|The Taxation of Religion|
[Author's Note: Written on Monday, November 8, 2004, with the Salt Shaker of Doom (TM) -- a salt shaker full of Codeine, Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, and sugar. Completion made on Friday, December 3-5, 2004, while high and drunk.]
Why should an atheist pay more taxes so that a church which he despises should pay no taxes? That's a fair question. How can the apologists for the church exemption answer it?
-- E. Haldeman-Julius, The Church Is A Burden, Not A Benefit, In Social Life
It has been a historically valid argument that churches never contributed to society, but have had the habit of leaching off of it. For all the morals they purport to have given us, whether it was the infamous and treacherous silence during the Jewish Holocaust, or the embers they supplied to the millions of human burnings, the church has done nothing but suck at the sweetness that honest humans have labored to created. The thoughtfulness of our nation's creators gave us the freedom from having to support these churches. Unfortunately, some framers of the states decided to form state constitutions that authorized one religion over another. It cannot be expected that all humans shall follow the road to freedom all at the same time.
While it happens to be true that the church cannot receive tax money, the are allowed the exemption of paying taxes -- which one might accurately say is the same thing. If the collective running of the society of money requires so much tax money, exempting one or two parties only means that the others are required to pay more, are required to work more to maintain the same degree of luxury, while the exempt parties are allowed more luxury with the same amount of work, or the same amount of luxury with less work.
This dissertation is not about the deceit and villany that the church has provided humanity with. It is not an attack on the ideals that preachers claim that they are guardians of. It is not an assault on the principles which are part of Christian doctrine, or any religious doctrine for that matter. The bitter irony that religion is a source of spirituality as much as it is of hate and violence, the thousands of books which have been sacrificed to flames by the heads of the church, the cloak pastors have placed over the eyes of their churchgoers in order to turn them in to sheep -- all of this I have elsewhere written at length. This essay is not about the past crimes of a heartless regime. It is about the present policy that our civilization has enacted: that is to say, the tax-exempt status that churches and other religious organizations currently are allowed.
The first argument that must be considered is this: what church proceeds are going to be used for. The church apologists argue that the funds the church receives by donation are used for charitable purposes, that these churches improve their communities and help people better their lives. I cannot say that this is always wrong, but no honest person can say that it is always true. Yes, the churches do use their funding to create some community things. In most cases, before one can use these community activities, one must be a member of the faith, not using alcohol or drugs, and must be Heterosexual. The home of the scripture that reads: "Love thy enemy" is inhabited by a priest, a pastor, and a preacher whose words speak: "Jew, Muslim, and Hindu, begone. Those who intoxicate and indulge, whether to make their lives easier or to discover sublime and revered truths, begone. Men who lust after men and women who pine after women, these satanic abominations, begone."
The churches are private organizations. If it is their will to exclude the teaching of Evolution from their sunday school, it is allowed. If they also wish to teach children that women are inferior to men, that the Bible is a good book and must be obeyed when it reads: "Women are to be silent," then it is taught. As a private organization, they are allowed these liberties and freedoms. If a church be so bold and daring as to refuse admittance of black people to their ceremonies, they are allowed this right. Universities of our era, or so-called "institutions of learning," have passed rules that disallow blacks and whites from courtship -- a ruling that predates at least three decades of progressive and humanizing reform. If churches wanted to donate some of their excess income to these universities, there would be no way to stop them. If they wanted to focus and centralize the income, by preaching against secular schools and supporting racism in the classroom, and by donating only to those places which promise to oppress blacks, then that is their right, as a private organization.
The church knows no end to cruelty, and this is not an indictment against the church. It is a fact that has been recognized, year after year, person by person. However, it must be accepted and understood that when it comes to the funding of the church, we will find some of the most merciless and brutal acts that arrise out of our own human frailties. Perhaps we will find a church that refuses the rights of blacks to even enter or use their charity money. Churches were once the divine guardians of the institution of slavery. Today, they do nothing to stop the slave traffic that continues to flourish, the wretched one by the name of Capitalism. Today, the churches have done little to nothing to foster the ideals of acceptance, tolerance, understanding, open-mindedness, for the sole sake that to preach these ideals is to deny the divinity of the Bible -- to admit that the cruelty inherent in those pages came from the heart of man, not the mouth of god.
As history has shown us, the church may potentially do anything. They may make charity, but deny Homosexuals. They may give service, but deny African Americans. To other religions, they preach intolerance and bitterness, encouraging an aura of misunderstanding -- the embers to violence, cruelty, and brutality. Then, I ask the question again: why are the churches exempt from taxation? The taxes of the people that are collected to ensure a smooth-running society are used in a variety of ways: they build schools and teach children, they help run social programs such as welfare and food stamps, and they lend foreign aid to countries in dire poverty. When the church has gains, it may build schools, but they might teach children racism, or intolerance, or sexism, or the idea that Evolution is an evil, underground conspiracy, or a number of ridiculous and heartless things. The church might run a charity, but they might just refuse admittance by Homosexuals, members of certain races or religions, or people who dress differently. And, the church might donate some of its income to other charities, but they might refuse charity to any hospital that performs abortions. Yes, we have seen the churches do all of these things. There is no doubt to these questions. There is no conjecture in my theory. The church has burdened the society of men with bigotry and prejudice, making us fight each other when we could have been learning new ways of love, affection, and happiness.
When churches are exempt from taxes, an apologist will often say: "It is because the money of the churches goes to the same causes as taxes: to help the general order of society, with charities, schools, and the like." But, by understanding our current social situation, and the one of the past millenium, it is not difficult to see how wrong such an apology is. Churches must be taxed, so that their income can be fairly used and not employed to create racism and poverty. The same must apply to any religious organization. I am not arguing that churches cannot do the incredible things that they already do, at least legally. Ethics is another question. I am only arguing that, as private organizations that are allowed to such activity, they must be legitimately required to pay taxes. The churches have their own interests, just as businesses have their interests of maintaining a profit and cutting back on cost. Just as a business is required to pay taxes, so should a church. The difference is non-existent.
Men and women who profess to believe in a god, a goddess, or a multiple of them, are exercising their rights as living creatures. I can never argue against a person's right to believe what they will, to share what they believe, to practice their religion or philosophy in an attempt to satisfy the burnings of their heart. So long as a person's actions do not offend the sweetness of justice, the only argument I can offer him might be one on the logical errors of what he believes. And even then, I will not say a word about what he has the right to believe or practice. Ultimately, what is real or not real is something for each of us to decide. As a person who highly values Freethought and the independence of spirit, I will always find myself combating religion, not unlike any other revolutionary who fights ignorance or superstition. Among the great contradictions of religion, there is the question on the thoughts of god. When a religious follower tells you their ideas of what god believes, you will be hearing a speech about what this religious follower believes -- so it follows a person who believes in god and "knows" what god thinks will rarely disagree with god. And, so we have it today, with millions of religions, each thinking that god thinks something different. In actuality, what god believes is just what their religious followers believe. After all, if god believed in something different than the religious follower, why would they continue believing something false? Even with this logic, there remains a slew of religions out there. They have their right to exist and preach, as much as I have my right to criticize and think.
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