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I think Joel's question (not the discussion) misses the real value obtained the "customer". The tithing party does not purchase access to the church, they purchase confidence in their own decency. By behaving as they believe their god wills (and by at least superficially surrendering apparent self-interest, enacting the central "sacrifice" tenet of Christian belief), they relieve some portion of the self-doubt & existential anxiety of life.
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