Charity

Christopher Hitchens said it best when he said that talking about the goodness of the church was distracting from the main question whether gods exist, or not. “it's a time wasting tactic”

Yet, whenever the subject of taxing the church comes up, people use it as a counter-argument.
Let's look at the “good” the church actually does.
  • Parochial support for affiliated charities.
  • Direct financial support to affiliated charities.
  • Giving people hope*.
* IMO the hope (of heaven) the church provides is annulled by the fear (of hell) the church instills first. As atheist say; The church provides an imaginary cure for an imaginary disease.
I can't estimate the amount of money parochial support translate into. Suffice to say that the churches own buildings and these would be unoccupied or under-occupied without these Christian charities. Opening these buildings, apart from maintenance costs and electricity, is free and it's publicity. More on that below.
The financial support to affiliated charities is a pittance. Let's look at the Catholic church and it's affiliate Caritas in Spain because it's a well documented case.

The Spanish income tax forms have a checkbox for assigning money to the Catholic church. This means that 0,7% of the income taxes of the people that check that box goes directly to the Catholic church. That's nearly 250 million euros... (up from 159 million euros in 2012).

Yearly, the church donates 2 million euros to Caritas (less than 1% of the 250 million). This means that the church can still spend 248 million euros, each year, on maintenance costs and electricity for their parochies... Does that cover their costs? I don't know. In fact, the Catholic church receives state money for just that (maintenance) estimated over 600 million euros. Source laicismo.org (Spanish)

The same Spanish income tax forms have a parallel checkbox for assigning money to charity. Of this money, 84 million (depending on the year) goes to Caritas. Caritas receives 2% of the Catholic church, 38% of the Spanish state and 60% out of private donations.

Circular logic:
  • Give money to the church to enable them to do “good”.
  • The church spends part of the money on doing “good”.
  • The church gets credited with doing “good”.
  • Give money to the church to enable them to do “good”.
This circular logic applies to all churches around the globe. Churches spend a tiny amount of their money on charity (less than 5% on average) in return for tax breaks that exceed the amount of money they spend on charity. It's win-win for the churches, synagogues, etc. Compare that to regular charities that spend around 90% on … charity (Program Expenses), while the other 10% goes into infrastructure and administration.

Spain spends, in total, over 10 billion euros on church related issues (including religious teachers assigned by the Catholic church to public schools (See Laicismo.org)). Spain spends less than 4 billion euros on R&D.

The opportunity cost of spending money on the church instead of, say, research is huge. How many jobs could have been created by spending 250 + 600 million euros on cancer research? How many lives could have been saved? We'll never know.

A similar story to Caritas holds true for Catholic Charities USA – CCUSA
2010 – Revenue 4,7 billion. 2,9 billion from US government and 140 million from diocesan churches. Source Wikipedia.

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