In America, there is Christianity.
For the most part it is a benign, even beneficial, force. At the community level, churches provide aid, entertain, connect people and form social groups. Much of the money involved stays within the local community, and the leaders make a very modest living, often bordering on destitution themselves from reinvesting their own funds into their cause. Even the bible isn’t taken seriously, people simply enjoy the social aspects and like some of the ideals and are happy to call themselves Christians.
The other end of the spectrum is very different. There are many who take the bible literally, as the inerrant word of god. People who think the universe is 6,000 years old and that science is a lie trying to undermine them. People who promote hate speech and other forms of discrimination, such as the disgraced former pastor Ted Haggard, who publicly preached family values, condemned recreational drug use and vilified homosexuals, while privately cheating on his wife by indulging in meth fuelled orgies with male prostitutes.
Pseudo celebrities like Ted, ply their trade from the confines of “Mega Churches”. These are rock concert or sports stadium sized arenas where charlatans abuse the misguided beliefs of their fanatical followers to line their own pockets. Money is filtered up from the ignorant masses to a select few moderately entertaining performers, promoters and other staff who contribute very little – if anything – to society. They lend their name and some funds to certain grass roots causes as shameless self promotion to improve their image, but for the most part their income is accumulated as personal wealth and real estate, the equivalent of privately owning an Etihad stadium. The corrupting forces of greed and commercialisation have driven it’s evolution into a behemoth of an industry – worth billions – with the fringe benefit of not paying tax.
The best part of the scheme is that the very flock they are fleecing become the industry’s most passionate supporters. Defending the undeserving beneficiaries of their donations and their own right to remain ignorant up to – and including – the level of inflicting physical violence on those that do not agree with them, or simply take a slightly different view of the same belief, in a bizarre mass scale adaptation of Stockholm syndrome.
Does any of this sound familiar?
It may shock Melbournians to realise we have the exact same force infiltrating our society, existing in both the benign and malign forms. We call it football. The only difference is those in the football industry do pay tax and, despite being perfectly adept at denying objective reality, they at least don’t publicly attempt to discredit established science.