Friday, May 01, 2009

Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees

There was a documentary on TV. In it, a film crew was given intimate access to a day in the life of twelve of the most influential religious leaders in the world.

It was a fascinating insight into the lives of these men and woman, and I appreciate the dedication they each exhibited. But the inevitable "however" comes not in what was said and not shown, but rather what was shown and not said.

Deliberate or not, two things stood out in the lives of these people. First was an inordinate amount of excess; second, closely intertwined with that, was an unrepenting dependence on ritual.

Let’s assume for a moment that the dialogue ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament is accurate, and holds some meaning for the mainstream Christian religions, and possibly religion as a whole. Surely, arguably, Jesus’ harshest condemnation was saved for those indulging in disproportionate excess, and for those addicted to the accolades of men and the flashy nature of meaningless ritual.

“They love the place of honour at banquets and the chief seats on the synagogues.”

It’s hard to tell in the documentary who is guilty of the most appalling excess, but my vote goes to the Pope, followed a close second by the Sikh guy.

It is obscene the amount of wealth and excess these guys have access to and are swamped in daily.

Religion is undoubtedly one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and has been thus throughout history, right up there with the porn industry, the war industry, and the drugs industry. Interesting comparisons.

The property alone owned collectively by religion must be valued in the quadri-gazillions of dollars. Not only is there a church on every corner in nearly every country in the world, there are manses, corporate headquarters, schools and universities, and many of these are situated in some of the most valuable zip codes in the world.

Imagine the property value alone of Grace Church, on Manhattan’s Broadway. Or St. Marks just down the road. Or the All Souls church on Lexington. These alone must be properties worth in the tens of millions of dollars each.

I understand the need for a place to worship, but I think that need has been over-shadowed by the human need to do it not only in comfort, but in opulence, disguising their greed and pretence under a shroud of praise and offering to god. I have seen relatively small groups of Christians erect multi-million dollar buildings, and then routinely use only a third of the building’s capacity for a fiftieth of the available time each week.

The Catholic Church owns its own country.

With the risk of a fatwa hanging over anybody who criticises Islam, I won’t discuss the possibility that this religion may not be immune to its own system of perks.

Every day, the Sikh leader carries a book – albeit a very special book – a gold encrusted book into an opulent palace where begins a lavish ceremony of praise and indulgence.

I wonder what is the value of the art and historical pieces in that paalace or the Vatican?

Religion is as much an industry as a system of faith. I understand the need for it to be situated and sustained, but the nature in which that has been done is pure, unadulterated greed, immoral to the core, the personification of hypocritical.

How can the Catholic Church sit on what must be trillions of dollars of property, artwork and income, and claim to be concerned about poverty? The Pope and his army of bishops and cardinals certainly don’t look like they’ve missed many meals.

The Sikh palace sits on an island – perhaps for security reasons – far removed from the disease and civil war raping its country a few miles down the road.

Another smartass reference to the second biggest mono-theistic religion deleted.

to be continued . . .

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