Friday, 31 October 2008

Religion, power and money

Maybe you know the joke: two Jews stroll around St. Peter in Rome - tourists I suppose - and suddenly they see the Pope arriving in a black Mercedes 600 or so. Said one to the other: "You see that, Shlomo! That's what I call a career. Their Jesus Christ came into Jerusalem on a donkey and now look at his successor: he travels in this big car!

That's only an introduction into the subject.

I know a few people who seem to be deeply religious and what I am saying here does not concern them. They are religious and religion is a means for them to be good to others and at peace with themselves.

No, I am talking of the upper echelons of those various religions that thrive on this unhappy planet. The bosses of these institutions, the movers and shakers, the chiefs and CEO's of all these numerous and different creeds.

They are all talking, endlessly and volubly and what do they say, all of them: "The other religions are very bad, stick to mine, the only true one". Or even better, more convincing: "If you leave this one, you'll be dead in no time".

And they are right, from their point of view. Religion means profitable and continuous business, steady income and thus the power to keep the stuff smoothly flowing in. Who would like to loose his customers to the competition?

It should be said, to be true, here in Western Europe, religion has fallen on harsh times. The number of the faithful is dwindling year by year, nearly all churches stay empty most of the time - they serve now as a tourist attraction and are used for social customs by the "Four-Wheel-Christians", those who drive there for baptism, marriage and burial.

But this is not the end of religion in Europe. The potential for brisk business continues to exist and numerous start-ups are competing for customers. First, there are the immigrants from Africa and Asia - the Muslims - plus all those numerous minority creeds that cater mostly for us Europeans, a huge untapped potential in the spirituality business. The Moonies, the Scientologists, all those overfed Swamis from India who sponsor their Ashrams here and there for a regular fee, the Buddhist and Zen monks in their yellow uniform who don't feed on a daily rice bowl but on a more substantial fare. Let's not forget the Mormons from Utah/USA, always neatly dressed in white shirts and tie who propose their kind of paradise against a tenth of my income. Same for Jehova's Witnesses and last not least all those Evangelicals made in USA who try to re-Bible us. Honestly, I don't know in which way they would cash in later - but my American friends are certainly able to supply some input on that matter.

They all keep a kind of low profile. They are - for the moment - a tiny minority and thus are very tolerant. But on their home turf, where they happen to be important because numerous, you might experience a very different tune. The fight for supremacy is on and no kidding about it. Want some examples:

Buddhism: splendid dictatorship in Burma/Myranmar. The very affluent rulers there give lavishly to the official monks and monasteries. For the rest, the country is poor.In Sri Lanka they wage a bloody civil war against the Hindus in the North. No compromise in sight.

Communism: just say you would get rid of the commies and you are eligible for a prolonged sojurn in a labour camp where the only washing is brain washing.

Islam: in Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi-Arabia you face death in case you decide to quit Muslim religion for another one.

Jewish religion in Israel: land grabbing and evictions of the locals in Palestine go on there for dozens of years.

Hinduism: killing Christians and Muslims in India during well organized riots seems to be on the agenda of a political party there.

Christianity: we are the only good ones, everybody knows that. And besides, this post is already too long (as always). So, if you don't agree, just make a comment to complement the picture.


  1. Georg,
    stiring up the pot again?
    and nothing derogatory to say about your beloved Christians?
    tsk tsk..
    out of curiosity though, I would love to know where you got the idea that the jews were "land grabbing and evictions of the locals in palestine."
    When I lived in Jerusalem my nighbors were palastinians on one side, and Christains on the other. never saw anyone trying to take their land, but then..
    what do I know?

  2. Excellent post really said it: "religion is a be good to others and at peace with themselves."

    Outside of this broad and original meaning which was the basis of all religions, have emerged competing 'corporations' with their CEOs and mangers and sales agents trying hard to sell their products. If they don't do that, God will not be disturbed, but they certainly will lose their following, jobs, wealth and often obscene material comforts!

    It is the same everywhere...'mine is bigger than yours...mine is better than yours...mine is the only real thing! Was it sarcasm in the last paragraph or were you also claiming the same thing?!

  3. Thanks for commenting so fast, both of you.

    To Sorrow: I've never lived in Jerusalem, sure. But with open eyes and open ears everyone gets enough information to know what is going on there, in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. In spite of big institutional smoke screens.

    As to Christianity: what I said in the end is kind of jesting. Historically, we surpass them all by sheer volume of misdeeds. But right now, we have diversified, for one and are partly toothless.

    Vinod: glad to hear that we agree. But you were able to say it in a much more concise way.

    As to my last paragraph, that was partly joking. As far as I know, the only aggressive Christians today are the Evangelicals in the USA in as much as they seem to sponsor unpalatable ventures. But I don't know much about this.

    Cheers to both of you

  4. Georg~
    I read the news, some of it, some I find to be very biased one way or the other.
    What I do know, from living there, was that The people live well together.
    I think most of the problems in the world are caused by the governments. They do so much harm, and they do not ever represent the hearts and souls of the people.
    there are extremes in all faiths, these are the children of religion, the babies who see the world in terms of Right and wrong.
    The Christians here are not toothless, they have just become more devious and silent . They pass laws, that inflict there religious point of view.
    But there you go again, it's government!
    a most thoughtful pot stirring Georg!

  5. when faith becomes an institution it is called religion
    when power becomes an legal institution it becomes government
    "the form of exchange instituionalised" is called money.
    when one can come up with many permuations and combinations combining all this ..

  6. Georg~
    yes, In america when we vote, we get a sticker. ( or a button,depends on where you live)
    and "stirring the pot" is a turn a phrase that means you are trying to "mix things up" so that people will think about things that they do not normally!
    It was meant in a good way!
    have a good day!

  7. Désolée, mais je réponds en Français mon anglais écrit est absolument déplorable.
    Tout d'abord merci pour votre passage chez moi grâce à Vincent.
    Votre étude sur les religions est presque tout à fait complète et pourtant il faudrait des pages et des pages pour arriver à décortiquer les dessous qu'entraînent les croyances tirant vers elles des produits monstrueux qu'elles génèrent sans compter les âneries inculqués à des bénêts qui croient gagner le paradis en tuant et en mourant au nom de leur Dieu qu'ils n'ont jamais vu!.
    Ce fut ainsi de tous temps et si la laîcisation ne fait pas son chemin tout restera en l'état encore longtemps.
    Bonne journée

  8. your always very interesting posts Georg!
    and in danger of sounding like a mexican communist i must agree with mister Karl Marx words "Religion the opium of the masses", and being the doctrines, i feel, not the problem but the interpretation of them

    i was raised Catholic and i profess a profound respect for the figure for Jesus Christ but also for many other 'prophets' or characters of our history like Buddha, Krishna, Orfeo, and even Plato, of course! what would we do without all these thinking heroes! and it seems to be that all these men have very similar views on their spiritual teachings!!... but of course then come the rest of humans with their money-power concerns (as Vinod said, the bigger, the best...) and institutions and interpreting all wrong and getting all messed up as we usually like to do

    i do respect spirituality and many beliefs and i do think all of us christians, muslims, and buddhist deserve a piece of heaven, but NOT that fixated 'afterlife' idea we have... we deserve heaven while alive and while living here on Earth day after day! we deserve to be able to believe in whatever the heck we want without being judged or under-categorized, i feel the problem with religion is not the diversity of it, but like with many other human issues, the problem seems to be tolerance and open-mindedness to respect my neighbor even if he dressed, eats, speaks, thinks, and believes differently than me

    as for the Catholic church, the one that i am non-professing member of (of course i was baptized by my very religious grand ma and 1st communion and used to pray the rosary every day!), i am glad they were in control of the power in Europe and America for many years, just 'cause this tyrant behavior of them gave us the most wonderful masterpieces, churches, sculptures, music, and most of the western art, but apart from that, what a set of robbers they have been!!! the Borgias come to mind

    as for now-a-days Evangelical in US, don't know much about them, but i've been very curious about this documentary Jesus Camo, after reading this post, gotta rent the film

    thanks for setting the ground for such controversial posts Georg

    and may the Lord save your soul!! 'cause you might just end up in Hell with your posts but hey we'll blog from there, huh? ;)

  9. Bonjour Viviane,

    Merci pour votre visite et votre commentaire, tout à fait à propos.

    J'ai mis votre blog parmi mes favoris et je reviendrai avec plaisir. Vos sujets m'intéressent beaucoup.

    Hi Berenice: you are absolutely right regarding Christianity: those splendid cathedrals, paintings and unforgettable music would not have existed otherwise. But our forefathers (and mothers) paid a high price for it.

    And here in Western Europe, what do we create now that religion is on the downward slope?: good movies, some very good books but hideous churches and paintings.

    Cheers to both of you

  10. Hi Georg,

    Good to see such a terrific response to this great post.

    Let me assure you that here in India too, no great temples, mosques or churches have been built for a long time. May be that has something to do with the absence of patronage that kings and emperors of yore gave to building these structures all over the world. That is something democratic governments of today cannot do. So, it is from voluntary donations that only a few splendid places of worship are being built these days.

    Besides, there is much merit in the argument that money can be better spent on helping, uplifting and empowering God's creation. The whole universe is His abode in any case! He doesn't big buildings to enhance his stature or satisfy His ego; men do!

    What do you think?

  11. Hallo Vinod,

    Well, yes, I would prefer that my tax money be spent otherwise than in high rising temples of worship. But I am not religious!

    There must be simpler and cheaper ways to talk to your God.

    But even democratic governments like to spend money on prestigious structures, like the Millenium Dome in London, the Beaubourg in Paris (looking like a non-production refinery) or or the cheap/ugly government area in Berlin after the reunification of Germany.

    But they don't spent on places of worship, the new mosques one can see in Western Europe are either privately funded or with the help of Saudi Arabia (it seems).

    As to your remark in general, religion is certainly a worthy topic, but as always, don't take it too seriously.

    Did you read "The Name Of The Rose" ? Maybe you have seen the movie made of the book, starring Sean Connery.


  12. Hi Georg,

    You can take comfort from the fact that the government in Delhi has been doing a 'Berlin' and worse for 61 years!

    I'm sorry I have seen neither the movie nor read the book. Since you have quoted it, I can imagine it has something worthwhile to convey.

  13. Voilà ce que donnerait mon anglais:
    Good evening
    C'is "sympathique" nerve
    I thank you
    I gave you a known answer "le Cathare sanguinaire"
    Good evening
    Pas beau pas vrai?

  14. Hallo Viviane,

    Merci, mais c'est obscure comme une prédiction de Nostradamus.

    Que voulais-tu vraiment dire??


  15. bonsoir georg
    je viens de placer ton blog dans mes liens.
    bonne fin de semaine.

  16. Hi George,

    Well in general I agree. The religion or any other philosophical things that made people to believe "we are the best, this believe is special" are dangerous. making profit for some and has the potential to fools the followers.

    About "Christianity is the only good":
    well as you said it yourself back in history there where days that Christians had a dark era full of murdering the intellectuals and suffocating the oppositions, but thanks god people learned to separate science, politics from religion. But still Christianity itself is no better than other religion (every religion has the potential to b dangerous, history proof that). What happened there was that followers changed not the Christianity!
    The religion itself is nothing but the followers , that's the all point. there are many biased Muslims out there that can do any things because of their blindness and narrow mind. but this is the same for biased christian even now, I am sure there super bias Christians in U.S or other places, but the good thing is they do not have the power...
    Sorry for long comment :)

  17. For one so young, I must say Hiva is more than wise. 'Every religion has the potential to be dangerous', 'The religion....that makes people believe 'we are the best'...are dangerous', 'religion itself is nothing but the followers', 'the followers changed...'. These are all observations of a very sensible, balanced and open mind. All the more remarkable considering that she seems to have Iranian roots.

  18. Hallo Hiva,

    No, by all means, your comment is not too long. And it's a pleasure to read your ideas about the subject.

    Frequently - but not always - the founders of a religion are very decent people. It's followers who are of low quality.

    Hallo Vinod,

    Yes, as far as I know, Hiva is Iranian. And the Iranians abroad are nearly always a credit to their new country.

    You seem to be very much interested in the subject. Do you wish me to open another chapter of the same?
    Talking openly about religion is a kind of taboo and naturally, trampling on taboos is a real pleasure but potentially dangerous.


  19. Georg, as far as I understand, all taboos are man-made, power being the disguised motive. That is why old ones are regularly broken...but, new ones quickly replace them.

    Please open that chapter.

  20. A though provoking post that could generate innumerable chapters; I await the next one!