Does it matter what religious beliefs other people have?

(72 Posts)
LoveFoolMe Wed 21-Nov-12 11:14:01

I was a bit shocked to discover how many people in the USA doubt evolution. Do you think it matters what other people believe? Why (or why not)?

If you need the background, this was the data I was amazed at:-
www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/americans-believe-in-creationism_n_1571127.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

LoveFoolMe Wed 28-Nov-12 23:34:22

Also, just to stir the pot, DH is literally a genius and is not convinced of evolution.

What does yr DH think is the best explanation CheerfulYank?

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 14:36:36

I didn't say there was an easy dividing line...the same sorts of arguments may be applied to other 'charities' eg private schools. Some organisations seem to be able to manage to make the distinction themselves.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 17:48:11

Grimma, a bit upthread you said that churches should only be able to claim charity tax relief on aspects of what they do that are genuinely charitable an not 'self-serving.' Sounds fair in theory...but in reality, how do you decide which is which? Some examples:

A church has a pastoral visiting group. They go and see elderly members of the congregation, some of whom have Alzheimer's. They may well encourage them to go to the doctor, or even take them to appointments, or take them shopping. Their visits make it possible for elderly people to live in their homes for longer, and to avoid nursing homes. Is this charitable or self-serving?

A vicar has taken a funeral, and makes repeated visits to the widow of the deceased. Neither the deceased nor the widow go to church, but the visits give the widow the opportunity to talk and to work through her grief. Is this charitable or self-serving?

The church runs a community cafe, into which the local police officer pops every now and then to talk to people and help with any problems. It's a mixture of church and non-church people who go, and not a week goes by without someone being helped in some way or other. Charitable or self-serving?

The church runs a Bible study group. In the course of this group's study, people open up and share all sorts of problems and pains, and find peace and healing. Charitable or self-serving?

Someone with untreated mental health problems goes along to this group, and is persuaded lovingly to seek help, and is supported by the group for years, and in turn becomes very supportive of others.

Do you see the problem? These things happen in churches all the time. IMO whether something is 'charitable' or 'self-serving' depends primarily on the attitude of the person involved. But most of the time, the things that churches do can't be neatly categorised into one or the other. Ideally, everything a church does should be charitable as charity just means love. How do we assess that for tax purposes? smile

Most churches run on a shoestring (in the C of E anyway), so to limit what they do by taxing them more heavily would reduce what can be offered to the community (e.g. the midweek communion service has to stop because the church can't afford to heat and light the church any more. The needs that were met there have to be met elsewhere, nearly always at a greater expense to the taxpayer, e.g. counselling). So keeping churches doing what they can do to meet the needs of others is good for everyone, whether you're a churchgoer or not.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:28:32

Newtonian laws, lower truth. Relativity, higher truth. Both are basically correct, but to be a "skeptic" of newton would be silly.

headinhands Tue 27-Nov-12 17:26:53

What does 'higher truth' even mean night? Is there a lower truth? Skepticism isn't having a closed mind, it's not accepting things without good evidence. That's just being rational.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:24:57

Also, churches could pay sales taxes on religious texts they sell (depending on the state). Generally they aren't charged income tax, however. If a church does engage in non-religion related business, I am pretty sure it is taxed normally. If a church were to discriminate on the basis of race, I believe it could lose tax exempt status.

nightlurker Tue 27-Nov-12 17:14:33

One job of a church is to teach morals, and then let the people choose who to vote for. People of different religions tend to vote different ways based on belief, but it's all ok as long as the church isn't endorsing candidates or parties.

Coming back to my last post, I think inquiry, search for higher truth, and an open mind might be a better approach, than skepticism, to a lot of things.

Snorbs Tue 27-Nov-12 07:34:00

US church's tax exemption is dependent on what they use their buildings for. As I understand it you cannot run profitable enterprises from the church buildings (other than the church itself) and you can't use it for political purposes.

There are a number of US churches that have been reported to the IRS for violating those rules by preaching from the pulpit that a vote for Obama is a literal vote for the anti-Christ.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 19:54:17

..and this brings us back to the OP - does it matter what people believe?

Yes - people who don't understand science well enough to get that evolution (with or without God's blessing) is how all the species on earth arose, are also unlikely to understand all sorts of other science which affect the world. Climate change, assessing medical risks, etc.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 19:44:11

I think a comparision of tax laws relating to charitable donations in two different countries is going too far OT even for my penchant for wandering grin

> I think that by and large it's decently likely to be true, but that it still doesn't tell the whole story. I think a little skepticism is always healthy

The thing about science is that it doesn't claim to be the whole truth - yet. Skepticism is indeed always healthy. That's the thing about science - you keep whittling away, asking the difficult questions. It does claim to be the best methodology for getting at the truth about the physical world.

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 18:54:09

grimma

Yes, I'm in the US.

Churches don't pay taxes here, but don't receive federal money either. It would be hard to explain how it works without a quick overview of how the tax works, so here goes.

You can claim a standard deduction of about 12k, or an itemized deduction of a higher amount if you have certain qualified expenses, such as mortgage interest, significant medical bills, or charitable donations. If you donate 6k to charity and pay 6k in mortgage interest, but nothing else, you are no better off, tax wise, than if you hadn't given the donation. However, if you are wealthy and pay 12k in mortgage interest and donate 10k to charity, you could save yourself 3.5k in federal taxes, making your 10k donation only cost you an extra 6.5k.

The issue that's important to me to avoid is double taxation on money given with charitable intent.

cheerful I'm not wholly convinced of evolution either. I think that by and large it's decently likely to be true, but that it still doesn't tell the whole story. I think a little skepticism is always healthy, because not everything taught by science or religion is true, and sometimes what you think is clear and true turns out to be a half truth and far more complex than you could have imagined.

CheerfulYank Mon 26-Nov-12 18:27:42

Also, just to stir the pot, DH is literally a genius and is not convinced of evolution. grin Doesn't bother me.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 18:11:56

>If the tax law were up to you grimma, would you tax the church's income, but still allow people who donate to churches to keep a tax deduction for the donation? Or, would you take away the deduction for donors, but leave the money the church receives untaxed?

I don't understand the distinction...are you in the US, maybe its different? Here if you 'gift aid' a donation the organisation gets the tax that would have been paid by the donor given to them, the donor doesn't get a tax deduction as such.

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 18:04:04

If the tax law were up to you grimma, would you tax the church's income, but still allow people who donate to churches to keep a tax deduction for the donation? Or, would you take away the deduction for donors, but leave the money the church receives untaxed?

If a church building was built with tax dollars, it should absolutely be open to the community. It would be unfair to tax it retroactively if that wasn't part of the original agreement, but I think government could allow them the option of paying a reasonable amount back to the government to end public use, if they don't want it open for the community.

The reasons for going to a social club are far different than the reasons I would go to church, so I do see a distinction. I don't think that subsidized and tax-exempt are the same thing, but I am opposed to subsidizing religions.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 15:39:32

>Building a building to allow people to come and worship could be viewed as charity, as could donations to the poor.

The latter, yes, absolutely - the former is debatable on several levels, starting with why people need a fancy building to worship in - don't think the gospels mandate it, rather the contrary. If it was my call, I'd give tax relief on multi-use halls if they were benefitting the wider community (which many church halls do) but not the actual church bit if it was separate.

>Also, when a church builds a building, the building is built with the money of the members who attend

Many of ours were built when the chuch pretty much taxed everyone, it wasn't voluntary donation. Any social club building is paid for by its members, without expecting automatic charitable status. I know you may not see it as a 'social club' but that's pretty much how it seems to outsiders who are having to subsidize through taxes.

I think in the UK the charitable status of churches has been raised recently in relation to the Plymouth Bretheren who are best known as isolationists!

nightlurker Mon 26-Nov-12 04:13:59

Building a building to allow people to come and worship could be viewed as charity, as could donations to the poor. Also, when a church builds a building, the building is built with the money of the members who attend. For basic church expenses, the only tax that makes sense to me is to tax income of people working for a church, which I think they already do.

And agreed wholeheartedly with Cheerful.

I'm still astounded that India has blasphemy laws. On a side note, when I first heard about your anti-discrimination laws it was about a man who was arrested for singing "Kung Fu Fighting". I hope that the man in India is just one such anomaly, and not typical.

CheerfulYank Mon 26-Nov-12 02:17:34

I am religious but don't care what other people believe...as Thomas Jefferson said "...it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

I believe wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state. DH and I may send DS to a Catholic school, but we will pay through the nose for it. I don't see anything wrong with that. Taxpayers should not pay for religious schools IMO.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 25-Nov-12 23:40:22

>the government once decided to take away the charitable status of all churches

that was silly of them. They should have still allowed churches to claim charity tax relief on those parts of their activities which were actually charitable rather than self-serving (there's a Buddist lot near us who do exactly that even though they are entitled to claim for everything they do - they appear to work to a higher ethical standard). The response of those churches 'They decided that if they were no longer charities they didn't need to do charitable work any more.' is really astounding...they are surely suppose to do charitable works because Jesus explicitly said to clothe the naked, feed the hungry etc.confused Don't think he mentioned anything about doing it for tax breaks -rather, 'pay unto caesar'.

nightlurker Sat 24-Nov-12 22:08:14

That's outright scary, hih.

headinhands Sat 24-Nov-12 19:38:49

I think this recent news story about a man accused of blasphemy is very relevant to this thread. He's now living in Finland due to the death threats.

m.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/23/india-blasphemy-jesus-tears?cat=world&type=article

Lovefoolme, I would say I think they are a cultural problem.

It did make me think about the witch trials and the McCarthy trials though and I wonder if we could ever link those all together.

It maybe a random thought train I have had, open to opinions on that.

nightlurker Sat 24-Nov-12 17:46:41

LoveFoolMe, honor killings, absolutely a cultural problem.

confuddled, the problem is that there has been a lot of corruption of Christianity from the time of Christ. The problem in Christ's time, that he put great attention in to correcting, was that the people had corrupted the doctrines and had lost focus on loving their neighbor. After the apostles were gone, without good tools for record keeping, it didn't take long for the doctrines to be diluted and changed.

I only believe in pushing morals on someone to the extent that it protects the innocent, and I am opposed to rewarding immorality.

confuddledDOTcom Sat 24-Nov-12 15:54:18

It's the difference between faith and religion. I won't ever say that I'm religious and if people ask will say no, I once said I want to start saying I follow The Way which is the original name for Christianity to break from the religiousness. Religion (particularly Christianity, I can't answer for other religions but I should imagine it's the same) tends to get into doing things for action sakes, literal interpretations of things that weren't written for the 21st century. As I've said a lot lately I don't believe that you can enforce morals on someone else and I don't believe that God wants us to either. We were all given freewill and we can't expect to be allowed to use our own if we want to take other's away from them. Faith is personal, it's about what I believe is right for me, it's about how I have a relationship with my god.

It's very easy for people to use religion to their own ends, half quote here and there to say what they want/ need it to say. Anyone can say they do something in God's name, but it doesn't mean that they are right. After all, how many times a day do you hear people use God's name when something goes wrong?

In Australia the government once decided to take away the charitable status of all churches, get some more money from tax. In a rather unprecedented move the leaders of every denomination met together to discuss it. They decided that if they were no longer charities they didn't need to do charitable work any more. The government quickly realised that they couldn't cope without the good that the church does. It would be the same in any country, the church works hard for their community, not just for the Christians who attend the church but the area they serve. My church volunteers at the homeless shelter, cooking food, scrubbing toilets, talking to people etc, it's not about more people to preach to because we don't, we just get on with helping, it's just about serving which is something our church puts a heavy priority on. It is easy when you see the bad things done in the name of religion to forget that there's also a lot more good done.

LoveFoolMe Sat 24-Nov-12 10:12:17

Do you think honour killings are a cultural problem or a religious one?

nightlurker Fri 23-Nov-12 16:22:37

I'm no fan of the cross snorbs, and disagree that the sacrifice he gave was centered at his death.

I may be naive in saying this, but I'm utterly and completely convinced that the terrorists who do this are often brainwashed by people who want power, by leaders who don't generally believe in the religion but are looking for ways to use religion as a means of power. In my opinion, religion is only evil when evil people use it, and is an incredible force for good when good people use it.

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