Religious Charity - Not all it's cracked up to be

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The "argument from charity"(you can't [say anything bad about/limit the interaction with government of/tax] religion X, they did nice thing Y) has reared its head on these forums a few times, but is especially common whenever some filthy devil-worshippin' secularist suggests that perhaps the multi-billion dollar religion-industry should be paying their fair share in taxes.

This excellent new report from the Council for Secular Humanism puts less of a dent and more of a gaping hole in the charity argument.

Do religions engage in charitable work that addresses the physical needs of the poor? Many do, but that is not their primary focus. Religions are quick to trumpet when they do charitable work-ironically for Christians, since the Bible explicitly says not to (Mathew 6:2). But they don't do as much charitable work as a lot of people think, and they spend a relatively small percentage of their overall revenue on such work.

For instance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church), which regularly trumpets its charitable donations, gave about $1 billion to charitable causes between 1985 and 2008. That may seem like a lot until you divide it by the twenty-three-year time span and realize this church is donating only about 0.7 percent of its annual income.2 Other religions are more charitable. For instance, the United Methodist Church allocated about 29 percent of its revenues to charitable causes in 2010 (about $62 million of $214 million received).3 One calculation of the resources expended by 271 U.S. congregations found that, on average, "operating expenses" totaled 71 percent of all the expenditures of religions, much of that going to pay ministers' salaries.4 Financial contributions addressing the physical needs of the poor fall within the remaining 29 percent of expenditures.

While these numbers may be higher as a percentage of income than typical charitable giving by corporations, they are not hugely higher (depending on the religion) and are substantially lower in absolute terms. Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years.5

We recognize that there is a lot of variation in how much religions engage in charitable work, and we don't want to discourage religions from doing so. However, comparing their charitable giving to the performance of secular charities is informative. The American Red Cross spends 92.1 percent of its revenue directly addressing the physical needs of those it intends to help; only 7.9 percent is spent on "operating expenses."6 If you use a generous 50 percent cutoff for indicating whether an institution is primarily a charitable organization or not (that is, they spend more than 50 percent of revenue on charitable work addressing physical needs), we doubt there is a single religion in the world that would actually qualify as a charitable organization.

That bears repeating, just for emphasis.

Church of the Latter Day Saints(Mormons):
0.7% of revenues actually reach the poor/needy.

United Methodist Church:
29% of revenues actually reach the poor/needy.

Red Cross:
92.1% of revenues actually reach the poor/needy.

Viewed in the context of Figure 1 from their investigation;

image

It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

The report is far too long to post here in its entirely, but I heartily suggest you read it before commenting, it's thorough and well sourced(with the exception of one technically-accurate but rather hyperbolic example), and it's information everyone should have access to.

Magichead:
It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

Well, naturally. At the very least, an oversimplification.

Given that not all religions are as active in charity, they shouldn't have the same tax exemption due to doing charitable works.

thaluikhain:

Magichead:
It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

Well, naturally. At the very least, an oversimplification.

Given that not all religions are as active in charity, they shouldn't have the same tax exemption due to doing charitable works.

Obviously they're not charities. If I gave a poor person a dollar every day I would be a better charity than the LDS church per capital. And I contest as I don't spend twice that fucking civil rights I'm automatically a better charity if I did nothing at all. Would I get exempt from payroll taxes, sales tax and property tax? Could I cause mentally abusive harm to a child and be told it's my right? Would I be applauded for it? Fuck no.

One of the 5 pillars of islam is Zakat (Charity).

In countries such as Afghanistan, as well as parts of Yemen, Iran, etc. the 'Zakat' is collected by militants and funneled towards continued insurgent and terrorist activity.

So yeah, religious charity doesn't always work out the way their gods intended. Doesn't matter which religion it is either.

I've never thought religions should be tax-exempt (or given any kind of treatment by the government whatsoever, for that matter - If people want to believe in Star Babies or the ravings of some crazy knobhead from Mecca, then they can, but it shouldn't fall on my tax money to help them spread their insanity).

You could just extend that to charity in general. There are loads of charities out there that don't really fund anything except themselves, and even the ones that actually do manage to fund projects don't have any guarantee that the projects will achieve anything.

I think an example of this was a charity helping build roads in Africa, and the roads caused local farmers to go out of business because of lower prices in other villages. Obviously there are some charities that are very useful and improve the lives of many people, but you've got to do your research beforehand.

I'm not religious and even I know that's a silly measure. Cash doesn't have to reach a poor person for community good/charity to be done.

A religious leader providing free counselling is a public service. Hosting/promoting food drives, community cleanups, etc, are also worthy endeavors.

Just compare it to Universities that also don't give money directly to the poor and yet are charities (well, at least in Canada where I live, don't know about elsewhere).

The actual SERVICE of the organization can be their charitable work.

While I don't think it's quite accurate to demonize religious groups for using their income for operating expenses (as leaders of religious groups often need degrees equivalent to graduate degrees, and part of these expenses go toward services supporting their own members. In other words, the Red Cross doesn't have to find comfortable seating for 100+ guests every week just to keep the revenue coming in), the comparison with secular aid shows things aren't very good. In fact, it's very odd to see some churches not even reaching the traditional Christian tithe level of 10%, though of course not all Christian churches have to believe that percentage of tithe is the official rule.

You know, I think a very reasonable compromise would be to simply allow any organization (religious or otherwise) to reduce its tax bill based on how much it donates to charities.

But then we get the problem of what constitutes a charity? As Stu35 points out, many organizations that are "charities" use their money for very ignoble causes.

Magichead:

It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

It's not that I necessarily disagree, but to point out that when the laws say "charity", what it means is a not-for-profit organisation that performs some degree of beneficial social purpose, not that it overtly spends money on the needy. A religion can be seen - and is by an awful lot of religious people - to serve a valuable social function simply in and of itself, thus merits a tax-exempt status.

Of course, realistically, many religions have created and work for associated charitable organisations (e.g. Christian Aid) or run drives for non-associated charities. Thus they may be raising a lot of money for charity beyond what goes through the church's accounts.

What does strike me as outrageous (primarily from what I've read occurring in the USA) is where some churches and their individual pastors seem to be making an awful lot of money from what appear to be de facto commercial ventures built off the advantages of tax-exempt status.

Agema:

Magichead:

It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

It's not that I necessarily disagree, but to point out that when the laws say "charity", what it means is a not-for-profit organisation that performs some degree of beneficial social purpose, not that it overtly spends money on the needy. A religion can be seen - and is by an awful lot of religious people - to serve a valuable social function simply in and of itself, thus merits a tax-exempt status.

Of course, realistically, many religions have created and work for associated charitable organisations (e.g. Christian Aid) or run drives for non-associated charities. Thus they may be raising a lot of money for charity beyond what goes through the church's accounts.

What does strike me as outrageous (primarily from what I've read occurring in the USA) is where some churches and their individual pastors seem to be making an awful lot of money from what appear to be de facto commercial ventures built off the advantages of tax-exempt status.

Which would be fine apart from a few things. The first being that, as the article points out, the "spiritual services" portion of a church's operation are far more akin to the provision of entertainment through a club than anything else, and such things are NOT tax exempt. As for the law, I find the idea that an organisation could get away with claiming charitable status when 99.3% of its revenues were retained as "operating costs" -if it were not hiding under the shield of religious privilege- to be ludicrous; any secular group which operated in such a manner would be the subject of every possible angle of legal assault available.

Any money raised for charitable organisations outwith the control of the church is besides the point, as it has no bearing on whether or not the church itself should be allowed to make itself exempt from taxation. A good friend of mine regularly hosts dinners at his restaurant for his friends and colleagues at which he raises money for local charities, he is personally responsible for raising tens of thousands of pounds, yet he has absolutely no legal basis for claiming his entire restaurant business as a tax-exempt charity simply because it acts as a venue and impetus for charitable giving.

As for using the fact that religious privilege exists as an argument that religious privilege should continue to exist, I don't think that it holds up. When you break everything down as they have in this article, you find that the activities these organisations are involved in are ones which would disqualify any non-religious group from being considered for charitable status. It's a circular argument: why should religious organisations be considered charities? because religious organisations provide a concrete social benefit; how do they provide a social benefit? by being charities. The "social benefit" has always been touted as their work to aid the poor, the sick, the needy, but in reality they use most of their money to perpetuate their own existence, and extend the reach of their ideology through political manipulation and propaganda.

They get away with this because, as the article points out, they have special privilege even above other groups with charitable status, as they are not subject to the same checks, and can only be audited by the IRS in extremely narrowly defined circumstances.

That some people find value in a thing does NOT define that thing as a social good in and of itself, and religion's claim to that quality is seriously undermined by the argument these researchers present.

Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I've never trusted charity if it's coming from religious organization. Because I don't trust organized religion in general that always tries to tell me that I should embrace some creepy Gary Stu stranger from however long ago who apparently loves me.

Then again, I don't trust charity in general, because it does fuck all. There's still widespread poverty in Africa, and all that money that we've been pouring into their honey pot clearly isn't doing shit. So you know what? No, I'm not giving to charity anymore. Fuck off with your guilt-tripping appeals, because you know damn well that they're going to die anyway. Or just live out their shitty hut life for a couple more years. And you try to tell me you're a philanthropist. *spits*

Agema:

Magichead:

It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

It's not that I necessarily disagree, but to point out that when the laws say "charity", what it means is a not-for-profit organisation that performs some degree of beneficial social purpose, not that it overtly spends money on the needy. A religion can be seen - and is by an awful lot of religious people - to serve a valuable social function simply in and of itself, thus merits a tax-exempt status.

Right, for example aren't superPACs tax-exempt in the US? The term is very broad, to say the least.

Magichead:

While these numbers may be higher as a percentage of income than typical charitable giving by corporations, they are not hugely higher (depending on the religion) and are substantially lower in absolute terms. Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years./quote]

I don't know if this is a wholly fair criticism. Wal-Mart's income is likely much bigger than a church's income or even a denomination's income.

Plus if we're specifically ragging on Christian churches, it's not necessarily inconsistent with their view that a heartfelt small donation is more meaningful than a large donation if it's simply loose change.

It begins to make the demand for near-blanket classification of religious organisations as tax-exempt charities seem much more like brazen dishonesty than anything else.

Perhaps so, but even then, I can't say I really get why I'd want to make religions tax-paying where possible. The absolutely last thing I personally want is to give them the clout of being able to say "well, as tax-payers, we don't think you should sign that bill".

Magichead:
Which would be fine apart from a few things. The first being that, as the article points out, the "spiritual services" portion of a church's operation are far more akin to the provision of entertainment through a club than anything else, and such things are NOT tax exempt. As for the law, I find the idea that an organisation could get away with claiming charitable status when 99.3% of its revenues were retained as "operating costs" -if it were not hiding under the shield of religious privilege- to be ludicrous; any secular group which operated in such a manner would be the subject of every possible angle of legal assault available.

Do we know that for sure? I'd be interested to find data on this.

As for using the fact that religious privilege exists as an argument that religious privilege should continue to exist, I don't think that it holds up. When you break everything down as they have in this article, you find that the activities these organisations are involved in are ones which would disqualify any non-religious group from being considered for charitable status. It's a circular argument: why should religious organisations be considered charities? because religious organisations provide a concrete social benefit; how do they provide a social benefit? by being charities. The "social benefit" has always been touted as their work to aid the poor, the sick, the needy, but in reality they use most of their money to perpetuate their own existence, and extend the reach of their ideology through political manipulation and propaganda.

There's maybe an argument here in that the motives are good but the means is wholly insufficient. If the concern is to not simply self-perpetuate but to do the most good then maybe a more streamlined institution is in order.

That some people find value in a thing does NOT define that thing as a social good in and of itself, and religion's claim to that quality is seriously undermined by the argument these researchers present.

Interesting indeed. I've always thought that charitable works are generally a good thing regardless of the source and that secular organisations could do the same works in theory but in practice it would be inefficient to simply replace church charity with secular ones - apparently that latter claim was grossly incorrect.

Oirish_Martin:

Magichead:

While these numbers may be higher as a percentage of income than typical charitable giving by corporations, they are not hugely higher (depending on the religion) and are substantially lower in absolute terms. Wal-Mart, for instance, gives about $1.75 billion in food aid to charities each year, or twenty-eight times all of the money allotted for charity by the United Methodist Church and almost double what the LDS Church has given in the last twenty-five years./quote]

I don't know if this is a wholly fair criticism. Wal-Mart's income is likely much bigger than a church's income or even a denomination's income.

Fair point.

Plus if we're specifically ragging on Christian churches, it's not necessarily inconsistent with their view that a heartfelt small donation is more meaningful than a large donation if it's simply loose change.

This not so much.

In seeing if Wikipedia had any information I came across this:

Wikipedia:
Note that the U.S. system does not distinguish between various kinds of tax exempt entities (such as educational versus charitable) for purposes of granting exemption, but does make such distinctions with respect to allowing a tax deduction for contributions.

I'm not very familiar with the laws in question. Do religious groups qualify for tax exemption differently from non-religious groups? Are they governed by the same rules? Because as long as they're governed by the same rules and those rules are enforced equally then I don't have a problem. Otherwise, we need to re-think our system.

I can't help but suspect some people will pile on this though out of their opposition to religion in general (and likewise, some people will defend churches out of their religious identity). People really need to be calm and sober about this.

But this bit in Wikipedia about education vs. charity poses some interesting questions for the discussion- do some churches claim tax exemption based on their supposed educational offerings, and if so is there an evaluation of what those educational offerings are? I can already hear the anti-Christian brigade's knees straining to jerk and throw in a comment about creationism as "education", but many churches do offer counseling services that can be quite outside religious doctrine, and since these services might be offered throughout the week while standard church services are typically Sunday morning and Wednesday night only, they really could make up a reasonable chunk of church employees' time.

So tl;dr: There's potential for valid discussion here, but I want to see more information, lest the temptation be too great for people to pick sides based on their personal (a)religious beliefs rather than the correctness of the laws in question.

I shall pick a local church near me.

They have cheap pre-school. They do charity bakesales. They allow the local boy scout, girl scout, weight watchers, and several other groups to meet there regularly free of charge. They provide valuable social functions voluntarily, with zero funding other than voluntary donations from church members. Sounds pretty charitable with none of that being direct church budget to charity donation transactions.

At any rate, what problem do you have with 1% of a budget going to direct charitable contributions when it comes with a lot of free man hours of charitable efforts and is entirely dependant on the 99% of the budget that keeps the organizations running.

Or shall we imagine what happens if you tax the churches... they lose all their budget excess and start spending no budget money on their charitable efforts.

I do agree that newer churches that get a lot of their income from tv deals or merchandizing should have that money treated as commercial income, but I'd certainly say an organization dependant on purely voluntary donations and serving nothing but social function qualifies for tax exemption.

Being like "we shouldn't tax religions because they'll claim their tax money gives them ownership of the government!" is silly because they already act that way now while not paying taxes.

tstorm823:
I shall pick a local church near me.

They have cheap pre-school. They do charity bakesales. They allow the local boy scout, girl scout, weight watchers, and several other groups to meet there regularly free of charge. They provide valuable social functions voluntarily, with zero funding other than voluntary donations from church members. Sounds pretty charitable with none of that being direct church budget to charity donation transactions.

At any rate, what problem do you have with 1% of a budget going to direct charitable contributions when it comes with a lot of free man hours of charitable efforts and is entirely dependant on the 99% of the budget that keeps the organizations running.

Or shall we imagine what happens if you tax the churches... they lose all their budget excess and start spending no budget money on their charitable efforts.

I do agree that newer churches that get a lot of their income from tv deals or merchandizing should have that money treated as commercial income, but I'd certainly say an organization dependant on purely voluntary donations and serving nothing but social function qualifies for tax exemption.

Not if all that money ends up in their own pockets which is the point of the thread. If .7% income means charity for religious why doesn't it for secular interests. Magichead isn't contesting should charities be tax exempt, he's questioning whether their spending habits match the claim you're making for them and frankly they don't.

A church might get volunteer money and give some back as blankets but when that some is 25% they're not an efficient charity. If they were a secular institution with the same business model they'd not be considered a charity at all.

Katatori-kun:
But then we get the problem of what constitutes a charity? As Stu35 points out, many organizations that are "charities" use their money for very ignoble causes.

And there's the matter of works. My brother and sister in law are currently over in Mozambique doing mission work for the Methodist church. And some friends of mine spent the last two weeks of May in Honduras. It is unsurprising to me that, percentage-wise, religious organizations give less than dedicated charities, for the reasons you pointed out. But I do wonder how they compare as far as actually getting people to job sites and doing physical work. I guess there's the Peace Corps and Red Cross, and random corporate things that pop up like that Tide Loads of Hope thing (that was really cool, I thought that was a great idea Tide had). I don't know what sort of reliable numbers you could get from religious groups, though. Our mission works aren't always scheduled or documented, sometimes we just call people up when we learn they're in a jam and ask if they need some help.

tstorm823:

Not if all that money ends up in their own pockets which is the point of the thread. If .7% income means charity for religious why doesn't it for secular interests. Magichead isn't contesting should charities be tax exempt, he's questioning whether their spending habits match the claim you're making for them and frankly they don't.

A church might get volunteer money and give some back as blankets but when that some is 25% they're not an efficient charity. If they were a secular institution with the same business model they'd not be considered a charity at all.

Yes they would, or atleast in the tax issues being discussed. Churches are inherently nonprofit institutions... which is actually how a business gets tax exempt status in the first place. It actually has nothing to do with being charitable, so long as your organization has a stated mission and uses any budget surplus to further that stated mission rather than pay dividends to owners or investors.

Ignoring the debate on whether churches deserve tax exempt status for a moment, I say with absolute certainty that a secular institution with the same business model would be able to acquire tax exempt status.

On the contrary, I think Religious Charity (at least from my sect of christianity) definitely is a major help to the world.

http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/catholic-church-and-healthcare-in.html

Here's a quote for those who don't want to go to the link.

The Catholic Church is very visible in healthcare services in Africa. She, of all religious groups and private agencies working in the healthcare industry in Africa, has the largest number of private hospitals and clinics providing Medicare and, in some cases, free medical treatment for HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and people suffering from malaria. This happens even in those African countries where the Catholic Church is not a majority. In Ghana for instance, Catholics make up about 30 percent of the population but control more hospitals than any other private agency in the country. In Africa, the Church works in 16,178 health centers, including 1,074 hospitals, 5,373 out-patient clinics, 186 leper colonies, 753 homes for the elderly and physically and mentally less able brothers and sisters, 979 orphanages, 1,997 kindergartens, 1,590 marriage counseling centers, 2,947 social re-education centers and 1,279 other various centers. There are 12,496 nursery schools with 1,266,444 registered children; 33,263 primary schools with 14,061,000 pupils, and 9,838 high schools with 3,738,238 students. Some 54,362 students are enrolled in higher institutes, of which 11,011 are pursuing ecclesiastical studies. There are in Africa, fifty-three national chapters of Caritas, thirty-four national commissions of justice and peace and twelve institutes and centers promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The problem is that Religions aren't entirely a charity organization, and with some being so disorganized it's hard to tell whether certain groups are truly charitable and others aren't.

Lilani:

Katatori-kun:
But then we get the problem of what constitutes a charity? As Stu35 points out, many organizations that are "charities" use their money for very ignoble causes.

And there's the matter of works. My brother and sister in law are currently over in Mozambique doing mission work for the Methodist church. And some friends of mine spent the last two weeks of May in Honduras. It is unsurprising to me that, percentage-wise, religious organizations give less than dedicated charities, for the reasons you pointed out. But I do wonder how they compare as far as actually getting people to job sites and doing physical work. I guess there's the Peace Corps and Red Cross, and random corporate things that pop up like that Tide Loads of Hope thing (that was really cool, I thought that was a great idea Tide had). I don't know what sort of reliable numbers you could get from religious groups, though. Our mission works aren't always scheduled or documented, sometimes we just call people up when we learn they're in a jam and ask if they need some help.

I'm going to have to be honest... I don't think I can separate my my personal experiences with mission work* from the topic as a whole.

But as for how religious missions compare with other charities, I'm not prepared to speculate without the kind of data that I just don't think has been compiled. While religious fervor does drive some people to invest incredible amounts of energy in people in parts of the world no one else cares about, there are a lot of unprepared volunteer-tourists who basically waste a lot of money and a lot of energy going around the world to feel good about themselves. It kind of reminds me of this LRR video. Now that's not to say that secular charity groups are more efficient or that a certain degree of inefficient face-time leading to intercultural experience doesn't have some merit in its own right. I just think the whole topic is far too complex to rule one way or another on without a lot of research that I'm not prepared to put in.

*I don't want to get into details, but suffice it to say that while I can see value in it as a way to give international experience to people who aren't otherwise tempted by wanderlust, I don't have much respect for the endeavor otherwise and won't touch it myself with a 10-foot pole.

Witty Name Here:
On the contrary, I think Religious Charity (at least from my sect of christianity) definitely is a major help to the world.

http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/catholic-church-and-healthcare-in.html

Here's a quote for those who don't want to go to the link.

The Catholic Church is very visible in healthcare services in Africa. She, of all religious groups and private agencies working in the healthcare industry in Africa, has the largest number of private hospitals and clinics providing Medicare and, in some cases, free medical treatment for HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, and people suffering from malaria. This happens even in those African countries where the Catholic Church is not a majority. In Ghana for instance, Catholics make up about 30 percent of the population but control more hospitals than any other private agency in the country. In Africa, the Church works in 16,178 health centers, including 1,074 hospitals, 5,373 out-patient clinics, 186 leper colonies, 753 homes for the elderly and physically and mentally less able brothers and sisters, 979 orphanages, 1,997 kindergartens, 1,590 marriage counseling centers, 2,947 social re-education centers and 1,279 other various centers. There are 12,496 nursery schools with 1,266,444 registered children; 33,263 primary schools with 14,061,000 pupils, and 9,838 high schools with 3,738,238 students. Some 54,362 students are enrolled in higher institutes, of which 11,011 are pursuing ecclesiastical studies. There are in Africa, fifty-three national chapters of Caritas, thirty-four national commissions of justice and peace and twelve institutes and centers promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The problem is that Religions aren't entirely a charity organization, and with some being so disorganized it's hard to tell whether certain groups are truly charitable and others aren't.

Does it mention how many of those healthcare institutions are passing on the wisdom that condoms make you more likely to catch AIDS? Does it mention how many of those schools adhere to the idea that children who aren't good little god-botherers are witches and should be killed? Does it mention how many of those orphanages are being run by priests quietly shuffled out of American and European churches after they were caught abusing kids?

I am absolutely willing to acknowledge that religious charity has helped a lot of people, but Africa is NOT the place you want to go if you wish to reinforce that point, and I struggle to see how missionary work -the primary purpose of which is to enlarge and thus enrich the church- can be considered charitable in any way. It has some beneficial outcomes, but if the same amount of money was put in the hands of a secular charity, I think this article illustrates pretty clearly that it would have a much greater effect.

More importantly, I think it also illustrates that, on average, worship-venue-driven charity is far more about ensuring the continued existence, prominence, and influence of the venue itself than it is about helping the needy, at least for those in charge of how the money is spent.

Katatori-kun:

This not so much.
*snip

I don't think I was initially very clear. My point was that even though Walmart can beat church donations on an absolute scale, it's not necessarily an indictment of individual Christians or even individual churches. Maybe not even of a denomination, if it is small and struggling.

Magichead:
snip

No offense but that is total bull crap, Missionary work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, and you clearly don't seem to understand how it works at all.

Missionary work is a humanitarian effort first and a religious one optionally. The first thing missionaries build in a village is health facilities and then they move on to schools. Missionaries don't preach or talk about Jesus unless asked to by the people, and even then if they seem harmful or annoying to the villagers they have every right to order the missionaries to leave (missionaries are only allowed to stay as long as the village itself tolerates them). The only reason that missionary work actually manages to spread religion is because A) most Missionaries are priests or nuns and B) When they're essentially the only thing helping a village survive (because in most african countries the Government isn't much help) people actually are willing to listen to the message of peace and love more.

So don't dare try and say that a profession that saves peoples' lives is some "evil mission to force people into the church!" because sir, that is wrong and I am willing to argue my point to prove it.

Witty Name Here:

Magichead:
snip

No offense but that is total bull crap, Missionary work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, and you clearly don't seem to understand how it works at all.

Missionary work is a humanitarian effort first and a religious one optionally. The first thing missionaries build in a village is health facilities and then they move on to schools. Missionaries don't preach or talk about Jesus unless asked to by the people, and even then if they seem harmful or annoying to the villagers they have every right to order the missionaries to leave (missionaries are only allowed to stay as long as the village itself tolerates them). The only reason that missionary work actually manages to spread religion is because A) most Missionaries are priests or nuns and B) When they're essentially the only thing helping a village survive (because in most african countries the Government isn't much help) people actually are willing to listen to the message of peace and love more.

So don't dare try and say that a profession that saves peoples' lives is some "evil mission to force people into the church!" because sir, that is wrong and I am willing to argue my point to prove it.

You can argue all you like, but you're doing it against a strawman of such scale it could have a starring role in The Wickerman, considering that I did not argue they do no good, nor that they "force" people into anything. It's also pretty difficult to refuse the charges of AIDS-denialism, killing of children as "witches", and shipping known paedophile-priests off to Africa, since those things all occurred, and are still occurring.

Missionaries often also build wells, and irrigation, and lots of other lovely things, but they do so with the ultimate aim of building one thing: a church. It's a concept known as an "ulterior motive", and this is a point you cannot argue in any remotely rational way, because if there were no ulterior motive, it would not be Missionary work, merely humanitarian aid. They are making their efforts in the expectation that they will be able to persuade some or all of those they help to join their faith, ie, they are doing their work with the expectation of a return on their investment of time and money; that this return is in worshipers for their God rather than interest payments(leaving aside that devout worshipers are the ones who put their hands in their pockets when the collection plate gets passed around) is besides the point. Work done in expectation of recompense is NOT charity.

Finally, do you not see the conflict inherent in your assertion that the villagers can tell the missionaries to leave at any time, with your later assertion that the missionaries are the only ones trying to help them? Can you not see how that is an inherently manipulative system? Lets say that the missionaries built the hospital, and the well, and the school, and then they "ask" if they can preach and build a church; what are the villagers supposed to say? "No thanks, please leave now, we'll find the medicine, trained professionals, books and etc to stock those buildings you put up on our own"?

If your continued life and wellbeing and the lives and wellbeing of your family and friends were dependent on the goodwill of a person, then how many people would be willing to turn down a request made by that person and run the risk that they may withdraw their goodwill?

Magichead:
snip

So apparently the fact they live in corrupt governments and some people out there are trying to help save their lives is manipulative now. I guess they should just be left in their currently terrible social conditions because any form of help from anyone what-so-ever is "manipulative" now.

Have you ever considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, some Missionaries are actually doing their jobs to help people? Maybe it's not all about greed or forcing anyone to your ideology? Missionaries barely even actively preach the faith, all they do is build hospitals and schools (the most "religious" thing about that is some may be dressed in priestly garb while doing it) and let people who are interested in the faith approach them. It's just following the work Christ set out for his follower to do: I.E. help the poor and sick.

And on your many points about the supposedly "evil" things the Church does.

While yes it does sharply criticize condom use in Africa, it also promotes Chastity and Monogamy along with temperance, and unless you start saying that somehow Chastity gives people AIDS then it's not entirely the Church's fault if they only listen to the "Don't use condoms" part and not the "And try to wait until marriage before you have sex" part.

And those men who accuse Children of being witches are heartless, pathetic, bastards to the core. They're monsters who abuse the teachings of the official church to further their own ends. Yet, in almost all those cases they "lost touch" with the main church they're supposed to report to. They were nothing but power hungry despots who saw a position they could take and abuse for control over a superstitious community (after all they frequently charge family for "multiple exorcisms" as a way to make money) I'd hardly say that it's the fault of the entirety of the church or missionaries if a power-hungry madman sees a place of power for him to snatch.

Finally, the problem of Pedophilia within the church is something I do have an issue with. I personally wish the church would just excommunicate those priests and leave them to the police force to handle, yet it doesn't just move all of them solely to Africa. They're moved to multiple countries, some of them not even placed into positions of missionary work.

Witty Name Here:
*

Wow!

With numbers like that, why is sub-Saharan Africa still such an awful place to live (for the most part)?

While yes it does sharply criticize condom use in Africa, it also promotes Chastity and Monogamy along with temperance, and unless you start saying that somehow Chastity gives people AIDS then it's not entirely the Church's fault if they only listen to the "Don't use condoms" part and not the "And try to wait until marriage before you have sex" part.

The health outcome of such education is more children and more AIDS and more children with AIDS. Stubbornly insisting on advocacy of only one method of protection in the face of evidence that other methods work and work well, especially when that method is the least desirable for many people, makes the advocate responsible for the resultant spread of disease. It is a direct cause and effect relationship.

Magichead:
Work done in expectation of recompense is NOT charity.

So then you oppose tax credits for charitable donations?

Witty Name Here:

Magichead:
snip

No offense but that is total bull crap, Missionary work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, and you clearly don't seem to understand how it works at all.

"Considered" by who? Got any evidence to back that claim up? Because I'd say crab fisherman, ice road trucker, Fukushima radiation scrubber, and Chinese firework builder are all more dangerous than most missionary jobs I've seen.

Missionary work is a humanitarian effort first and a religious one optionally.

Not true. The character of missionary work varies case-by-case. I know of plenty of cases, including one I was directly involved in, where the religious organization was considered more important than the humanitarian work performed.

Missionaries don't preach or talk about Jesus unless asked to by the people,

Citation needed.

because sir, that is wrong and I am willing to argue my point to prove it.

Yeah, but are you willing to back it up with verifiable evidence?

Witty Name Here:

Magichead:
snip

So apparently the fact they live in corrupt governments and some people out there are trying to help save their lives is manipulative now. I guess they should just be left in their currently terrible social conditions because any form of help from anyone what-so-ever is "manipulative" now.

You're really trying hard to scare off those crows, eh? "Making requests of people who's lives are in your hands is coercive, and helping people with the intent of making such requests is manipulative". Put aside the specific topic of discussion, make a coherent argument against that statement, and maybe we can get back to discussing the issue rationally before you have some kind of apoplectic stroke.

Have you ever considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, some Missionaries are actually doing their jobs to help people? Maybe it's not all about greed or forcing anyone to your ideology? Missionaries barely even actively preach the faith, all they do is build hospitals and schools (the most "religious" thing about that is some may be dressed in priestly garb while doing it) and let people who are interested in the faith approach them. It's just following the work Christ set out for his follower to do: I.E. help the poor and sick.

I don't think I ever once stated that no missionaries are trying to help people; the phrase "ulterior motive" inherently implies another motive exists.

And on your many points about the supposedly "evil" things the Church does.

Again with the hyperbole; I don't think I've used the word "evil" once in this thread. I would certainly classify all three of the issues I raised as "unethical", but "evil" is a meaningless expression.

While yes it does sharply criticize condom use in Africa, it also promotes Chastity and Monogamy along with temperance, and unless you start saying that somehow Chastity gives people AIDS then it's not entirely the Church's fault if they only listen to the "Don't use condoms" part and not the "And try to wait until marriage before you have sex" part.

Leaving aside that criticising, to any extent, the most effective method of preventing transmission of HIV between two people is moronic, and leaving aside that abstinence-only programmes do not work, have never worked, and will probably never work; I did not say "criticised condoms", I said "passing on the wisdom that condoms make you more likely to catch AIDS". That's not criticising condoms, that is deliberately lying to people who don't know any better, in order to make them more likely to adhere to your religious principles.

And those men who accuse Children of being witches are heartless, pathetic, bastards to the core. They're monsters who abuse the teachings of the official church to further their own ends. Yet, in almost all those cases they "lost touch" with the main church they're supposed to report to. They were nothing but power hungry despots who saw a position they could take and abuse for control over a superstitious community (after all they frequently charge family for "multiple exorcisms" as a way to make money) I'd hardly say that it's the fault of the entirety of the church or missionaries if a power-hungry madman sees a place of power for him to snatch.

I could spend a lot of time dissecting this, but I have a feeling that you'd get almost as little out of reading it as I would out of writing it, so I'll simply point out that this whole statement is simply a single gigantic "No True Scotsman" and leave it at that.

Finally, the problem of Pedophilia within the church is something I do have an issue with. I personally wish the church would just excommunicate those priests and leave them to the police force to handle, yet it doesn't just move all of them solely to Africa. They're moved to multiple countries, some of them not even placed into positions of missionary work.

So you don't deny that it happens, but you still try and equivocate and obfuscate the fact that it happens, and you do this by arguing that Africa should just be thankful they didn't send ALL of their child-abusing rapists there?

Wolverine18:

Magichead:
Work done in expectation of recompense is NOT charity.

So then you oppose tax credits for charitable donations?

Yes, but I also support increasing the foreign aid budget of the national government to make up the shortfall, because government aid can be controlled via legislation to ensure it only goes to charities which use the money they're given to actually help people.

I see no reason why you would want to treat a religious based charity differently than any other charity. It's pretty much the definition of bigotry to suggest discrimination based on religious beliefs.

Magichead:

Wolverine18:

Magichead:
Work done in expectation of recompense is NOT charity.

So then you oppose tax credits for charitable donations?

Yes, but I also support increasing the foreign aid budget of the national government to make up the shortfall, because government aid can be controlled via legislation to ensure it only goes to charities which use the money they're given to actually help people.

What does foreign aid have to do with it? Non governmental gifts for abroad are the smallest part of charity. There are billions given to homeless shelters, education, medical research, work training for the disabled, support programs for vets, and on and on and on. Loss of charitable tax credits would be devastating to many causes.

Religious organisations in many countries do get a blanket cheque while secular charities actually need to prove their charitable effect. Same rules for everybody, I'd hope. Everybody should have to demonstrate that they deserve such boons and if they are serious in their endeavours then it shouldn't be any more difficult for them than it is for the secular alternatives.

Anyway, I'm very careful only to donate to secular charities since I don't want any of my money to go to a cause I quite frankly think is (partly) harmful. Luckily, plenty such options exist.

Skeleon:
Religious organisations in many countries do get a blanket cheque while secular charities actually need to prove their charitable effect. Same rules for everybody, I'd hope. Everybody should have to demonstrate that they deserve such boons and if they are serious in their endeavours then it shouldn't be any more difficult for them than it is for the secular alternatives.

Anyway, I'm very careful only to donate to secular charities since I don't want any of my money to go to a cause I quite frankly think is (partly) harmful. Luckily, plenty such options exist.

In Canada the rules for all NFPs and all Charities are the same.

The key factor in a NFP is that it doesn't have equity holders that are entitled to share in profits.

The key factor in a Registered Charity is that it must declare that its purpose is for one of a long list of purposes and that it doesn't engage in any significant way in certain prohibited activities.

A registered charity must also spend at least 3.5% of its assets each year in approved activities. So, for example, if I start up a "counsel troubled kids" charity and had $1,000,000 of donations to fund it, I would only be required to spend $3,500/year on that charitable work.

What's more, if I was the one doing the counselling, that $35,000 could be a cheque to myself for services rendered. In addition, charities of any kind can apply for permission to accumulate cash and distribute less than 3.5% if they can make a case to Canada Revenue that it is in the long term charitable interest to do so (for example, a charity created to build a hospital would be such a case).

Charities with less than $25,000 in assets are not required to make ANY charitable distributions or activities if they don't want to.

There is really no special treatment for religions except that promoting religion is recognized as a service to the public.

(@ magichead) I don't understand what part of your argument is strong. Your saying that they aren't giving enough to charity? or that you don't approve of their methods? They aren't obliged to give anything really. I could criticize you for not giving anything to charity. How much of your income to you donate?

Kendarik:
There is really no special treatment for religions except that promoting religion is recognized as a service to the public.

Except that, yes.

You know, that's a big fucking "But..." right there. If it's true that promoting religion is by default recognized as a service to the public, that's a big fucking difference, and a big fucking inequality in how the matter is handled.

Elcarsh:

Kendarik:
There is really no special treatment for religions except that promoting religion is recognized as a service to the public.

Except that, yes.

You know, that's a big fucking "But..." right there. If it's true that promoting religion is by default recognized as a service to the public, that's a big fucking difference, and a big fucking inequality in how the matter is handled.

No its not. Lots of other things are specifically recognized too. That's why its a long list of things that are allowable.

If starting my own non religious counselling service with no actually credentials DOES qualify (and it can) then why shouldn't it qualify if it is religious?

If starting my own educational service teaching whatever it is I wish to promote DOES qualify (and it can) then why shouldn't it qualify if that subject is religious?

The legislation lists off the things that obviously qualify, but anything that provides a community service can qualify.

Elcarsh:
Except that, yes.

You know, that's a big fucking "But..." right there. If it's true that promoting religion is by default recognized as a service to the public, that's a big fucking difference, and a big fucking inequality in how the matter is handled.

Exactly, I mean, why should that in itself be recognized? Many religious organizations perform actual charity work (like soup kitchens or shelters or whatnot) and that sort of thing should be easy enough for a religious group to prove in order to justify their charitable status. But merely promoting religion, an ideology? Why does that in itself deserve special treatment, especially since promoting itself is kind of in the religion's interest in the first place most of the time.

EDIT: Now, Kendarik's response makes it almost sound like spreading ideologies would actually qualify. If that is the case then I must say "what the fuck is wrong with you?" to the way charity is handled there in general, not just in regards to religion. Have some standards for what can be considered charitable for crying out loud!

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