Now that Pope Benedict XVI has slipped out of his papal red shoes and into the brown hush puppies of retirement the members of the College of Cardinals selected to be receptacles of God's will as they elect the next Pope are currently busy meeting with foreign dignitaries, papal pressure groups and arm twisting lobbyists as they conduct their reference checks to ensure God's will doesn't settle on a 'left-wing dud'. And all the while the trillion dollar business of religion keeps on keeping on as usual.
To say that religion is a business is stating the obvious. To say that it is an industry takes the proposition a little further. When futurists breathlessly predict the so-called corporate wars some time down the track it's clear they haven't considered the fact we've been having them for thousands of years courtesy of religion and it's factions. Religion per se is the ultimate expression of the global market.
But religion the corporate conglomerate is an industry like no other for one reason: its marque product is invisible. To put this in perspective: imagine for a moment Apple releasing its next generation smartphone to an expectant public only for you to discover it can't be seen, heard or touched ... in fact it's not actual there in your hot little hand even though they say it is... You get the picture.
Religion long ago carved out a niche for itself in the market of ideas that very quickly transcended the contemplative to become a fierce materialistic competitor in the very secular world of finance, with much of the reward-for-effort syphoned off to sustain its bloated heirarchy. Something to contemplate: despite having no balance of trade figures the Vatican has an estimated GDP of $50,000,000 per annum from 832 people living in the Vatican City. It has a budget of around $360 million. The Catholic Church world-wide has an incalculable net wealth based on gold, stock shares, banking assets, real estate holdings, business investments, precious art treasures and manuscripts. That doesn't include the countless millions in donations it receives each year. All of that from an idea.
Religion sells certainty. It markets the comfort of the imaginary friend of childhood to the manchild/womanchild in the human psyche. It projects the all powerful, protective real-life father of our formative years into the heavens with the promise to its customers of rewards for compliancy and punishment for disobedience in accordance with man-made prejudicial doctrine. And as with all industries, religion has its own culture, strengthened by distinct protocols, policies and procedures. It is these procedures and protocols dressed in the mystique of ancient tradition that keep the religion industry relative in people's minds; an industry that behaves like an industry but produces nothing in the real sense, yet influences global politics and even entire countries more than perhaps the top ten companies of the Fortune 500 combined.
In spite of the poor dividends, the manifest evidence of corruption and contempt; in spite of the lack of evidence and the absence of proof that the religious product even exists; in spite of the fact that most people will actually acknowledge these abject failings, there are around 1.3 billion Catholics alone and an estimated 6 billion people who still adhere to some kind of institutionalized religion:
- Christianity: 2.1 billion
- Islam: 1.5 billion
- Hinduism: 900 million
- Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
- Buddhism: 376 million
- primal-indigenous: 300 million
- African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
- Sikhism: 23 million
- Juche: 19 million
- Spiritism: 15 million
- Judaism: 14 million
- Shinto: 4 million
- Cao Dai: 4 million
- Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
- Tenrikyo: 2 million
- Neo-Paganism: 1 million
- Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
- Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
- Scientology: 500 thousand
Standing alone in the midst of a planet of believers are those who are prepared to invest in the future wisely:
- Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
Proof perhaps - not forgetting all that we have achieved against the odds - that the vast majority of adult humans are children inside.