Religion & Money – Where does the $$ come from, and where does it go?

Belief is a very powerful tool for gathering wealth, and because of this some of the wealthiest organisations around are religious groups that also often attract followers that are quite poor. Here now are some interesting statistics that list where some of the main players get their wealth from, how much they have, and what they spend it on. I confess that some of this was a surprise to me.

Looking down the list, if I was to vote which were the slimiest scumbags around, its really difficult to decide between Scientology, Catholicism, and Televangelism.

  • The catholics have spent over half a billion in compensation to abuse victims and also kept a pile of plundered Nazi gold for themselves
  • The scientologists have simply scammed all their loot
  • The Televangelists use all donations for ‘God’s work’ to maintain a life of luxury

The statistics below come from here and has been extracted (with their kind permission). Ah yes, being a UK site, it is slightly skewed towards the UK


Fortune comes from: The subscription based religion charges to allow members to progress up the religious hierarchy. It costs around £168,700 to reach Operating Thetan VIII, the highest rank in the Church of Scientology. Newcomers to Scientology are thoroughly scrutinised financially and, according to many sources, often encouraged to take out loans if they cannot afford courses.

Total worth: Not known, but definitely in the hundreds of millions and probably in the billions of dollars.

Spends on: the Church of Scientology has a made many eyebrow raising purchases over the years, including nearly £2m in gold bullion and £9.3m on their very own cruise ship.


Fortune comes from: Mostly priceless works of art, but the Catholic Church were implicated in the disappearance of plundered Nazi gold, discovered in a shrine in Fatima, which the Church admitted to having in 2000. Tourism to the Vatican accounts for some of their income.

Total worth: Hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.

Spends on: Upkeep of an extensive international network of churches, compensation payouts for abuse victims (totalling over half a billion dollars in the USA). It is also one of the largest provider of humanitarian care and relief aid in the world.


Fortune comes from: Wealthy individuals form the bulk of the Masonic ranks.

Total worth: Depends who you believe – if the Freemasons control as much money as conspiracy theorists believe, the Freemasons are the richest organisation in the world.

Spends on: Charity. Masonic lodges all have philanthropic tendencies, and most run health or education projects.


Fortune comes from: Donations, adverts, selling merchandise to followers, and many other commercial activities under a tax-free umbrella.

Total worth: Estimated to be around £1.5 billion.

Spends on: TV evangelists have a life of luxury. Multi-million dollar homes, travel by private jet and international ‘crusades’ at £2,000 a night are not uncommon.

The Church of England

Fortune comes from: £200 million ($320m) in cash donations from congregations, £250m ($400m) in legacies, events and services, and £200m ($320m) in Gift-Aid donations. The Church used to be the biggest landowner in Britain, but most of that land was sold off to fund the £4.4bn investment portfolio which earns £160m+ ($255m+) every year.

Total worth: Billions

Spends on: Pensions, salaries, and maintaining 16,000 ancient buildings (most of which are Grade 1 listed). There are 43 cathedrals which require constant upkeep and repair.

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