A Religion Is Not Simply a Way of Life, Each of the Major Ones Is an Economical Organization as Well.
Religion is big business. There are whole huge religious economies, and some of them are kept shrouded.
They say that there are only two certainties in life: paying taxes, and death. And religion is exempt from both. Whether they are promising the perfect afterlife in exchange for your tithes, or dodging the taxman, it’s a circular business plan that works. And so far no one’s come back from the promised “afterlife” to ask for a refund.
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Today we look into 10 of the Richest Religious Organisations and what makes them tick.
Reading the religious scriptures have already been a productive reading experience for most of us, if you want a video for a change here’s our YouTube upload on this topic:
With that put in place, let’s proceed towards our countdown list and begin with the 10th richest religious organization.
Church of Scientology
If we told you to pay thousands of dollars to have your human flaws absolved by a religion formed by a science fiction writer, we doubt you’d bring out your cheque book without asking a few questions first. But somehow L. Ron Hubbard managed to get it right.
What is even more surprising is that he seemed to have it all figured out as a retirement plan from the start. He was famously quoted saying: ‘You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.’
And he was right. When he was done writing about aliens in his science fiction books he started The Church of Scientology in 1952. It was a spin off from his self-help programme called Dianetics. He captured the imagination of the Hollywood elite and this helped give his religion credibility and amass him a fortune. The church has a book value of $1.7 billion, and a property portfolio of $1.5 billion all funded by an annual income of $200 million.
The sign up fees are ludicrous, but they offer you pureness of body and soul if you stick with it. As you pay up you can move up the ranks of the church earning your more respect and purity. To reach the highest rank of Operating Thetan Level 8, will set you back $256,000. This is the level that actor, Tom Cruise, has reached.
The church spends their money on items like gold bullion costing $3 million. They made a purchase of a cruise ship at $14.1 million. But it is not all smooth sailing; they have been involved in many scandals and rights violations including missing wives, child abuse and alien lizards. It’s a really interesting one if you want some bedtime reading.
If you mistake one of these churches for a big budget concert you won’t be alone. The lights, pyro techniques, staging, stadium seating and tattooed and bearded rock bands look right out of a rock show. You can even get a dairy-free flat white and fresh bagel at the onsite coffee shop at most of these mega churches.
Non-denominational Christian churches enjoy all the tax breaks of traditional religions with none of the established rules. While they still rely on regular tithing (a religious obligation) to fund their cash flow, they can use it as they see fit. Which often includes upgrades to pastor’s mega mansions, sports cars, private jets, and yachts. The sky is the limit when it comes to spending god’s money.
Their members are completely devout, and spend most of their spare time occupied with church life and fundraising events. Perhaps keeping their flock too busy to ask questions is part of the business model that works.
The Church of England
When the religion of the time didn’t suit him, King Henry the VIII founded his own church. The Church of England allowed divorce and Henry wanted out of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Newly single he realised there is more benefit to owning a church, and the Anglican church began to grow in size and wealth.
Today the Anglican Church is estimated to own $6.7 billion worth of property, and is the largest landowner in England. They rake in hundreds of millions in income each year through tithe baskets. Now that’s what we call a GOOD divorce settlement!
If you want to know more about one of the most secretive groups on the planet stick around till the end when we unpack it.
Hindiusm is firmly rooted in the belief that abundance and wealth come as gifts from the gods. In fact, the Hindu gods live in wealth and opulence, and devout Hindu’s heap gifts of adoration and appreciation of effigies for them.
In the US alone, Hindu’s are the second richest religious body. The Hindu ethos is to be in a constant pursuit of self-realization and self-knowledge, so it is not a system that you ever “summit”. The aim is to find mental and physical wealth through the Hindu religious practices, and with such a large brief, it is a lifelong pursuit.
When the Church of England members reach North America they split into several new churches. One being the Episcopal Church who split from the Anglicans when they didn’t want to swear allegiance to the British monarch any longer. Today it is the 14th largest denomination in the US – nearly two million members strong. It is spread throughout Europe, Taiwan, and Latin America.
It is the members of the church itself that make it part of this list. The members of the Episcopal Church in the US are the wealthiest group of religious believers in the country. So you can imagine how large the amounts are going into the tithe basket of the church!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Mormons are everywhere. From Finland to Japan you will find communities from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Sure there are plenty of gags about Mormons ringing your doorbell trying to recruit you. But clearly this strategy works because Mormons are the fastest growing and one of the wealthiest religions on the planet. Hell, they even have a musical about them!
Their balance sheet reflects assets of over $30 billion. With an annual income of $6 billion, of which 90% is from members tithes. Members are obliged to give 10% of their entire income… that’s the before tax amount, Aluxers!
With a growing membership sitting at over 14 Million members, the Mormons have a pretty secure future income.
Just when Televangelism seemed to be cooling down, Covid-19 breathed new life into the age old art of scamming old people out of money in hopes of eternal life.
Social distancing meant that in-person churches were closed, and many Christians turned to their TV’s for their religious fix. Here somewhere between Tevo and Tony Robbins are the murky waters of Televangelism, where Christian preachers offer self-help advice loosely based on the bible.
Income is in the form of donations from viewers, advertising sales and then merchandise. Like a good dealer, the first hit is free. After that viewers have to cough up more for the DVD set, the books or part 2 of the talk series.
Televangelists are well known for splashy lifestyles of luxury yachts, mansions, stretch Hummers and private jets. All accumulated tax free under the protection of religious freedom. Televangelism is reported to be a $2.3 billion industry, but that is only what is declared. The real figures are probably much more.
Jewish people are often thought to be wealthy, in fact we made an entire video about it. Thanks to their great education and generational business knowledge, Jewish people make up a quarter of the 400 wealthiest people in America.
The knock-on effect is that given the religions obligatory 10% tithes on a household’s income, the Jewish religion is wealthy too. But we won’t spill all the Jewish secrets to wealth, rather watch the video: “15 Reasons Why JEWISH People Are RICHER.”
The Middle East is abundant in oil, and is also the heart of the Islam faith. Because Islam has no laws that condemn the accumulation of wealth, it is a perfect environment to create the second wealthiest religion in the world.
Many of the Middle Eastern country leaders are kings and also Islamic, putting the type of wealth the relatively young faith has accumulated in a different league from those that came before.
Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the world, with huge growth in Indonesia, South Asian, and sub-Saharan Africa. 22% of the global population are Muslim. Zakat is the Muslim version of mandatory giving, which is 2.5% of the members accumulated wealth. This must be used solely for the benefit of the poor, destitute and others.
The Islamic faith has accumulated assets of $3 trillion as of a 2020 estimate. This isn’t all being banked though. Of this $200bn and $1tn is spent to benefit the poor and destitute. This is one of the largest forms of wealth transfer to the poor in existence.
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest organisation in the world. You might say that it is the biggest financial power on the planet. So, whatever your thoughts on the religious aspect, you have to admire the balance sheet.
Their operating budget is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, which is far higher than companies like Apple.
The Catholic Churches wealth lies in its history, from priceless art pieces to prime tourism real estate, the religion was able to carve out a consistent income that attracts its billion strong membership. On the converse, they have a low staff cost, as upon entering the calling, Catholic priests and nuns take a vow of poverty and don’t own anything themselves.
Tithing is encouraged by the church’s teachings, and if you do the math on a billion members, that’s plenty of income to work with. The churches asset figures are hard to come by, but the Vatican itself is flush with assets and security investments deep in the billions of dollars. The figures are shrouded in secrecy, but the sheer size of the churches membership ensures it is always in the green.
Some churches have been conserved since time immemorial, but there are quite a few that underwent a fancy renovation. Have a look inside “10 Stylish Churches Converted Into Luxury Homes.”
What would you do with the extra cash if you didn’t have to pay tax?