergency response. They give to the community in massive amounts, both in money and service time. To deny that is to deny gravity.

      • 3lemenope

        Part of which is helpful and that’s laudatory, and part of it is…well, I’m pretty sure that most Bibles are not made out of a material that’s actually digestible.

        • kevin white

          No, but the paper can be used for many different things during a disaster.

          • 3lemenope

            Yeah, but you would not believe the whining when folks try to put it to use!

        • Dave G.

          I’ve never seen people in a disaster or emergency refuse the help of religious people who have left everything and sacrificed themselves to help others. Nor have I seen people act as if their Bibles were a problem one way or another.

          • 3lemenope

            On the other hand, care being conditioned upon readings from Proverbs tends to rub needy people the wrong way. Some religious charities are better than others on this score, but they never let out of sight that their primary goal is to evangelize.

          • Glasofruix

            The problem shines when they bring bibles instead of food.

          • Zaydin

            I seem to recall that Christian group that went to Haiti after the Earthquake in 2010, and they didn’t bring food, water, blankets, or medicine, but instead brought Bibles, and acted shocked when people were outraged.

      • MrMoto

        The church gives, or people give, who happen to belong to a church, along with many others who don’t?

        Which gives more to a community — churches, or the taxes I pay as an atheist that theists don’t because tithing is deductible?

        Claims of churches being beneficial in a superior way need to be examined critically.

        • ragarth

          Didn’t an article pop on this blog a while back showing that only 2% or so of the money that churches take in actually make it to the people?

        • Gus Snarp

          You can do the math on how much more money people would have to donate to churches to make up for the money that taxes currently contribute to supporting the poor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1353603101 Joe Montoto

    Let’s look at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC. 1 entire block right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan on 5th Ave.. Just imagine what that property would be worth.

    TAX RELIGION!

    • Rain

      The gods would be angry. They might withdraw their protection of America. Oh wait…

  • Rain

    The gods would be upset if they had to pay taxes like mortals do.

    • observer

      Ironic, considering the gods’ need for money seems to be a mortal need. After all, what does an infinity powerful being need to buy?

      • Rain

        Booze and prostitutes! Oh wait that’s secret service agents.

      • coyotenose

        A starship.

        • The Other Weirdo

          What does god need with a starship?

  • John the Drunkard

    Gee, a church with a sense of civic responsibility could choose to donate money to the local civil institutions, perhaps even as much as they would be paying in taxes if they weren’t given ‘special’ exemption.
    (chirp, chirp, chirp…….)

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    Why are fraternal organizations exempt? I could understand 501c nonprofits, but fraternal orgs don’t have to be nonprofit.

  • houndies

    well, while it would be nice if the churches were paying taxes we really don’t need to give them anymore of a foothold in the gov’t to say, “hey, we pay taxes now, so lets just chuck that whole separation of church and state bit. now, somebody get us a load o’ bibles we got some schools to visit!” of course that tax would include ALL churches so it would be pretty funny to see the xtians racing all the other sects to see who gets their propaganda in the door first.

    • Mackinz

      Did you miss the foothold that they have in the government already?

      Funny, the Republicans have so many it seems hard to miss.

      • Dave G.

        Not much of one, since they can still be fined or severely punished by the IRS if they get caught doing it too flagrantly (involvement being a fuzzy term, since a person has a right to be involved in our government no matter what their religious affiliation). But to tax them would remove all barriers and open the floodgate, so to speak. If they do what they do now, when there are reams of laws and restrictions, imagine what it would be if there were none.

        • 3lemenope

          While I agree with you (and think that taxing churches is a feel-good popular idea among atheists that is actually a stupendously bad one), it is not the case that currently churches are at much risk for fines for non-compliance. A combination of a lack of reporting requirements, bureaucratic mismanagement, and a simple lack of political will have all but guaranteed that churches can act poorly in this arena with impunity.

          Instead of going for the money, I’d suggest instead the rather more measured step of simply applying reporting requirements to churches to prevent fraud and other shenanigans.

          • Dave G.

            The risk is there. Whether it’s followed up on in a regular way is another matter. And when churches have crossed the line, they have been fined or otherwise punished. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the lines are complex. I mean, churches are not exempt from speaking to issues that politics speaks to, and there’s the fuzzy area. Was Martin Luther King, Jr., violating tax laws for marching on Washington? Which is why there probably is less action than the risks suggest. Nonetheless, to tax churches outright would then eliminate any check at all, and it would be an all out frenzy as churches, religious organizations, faith groups of any sort could pull almost unlimited resources into the government directly. Best to leave things as they are.

          • eonL5

            This x 1000. Reporting requirements, proof of charitable activities, all the stuff other non-profits must do.

        • baal

          “too flagrantly” Considering that a small host of churches put together a video of themselves being in clear violation of the IRS rules and mailed it to the IRS, I don’t know what more could be done to be more flagrant.

  • newavocation

    Thing that bothers me about this is how they push to promote their tax-free religions at our taxpayer sponsored government meetings!!!

  • Phil Bellerive

    Additionally, in many, if not most locations, they do not pay for city services, like water, sewer, garbage pickup, etc. not only for the property that the church sits on, but also the parsonage(s), offices etc. They are already getting off scot-free for other tax-supported services like fire protection, police, etc.

    Yet, introduce a measure to extend protections for LGBT people at a city council meeting, and these same churches become more political than the U.S. Congress.

    • 3lemenope

      Er, I’ll need a cite for that. I’ve definitely seen *the argument* forwarded that they don’t have to pay for municipal services, but never actually seen them win it anywhere.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

      I call bs on this

    • Sue Blue

      I think they pay for electricity, water, sewer, and other services, but I know for a fact they not only cost the county and city money in taxes, they are actually PAID by the city and county in my area. Several churches in my small rural area have bought up large parcels of land. They put a church on it and turn the rest into a parking lot, then rent the parking spaces out to the county ride-share program. Because most of the jobs are across the Sound in Seattle, most residents here commute and use the ride-share program. So even if you’re an atheist, you’re supporting the church indirectly by paying for ride-sharing. And the church wins at taxpayer expense twice over.

      In my town of 7,000 people, there are at least eight large churches that do this that I can think of right off the top of my head.

  • C Peterson

    Worse than freeloaders. Your basic freeloader just absorbs resources without giving anything back. These are religious organizations, so not only are they absorbing public resources, but they’re actively harmful to society as well. Double whammy.

  • Dave G.

    Hmmm. Churches tax exempt, but should be barred from interacting with the political process or using their resources in the political arena. Or churches (and other religious establishments) are taxed, and can therefore use the full brunt of their resources and people to advance agendas and influence the political establishment. One or the other I guess

    • Jason Loveless

      A third option is to tax exempt churches under existing 501(c)(3) guidelines. It would carry similar prohibitions against electioneering while adding reporting requirements for the uses of charitable donations and eliminating Parsonage exemptions.

      • Katwise

        Yes, please.

      • TheBlackCat13

        I would be all for churches having their automatic tax-exemption stripped, but being allowed to apply for tax exemption under the same rules as any other charitable organization. But they have to actually meet the secular definition of charitable organization without any special loopholes.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i have always found it obscene and ridiculous that our society protects fairy tales and invisible beings in this way. i could found a religion tomorrow and declare my home a place of worship and get away with paying no taxes. it’s stupid and wrong for society to privilege myth in this way, and hurts all of us.

    • The Other Weirdo

      No, it would be just a cult. You’re still a live, and so the person at the top–that’s you–would know that it’s a scam. Once you’re dead, then your cult becomes a religion because no one’s left who knows that it was all a scam.

  • Miss_Beara

    The Freeloaders of Hamilton County, Tennessee. Sounds like a new reality show on TLC.

  • Tak

    It would be an unbelievably bad idea to tax churches due to the influence they could expand if such a thing were to happen. As bad as tax free religious scam artists are, it’d be far worse to have them legally be part of the taxed crowd. At least as things are, when they break the law we can call them on their schenanigans. They have too much influence as it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

    Whats missing from this ‘analysis’ is what churches contribute to the community, and the historic reasons for why we allow some charities and individuals to get tax breaks, that is, we let them keep more of THEIR OWN money (they are not taking money from anyone else, as redistribution programs do). And btw, we don’t need more taxes, we need less government. You’ve chosen the wrong villain. And if you are looking for tax revenue, you can always support taxing the internet.

    • RowanVT

      Public virtues such as… the Inquisition? Witch hunts? The Holocaust? (Yes, I Godwin’d, and I will laugh in your face if you say Hitler was an atheist). Public virtues such as slavery and viewing women as property?
      It’s funny how the ‘less gov’t’ crowd in general are all for cutting programs that actually help people but don’t cost *that* much… but oh dear gods we can’t touch the military! A terrorist mosquito might land on our shore and we won’t have a jet fighter to squish it with!

      • Rwlawoffice

        How about public virtues like education. Most of the universities in the western world were founded by religious organizations. How about hospitals? Count the number of atheist hospitals and compare with those established by religious organizations. How about orphanages, food banks, recovery programs, marriage (not exclusively of course but a huge religious component), weekly services to build people’s spirits and buikd community, the Ten Commandments and other moral virtues taught in the bibke such as love and firgiveness, the concept of grace, love your neighbor as yourself, the abolitionists movement, the civil rights movement,and the very concept of our rights coming from a creator – for that you can thank religion and specifically Christianity.

        • Gus Snarp

          Oh how I do hate to argue with you, but you went too far with this one for an argument with a secular audience, and I just can’t help picking at a couple of the threads in your loose sweater.

          Let’s start with the Ten Commandments. Anyone who knows anything about ancient history knows that most of what’s in the Ten Commandments that is of value arose in many ancient civilizations. But even if it didn’t, do you really think we needed stone tablets to tell us not to kill, steal, and lie? You also forget that we simply don’t consider keeping the Sabbath, having no other gods before Yahweh, not making graven images (whatever the hell that means, no one seems to agree) to be moral virtues at all. No, the Ten Commandments are just one instance of one culture arriving at the obvious conclusions needed by a large civilization out of many who arrived at the same conclusions, plus a bunch of religious claptrap to fill it out.

          The same goes for love and forgiveness, we certainly didn’t need the Bible to teach those, especially since it does a terrible job teaching them. Everyone knows that the best way to teach is by example, no by lecturing. The Bible’s example is one of slaughter, rape, genocide, jealousy, rage, and hate. Then Jesus makes a few speeches about love and such, before we get right back to rage, murder, death, and hate. The whole thing wraps up with the worst grindhouse murder movie ever, all orchestrated by God because when it’s all said and done, he’s still already decided to destroy us all in fire, plague, war, and pestilence. So there’s that.

          Then we get to things that actually matter in the world. But you seem to think that the role of churches in the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movements mean that those movements needed churches because churches are somehow a source of good without which we can’t get by. That’s not true. Churches provide a community organizing function that has been useful, but let’s ignore the centuries that Christian churches offered justification for slavery and racism. Let’s ignore the churches where preachers railed against civil rights, where they continue to rail against civil rights for gay people. A century from now, when gay marriage seems obvious and the anti-gay bigots look to our great grandchildren the way Bull Connor looks to us, you can bet that your intellectual descendants will be defending Christianity by pointing out the churches like the liberal wing of Episcopalianism and the handful of other liberal churches who support gay rights and claiming they led the way to equal rights for LGBT people while ignoring the massive weight of the Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, and most other Christian churches who stand on the side of hate.

          I’ll drop the point by point now because all of your points fall in the same basic category: Christianity and churches doing good things because people wanted to do those things and those people happened to be organized in churches, not because churches are necessary for these things to happen, least of all because teaching immoral lies leads to good outcomes on the whole.

          And “atheist” is the wrong label for the other side. The other side is “secular” and there’s a difference. Secular means done without a church or religious organization, like many hospitals, food banks, marriages, and other organizations around the world doing good.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

            This is a red herring and off of the subject. The point is, Protestant (i.e more biblical and less compromised by commingling with govt power than catholic, arguably) Christianity has made many of the greatest historic foundational contributions to the benefit of mankind, including founding hospitals, orphanages, the university system, womens suffrage, abolition, and raising the value of life, esp. For the weak and infirm. Demonizing religion is idiotic, esp. In light of the true villains, big and increasingly tyrranical governments (including islam, which is both a political and religious ideology), and lack of individual virtue in society. Ppl angry w xianity are wasting their time, i think.

            • GCT

              No. Simply no.

              Secularism has made many of the greatest historic foundational contributions to the benefit of mankind. As the west got more and more secular, we’ve seen more and more benefit for mankind. We’ve seen more equality. Again, Xianity has to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept these positions.

              And, why should we not be angry with Xianity when it causes real harms in our society today? What you are displaying is a severe case of religious privilege.

              • rwlawoffice

                Give me an example of secularism that “has made many of the greatest historic foundational contributions” that Christians had to be brought screaming into acceptance

                • GCT

                  Gay rights is going to be the next example. Women’s rights. Slavery. Equal rights for blacks. Freedom of religion. The US Constitution. Should I go on?

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Explain how these were given to us by seculalrism without the input of the morality that all people were created equal and given inalienable rights by their creator which is the moral precept of Christianity as described in the constitution.

                • GCT

                  Wrong again. The Constitution was derided as an atheist document at the time it was written. It’s only modern Xians who have tried to re-write history to include the lie that the Constitution is a Xian document. It’s not. And, it’s not a moral precept of Xianity anyway that humans were given inalienable rights. Where in the world did you get that idea? If you actually read the Bible, you’ll see it nowhere in there.

                  It was secularists (mostly deists, although Thomas Paine and some others were very influential) that pushed for and drafted the Constitution, including the First Amendment, which they put in there to ensure the US would be a secular nation. Good try though.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  I’m sorry but your knowledge of history is simply wrong. Just as wrong as your knowledge of Christianity.

                • GCT

                  I don’t seem to be able to post links for some reason…The evidence is here though:

                  On the Daylight Atheism blog (on Patheos) if you click on the “Essays” tab at the top, then click on “The Wall” essay, you’ll see a very full discussion of the Constitution (go to section 3). There are many examples of religious people (leaders, politicians, etc) deriding the Constitution as an atheist document and rejecting it.

                  My knowledge of history, it seems, is not wrong. Of course, you’re going off of the religiously privileged version that Xians tend to try to pass off as actual history, especially charlatans like David Barton. You really should try to engage with reality.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  Explain how these were given to us by seculalrism without the input of the morality that all people were created equal and given inalienable rights by their creator which is the moral precept of Christianity as described in the constitution.

                  Wow, there is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start.

                  First, that is not from the constitution, it was from the Declaration of Independence, a pretty much completely unrelated document. For the constitution, there was a conscious decision to exclude all mentions of religion from it, which made many religious leaders at the time quite furious.

                  Second, the line you quote was written by Thomas Jefferson, who was a strong opponent of Christianity and outright rejected the divinity of Jesus. So not only was it not Christian principle, it came from someone who was vocally opposed to Christianity.

                  Third, the vague talk about the “Creator” used a lot was a decidedly deist view, not a Christian one, and the idea of inalienable rights was a recent (at the time) and revolutionary enlightenment idea, not something that was commonly-accepted amongst Christians prior to the enlightenment.

                • TheBlackCat13

                  Explain how these were given to us by seculalrism without the input of the morality that all people were created equal and given inalienable rights by their creator which is the moral precept of Christianity as described in the constitution.

                  Wow, there is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start.

                  First, that is not from the constitution, it was from the Declaration of Independence, a pretty much completely unrelated document. For the constitution, there was a conscious decision to exclude all mentions of religion from it, which made many religious leaders at the time quite furious.

                  Second, the line you quote was written by Thomas Jefferson, who was a strong opponent of Christianity and outright rejected the divinity of Jesus. So not only was it not Christian principle, it came from someone who was vocally opposed to Christianity.

                  Third, the vague talk about the “Creator” used a lot was a decidedly deist view, not a Christian one, and the idea of inalienable rights was a recent (at the time) and revolutionary enlightenment idea, not something that was commonly-accepted amongst Christians prior to the enlightenment.

            • Gus Snarp

              Don’t blame me for going “off topic”. I’m responding directly to RWLawoffice, so if you want to blame someone for going off topic, blame him.

            • Gus Snarp

              In light of the true villains, big and increasingly tyrranical governments (including islam, which is both a political and religious ideology)

              The prosecution rests. You live in a world in which Christianity is special and correct and therefore can be counted on to provide virtue and is better than the government, which somehow includes Islam, but is not a political ideology like Islam is. But as far as government is concerned, one church is as good as another. From the beginning, it has been unlawful in the U.S. to favor one religion over another, and that includes, and always has (see the Treaty of Tripoli), Islam.

              The truth is that some Christian sects want just as much entanglement with government as some Muslim sects. But I guess those aren’t “True Christians”. Religion, Christian or not, has been entangled with government since the first civilization, and has lead to the worst autocratic regimes and abuses of power.* The history of civilization is one of struggle between church and state for power and humanity has gotten increased freedom and better quality of life the more state has broken free of church.

              *See:
              Ancient Egypt.
              Mesopotamia
              The Aztecs.

              The Romans’ treatment of early Christians.
              The Romans’ treatment of non-Christians after Constantine.
              Christian Europe from the fall of Rome to the eighteenth century.
              Puritan New England
              The modern Middle East
              Anywhere else a king or leader has claimed their authority came from God, Christian or otherwise, including those guys that aren’t communists that you’re probably about to claim are atheists.

          • Rwlawoffice

            Your post reminds me of what the bible teaches about false teachers- they talk a lot but say nothing.

            Your point assumes that the virtues supplied by religion would occur anyway therefore religion was not a motivation or played no role. The undeniable fact is that the things I mentioned came about through people of faith motivated by the worldview they derived from their faith. You can’t ignore that and blindly assume it would have happened anyway. If you have evidence of that I would like to see it.

            As for your knowledge of the bible, you have shown your prejudice and have intentionally ignored its overarching teachings which is love grace and forgiveness. You are free to select the portions you want to justify your rejection of it, but you mischaracterize Christianity in your post.

            • GCT

              I would say that religion hampers virtues. For instance, when it came to abolitionism, how long did it take Xians to get on the bandwagon? A few people of faith stood against slavery, while many others defended slavery as “people of faith motivated by the worldview they derived from their faith”. You can’t simply pretend they don’t exist, especially since they were in the majority, and theologically speaking they were more correct in their interpretations of the Bible since the Bible supports slavery.

              Xianity had its chance to dominate…and it gave us the Dark Ages. When secularism started to come about, we got the Enlightenment. (Ironically, it was Muslim learning reaching Europe that helped pull them out of the Dark Ages.)

              As for knowledge of the Bible, how do you discern what are the “overarching teachings which is love grace and forgiveness”? The overarching teaching is that one better obey god or else. The genocides certainly aren’t loving, graceful, or forgiving. The system set up by Jesus whereby we all deserve hell and will go there if not for intervention by god is not loving, graceful, or forgiving. You are the one mischaracterizing the Bible, which is understandable to some degree as your religion has evolved to meet the evolving standard of morality of the society around you. Too bad your religion has not been on the leading edge of this evolution, but instead has been dragged kicking and screaming the whole way, only to turn around and try to take credit for it after the fact (which, BTW, is lying and is supposedly frowned upon).

              • rwlawoffice

                You can perceive the Bible how you want to, that is your free will. But I am confident in the proposition that the overall teaching of the bible and Christianity is love grace and mercy. The idea that we all deserve hell but for the intervention of God doesn’t change that, because in fact God did intervene through Jesus Christ. This comes from the first century, not any recent interpretation. Just read it and you will see that I am correct. John 3:16 wasn’t written recently, it was written 2000 years ago when the morality of the day included leaving baby girls in the ditch to die, having slaves fight to the death in arenas, etc… The New Testament was a radical change to the morality of its day and continues to be so. So you can thank Christianity for the moral advances that we enjoy today in the Western world.

                Even if it is true that there were some that used the Bible to try to promote slavery, it is factually false to argue that secular people or atheists led the charge to end slavery in this country and Christians simply were drug along. You can try to rewrite history but to argue that Christians did not lead the charge to end slavery is just that.

                • GCT

                  Sorry, but you can’t simultaneously claim (without evidence) that the “overall teaching of the bible and Christianity is love grace and mercy” and that god really did create us deserving of hell. Those are incompatible and contradictory ideas.

                  You also can’t hide behind the fact that these things were written long ago, as that jettison’s the notions of absolute morality as well as the concept of the Bible actually being god’s words and a guide to morality.

                  And, no I can’t thank Xianity for the moral advances of today. Xianity had nothing to do with equal rights, except delaying it by its opposition, for just one example. It’s ignorant and just plain wrong to claim that your religion is responsible for all the moral advances we have today, especially since it’s not historically true and it creates a theological issue for you, which makes your religion self-defeating.

                  Some people used the Bible to try to promote slavery? Um, virtually all of them did. Read Susan Jacoby’s book “Freethinkers” to get a feel for who was and was not abolitionist and what they believed. A vast minority of Xians joined with non-Xians to oppose slavery.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  You only have to read the Bible to see that the overarching message is one of love and grace. The doctrine of hell does not change that. You miss the point from the very beginning- God did not create us deserving hell. Hell comes to those that reject God. God gave the way out through His love and grace through His son Jesus. The Old Testament points towards the coming of Jesus and the New Testament talks about the effect of His coming.

                  The point I made about when these were written was to counter your argument that the morality of the Bible changed over time to become less judgmental due to a more enlightened society. The doctrine has not changed. This argument is not the basis of objective morality.

                  Of course you come to this argument about morality from a culture that is based upon Judeo Christian concepts. It is not from the historical secular morality. The fact that you may disagree with some of moral precepts of Christianity does not defeat the argument that morality has been taught in our western culture from a Judeo Christianity worldview for thousands of years. It was this worldview that progressed the rights of the individual and in fact led to the whole concept of equal rights.

                  You really need to understand your history. The abolitionist movement both here and in England was started and championed by Quakers and other religious people. The civil rights movement was championed by the baptist churches and preachers of the south and the North in the fifties and sixties. True others tried to use the Bible to prevent this from happening but that doesn’t defeat the role of Christians in forwarding these movements.

                • GCT

                  “You only have to read the Bible to see that the overarching message is one of love and grace. The doctrine of hell does not change that.”

                  Sorry, but simply repeating yourself doesn’t make the contradiction go away.

                  “You miss the point from the very beginning- God did not create us deserving hell. Hell comes to those that reject God.”

                  You’ve apparently forgotten about original sin. But, it’s worse than that, because no one can make it to heaven on their own. We are set up to fail. Since we are set up to fail, then he did create us hell-bound. Your attempts to save the ridiculous are just making it look more ridiculous.

                  “The point I made about when these were written was to counter your argument that the morality of the Bible changed over time to become less judgmental due to a more enlightened society. The doctrine has not changed. This argument is not the basis of objective morality.”

                  Wrong again. You’re making an argument that rules like those allowing slavery were written because at the time slavery was OK. But, Xians don’t recognize it as being OK now (at least most Xians). They are citing the same book, however. This means that Xian morality has changed, and not because of the Bible. It’s because of outside forces. So, you’re basically throwing away absolute morality (was it moral then to own slaves and not now?) You’re also admitting that the Bible is not a guide to morality.

                  “Of course you come to this argument about morality from a culture that is based upon Judeo Christian concepts. It is not from the historical secular morality.”

                  Wrong again. The concept we have of fairness and equality, for instance, (especially for women and other minorities) is not a “Judeo Christian concept”. These are extra-Biblical and came to be adopted by the Xian majority population from outside forces. What we see, if we look at history, is that the more secular a nation becomes, the more equality ensues.

                  “It was this worldview that progressed the rights of the individual and in fact led to the whole concept of equal rights.”

                  Xianity does not teach the rights of the individual. You’re making the mistake of taking our modern morals and claiming that Xianity was for them all along. That’s simply not true. In a couple decades, people like you will be claiming that Xianity was pro-gay all along and paved the way for gays to have marriage equality. It’s simply ridiculous and an attempt at re-writing history.

                  “The abolitionist movement both here and in England was started and championed by Quakers and other religious people.”

                  There were some Xians involved, and yes mostly Quakers. But, they did so by breaking away from their congregations. They did so by contradicting their Xian teachings and contradicting their religious leaders. They joined the non-religious in advocating against these policies in the face of staunch opposition from the majority of Xians. IOW, by leaving behind Xian teachings (at least on these subjects) they were able to advocate for a more just, more equal society.

                  Besides, even if we granted your argument, you’ve still dug yourself into a hole. You can’t very well claim that Quakers had it right, therefore all Xians were abolitionists and it was the accepted teaching of the time. It wasn’t, to begin with, but even if it were, you’d have to deal with the fact that most denominations are not well represented in the abolitionist movement. IOW, your own argument shows that it was not the accepted teaching of the time. You’ve shot yourself in the foot. Same goes for civil rights.

                  “True others tried to use the Bible to prevent this from happening but that doesn’t defeat the role of Christians in forwarding these movements.”

                  In a heavily majority Xian nation, of course some Xians will have to come forward. The problem for you, however, is that most Xians did not come forward. In fact, for 1500 years or so Xians did not come forward to oppose slavery. Again, it was a few Xians, who broke ranks to join with non-Xians, who opposed slavery (in contradiction to their own holy book no less) and you are making a logically fallacious bait and switch argument here.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  You can try to change what I said to make your point but it does not change history. The abolitionist movement was initiated and championed by Christians. Sadly not all to be sure because some distorted the doctrine, but clearly atheists were not leading the charge.

                  You really should understand Christianity before you claim what it teaches. Christianity teaches the value of individuals. We are made in the image of God, he knows us down to the hairs on our head, he loves us as individuals, there is no rich, no poor, no man no woman in the eyes of God, he lifts up the poor and downtrodden. You clearly have a skewed view to justify your own rejection, but it doesn’t make your view correct.

                • GCT

                  “You can try to change what I said to make your point but it does not change history. The abolitionist movement was initiated and championed by Christians. ”

                  Xians and atheists working together in contradiction to the Xian teachings of the time – a point you’re completely ignoring.

                  “Sadly not all to be sure because some distorted the doctrine…”

                  Except it’s not a distortion. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that slavery is wrong. Quite the opposite, in fact. And, it was the vast majority of Xians, as well as Xian leaders who advocated for slavery, especially since Xianity had been around as the dominant religion for about 1500 years (another couple points you are ignoring).

                  “You really should understand Christianity before you claim what it teaches. Christianity teaches the value of individuals.”

                  Where? Show me where in the Bible it does that, because it clearly does not. Modern Xians may teach that now, but it’s nowhere to be found in the Bible. Xianity is about obedience to god. Obey or go to hell is the number one message.

                  “We are made in the image of God, he knows us down to the hairs on our head, he loves us as individuals, there is no rich, no poor, no man no woman in the eyes of God, he lifts up the poor and downtrodden.”

                  Except none of that is actually true, is it?

                  “You clearly have a skewed view to justify your own rejection, but it doesn’t make your view correct.”

                  I need no justification to reject your unevidenced beliefs. You are the one who needs to provide justification for holding your beliefs.

        • GCT

          Most universities were founded to teach religion and to keep education in the hands of the clergy and out of the hands of the populace. You don’t get to claim it as some sort of victory when they wanted to keep the populace uneducated.

          The plain fact is that religions/churches/religionists have been dragged kicking and screaming to accept moral progress and equal rights for others just about every step of the way, only to turn around and claim they were the driving force after the fact – when it became so entrenched in the public that it was simply embarrassing to be on the other side. This has happened with slavery, equal rights for blacks and women, and is happening with equal rights for gays, for just a few examples.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

        Rowan, while big institutional churches, esp. the corrupt catholic church, have a checkered history, this has more to do with the politics of power than christian teaching. You might, however, enjoy Rodney Stark’s book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery http://www.amazon.com/For-Glory-God-Reformations-Witch-Hunts/dp/0691119503/

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

        Public virtues such as industry, chastity, loyalty, honesty, and fidelity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

        While we should consider trimming the military, the reason most conservatives aim to cut big social programs is not due to a lack of compassion (religious conservatives give more to charity, even secular charities than others, see the book Who Really Cares), but due to the belief in limited government as specified in the constitution, which clearly spells out the need for the PROVISION of a national defense force, but only the PROMOTION (i.e. not wealth redistribution, but rather tax breaks for individuals) of the general welfare. Libs want the government to solve all problems, even the ones it should not because (a) the real solution is merely the support of personal responsibility, and (b) govt therefore sucks at it because it never addresses (a).

        • GCT

          This is, again, simply wrong. Religious conservatives give more to charity when you consider their giving to their churches in the equation. That, however, is not a fair comparison. And, let’s not pretend that the conservatives really want limited government. That’s simply a lie that they tell themselves in order to eliminate the services that they don’t personally like (like services for poor people, women, minorities, etc).

          And, let’s also not trot out the bullshit tropes like, “Libs want the government to solve all problems.” I mean, really? Do you have an actual argument that isn’t based on Faux News talking points (lies)?

    • GCT

      “As imperfectly as churches may promote and model virtue, faith has proved the only historically proven method of sustaining public virtue (through both fear and inspiration), while atheism has scaled up to the atrocities of communism.”

      This is simply false (along with a lot of other things you state above). Faith does nothing of the sort. Faith merely makes us delude ourselves about what is and is not true.

      “And if you are looking to solve social ills, look for a way to change hearts and minds to do good… The very thing faith is attempting.”

      This is also flatly false. The idea of “faith” attempts no such thing. There’s no guarantee that anyone employing the method of “faith” will come to a conclusion that actively helps people or inspires others to do the same. Although sometimes people cite faith to this effect, one can just as easily cite instances where faith leads to the opposite (opposition to gay rights is one easily cited modern day issue). Faith is nothing more than a faulty method of discerning what is true about the world that can come to the right conclusion, but only by accident, and is much more likely to give false conclusions.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

        I don’t think you have much idea of what christian faith involves, or of history. You live, i assume, in the Christian west. You think secularism alone gave you the rich and free culture we have? If so, put your head back down into the wonderful Communist Manifesto.

        • GCT

          I see you can’t actually answer my objections.

        • Gus Snarp

          Why are you so obsessed with Communism? The fifties are over. The Soviet Union fell, China is nothing like communism, North Korea and Cuba are toothless and starving. The boogeyman is dead, the closet is empty, there’s nothing under the bed.

    • Gus Snarp

      Atheism does not lead to communism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

        No, but the only historic examples we have of atheism scaled up to civil government are communistic and cruel, and there are good arguments about why this may be the inevitable outcome under atheism. See “Why Atheists are inevitably autocrats” http://www.wholereason.com/2011/02/why-atheists-are-theocrats.html

        • GCT

          Bzzt, wrong.

          The communism that was practiced was every bit as religious as any other religion. But, keep trying to shove your religious privilege down all of our throats.

        • Gus Snarp

          Nope, sorry, still not accurate. Communism is not “atheism scaled up”. It’s just not. Communism happens to include atheism as one of it’s (minor) doctrines. But atheism did not scale up to it, lead to it, or whatever semantic game you want to play. It’s simply not the case. In fact, it’s not so much atheism as antitheism.

          The large mistake here is that you seem to think atheists want to “scale up” up to government, that it’s an ideological goal of atheism at all. Atheism is a philosophical position, a simple lack of belief. All we ask for is what most of Europe has, what the U.S. officially, and for the most part, has. A secular government, one that takes no position on religion. It is not atheism’s job to provide morality or government, not is it desired.

  • CH

    Why so many? Are congregations fighting and splitting all the time?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=709103781 Daniel Sinclair

      1. Americans like choice, not state-run uniformity.
      2. How many people are in that area, and how spread out is it?
      3. How many Starbucks are there in the same area?

      • GCT

        Actually, it’s because faith is a faulty method of understanding the world.

      • 3lemenope

        1. Americans neurotically fetishize choice, and I say this as one of them. Have you ever just stopped and stared at the salad dressing aisle at a supermarket? It’s enough choice to literally be nauseating. This is intentional, of course; executive function is a resource that can be exhausted through use. Having too many choices confuses us and makes us dumber, so that we buy more stuff.

        2. ~167,000 in 143 sq. miles.

        3. Two in the city proper, three more in the metro area.

  • Gus Snarp

    It suddenly occurs to me, as a geographer, that there’s an interesting study in urban economic geography here. If I had followed the academic path I think there’s a publication in this.

    Vacant buildings may have more detrimental impacts on the economy than the lack of tax revenue from church ownership, but when church ownership is supplanting another use, then it’s having a purely deleterious impact on the local economy. And when you look at some of the newer mega-churches, the impacts can be dramatic. I’m thinking of a fairly well to do neighborhood near me where a mega-church has moved in and acquired a lot of land and caused a lot of problems for neighborhood residents (parking and traffic are just a couple of examples), but meanwhile occupying prime real estate that could be taxed in a city that really needs the revenue.

    But the really interesting thing is cases like Stafford, Texas. If churches cluster in certain small municipalities or counties, then the impacts could be disastrous. I wonder what the prevalence of this kind of clustering is, as well as the impacts.

  • Sandra Duffy

    Religious organisations 1001

    Schools 61

    Now that’s just sad.

  • Sue Blue

    Looking at the numbers, I can’t help but think of the homeless when I see “Chattanooga Housing Authority” only owns 165 properties and Chattanooga churches own 1,001. I’d like to see how many battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and emergency housing units the churches are running under the tax-exempt umbrella. Why do I suspect there are a lot of cold, miserable people sleeping under tarps and in cars while churches expand their sanctuaries, parsonages, parochial schools, and parking lots?

  • Robyman4

    At the bottom of that chart is the word “excempt.” Case closed.

  • http://twitter.com/TennBuckeye Brendan Jennings

    The problem with the primary assumption is that cities are somehow entitled to the tax revenues. The implicit assumption beneath that is that they spend those revenues responsibly. Unless you want to change the Tennessee constitution, you’re stuck with that, so this rant is somewhat pointless.

  • You complain about this?

    What about the 800 children that will be born addicted to drugs in TN this year, at an initial cost to Medicaid of roughly $40M. This pales in contrast to the impact and cost later in their lives as many of the children may be taken from the parents. I wonder how many of the mothers or parents of these children are involved in a church. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/just-flooding-us-tenn-spike-drug-dependent-newborns-warning-nation-8C11375654


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X