US religion is worth $1.2T/year, more than America's 10 biggest tech companies, combined


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/16/us-religion-is-worth-1-2tyea.html


#2

Huh. Guess I missed the boat. When we founded our company back in ‘03, I shoulda’ registered us as a Jedi software company. And here I thought the LLC was a deal!


#3

[quote=“doctorow, post:1, topic:85531”]a number that includes religious “healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.”[/quote]The most obvious criticism is that this is probably exceptionally broad and that some of these entities are much more connected to faith (or “faith”) than others.

The second most obvious criticism is that I might expect 20% of the organizations to be responsible for 80% of that figure. (Yay Pareto!)


#4

Tech companies don’t pay any taxes either…


#5

Nonsense!

Apple paid almost EUR 1,000 to Ireland in 2015!

/s


#6

Yeah, I doubt that, with relatively small populations of Jews and Muslims in the US, that the kosher and halal food is responsible for any significant percentage of the total economic value they’re aggregating here. (With the corollary being, of course, that devout Jews and Muslims will only eat kosher and Halal, which can be very expensive, and add up in the aggregate)


#7

There’s big money in mythology


#8

Not probably, the authors point this out themselves. They lumped together the offering plate at the Little Brown Church in the Dell and Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns hundreds of hospitals. The hospitals are not primarily in the prayin’ business.


#9

Turns out that inviting the money changers back into the temple was a prudent business decision.


#10

The role of religious organizations as government contractors for supplying services is an interesting aspect of this. I have no grand insight into this across sectors and the country, but I will tell you that NYC’s Pre-K expansion relied heavily on parochial schools to come up with the amount of seats (the local parlance for “spot in a class for a kid”) that they promised.

Shout out to “Most Precious Blood School” one of my fave names for a school for 4-year-olds…


#11

The executive summary for the study would be closer to, “if you went to the U.S. on a world exactly like our own, except all religions were dropped overnight, by how much would our economies be different? Answer: we dump about $1.2T more into our economy annually than they would.”

People seem to be interpreting the news a few weird ways. Some seem to think it means religious institutions are collecting $1.2 Trillion in revenue which is not true: that figure would only be about a third of the total. Bringing up taxes makes it sound like religion is somehow mooching $1.2T (or a significant cut of it) from the public trust, which is also incorrect. In fact, the $1.2T is mostly made up of money that people willingly part with to third parties because of their religions, including the charitable giving of religious people which helps to cover the general public’s unwillingness to spend tax money helping the disavdantaged.

We pay tithes b/c of our religion, but we also choose to eat certain more expensive things, give our money away to private charitable institutions, found public hospitals, send our kids to more expensive private education, and invest in cottage industries, which all make up the bulk of the figure.

The high-end estimate (“What’s the rough value in the economy of all avowedly religious institutions and people?”) is closer to $5 trillion, but unless there’s some sort of Alhambra decree for the U.S., it doesn’t seem like an especially useful upper bound.


#12


#13

And no one is around to kick them out this time!


#14

There was this one shady-looking Palestinian pacifist who was making a fuss about it but the authorities caught up with him thanks to the help of an informant they’d planted among his dozen-or-so followers.


#15

How do you kick out the high priests from the temple? They are the money-changers.


#16

In fact, the $1.2T is mostly made up of money that people willingly part with to third parties because of their religions, including the charitable giving of religious people which helps to cover the general public’s unwillingness to spend tax money helping the disavdantaged

The problem is that people don’t want to pay more taxes if they are already giving money to their religious institutions. And the health care, education, and other services provided by religious institutions is inferior to government run ones because there are religious dogmas attached (no family planning in some hospitals, no covering of evolution in some schools, etc). Religious institutions should only deal with their stories of the afterlife and not worldly things.


#17

I’m frequently told that I’m misinterpreting their holy book when I point out to conservative Christians that the New Testament seems to indicate in several places that they shouldn’t be so politically active or invested in the material world. Apparently Jeebus was just joking about that “store up your treasures in heaven” thing, but not about any of the verses they take seriously. The lack of self-awareness and hypocrisy regarding their own touted beliefs is as bad as the people who think you should be shot for using your Constitutional freedom of speech to not say the Pledge of Allegiance or stand during the national anthem.


#18

They mention Jesus and then quote from the Old Testament and think that makes them “Christians”.


#19

If we didn’t deal with worldly things, you’d have fewer hospitals and soup kitchens.

First, people don’t want to pay more taxes because they don’t want to pay taxes. That has nothing to do with religion. Dumping your money into a huge aggregate of projects and hoping that the issue you care about is dealt with somehow is probably the least sensible approach you can take to fixing a problem. We do it when we have to: first, because there are some important issues that no one actually wants to cover, and second because the tax man doesn’t give us a choice. But you’ll notice that, as a people, we shy away from that path every single chance we get. Whether you’re religious or not, you probably still think you know better how to spend your money to fit your goals than Uncle Sam does.

Second, Americans give more as a percentage of GDP than any other country on Earth. On the World Giving Index, only Myanmar scores higher. Americans give. They just don’t want to give to the government, or expect the government to actually help with any of the social issues they care about. They mostly try to fix their own problems, rather than demand that the government figure it out. So with that in mind, maybe you should start by asking why their aren’t more secular and privately-held hospitals, food pantries, and schools.


#20

I feel that this estimate includes money-making operations that, while owned by religious organizations, earn money for essentially secular reasons. Examples: I’m not a Seventh-Day Adventist, nor are my parents, but still I was born at an Adventist hospital, because it was the closest hospital; universities like Georgetown and Notre Dame make tons of money for reasons unrelated to their Catholic affiliation, especially for football at Notre Dame (despite all the evidence, NCAA football is technically not a religion). Obviously such enterprises should be included in a total estimation of how much revenue is generated by religious organizations in the US, but I would like to know how much is from people paying/donating for secular things and how much is due to people’s religiosity.