“As an atheist, I’ve always wondered how much money the faiths keep stuffed under the mattress,” says Robert Llewellyn. In this time of financial crisis, when billions of pounds are being coughed up to support struggling banks, Robert feels it is time to discover the financial interests of the world’s great monotheistic faiths – Anglicanism, Catholicism, Judaism and Islam.
Robert’s first stop is Canterbury Cathedral, where he is surprised to learn that financial figures for the Church of England are readily available. Robert then travels to Westminster Cathedral to learn about the Catholic Church’s status in England. Part of the Catholic Church’s income in the UK goes to fund the Vatican, so Rome is Robert’s next destination. It soon becomes apparent that Vatican City is a financial black hole, and no one wants to admit how much money the Pope actually has.
Next Robert travels to Jerusalem to scour the finances of Judaism, only to find the Israeli government cannot even put a figure on the number of synagogues in the country. “There’s one God – that’s the only figure I can think of,” says Ariel Catane of the National Authority of Religious Services.
Finally, Robert heads to the East London Mosque to get a handle on the wealth of Islam. Despite the plethora of statistics available, he finds that no one has ever conducted an audit of the UK’s 1,600 mosques. And his efforts to obtain the global income for Islam founder when none of the embassies of the world’s biggest Muslim countries agree to meet him. Undeterred, Robert eventually comes up with a total figure – but which of the top religions is the richest?