On Facebook, a contributor posted a quotation from a freethinker who characterized all religious as "cults." I agree with that, but express a cavil with his further contention that "this is all they are." No, no, no, they are all something else. Every religion is a business, and some if not most are Ponzi schemes. A "business" is an endeavor by which one person or group of people make and sell something (or provide a service). What religions do is make up something -- a myth -- that they sell through the advertising of scriptures. Dogma, and particularly the dogma concerning sin (what people feel guilty about) and concerning death and the possibility of an afterlife.
The Priesthood is my term for the collected ministers, priests, preachers, &c. who engage in the business of selling a myth and the related dogma. Just as with a corporation, someone at the top gets all the toys and enjoyment, e.g. the Pope, who retires to Castle Gandolfo, there to sip the finest vintages -- Dom Perignon and Chateau d'Yquiem, et al. -- and relax in luxury that would make Donald Trump blush. Make no mistake about it: religions are businesses. The megachurches only embraced something they call the Prosperity Gospel because they felt so guilty about having air conditioned dog houses, more residences than the McCains and Romneys, and so much cash salted away their families -- or the next religious leader -- could never spend it in fifty lifetimes. It is hardly coincidence that the Prosperity Gospel came about after the televangelist scandal.
It is time we started taxing religions. Forget the 1%, let's go after The Priesthood.
We as a society have, over protests of those like me, established churches, especially those of Christian flavor, as somehow in service of public good and so deserving special treatment. We have to do such things because formal society (govenment) has not, and arguably should not be given power to run every minute aspect of social life. If we don't want one overriding controller we have to acceede some power at some levels to institutions already holding it. Churches have taken this and run with it and in my opinion have jumped the shark.
I'd like to see special priviliges for churches eliminated, with emphasis on "special". Many of these organizations, regardless of delusion, perfom useful social functions. Fine, and good on 'em! Identify those functions just as would any other non-proft charity, and pay taxes on the rest. My hunch is that this would result in an overall large tax increase on most churches, but maybe not. We do, after all, live in a society where Karl Rove can set up a multi-billion-dollar advocacy outfit and pass it off as public service.
Well, there's the problem. The Super PACS have had the official stamp of approval from the Nine Nutty Professors. (Well, five at least; the others have more sense.) If one tried to tax the churches, they would sue and appeal all the way to the SCOTUS. Then, just as they found approval of AK-47 ownership in the 2nd Amendment, they would find approval of tax-free religions in the 1st. That is, taxing the churches would be thought violative of the same clause that is designed to prevent any one religion from taking over and establishing a theocracy: the establishment clause. How ironic, then, that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act is justified by the chief justice as being within Congress's taxing authority, yet religion is not. These guys do as they please. The rest of us suffer the consequences, whether at the whims of Rove's lobbying group, the NRA, or the churches. There will always be that fat-headed, jowly Roman Catholic Antonin Scalia mouthing off about the Church being untouchable.