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What religions say about money
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One thinker, Ali bin Abi Talib, a cousin of the prophet Mohammed, said, "If poverty were a human being, I could have killed him."

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He said that, Imam Ali explains, because "sometimes poverty pushes someone to behave like a disbeliever. It can push someone to kill, steal or be depressed."

Pastor Kummer has spent a lot of time thinking about the effects of poverty. "One of the places that really got my attention years ago was the Book of Proverbs," he says. "What struck me is that God takes the treatment of the poor personally. The person who mocks the poor insults his neighbor, and oppression is condemned.

"A ruler, we're told, is judged on how he treats the poor. The idea is that God has concern for the poor and that generosity is important."

Kummer quotes Proverbs 31:9, which says rulers are judged by whether they "defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Investing advice
The Quran offers many guidelines on how to invest," says Imam Ali. "We have an investment system, Mudarabah, which is very important."

The idea is basically paying someone for his investment savvy -- the concept behind paying mutual fund fees or financial planning fees.

"Say I have money and I don't have skill. I go to Sam, who has business skill, and I give him $250,000 to invest for the business. Sixty percent is mine, and 40 percent is his."

Jewish law includes a hefty amount of business law. Honesty in weights and measures is strictly enforced.

As for walking around the mall and not buying anything, that's not something Jewish law approves of. Misleading a merchant intothinking you are going to buy when you have absolutely no intention of spending a cent is forbidden.

Interest rates
If you're wondering how major religions feel about credit cards, the answers are right in the texts.

In the Bible, all interest is forbidden, according to Rabbi Blesofsky. "However, there are certain halachic rulings -- halacha is Jewish law -- that allow interest. There is a halachic exception to allow that."

The whole question of interest is a "controversial topic and an ongoing debate" among Islamic leaders, Imam Ali says. Islam doesn't allow interest either, but that doesn't always work in the modern business world.

"If someone comes to you for a loan, he comes out of need," Imam Ali says. "If I loan you money and I find that you have difficulty paying me back, Islam encourages me to forgive the debt. God will reimburse me."

Pastor Kummer notes that being enslaved -- perhaps by excessive debt -- is frowned upon in Christianity.

But all three clerics have bank accounts at financial institutions that, naturally, charge interest.

 
 
Next: "God loves a cheerful giver."
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 RESOURCES
For happiness, money's a tool
Getting a discount on inner peace
The money-and-happiness correlation
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