After more than six years of research, we are currently in the process of organizing our materials. Our aim is to create an unbiased and informative documentary that will raise awareness and offer educational benefits to communities worldwide. The insight I have gained through my 17 years’ experience as a practicing addict/alcoholic and 26 years of sober living via spiritual awakening – two very different and opposing attitudes / value systems – will help us do this.
Our research thus far shows that while in the US, and in other parts of the world, individuals, universities, and organizations are studying similar connections between religion and economy, there has been no concerted effort to examine the subject in the same depth, detail, perception and format that we have in mind. For example, one area we intend to study intensively is tithing, including charity and volunteering, and its relationship to ethics, conscience and principles. For example, how might a lack of ‘doing the right thing’ lead to the potential for corruption and moral degradation?
A recent study shows that despite the economic turmoil which emerged in 2008, Americans are still giving in the form of tithes, although somewhat less than in previous years. Statistics show that in America only 3% of Christians actually practice tithing; and 6% of born again Christians. The research company Barna Group reported last year, in a study on giving, that the number of American tithers had dropped from its 10-year range of between five and seven percent to about four percent of the adult population. It is interesting to note that while “relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged” is listed first among the Internal Revenue Service tax criteria for churches or any organization seeking charity status, another applicable requirement is that the organization exists for the “advancement of religion”.
All share the core value of ‘giving’ as they also share, for example, the concept of the Golden Rule
As with Christianity, each religion has its own concept of tithing or similar practice, and has its own approach to the application of this principle. Islam has Zakat; Judaism, Ma’aser; Buddhism, Dana; Hinduism dasamamsa/dana; to name but a few. Thus, evidence suggests that they all share the core value of ‘giving’ as they also share, for example, the concept of the Golden Rule!
It may be controversial to state that, unfortunately, many branches of religions appear to have lost touch with their roots of their original tenants and doctrine. With the presentation of the results of our research, we sincerely hope to encourage the great religions of our world to constructively review their core beliefs/values in the hopes of returning to those very beliefs which would make them more effective to their congregations, just as we hope to encourage personal insight and development for the individual.
In addition to acquiring a deeper understanding of stewardship, or its equivalent within the world religions, our intent is to study the percentage of adherents to the practice of tithing. and its effect on a particular society via the individuals. We will also investigate how each religion emphasizes the practice, and whether or not so-called followers of each religion actually have an understanding of the concept, including what the percentages are of those who don’t practice it in each religion. We aim to discover whether or not the true meaning has been lost or obscured over time through a lack of a concentrated effort in every religion to screen its spiritual literature, (education floors and lack off upgrading of knowledge) or schisms leading to a diluted understanding, and how interfaith dialogue can help us to learn from each other.
Although people do not appear to learn from history, our goal is to utilize it, combined with statistics it will give us a leading edge in the search for clarity and deeper understanding. Whilst many sociologists would have us believe that people lie 85% of the time throughout the day, we hope to help the individual to see that there are benefits to uncovering the nature of each individual’s understanding of values/beliefs, encouraging them to be more honest and open-minded; therefore helping to create a positive change in their personal lives and, as a consequence, in the world at large.
In relation to the current world crisis, we see many historical parallels. For example, The Byzantine Empire was a very wealthy nation that lost its religious/spiritual principles and eventually disappeared.
Our documentary could prove to be an illustration of the moral degradation we see throughout the world today. Increased understanding of the subject could foster a more charitable attitude in individuals and institutions, encouraging those who don’t give to start giving, and those who do, to give more. All of which may contribute immensely to the overall economy and show that there is a spiritual axiom: ‘it’s in giving that we receive’.