The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Faith and Finances

August 16, 2005 | 20 Comments

Newsday asks, “What role should faith play in finances?” I cringe whenever I see that sort of softball lobbed at a panel of religious “experts.” This time, however, they also asked Gerry Dantone, coordinator of the Long Island Center for Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. And guess what? A sensible answer:

Supernatural beliefs obviously have no role to play in planning one’s finances. There is no evidence to suggest that gods are helping or hurting the pious in making investment decisions. However, ethics should play a role in every decision that we make, and financial planning is no exception. One must consider whether a person could ethically invest in a company whose products are dangerous or in a company, for example, that discriminates against gays.

Not so sensible was the response of Ned Gandevani, the founder and director of the Muslim group Sufi-Circle. Now, he seems to be a bright enough guy: he’s an economist, the author of “How to Become a Successful Trader,” and he trains professional traders and hedge fund managers. Try to reconcile all that with this answer:

Prophet Muhammad has said, “When poverty enters from one door, faith exits from the other door.” Muslims are to express their gratitude toward Allah by pursuing a prosperous life and help their fellow humans by donating some of their good fortunes. Islamic faith encourages entrepreneurship and risk-taking business endeavors . . . . However, it prohibits Muslims from giving or taking any interest for any type of loans and credit cards. According to the Quran, the interest deprives wealth of God’s blessings. Muslims are to invest in socially responsible companies; therefore, investing in companies dealing with alcohol, gambling and alike is prohibited.

First, when poverty enters one door, you usually find a lot of highly religious people inside. Far from exiting, the faith breeds and breeds until all of the atheists run out of the house screaming.

Second, what the atheists are usually screaming about is people nutty enough to think that there’s some omnipotent being obsessed with the distinction between profits and interest. I don’t know what kind of advice Mr. Gandevani gives to his clients, but I don’t see how you can invest in any company without being tainted with the unholy stain of interest in some way. All corporations take loans, give loans, put funds in bank accounts, etc., and nobody gets to use the money for free.

Finally, do you know a hedge fund is? It’s a a highly speculative, largely unregulated investment device. That sure sounds like gambling to me.


20 Responses to “Faith and Finances”

  1. hermesten
    August 16th, 2005 @ 9:32 am

    As always happens when religion collides with reality, the pious just find a way to lie about what they do, or get someone else to do their dirty work. The same interest prohibition used to apply to Christians –so Jews lent them money at interest. Eventually, as it became obvious that the Jews were profiting from loaning money at interest, and that interest fueled the expansion of capital, the Christians realized they must have been “misinterpreting” that stuff about “usury.” Muslims pay and charge interest: they just call it something else. Banks that don’t charge interest charge “loan fees” instead; or the creditor becomes a “partner” in the business of the debtor and gets a share of the “profits.”

  2. AK
    August 16th, 2005 @ 11:22 am

    Whats up with that? The Quran must be full of shit, because everyone knows that the poorest people in the world are the most faithful.

    And the poorest people of the world give their charity money mostly to churches and preachers, while richer people give their money to real charities, like the red cross.

    Maybe the poverty and faithfulness go hand in hand, like being indicative of bad decision making?

  3. Frank
    August 16th, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

    AK — “real charities?” To imply that churches are not “real charities” borders on monumentally ignorant …

    1) The Catholic Church has engaged in centuries of charity (long before your precious red cross). They have sent missionaries to the poorest parts of the globe to feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the poor and otherwise help people in need. I’m no Catholic but their charitable efforts are beyond dispute.

    2) When the towers fell on 9/11 the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief Teams were among the very first on the scene. They set up kitchens to feed rescue workers, firemen, policemen, victims, families, etc. They provided medical care and counseling and, in many cases, just a shoulder to cry on. They stayed for months and months with cleaning teams going into apartments and meticulously cleaning the dust that had coated everything so as to make apartments safe for the residents to move back in.

    3) When the tsunami hit last year Southern Baptists were among the most effective in lending aid because they already had missionaries living there (many of whom lost their homes, too) and a network in place. They provided food, medicine, etc.

    4) Churches of all kinds routinely maintain benevolence funds for helping those in need, they operate homeless shelters, rescue missions, food banks, clothes closets, etc.

    You can make your philosophical arguments against God all you want, but implying that churches are not “real charities” has no basis whatsoever. On this point you are just dead wrong.

  4. hermesten
    August 16th, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

    Oh come on Frank, we can’t “dispute” the charitable efforts of the Catholic Chruch? Not only can we, but after reading your charitable interpretation of Catholic “outreach,” I consider it my duty.

    Let’s not talk about all those centuries of “charity,” but instead, just focus on a couple centuries or so in North America and South America. The Catholic doctrine was that the natives in the New World were not human beings unless they converted to Catholicism. And since unconverted natives were not human beings, they could do whatever they wanted to them. One of the things these great Spanish Christians liked to do was cut off the noses and ears of natives who didn’t kiss Spanish ass sufficiently.

    They forced the natives to help build missions and work for the charitable priests by holding their families hostage. The Catholic Church used the natives as slaves and treated them worse than animals. In Mexico, and South America, where there were advanced native cultures with written history and records, they systematically destroyed every document they could get their hands on, effectively wiping the entire history of several whole civilizations off the face of the globe.

    And any time they gave anyone anything, it came at a price: conversion and obedience. The didn’t send their missionaries to distant parts of the globe to feed and cloth the hungry, they sent them to convert the heathen savages, and to subordinate them, in order to spread and increase the power and influence of the church. The feeding and caring was only for those who cooperated and subordinated themselves. And these missionaries spread a lot more disease than they ever cured.

    The “charitable” nature of the Catholic Church was still in evidence late into the last century, up to around 1970 or so, when they operated slave laundries, in places like Ireland, for women who were accused of being “immoral.”

    Even today, many of these Church “charities” expect something in return. At a minimum, you have to put up with their bullshit –their religious salespitch– to get a meal. It’s not “charity” when there are strings attached. Might as well call the time-share condo salesmen “charities” since they give you “free” stuff if you listen to their salespitch.

  5. DamnRight
    August 16th, 2005 @ 4:15 pm

    Ah yes, following the tsunami, I received a letter of solicitation from my nephew to sponsor him on a trip to aid in relief efforts. He needed $5000 for the 2 week trip that would help clean up a church building that had sustained some damage. But, they were also going to sing & evangelize while there too. How noble. I cringed at the thought of hundreds of youth workers & their misguided followers collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars to be spent on air fare, accomodation & food. They all felt so wonderful having done their part to make the world a better place… puke!!!!

  6. hermesten
    August 16th, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

    DamnRight, I won’t say that there aren’t real selfless Christian charitable groups out there, but often the circumstances are like your example, where it’s more about making the faithful feel better than it is about helping anyone else, especially when those being “helped” won’t accept the terms of “assistance.”

  7. boyownder
    August 17th, 2005 @ 1:03 am

    The Holy Roman Catholic Church was established in 325 AD by Constantine. That means a state sanctioned religion had 1,680 years (and counting) to do away with starving, poverty, and suffering. While the argument will be made that not all suffering can be alleviated, most of it can.

    The money we haved wasted trying to bring democracy, capitalism, and Chritianity to Iraq (you can’t tell me there are not economic as well as religious understones in this “war”) we could have spent on supplying the WORLD with clean, renewable drinking water.

    The Catholic church is one of the wealthiest private institutions in the world. Many of its churches are adorned with intricate gold, marble, oak, and stained glass. The Catholic church has within its means the ability to end poverty. But the church needs perpetual misery to stay in business. There’s more money in treating the problem than solving it.

    The other problem is that the church creates much of the misery it is apparently trying to stop. AIDS in Africa persists and spreads partially because of the churches’ stance on condoms and contraception. How medieval. The church is a roadblock, a middleman, and a pusher of unwanted ideologies. Those same people who were first responders and care-givers still would have been there in the wake of Sept. 11th whether they were religious or not because they were good people. You don’t mind looking several centuries back for the good that the church has done, but you should also not gloss over the bad because there is a lot of it.

  8. Andrea
    August 17th, 2005 @ 1:20 am

    In last Sunday’s Real Estate section of the New York Times, a Detroit family was featured in an article about how Muslims can get around their religion’s anti-interest laws and still get a mortgage. Apparently, “Muslim friendly” lenders just charge a leasing fee (instead of actual interest) and since it will equal the same amount of money everyone wins. Before these lenders offered payment alternatives, many Muslim families would save hundreds of thousands of dollars and just pay cash for a house.

  9. Andrea
    August 17th, 2005 @ 1:24 am

    Here’s the link.

  10. Mark
    August 17th, 2005 @ 2:05 am

    “AIDS in Africa persists and spreads partially because of the churches’ stance on condoms and contraception.”

    Ridiculous. If people followed the churches stand on just having monogamous sex with one partner and not getting fucked in the ass, there would be very little AIDS. And contraception like birth control pills does not do a damn thing to prevent AIDS.

  11. JLOVE
    August 17th, 2005 @ 3:36 am

    This diatribe shows that atheists only care about themselves

  12. DamnRight
    August 17th, 2005 @ 8:49 am

    So, you define discussing the truth as a diatribe… nice closed minded reaction JLOVE… no one denies that some good is done by churches, but, compared to the vast incomes these churches receive, it is a drop in the bucket that may eventually get to a needy recipient… most contributions go towards supporting the church as an institution… besides, show me church charity that doesn’t come with strings attached…

  13. JLOVE
    August 17th, 2005 @ 9:07 am

    What a good defense damright. Christian churches do so much for charity, while there isn’t even an atheist equivalent. What is the string attached to handing out food to homeless people? It’s ok to be selfish, but why don’t you just admit it? You are so narrow minded that you can’t bring yourself to admit that religious groups can do good because you are so against their ideas, and you just can’t see that even people who hold different beliefs can still do good without those beliefs affecting their actions. I feel sorry for you

  14. Vernichten
    August 17th, 2005 @ 9:21 am

    JLOVE, assuming you think you’re “saved”, would you give up your “saved” status to help a poor non-believer, even if that person hated you?

    And Mark, the reality is that people are happy to follow some of the church’s rules, and they refuse to follow other church rules. That’s reality. Do you adhere to every rule of your chosen religion? No porn? No pre or extra marital sex? It’s obtuse to believe that people will either disregard their chosen religion’s rules entirely while still claiming adherence or that they will follow its every rule, as there are very few people in either group. Many catholics who won’t wear condoms happily engage in a variety of other activities, excessive drinking, womanizing, gluttony. Even the catholic priests often engage in child-molesting.

    But I see, no TRUE catholic would pick and choose which rules to follow.

    And by they way, birth control pills do help stop the spread of AIDS, since they keep the infected party from making a baby with AIDS.

  15. Vernichten
    August 17th, 2005 @ 9:40 am

    Here’s my argument:
    JLOVE is immune to new information

    Here’s my evidence:
    damnright says: “no one denies that some good is done by churches…”

    After which, JLOVE says: “…you can’t bring yourself to admit that religious groups can do good because you are so against their ideas…”

    damnright just stated that some good is done by churches, after which JLOVE accused him of not being able to state that some good is done by churches.
    JLOVE, the definition of closed-minded includes this: “stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas”. Isn’t that you?

  16. SteveR
    August 17th, 2005 @ 10:10 am

    If a TV evangelist raises 10 million for ‘charity’ and gives 5 million to the ‘charity’ but keeps the other 5 mil for himself, is he really working for charity?

  17. hermesten
    August 17th, 2005 @ 10:35 am

    “JLOVE,” Jesus Christ, even the name is self-righteous and self-congratulatory.

    And I love this one: “Christian churches do so much for charity, while there isn’t even an atheist equivalent. ” Oh my God, atheists don’t have an equivalent for Christian churches. But as far as charity goes, some of the richest people in the world are atheists, and they give away a lot of money.

    Bill Gates: ($24.97 BILLION to charity from 1999-2003, according to Business Week – Any rich “Christians” giving away that kind of money?)

    Bob Geldorf (has raised over $100 million for charity through The Band Aid Charitable Trust)

    George Soros ($4 BILLION)

    Steven Wozniak (at least $7 million)

    Dave Matthews -agnostic- (at least $1 million)

    These are just a handful of well known atheists and agnostics off the top of my head. And btw, the amount of, or even the fact of, charitable contributions, says little or nothing about the character of the person, atheist, Christian, or otherwise, making the contribution. I give these numbers solely to refute the obvious piffle of smug self-righteous “Christians” who claim that charity only comes from people like them.

  18. hermesten
    August 17th, 2005 @ 11:13 am

    Mark: “Ridiculous. If people followed the churches stand on just having monogamous sex with one partner and not getting fucked in the ass, there would be very little AIDS.”

    Yeah, and our crime and morality problems would all be fixed if we just had prayer in school and the ten commandments posted in courthouses. Simple-minded simplistic nonsense. For one thing, in Africa, male-female transmission is more prevalent than male-male transmission, and more females have HIV infections then males. There are more people in Africa that have been infected than in the rest of the world combined (in both numbers and percentage of the population) –by huge margins.

    The people getting HIV in Africa are largely ignorant about sex –a taboo subject– and ignorant about how the disease is transmitted. This is a function of primitive taboos and superstitions –in other words: religion. The infection rate in Africa ranges from about 13% to about 35%. By contrast, the infection rate in the US is 0.61%. So if we are to accept Mark’s simplistic drivel, homosexuality and extra-marital sex must be an insignificant problem in the US. Why then is every other word out of a Bible Beater’s mouth something about homosexuals, or the evils of extra-marital relations –both of which Mark alludes to in a single sentence? And why, if getting fucked in the ass is a problem and condoms don’t work to limit the spread of HIV, is the infection rate in the US not higher?

    There’s a lot more to it than this, but it’s not my job to educate the Mark’s of the world. Mark’s ignorance is a perfect example of just what this site is about: how religion trivializes the complexities of human existence.

  19. a different tim
    August 17th, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    I kind of assumed that JLOVE was in some way related to J-Lo.

    I too am offended by the notion that only religious people have any kind of morality. My main objection to religion is on moral grounds. I think it’s morally wrong to peddle superstitious bullshit to people. Especially if they’re poor and the only way they can get food, shelter etc is to have to listen to it.

    I am aware that most major religions have moral injunctions to look after the poor but let’s face it, most of them interperet this in a somewhat elastic way – by deciding for example that as their churches are in the business of saving the souls of the poor, giving to the church is the same as giving to the poor.

    Don’t get me started on missionaries.

  20. hermesten
    August 17th, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

    “I too am offended by the notion that only religious people have any kind of morality.”

    In fact, I think one can make a pretty good case that on the whole, religious people are less moral than non-religious people of all stripes. Religious people usually receive their conception of morality with little or no thought. Christians like Frank, who have thought about these concepts, are few and far between. A Christian can live with his unquestioned beliefs and fit right into the crowd. Atheists and agnostics, on the other hand, even deists, or believers who simply don’t share the “Biblical” world view, have to challenge the popular “wisdom” and devote some thought to what they believe, because their views are challenged every single day, and they have no comforting groups of fellow believers to hide out in. Many atheists can’t even find respite with sympathetic family members. The whole idea of morality is meaningless without personal choice: a dog isn’t “moral” because he does what he’s told.

    On top of this, there is the fact religion, in general, and the Bible, in particular, condones and encrouages immoral conduct –where I mean “immoral” in the meaningful sense of conduct that hurts another person, and not this ridiculous blather about pornography and sex Christians like to substitute for real moral choices.

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