Gary Laderman rants today about religion, Republicans, the Tea Party, the cult of capitalism, and in the process raises some interesting questions for me in my quest for goodness:
A few questions may help make the case about the intimate, if unexpressed, links between money and religion: Is the pursuit of wealth an ultimate value? Is self-worth tied to the accumulation of material goods? How do moral virtues connect to marketplace success? Is money a means to transcend everyday suffering and despair? Would you die to save capitalism?
I agree with Laderman that capitalism and the pursuit of wealth has turned into a cult — one that is sometimes (often?) promoted by people who claim to only be concerned with faith. (Oh, the irony.) I’ve been mulling over Laderman’s questions this morning. Here are my first answers. What do you think? Am I on base, off target, insane?
Is the pursuit of wealth an ultimate value?
No. Or, to be more precise, the first thing that came to mind was: “Good God, no! Do people really believe that?”
I see money (wealth) as a means of taking care of myself and my family, getting an education and helping me do things that ARE important. Money pays the mortgage and puts food in my mouth. Pursuing wealth in and of itself is of no more worth than cleaning a bathroom. Actually, cleaning a bathroom may be of more worth because at least it does more than simply benefit yourself.
Am I alone in thinking this?
Is self-worth tied to the accumulation of material goods?
No. And thinking so sets you up for a life of despair. No object on earth is going to provide a human being with a sense of worth. You might feel better for a while, but then the old ache returns. Tying self-worth to the accumulation of goods sounds to me like a recipe for addiction and depression.
How do moral virtues connect to marketplace success?
I hate to admit this, but the first thing that pops into my mind is that virtues block success. I desperately don’t want to believe this. Am I the only person with this attitude? Where the heck did I get this?
Is money a means to transcend everyday suffering and despair?
Money is a means to transcend poverty, cold, hunger, lack of education and sometimes even ill-health if it can pay for the treatment you need, but as for anything else? Once again, do people really believe this?
Would you die to save capitalism?
That’s a disturbing question. Would I die for capitalism? I’d die for freedom. Capitalism is economic freedom, but unrestrained capitalism also leads to economic oppression. Would I die for that? No.
Laderman is director of Religion Dispatches and professor and chairperson of the Department of Religion at Emory University.