Is American society becoming more secular ?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by arauca, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    Don't the tax deductions impact on the establishment of religion clause?
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  3. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    I'm not struggling to do anything. Is the CC non-profit making? So why is the Vatican worth billions?

    I was making the point that in the US there is no established church while in the UK there is, so your comprision is not valid.
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  5. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    It's a law I would like to see updated. The idea was to give wealthier people, who have more at stake when it comes to taxes, an incentive to give away a certain amount of their earnings to the needy. At various times in our history -- esp. due to the reactionaries who fear and detest welfare -- the fate of the poorest Americans has been left almost exclusively in the hands of the churches.

    To the extent that this is being done legitimately, then, the churches aren't themselves receiving the funds for their own consumption. Some of them do a good job of staying transparent by incorporating their charity services under an independent umbrella. They keep their own books and publish their financial statements openly. That much is a good thing and needs to be preserved.

    But I'm conflicted on whether churches should even be legal at all outside of their charity work. It seems to me that religious indoctrination of vulnerable minds is the psychological equivalent of abusing a person in a wheelchair. Disability rights were added in 1991 as an enhancement to the Civil Rights Act of 1877 which is tied to the constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War and therefore has constitutional authority behind it. In my view, this law could be beefed up to protect children and feeble-minded people from indoctrination by extending the definition of "disability", and by extending the protections afforded to all such people. But the reality is that we are still too much controlled by religion for such an idea to gain traction.

    The other side of this is that religion is a cultural phenomenon . .. so all of this would necessarily be played out in our ongoing culture wars long before taking shape as any change in the law. I've long hoped that the web would liberate most all of the hard core religious people, but in the backward districts -- where academic scores are typically below par and the religious belief is high -- it's understandable that such folks are not using the web to read Darwin or to catch up with Hubble as much as they should.

    I wonder what that actually means. Does the Vatican have possession of vast wealth, or are there just some accountants they hire who take care of their banking matters? Even if we go with the idea that they're sitting on priceless treasures -- none of those are liquid assets. I suppose there is a vast amount of revenue coming in from all the local churches, but then where does it go? Not into the pockets of any executive or shareholder. So from that perspective it's hard to say they're making a profit at all.

    I think it stands to reason that the Catholics would have larger cash flows than the Protestants since they are the larger group. Plus more of their assets would likely have come from antiquity, to include the priceless treasures and real estate.
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  7. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    I didn't know that. Oh well, another thing to pin on rich people lol - if they were less greedy to begin with it wouldn't have been necessary.

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  8. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    Because people are afraid that the tax system could be used to oppress a particular religion.
  9. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    Nice post, thanks. I agree with most of your sentiments.

    As far as the Vatican is concerned, they own all the catholic curches in Italy - I think - so unless they sold the land for redevelopment (unlikely) they couldn't realise any of that wealth, for sure. But they own a huge amount of fine art which could be sold off and used to help poor people in developing countries. I admit to conflating profit and wealth, by the way!
  10. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    I've enjoyed reading your level-headed posts as well.

    The question got me to thinking about how the courts might treat ownership of Catholic lands and buildings in countries like the US. I think there have been a few rare cases where insiders (priests, nuns or lay employees) have sued the Church, and the courts have ruled that, at that boundary where statute crosses over into ecclesiastical law, the cleric or employee is bound by the Church law. I think from that standpoint the courts of the world would agree with you, all such lands and buildings are owned by the Church, and that the Pope is the Chief Executive who rightfully controls them, if only through his designees.

    I guess it all boils down to what they do with that wealth. Some folks estimate the wealth of the Vatican at $10B with an annual global outlay of $171B which largely goes to the salaries and health benefits of their estimated 1M employees and clerics. That may seem high, but it's only 1 employee per 1,800 congregants. The US spent some $588B last year on charity, of which the Catholics contributed perhaps 17%, although this probably doesn't include outlay for colleges and universities, hospitals, and orphanages. In any case it's a phenomenal amount of money. They estimate that they serve 10 million poor Americans annually.

    It may be that they just aren't at that point where they need to auction off their art treasures, even though the sex abuse payouts were crippling to many local dioceses - around $3B. I suppose as long as they keep them on display for the benefit of art lovers they're applying them for some useful purpose. The other side of this is how they might go about the business of expanding their services when they're already so huge. I think this needs to define them in the future. To that end, they should try to push the envelope, for example, by migrating as many of those 1M employees as possible into direct charity work. I have no idea how much it would help, but it would seem to legitimize the religion in accordance with its own precepts. And they might as well just drop the contraception, abortion and gay issues altogether. Other than that, they are probably the least offensive in terms of meddling with public policy. I don't think they have any claims against climate science, they're not the ones who have been meddling in the school science programs, nor interfering in scientific institutions and agencies, so if they would just stop indoctrinating children I think I they could be among the first religions to become legal under the criteria I was suggesting. I think American Judaism fits that nicely, too, as well as most of the orthodox Protestant churches. The other world religions in the US, as far as I can tell, are innocent of all the political manipulation, and could also be authorized to operate once they did away with their indoctrination programs.

    Countering this, in practical terms, is that the US Supreme Court, who would ultimately decide this, are (at present) entirely either Catholics or Jews. That's quite remarkable as a matter of statistics, since the vast majority of American believers are Protestants, and obviously the colleges of law matriculate countless people who share none of the Judeo-Christian beliefs.
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The Islamic sects in my area (central Minnesota) have been active politically, and influential out of proportion to the number of their adherents.

    Their influence has been less visible than it might be not only because of their smaller numbers but due to their specific agenda being almost completely aligned with the common fundamentalist Protestant agenda - they want their own charter schools so they can exclude sex education and evolutionary theory, they want homosexuality suppressed and persecuted, they want their current mythology of their deity's preferences regarding the economic and social powers of women written into law or at least permitted to be enforced without State restriction, and so forth.

    Anecdotally, something similar shows up with more impact in areas more numerously populated by adherents to Islam - doubtless exaggerated in the telling, but too familiar in nature (by comparison with other fundamentalist monotheisms) to be dismissed as mere rumor.
  12. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    Interesting post, as usual.

    Presumably the $171B comes from contributions from the faithful? There are around 1.2B of them worldwide, which makes $143 each pa. I suppose that's reasonable.

    I would take issue about the artwork. If they sold the stuff to art galleries around the world, it would be accessible to far more people (a lot of it is probably never on show in the Vatican) and the proceeds could be used for good deeds.

    "To that end, they should try to push the envelope, for example, by migrating as many of those 1M employees as possible into direct charity work." But that's not the main thrust of their work, is it, but a useful by-product. Keeping the faithful in line is their main task.

    "they might as well just drop the contraception, abortion and gay issues altogether." I would pray for that, although not to their god.

    I didn't know that about the SC, as you say it is very surprising.
  13. superstring01 Moderator

    No. Because you're not establishing a religion and all religious bodies (that demonstrate legitimacy) can use the same deductions. No favoritism has been show. Moreover, the courts have allowed it, citing that taxing religious organization would also be considered interfering with religion.

  14. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    OK, thanks.
  15. superstring01 Moderator

    Okay. Um. Why would it want to?

    Not for me it doesn't and that's not even the basis of December 25th as Christmas.

    Yeah. Shucks. All those food safety laws, child labor laws, workplace safety laws, running water, public highways. It's all just such a burden.

  16. TheHun Registered Member

    Oh, you are just being an obstructionist here. It’s a competition based on the willingness and ability (let’s hear it for the profit margin of credit card companies) of people to buy useless crap, package it in pretty paper and create tons of trash in the quest to out-shop the mystical other so that they can get seasonal warm fuzzies in return.

    Now you want to get real and introduce the blissfully unaware that this is the date of winter solstice which pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years. Why don’t you just throw in the fact that the Christmas tree is a pagan tradition from Germany introduced to the British court in 1848 by Queen Victoria, to humor her hubby her German consort.

    Not only is this all burdensome, just consider what level distrust these institutions represent.

    …oh, did we create them because we needed them to protect those who were not wealthy, powerful, and above the need to perform hard physical labor, maybe?
  17. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    My question is how do I know when I have a faith? Will i feel it like happiness or hope? Is good faith which leads up to knowledge a godly ability?
  18. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    I found Wellwisher''s comments rather revealing:

    For one, I would disagree the American economy works well. The US is in in the red by about 7 trillion, they stay afloat only because of the petrodollar and if the international currency of trade became something other than the US dollar and China recalled her debts the US would be the next Zimbabwe. It seems the US economy relies heavily upon the trust and goodwill of other nations.

    Christmas is held on a pagan holiday and I doubt Jesus would approve of that.

    And if you think that the Government is synonymous with distrust then you have no faith in it and that is very sad. Among people who distrust the real world the appeal of shutting yourself away in a proverbial cocoon with only your close-knit circle of friends & family would be a rather appealing one to anybody. This is a terrible way to live and it says to me that these people are petrified of life. Religion would be a comfort blanket, for sure.
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The main turn off about the Christmas holiday, which turns people away from religion is the secular driven merchandise excess of the Christmas holidays. The story of the original Christmas has the spiritual family in a humble manger and not in the opulence of luxury and shopping malls. But secular interests exploited the giving sentiment of the holidays to create a profit making obligation. This seasonal obligation is now a major part of the economy, and therefore too big to fail. The atheists blame religion for this commercialized obligation when secular interests created it.

    The national debt is due to the government borrowing. Rather than move money around as priorities change, so there is no debt, they increase spending via borrowing. This is not good business practice. The stagnant economy is also due to government regulation which create resource inefficiencies due to pushing paper around with no value added. Yet, the down economy is not blamed where cause and effect takes it; government. It appears liberals and atheist use the same play book of screw up the system and blame the victims.

    One chant that the democrats used to perpetuate this misunderstanding among their flock, was "you did not build that". The logic is the government built the roads and the infrastructure that businesses use, thereby showing how government adds value to the economy which allows business to grow. The flaw in this logic is where did the government get the money to build those roads? It gets money from the tax payer.

    The government did not build anything, it is only another middleman. The tax payer built it, who is getting screw by the middleman who is not telling the truth about its role in the process. Where did those taxes dollars come from? The top 20% pay 90% of the taxes. This means business built its own roads with the mafia style government making the process wasteful thereby requiring increasing debt. Good business practice who fire the government until it understands it is a middleman.

    Picture hiring a self serving contractor to build your house who then fails to follow your instructions and creates all types of debts and obligations for you, that you did not approve you the contract was written. You would fire him and bring him to court. But say this contractor was a thug, who will use force against you if you complain and then lie about their role in this. The tea Party is a victim of this thug via the IRS because it wants a smaller middleman with limited thug and lying powers.
  20. Enkai Registered Member

    For many it may appear that atheism is gaining way in America but there have been several surveys showing up to 80% of the population believe in a god. Modern times make regularly attending church or other religious ceremonies difficult and for some reason society has developed a negative attitude towards people who do.
  21. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    It may be that when asked, people respond by saying that they believe in a god although they don't actually go to any place of worship or follow the dictates of any particular religion. In effect, they are really agnostic. That may be what the polls are showing.
  22. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Well no, the national debt is due to deficit spending. Government borrows money to pay its bills. Additionally, what is wrong with public debt? The nation has been in debt since it was created more than 200 years ago. And you don’t move money around and then magically there is no debt. Government is not in the magic business as conservatives like you seem to think it is.

    Why is increased spending via borrowing not a good business practice? Businesses do it all the time. Some businesses are highly levered (i.e. use a lot of debt) and they do quite well. Virtually all independent credible economists think increased government spending and borrowing is a good thing, depending on circumstance. And unlike you they have empirical evidence to back them up.

    Further, the economy isn’t stagnating. It’s growing. It is the fastest growing advanced economy in the world – damn minor details again. So since the economy isn’t stagnating, your claim about regulation is just more bull shit. You are just repeating more nonsense you have gleamed from the Republican entertainment industry – what you do best.

    Are you really that deluded? Republicans are the one’s doing the chanting.'t_build_that

    This is what President Obama said, “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me—because they want to give something back. They know they didn't—look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own... If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

    Well the government got the money by borrowing it, by increasing the money supply, by charging fees, by growing the economy and by taxing. Without government investment, the tools used by industry wouldn’t exist. And you don’t have to look far to see how that works. Look at countries which have not invested in infrastructure (e.g. Uganda, Syria, Ivory Coast, etc.). Business is kind of like coral in some respects. It needs a foundation upon which to build and grow and that foundation is provided by government.

    Using your line of “reasoning”, businessmen and entrepreneurs didn’t create their businesses either. Their customers did. Because the money earned by those folks came from their customers. Their customers created their businesses using your “reasoning” – though I hate to call it reasoning, because it really isn’t reasoning. It' just mindlessly repeating nonsense you have picked up from the Republican entertainment complex. Taking a line from the Bible and Jesus, who’s name is on those dollar bills? It isn’t yours. It isn’t the businesses’ the or the investor’s name. It’s the name of the US government.

    And not surprisingly your tax numbers are more than a little off, in part because you neglect payroll taxes which are paid mostly by working stiffs and you included corporate taxes in your number. The top 20% pay precious little of the payroll tax which is almost half of federal receipts.

    Earth to Major Tom…
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  23. origin In a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect. Valued Senior Member

    Is american society becoming more secular? We can only hope so...

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