Germany is one country where the Government insists that you pay a tax to the religion you belong to - and it's a significant amount. So Catholics pay a tax to the Catholic Church; Lutherans pay to their Church etc. The problem is that many German Catholics are deciding that they don't want to be Catholics so they don't pay - and other German Catholics simply don't want to pay the tax but want to remain Catholics. German Bishops have now decreed that you pay or you don't get the perks - no confession, no communion, no path to salvation. Can anyone tell me how this "Pay and Pray" is different to the old sale of indulgences that precipitated the Reformation?
The German tax, which was introduced in the 19th century, is 8 or 9 percent of the annual regular tax bill of registered Catholics, Protestants and Jews. It is collected by the Government then passed along. According to Wikipedia, 70% of the revenue in German Churches comes from this tax and in 2010 it totaled over 9 billion Euros. An official declaration that one is leaving the religion frees the citizen from this tax. Note that it is only for Christians and Jews and does not apply to others like Muslims but this is not important - if you don't declare yourself a Christian or Jew - then you don't pay the tax. Apart from East Germany where atheism is strong, most of Germany is Christian. Of the 82 million population, 30% are Catholic, 30% are Protestant, 5% are Muslim and 0.15% Jewish. The remaining 35% are atheist, agnostic or other religions.
The reason that the Bishops are doing this is because the number of Germans leaving the Catholic Church has jumped from usual 120,000 per year to 180,000 per year and their finances are suffering. Over the last 20 years, 3 million have de-registered. There are some conflicting rules and even a court case about what happens when you leave but the perception still remains that the Bishops are wanting money for the privilege of being saved. (UK Guardian).
But a group called We are Church said the bishops' decision was "the wrong signal at the wrong time .... Instead of seeking to understand the reasons for the high number of people leaving the church, this decree by the bishops represents a threat to the church's members."
The group said many German Catholics choose not to pay religious taxes because they disagree with the church's actions, not because they have lost their faith. It said the decision undermined the bishops' own efforts to regain credibility among believers who have become disenchanted by the fact that for decades the Catholic Church covered up child abuse by priests. (Source no longer available)
But I guess asking for money if you want God to love you is not a whole lot different to the massive Evangelical congregations where you are expected to pay big. Others like the Mormons expect tithing (10% of your income) - looks like Pay for Salvation is a common thing. But I suppose that if you believe, it's a small price to pay to get to heaven. To me it seems like a bribe although it's not God collecting the bribe, just his representatives.