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.