Faith as business

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readMay 30, 2021

Source : Google photo of the faithful

Synopsis : The business of faith has never been so lucrative as it is now. The blog looks at how some people accumulate vast riches by making people believe that they have an obligation to donate.

We all believe in something or someone. It is called faith. It may be of religious in nature or non-religious but it surely plays a role in everyone’s life that has a strong influence on how he or she lives.

Faith is the bread and butter of all organized religions so they do not tire of reminding the faithful how important it is to have faith in the religions they follow and how it can transform their daily lives.

You will notice that the Christians particularly are obsessed with this insistence on repeating the mantra every day that you must have faith, you must declare your obedience to their dogma and must profess your faith in their doctrine in a very visible manner.

You must kneel down and accept the Holy bread at the end of their ritual and must show obedience as Christians. This sort of insistence is common to all religions because they do not like anyone to question their doctrine. They see it as a threat to their religion if people start questioning the validity of their holy book and all that it entails.

What in essence they are asking you to do is to have blind faith that should not be questioned and analyzed. Their entire system of promulgating their religion is based on this premise that one must not question what they tell you and accept it as the truth and only truth so help me … etc.

It worked well for a very long time and still does to a great extent so all religions flourish and get new followers every day to swell their ranks. In the process the purveyors of their religions accumulate vast wealth and properties and continue to do so. They collect money at the end of their service in churches, mosques, temples etc. and they constantly ask for more but they never mention where the money goes and for what purpose it is spent.

There is a temple in Andhra Pradesh, India in the hills that is called Tirupati temple. We have been there. It is a vast complex of temple and other buildings visited by millions of Hindus who donate money to the temple that collects millions of Rupees of it. There we saw a huge canvas bag on a tripod with a big open mouth where the pilgrims keep on pouring money like rain so the huge sac gets filled up and is upended to a special room where scores of people count all the money and make bundles to deposit in their bank. This process never stops so you can imagine how rich the Tirupati temple really is although no one really knows because there is a secrecy that surrounds them.

Then there are numerous other massive temples all over India where the devotees go to pray and some of them donate money as well. But we were warned by our guide not to give our name and address to them because the priests will inevitably ask for it and once they get it, they will hound you with their nonstop demand for money.

One of the richest temples in the entire world is in Kerala that has billions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver, precious gems and coins accumulated over many centuries. It is kept in six secret vaults but the sad part is the fact that this vast accumulated wealth is not really put to any good use to help the poor or the orphans.

It is called the Padmanavaswamy temple in Trivandrum that is called the richest temple of all. They have found over 22 billion dollars’ worth of treasure in five vaults that were opened and catalogued but the last vault has never been opened because people believe that there is a curse on it so whoever opens or even tries to open it will die. The door of this vault has snakes on it that protects the wealth inside.

Source : Google photo of the 6th vault of Padmanavaswamy temple in Kerala that contains untold treasure but believed to be cursed.

It is same story of Vatican that keeps accumulating vast amount of wealth that is shrouded in secrecy so no one really knows how much they have and how much of it they spend on relief to poor and destitute.

So the business of faith is a very lucrative business after all and it is all tax free to boot. It is also a favorite scam of some Indians who pretend to be sadhus or spiritual people who garbed in their saffron clothes and long lice infested matted hairs sit under a three with a donation box that has a padlock but a slit on top to collect money from the gullible.

These ubiquitous donation boxes with padlock and a slit are a hallmark of these people who collect a lot of money but for what purpose? No one really knows. They say that you must have blind faith and support them to show them that you have unshakable faith.

Source : Google photo of Sripuram golden temple in Vellore that is entirely covered in gold worth millions of dollars.

You will not believe your eyes if you visit the great temple of Sripuram in Vellore in South India where the entire temple complex is covered in gold so it is a great tourist attraction. Naturally there are security cameras to keep an eye on the visitors who may have some bad ideas but what is impressive is the fact that this much gold was accumulated just from the devotees over the centuries just to show you how generous they can be to donate so much gold due to their faith.

Source : Google photo of the Golden temple in Amritsar covered in gold

Similarly the most important Sikh temple in Amritsar is called The Golden temple for a reason because the entire temple is covered in gold plates that will blind you with the sun reflecting on it. It is the holiest shrine of the Sikhs where their holy book Granthasahib is kept.

The temple feeds thousands of people daily where anyone of any faith or no faith can get a free meal any day throughout the year. This way the temple uses its considerable wealth that makes the Sikhs unique.

So we come back to the eternal question. What is faith and why some people have so much of it that they give everything they have to these temples or churches or support them so generously?

The faith they demand from their followers is not something people have instantly but it is cultivated and nurtured over their life time and constantly re invigorated through constant sermons and exultations from the pulpits to make you feel guilty if you do not donate because they say that it is your religious duty to do so. The cash cow can give a lot of milk if fed well so they try hard to feed you with words so that you start feeling generous. A lot of people at a certain age start feeling anxious about their place in the netherworld so they start reserving a good place there for themselves which is done through cash donations.

Another way a faith is developed is through a constant pressure from the parents and siblings under the guidance of a parish priest so that a child starts believing them and learns to cross himself automatically.

He is asked to join the catechism classes where the stories of the Bible are repeated so that the kid knows all the stories and starts believing them. Later as an adult he is well trained to fall in step with others and will not be a rebel and question the Padres although there are some who come to different conclusions and stay away from the mainstream. So the faith is definitely taught, cultured and watered over a long period until it takes roots and grows into a lifelong belief.

In Islam it is very important for the mullahs to imprint the dictates of Koran on very small children who are often beaten to submission until they rebel no more and become fanatics to cause havoc somewhere as adults. They are taught to hate the infidels in their childhood that becomes their firm belief in their adulthood.

So faith can be used as a tool by the manipulators for their own purpose whatever they may be so we see a proliferation worldwide of faith to serve the purpose of the manipulators of faith. The purpose may be to accumulate enormous wealth that is tax free or to cause bloodshed in the name of their brand of religion. We see this in every continent where the terrorists use religion and their faith in it as the basis for their terror attack on innocent people.

I heard this story somewhere that is worth telling here. The Mormons who felt that they must move west to establish themselves in the United States started their long journey. On the road they met with people who were famished and very thirsty who begged for food and water from them but this help came at a price. The Mormons insisted that they must become Mormons first before they would be given even a drop of water and a morsel of food. These poor people who were desperate and helpless agreed so this way the Mormons grew in numbers.

The same technique was used by the so called saint Mother Theresa in India who converted dying and poor Indians into Christianity and only then she gave them some help like food and water just like the Mormons in the United States. Every Mormon must donate to their church a portion of their annual income, keep a store of food to last a long time and send their children for a mandatory assignment to preach their religion to non-believers.

Almost all the organized religions use faith to accumulate wealth to serve their ulterior motives whatever they may be but others who are not religious in nature do the same.

There are numerous NGOs like Red Cross, Red Crescent and hundreds of others who appeal to people to donate to them because they claim to help the needy with the money. No doubt there are organizations like World Food Program of the UN that feed and shelter millions of poor people who need their help. The UN does a commendable work in many countries to help the poor, the refugees, to save the children from trafficking and numerous other such work but their work is limited by the funds they can raise. They always need more money to do their job and help more people.

But other NGOs like Red Cross are not transparent and do not disclose how their funds are used and where and exactly how many people benefit from their help.

But to be fair, there are many charitable organizations that help feed the poor, run orphanages and old age homes to look after them. They raise money by appealing to you and me so that we can support their humanitarian work. They are the first to appear with food and blankets when people suffer from famine, flood or earthquakes. They run charitable health clinics to take care of sick and other needy people.

The flying doctors operate free of charge on people needing specialized eye care while other doctors risk their own lives working with Ebola patients. Many such brave doctors and nurses have died with covid infections and still others continued to serve. They are the heroes. All the humanitarian work they do worldwide is not based on their religious faith but their belief in helping others when they need it.

But the blog is about the religious faith and its abuse by some preachers, padres and mullahs who accumulate wealth in the name of religion and try to make the faithful guilty if they do not donate.

We all need to believe in something so we join religious groups, non-religious groups, groups that cater to the needs of particular people, groups that preach violence and racism like the KKK in the United States, etc. The caveat they all have in common is that there is a cost of joining any group. They ask for membership fee, donations for special projects and make many other demands. They are really no different from various political groups who do the same thing.

But to accumulate vast riches in the name of faith and locking it up in underground vaults over centuries like in the temple vault shown in the photo above is greed because this wealth just sits there and does nothing for the devotees and the poor people anywhere.

The business of making money through faith is reprehensible to say the least but who feeds their greed if not you and I?

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