R. Nicholas Starr
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party (USTP) has published this view by our member R. Nicholas Starr in order to invite discussion on the issues he raises, although the USTP Platform does not endorse his proposal to tax religious institutions at this time. Indeed, the USTP Platform, in Section XXXVI, states that “The United States Transhumanist Party supports the elimination of graduated taxation and income taxation more generally. Instead, the United States Transhumanist Party advocates a flat percentage-of-sales tax applicable only to purchases from businesses whose combined nationwide revenues from all affiliates exceed a specified threshold. This tax should be built into the price of goods from such large businesses and should not impede transaction efficiency in any manner. Transactions pertaining to wages, salaries, gifts, donations, barter, employee benefits, and inheritances should remain completely untaxed, as should transactions involving solely individuals and/or small businesses, for whom the establishment of a tax-reporting infrastructure would be onerous. Furthermore, all taxes on land and property should be abolished.” An income tax on religious institutions, which primarily derive their income from donations, would be a tax on donations that the USTP Platform does not support. Moreover, it would create the need for a new tax-reporting infrastructure, and the USTP Platform tends toward the opposite approach of leveraging the reporting capabilities that already exist to create a seamless tax system that is barely noticed by ordinary people as they go about their daily lives. Furthermore, in Sections XX and XXV of its Platform, the USTP indicates support for religious tolerance and openness to religious individuals who may be receptive to technological progress and therefore may be valued allies and participants in the transhumanist movement. While we agree with Mr. Starr that additional science education and improved scientific literacy among the population would be highly beneficial, we would invite discussion of other ways in which it might be achieved. Also, we would invite any religious transhumanists to respond to Mr. Starr’s article with their own perspectives.
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 27, 2020
The Curative Education and Research Initiative (CERI)
Religion is the father of all existential risk. To reverse its damage, I propose a 2.5% federal income tax on religious institutions to fund public school education and scientific research. Support for this can be found throughout the USTP Platform, but specifically Sections II, VII, XII, and XXXII.
America needs more science! Not just “traditional” sciences like biology or chemistry, but social sciences and their companion the arts as well. And while the USTP has identified many areas that are lacking scientific attention or funding, we should also address scientific illiteracy, and even resentment, in the United States. New research means very little if the average American does not understand the research, results, or how it benefits them and the rest of humanity.
The US also needs to improve research and public education of social sciences. Anthropology and sociology are relegated to fringe college courses when it should help form the core of American education system. Cultural ignorance and hatred restrict the free exchange of ideas and thus future research needs. And when elementary schools glorify figures like Christopher Columbus and marginalize the indigenous people he and those who came after him oppressed, how can we expect society to move forward?
All Americans need to come together to plan for and fight against any number of issues and existential threats that science is currently researching or that may arise in the future. Racism and societal intolerance not only affect the free exchange of ideas, but also stifle research of problems in specific communities that many Americans deem “undesirable” and not worthy of study (drugs, sex work).
The biggest existential threat to humanity isn’t climate change, racism, or nuclear war. The greatest threat is the mindset that begat them. When “God” gave dominion over the planet to man, the church set climate change in motion. When holy texts tell their faction they are superior to the others, this creates habits of oppression and subjugation. In short, humanity is still paying for the fiction turned perceived fact created millennia ago. The time for it to end is now.
Science is the silver bullet to ignorance and superstition. A well-educated public gets us there.
To fund this initiative I propose a 2.5% tax on religious institutions to fund public-school education and scientific research. Payment of this tax does not grant any new access from churches into schools (school prayer, previously excluded religious clubs, proselytizing, recruitment, etc.), input or direction of scientific research being funded by these taxes, or any previously prohibited religious involvement in government. The purpose of this tax is to fund programs that benefit all people living in the United States, as decided by the scientific data, and advance social and scientific understanding in the classroom and in every day life.
Why tax religious institutions?
- Religion in America is a 1.2-trillion-dollar untaxed industry. A 2.5% tax would add $30 billion annually in federal tax revenue. Note: enforcing property taxes on all religious institutions would provide approximately $500 billion.
- Tax breaks for religious institutions is a form of government subsidy. This forces all tax-paying Americans to support the church regardless of their religious beliefs.
- Religious organizations have a long history of prohibiting or stifling scientific research, something that continues to this day (e.g., with stem cells).
- Religious organizations claim to financially support charity work, but there is no mandate to do so or requirement for how much is spent on charitable efforts. Additionally, what each organization considers charity may be detrimental to marginalized communities (LGBTQ conversion camps) and humanity internationally (missionary work overseas, historical support of slavery).
- Religious institutions have been, and continue to be, safe havens for misogyny, racism, intolerance, and violence. They owe a debt to society for the harm caused.
What should be funded with this money
- Public education (current federal education budget is $64 billion)
- Social Studies
- Federal entities for science and the arts
- National Science Foundation (NSF – current budget of $8.3 billion)
- National Institutions of Health (NIH – current budget of $39 billion)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA – current budget of $22.6 billion)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA – current budget of $5.35 billion)
- National Endowment for the Arts (NEA – current budget of $162 million)
As the primary objective of this proposal is to improve public education, it should be required that the largest sum of money should be put into public schools. However due to ever-changing financial needs, how this money is split shall be redetermined every two years by the legislative body. These numbers are based on the federal budget, but should this proposal be modified and adopted for state use, funding shall be sent to public education and scientific organizations that provide similar services as those noted above to the state.
This is controversial proposal. But it is also a modest tithe that can do a lot of good to change the country, and the world, for the better. Our country has gone above and beyond when it comes to supporting religious institutions and their members while asking for nothing but promises in return. It is time for these organizations to support the whole public.
Ryan Starr (R. Nicholas Starr) is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and the founder of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado.