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Praise and Profit: How Religion Pays Off





BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Ask the devoted and they might say that their religion is priceless. Ledger sheets might say a different story.

Comparing organized religion to a corporation is a bit disingenuous. After all, a company isn't on a mission to give away most of what it takes in to promote good works throughout the world.

Companies also have far more public oversight than organized religion. In the U.S., investors demand transparency of firms, the SEC enforces and oversees their actions and independent auditors -- at least in theory -- ensure that each line item is on the up and up.

Churches? Not so much.

Once a religion earns federal (as in IRS) recognition, it is freed from nearly all reporting requirements, even the rigorous standards most nonprofits must comply with.

The typical company also has a clear seat of power. Religions, scattered around the globe with myriad power structures, lack a clear equivalent to the corporate headquarters.

Despite both secrecy and fragmentation, there are still insights to be had into the wealth of organized religion. We looked at some of the ways money adds up for various denominations:

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