2010s >> 2011 >> no-1284-august-2011
Fleecing the Flock
Whether there is an Indian version of the Sunday Times rich list we don’t know but if there is you’re unlikely to find Lord Vishnu on it – even though the value of just some of his recently disclosed wealth is estimated at well over £12 billion.
You might imagine, considering the absolute poverty in India, that this would cause a certain amount of resentment but it doesn’t seem to have done. Lord Vishnu is very popular. What’s more, his method of accumulating wealth is entirely legal, tax free and doesn’t involve any risky re-investments of his capital. People just give him their money. So what’s his secret? Well Vishnu is no ordinary lord.
Lord Vishnu, you see, doesn’t actually exist. He’s a Hindu god. His treasure is real enough though. And the recent discovery of six vaults crammed full of gold, silver and precious stones resembles a fantasy story which could have come straight from the pages of the Arabian Nights.
Suspecting that the contents of the Padmanabha Swamy temple at Kerala, which contained the offerings made by devotees over the last 500 years, ought to be worth a bob or two, India’s supreme court ordered an inventory. What they found was a vast hoard estimated to be worth £12.6 billion; even before the last of the six secret vaults was opened. “All of Kerala is celebrating this extraordinary find,” said a temple official. And why not? Surely this could finance a few hospitals or schools at the very least?
However, as is always the case, the needs of the gods come before human needs. This windfall which appeared to have dropped literally from the lap of a god will probably be snatched, or rather handed, straight back to him. “It belongs to the Padmanabha Swarmy temple and will be preserved there,” said Oommen Chandy, Kerala’s chief minister, firmly rejecting the idea that it should be used for public benefit.
You have to hand it to religion – literally it seems. Unlike any other business, it simply convinces us to willingly hand over our money. Just to put it in context though, how does this act of generosity compare to the wealth given to some of the US TV evangelists by their gullible followers?
The vast Trinity Broadcasting Network run by Paul and Jan Crouch is said to be available on more than 3,200 television stations. It is also involved in religious movie production and owns a number of Christian theme parks.
According to Ministry Watch (an evangelical organisation which claims to review ministries for financial accountability and transparency) Trinity Broadcasting’s net assets are $ 859,188,000.
According to Crouch when you donate to Trinity Broadcasting you, in turn, receive a divine financial blessing. “When you give to God, you’re simply loaning to the Lord and he gives it right on back.”
A smaller outfit whose net assets are listed as a mere $62,118,000 is the Bible Broadcasting Network. And the list of multi-million dollar bible bashing factories goes on and on.
What’s that bit in the bible about it being better to give than to receive?