Religions are businesses dealing in the fears and needs of ordinary people. The dogma, the rituals, and even sometimes hate are all contrived to demonstrate and maintain power.


 From the earliest days of humankind, religion has always been about fear, power and control and as long as religion is administered by appointees from the human race, it always will be.

Most of us have some sense of being humbled by natural events and the forces of nature, some need to believe in a continuum beyond the human lifespan and some sense of a conscience that we attribute to a higher authority. These are the seeds of religion, ripe for cultivation and manipulation by anyone with a confident voice and a comforting message.

From the earliest caveman who was brave, foolish or wise enough to shake a stick at a solar eclipse and demand the sun’s return, religion has been a career choice. It’s easy to imagine a grateful and awe-struck tribe being happy to feed, clothe, protect and respect anyone powerful enough to command the heavens.

But of course solar eclipses are few and far between so the newly appointed “holy man” needs to justify his comfortable existence by devising and leading the tribe through a growing set of rituals and routines designed to mystify and reassure the uninitiated and of course appease the gods.

Such an existence only has two serious threats.

Firstly, in the event the gods are not pleased and the crop, hunt or whatever fails is it the fault of the “holy man”? Of course not! Already in a position of unassailable power, he will insist it’s because members of the tribe have been at fault – “sinners” who must repent or be punished to restore order.

Second, the obvious challenge coming as tribes ranged more widely and met others who inevitably had their own “holy man” holding different rituals in communion with different gods.  While it’s possible that each tribe would leave the other in tolerant peace, it’s more likely they would enter into conflict over food, territory, women or religion and, of course, the dominant tribe’s religious culture would claim to be “proven” in the outcome.

Early societies were governed by the principle that “might is right” and for many centuries religious ‘enlightenment’ was spread as much on the battlefield as on the pulpit.

Science has gone a very long way – despite self-interested suppression by the church – to explain the wonders of nature to the outer reaches of the universe and yet most of us still have a fundamental need to believe in something “more” – whatever form that may take.

Modern religions are more akin to businesses catering to that human trait – they offer careers to their officials and compete – sometimes aggressively – for the power and wealth derived from market share.

Before you take offense at this suggestion, take a look at the top 10 wealthiest religions from December 2013 according to listed below. There’s no doubt that religion has inspired and commissioned some exceptional and very valuable buildings and art works but the next time your career preacher passes the collection plate or there’s a global humanitarian crisis you may want to remember just how cash rich these “benevolent” organisations really are!

Undoubtedly there have been genuine prophets and preachers throughout history: self-sacrificing individuals spreading a simple message of peace, tolerance and love while they dedicate their lives to the greater good. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa are more recent examples and Gandhi is quoted as saying “God has no religions”.

We all have a need to believe in something and we all have a sense of good and evil. Your religion is the combination of these things and is as personal and individual as you are. If that genuinely fits well with the language, sacrifices and rituals of an organised religion then you’ve found a spiritual home.

But whether it does or not, just remember that all of the rituals, all of the high dates, all of the readings and all of the rules about what you should wear or what you should eat were put in place by men and not by your god. They were put in place to increase your sense of belonging perhaps but what those rules really achieve is to demonstrate that you are “on the team” and still taking orders from a hierarchy of men – the management team of the business that is your chosen religion.

The top 10 wealthiest religions (December 2013) according to

    1. Catholic

Catholic priests are expected to make a vow of poverty, so it is ironic that the church is actually the richest religion in the world. The Catholic Church owns some of the greatest art works ever made. It also has vast gold deposits and billions of dollars in assets. It also earns a significant amount of income from the tourism sector as the Vatican is considered an independent city-state. It also has more than a billion members around the world.

  1. Islam

Islam is a monotheistic religion that is the second largest and one of the fastest growing in the world. While Muslims are found all over the world, most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, South Asia and the Middle East. As a result, Muslims actually have control of the abundant oil found in the Middle East. Some of the richest countries in the world follow strict Islamic laws. Estimates in 2012 put the assets of the Islamic financial industry alone to be at nearly $1.6 trillion.

  1. Judaism

Those practicing Judaism are said to have accumulated the most wealth among all believers in religions in the United States. This is not stereotype profiling, as Jews are known to be adept in the world of business. It actually came from a sociological research done in the country. Though Judaism is monotheist, it is not homogenous as it does have a lot of different views. The largest streams and movements are Rabbinic Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. Aside from its homeland in Israel, its members also have enough economic clout in the United States to form a powerful lobby that can influence and sway the decisions of political leaders.

  1. Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is considered to be one of the fastest-growing and richest religions in the world. Its members are called Mormons and can be found everywhere, from Scandinavia to Japan. At the turn of the 21st century, Mormon assets were already being estimated to be at over $30 billion. It also has an annual revenue of $6 billion, with nearly 90 percent of the amount coming from member contributions called tithing, in which members are required to give 10 percent of their entire income.

  1. Church of England

In a way, the Church of England is also a form of Protestantism. It was only formed because of the desire of the King of England, Henry VIII, to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. It was something that the Catholic Church would not give him. Also known as Anglicanism, it used to be the biggest landowner in Great Britain. It sold off most of the land to build up an investment portfolio of $6.7 billion that earns more than $255 million each year. It also gets more than $320 million in donations and $400 million through its events and services.

  1. Episcopalian

The Episcopal Church traces its origins to the Church of England in the American colonies. It is the 14th largest denomination in the United States with almost two million members. The church split from Anglicanism as clergy of the Church of England are made to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Aside from the United States, it has dioceses in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Taiwan. Its members are considered to have attained the most wealth among all religious believers in the United States.

  1. Televangelism

Televangelism is not exactly a religion but rather, it is an element of Christianity where believers are addressed by a minister through television broadcasts. It also adheres to Christian principles, but it focuses on personal morality as viewed by preachers. Televangelism relies mainly on advertisements, donations and merchandise; all these are done free of tax. Television evangelists are known to live a luxurious life, building expensive homes and traveling by private jets. Put together, it is estimated to be a $2.3 billion business.

  1. Protestantism

Protestantism is a division of Christianity. It actually involves any denomination in the Christian world that deny the authority of the pope in Rome. It affirms the principles of the Reformation and believes in the primacy of the Bible as the only source of truth. There are probably over 33,000 Protestant denominations, but it all started in 1517 when Martin Luther reacted against the medieval doctrines and practices being followed by the Catholic Church at the time. Research in the United States shows that Protestants are in the middle in terms of wealth accumulated by its believers.

  1. Freemasonry

While Freemasonry is not really a religion in the real sense of the word, its members are required to believe in a supreme being. A vast majority of its members are rich and high net worth individuals. Some people believe that Freemasonry is actually the richest organization in the world. Its members are said to be powerful and their symbol even appears on the dollar bill and the seal of the United States. Masonic lodges can be found all over the world.

  1. Scientology

The Church of Scientology is devoted to the promotion of the belief system of Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard established the religion in 1952, succeeding an earlier self-help system that he had set up called Dianetics. The church was incorporated the following year in New Jersey. It has gained celebrity adherents along the way, the most famous of which is Tom Cruise. The religion is based on subscription, with members going up in rank as one pays a required fee. The highest rank is Operating Thetan VIII that costs around $256,000. The church once spent more than $3 million to purchase some gold bullion and more than $14.1 million for a cruise ship.

Religions exploit people's basic emotions for power and control

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