A Harmful Religion

Religion is a sensitive subject – perhaps among the most sensitive of topics.  In the U.S. today, the main contender to President Obama in this November’s Presidential election is Willard Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – so he is a Mormon.  Mormons believe that an angel named Moroni left some gold tablets in upstate New York and that these tablets were discovered by a man named Joseph Smith.  From these tablets, Joseph Smith “translated” the Book of Mormon, which is the foundation upon which Mormonism is built.  In Mormonism, black people were not allowed to attain the priesthood until 1978, and to this day, women are still not allowed.

Another religion in the news recently, thanks to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, is Scientology.  The Church of Scientology was created by L Ron Hubbard (Elron) in 1952.  I became curious about the Church after watching their movie – Battlefield Earth staring another popular Scientologist, John Travolta.  The Church holds that at the higher levels of initiation (OT levels), mystical teachings may be harmful to unprepared readers.  Among these advanced teachings is Xenu’s story (sometimes Xemu), introduced as an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy.”

Everyone I have ever met believes in something.  ‘Belief’ to the extent that an idea is accepted despite the absence of hard evidence, and sometimes, the idea even goes on to influence how they live their life significantly.  Some people may joke about other peoples’ religions, but from my perspective, what someone believes is their business and needs to be respected, regardless of how ‘different’ it is.  The line is crossed, however, when their beliefs begin to harm other people.

One ‘religion’ that is harming an increasing number of people is the ‘greed is good’ religion that preaches to its adherents that the goal of life is to accumulate as many material things as possible.  Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with material comforts, but there is cause for concern when the pursuit of material comforts leads someone to impact others negatively.  This is precisely what happened in two stories in the news recently – the LIBOR scandal and the GSK fine.

Firstly, here in the UK, the emerging scandal over certain banks’ attempts to rig the LIBOR (London inter-bank offered rate) is yet another story that betrays the cult of casual dishonesty permeating some large financial institutions.  The evidence suggests that Barclays manipulated LIBOR to boost trader’s profits and colluded with other banks for mutual benefit.  It is estimated that LIBOR is used to set an estimated $800 trillion worth of financial instruments, affecting the price of everything from simple mortgages to interest-rate derivatives.  If banks successfully manipulated LIBOR rates, one commentator suggests that this would be the biggest securities fraud in history affecting investors and borrowers around the world.

Secondly, the US Department of Justice fined GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) US$3 billion for offenses, which probably deserved bigger headlines than they got.  GSK apparently promoted antidepressants intended only for adults as effective for children when trials showed they were not.  It is useful to remember that this is just the latest in a long series of Justice Department findings against drug manufacturers for misleading or bribing customers: Pfizer, Abbott, Eli Lilly, Merck, and Astra Zeneca have collectively paid around $6.7 billion in fines in recent years.  That figure suggests the depth of corruption within their corporate cultures and medical practitioners’ susceptibility to being corrupted.  Like financial institutions, these entities play games with people’s lives.

Returning to the Caribbean, I was pleased to see that Antigua’s Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years for his $7 to $8 billion Ponzi scheme last month.  US authorities had actually sought a 230-year sentence for “a ruthless predator responsible for one of the most egregious frauds in history.”  The sentence leaves Stanford facing the rest of his life behind bars.  This is a man who was judged to be worth more than $2 billion in 2008.
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This religion of greed and hubris is perhaps the biggest threat to our economic and social order.  As I follow the Enquiry into CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union, I sincerely hope that the outcome sends a clear message.  We need a clear message that strikes a blow to the heart of this religion of greed.  Individuals must be brought to account for actions that have affected thousands of lives and multiple economies.  We cannot repeat the mistakes of the Airport Enquiry.
American Tax Singapore

My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country.  Despite its challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope that we will enjoy a brighter tomorrow.

Read more on derrenjoseph.blogspot.com.   

Note: The blog that used to be here is now at https://www.mooresrowland.tax/.

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