Referring to Prof. Taylor’s Open Forum letter of 9/29/09, “Religion Isn’t a Commodity”, my wise father once counseled me that “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
Applying that same logic to religious institutions, they “look” like a business in that they sell intangible products under various labels such as the promise of everlasting life and salvation. Some actually provide useful services; others don’t. For these, customers sometimes called parishioners or members pay money to the institution in the form of tithes, pledges, or the basket i.e., it has an income stream. It has an organization, employees, a place of business sometimes called a church or synagogue or temple, and all the other attributes of a business.
They “quack” like a business by advertising, making outrageous claims for their products (without fear of government intervention), lobbying elected officials, and influencing public opinion through the media.
And last, religious institutions “act” like a business. They demand allegiance, differentiate their products from competing institutions, invest money, own property, hire and fire employees, have board meetings, issue financial reports (Catholic Church is an exception), and on and on.
Yes, Prof. Taylor, I am cynical enough to think of religion as a business, the biggest in the world. By advertising in the Boulder County Gold, they are acting very business-like, don’t you think?
Donald F. Lilley