Yes, Religion is–or at least, can be–big business. Look at Judaism–it’s not only religion, but also national and ethnic identity. And, of course, Catholicism is the poster child for religion as big business. I mean big as in huge. Really, really big. For a time in the Middle Ages, the Pope would crown the emperor. Talk about power. And think of the treasures of the Vatican. The fiscal power of the Catholic church has dwindled some, but it’s still big business.
Is religion as big business a problem? I think so. When you start running your religion as a business, you lose sight of what religion is and start focusing on making a profit, keeping yourself financially afloat, expanding by building, and the like. Seems to me that Jesus never had a CFO (chief financial officer), never had a real estate office, never built a new church, never claimed tax-exempt status, and never, ever asked for donations (“render to Caesar…”).–all things that modern catholicism does. Unfortunately, most “big” religions have lost their heart and soul in the search to protect their basic precepts. In doing so, they have lost their way.
I think some of the most “true” religions are those that have no organization, no “elders” or bishops or hierarchy of any kind, no tax exempt status, and no churches. Perhaps we could learn a lot about the “other world” if we focused more on these religious people and/or religious experiences, rather than taking up a seat at church on Sunday and dutifully plopping a few dollars in a collection basket.
Don’t get me wrong, organized religions can do some good, and often times do make a contribution to society. They do this because they are composed of good people who are looking for–and have found–some structure in their lives. These people “belong” to a religion and it gives them a framework in which to do good works, like visiting the sick, working for charity, etc. But it’s still so “organized” that the focus becomes on the organization rather than on the spirituality that it should embody.
Is there a solution? Only each individual person can know when they examine their hearts and their beliefs. Organized religion can provide a framework for spirituality, but that same framework can be limiting–if you let it.