Class Warfare Blog

July 4, 2018

Republicans (Gasp!) Tax Churches!

Well, the Tax and Spend Republicans are at it again, this time accompanied by the howling from their evangelical Christian supporters. In their latest omnibus tax bill, you know the one in which they gave temporary small tax breaks to you and me and permanent large tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, they also included this tidbit: churches, hospitals, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations are to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees!

I am sure the Republicans will blame this on the Democrats because those organizations don’t pay income taxes, consequently lawmakers couldn’t take away fringe-benefit deductions, so instead they created a 21 percent tax on the value of some of nonprofit employees’ benefits.

The main benefits affected are transportation-related, like free parking in a lot or a garage and subway and bus passes. It also targets meals provided to workers and, in some circumstances, may affect gym memberships.

Apparently this is just the camel’s nose under the tent. Next up the major fringe benefits of parsonages, vehicles, and other benefits provided to clergy. And then, churches will have to pay property taxes because, well, fires aren’t satanic, so there is no freedom of religion distinction applicable to fees needed to support fire departments as well as police departments (needed to protect Christians from atheists and lesbians trying to take away their religious freedoms).

Ah, sweet progress! Let the sacred cow harvest begin!

September 26, 2017

Lying for Jesus, Part … Oh, For Pity’s Sake

I was wondering the other day how it is that the human population of the Earth could have reached its current level, ca. 7,600,000,000, from just the six survivors of the Bible’s Great Flood. Unsurprisingly, it was oh, so easy to find apologetic rationales of how that could have happened. By using quite reasonable numbers for estimates any number of sources can tell you that this is no problemo, bebé! But reasonable sounding numbers, picked out of a hat, aren’t necessarily accurate numbers.

So, I looked up a number of scientific population estimates for the population of the world in 2348 BCE, the presumed date of the Great Flood. The average estimate was 66,3001,302. This was based upon four careful calculations with the most liberal estimate being 90,205,000 and the most conservative being 21,512,000, with two others in between those extremes. These varied a great deal due to the unknowns involved. So, if one estimates global population by back tracking from historical records one ends up with about 60,000,000 people … not 6.

The title of this post includes the word lying, partly because there is a book using that phrase, but this is, at a bare minimum, a case of willful delusion. When I research a topic, if the numbers don’t support my premise, I generally shrug and move on. Sometimes I am motivated to dig deeper, but if I come up empty, I keep my mouth shut. This is not the case for Christian apologists. Often, if the numbers don’t add up, they look for numbers that do, and if those numbers sound reasonable, they use them to “make their point,” their real point being the presumption that the Bible is right, everybody else is wrong.

This pattern, well established for centuries now, is focused upon reinforcing the belief of the gullible, not on convincing unbelievers. And, it is manipulative, dishonest, and unbecoming of someone who promotes him- or herself as being morally superior. So, why do they do it?

My best guess is this is an intensely human activity. We all, from time to time, have the attitude of “What do those experts know? They are just a bunch of nerds.” or the equivalent. We disparage the messenger because we do not like the message. In politics, calling a politician a liar because we do not like what they say is acceptable, because all politicians are liars (it is part of the official job description: “Must be able to lie convincingly”). We just do not know whether they are liar on this particular point. But to claim that scientists who have studied a topic extensively are mistaken, because you have a back-of-an-envelope calculation that says so is violently hubristic.

We atheists are called militant because we dare to speak directly to theistic perfidy. It is time we refer to all apologists as “militant apologists” as they are conducting a campaign in which anything you do to “the enemy” is okay by their supporters. (This is war!).

August 24, 2012

Romney Tax Disclosure Reluctance Resolved!

This weekend, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is going to explain his reluctance to disclose more than his 2010 federal tax return. Apparently he doesn’t want people to see how much he donates to his church!

This seems to be a change of heart because both he and his wife are seen several times on video proudly proclaiming that he gives 10% of his income to “his church” or “to charity.” Romney has even described the tithing process to which he subscribes.

Also apparently he is confused.

He seems to believe that the 10% he gives to his church is the equivalent to giving 10% to charity. It is not. His church, the Church of Latter-day Saints or “The Mormon Church,” only claims that 3-4% of their income goes for charitable purposes. The rest goes into building churches, paying employees, etc. So Romney really is only giving 0.3-0.4% of his income to charity, which makes him a rich piker but a piker nonetheless.

Just so there is no confusion about this, in this country we do not tax churches because of the separation of church and state, not because they are charities, per se. This is a fact that more than a few churches have benefited from by running “for profit” services under their auspices without paying any taxes.

While the Romneys have been proud to boast of their tithing, at least until now, I beg to differ. Giving 10% of a $20,000,000 annual income to your church is not a hard thing to do; in fact it is quite easy. Giving 10% of a $20,000 annual income would be a hard thing. Somehow I think you or I could scrape by on just $18,000,000 in income . . . oh, and only paying an effective 14% federal tax rate on that, too.

We have a right to know whether Mr. Romney will benefit personally from any of his policies and by how much. Not telling us how much he will benefit from those policies he shows a lack of faith in the American people or nefarious intent.

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