The Bad Religion Of Capitalism
In Religion In Human Evolution, Robert Bellah says “Religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred that unite those who adhere to them in a moral community.” Modern, ‘educated’, consumers don’t live in such a religious community, but we still live in community of belief. To paraphrase Bellah, ‘Capitalism is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the profane that unite those who adhere to them in an immoral community.’ We follow a religion of sorts, just a bad one.
That’s what we’ll discuss in this blog post, but first we have to bonfire some vanities.
The Monopoly Of Reality
The central conceit of Capitalism is that is simply a realistic philosophy that delivers results. It might not be pretty, but it works. It’s just the way it is. People are inherently selfish, but if this nature is harnessed through artificial intelligence (corporations) it can produce the greater good. Thus Capitalism as a belief system produces real miracles (planes! TVs!) and thus has a monopoly on reality. Everything else is just belief.
You can see to dominance of this bad religion quite visibly in any city. Just look up. The tallest spires we raise are to banks. What we worship there is greed. Now look around. The walls are covered with art, just not religious art anymore. It’s all advertising. What we worship now is the self, and the better incarnation that every advertisement promises us. These are all beliefs in the profane (greed, hoarding) which unite us in immorality (selfishness, pride, lust). Capitalism is thus a religion out of sorts. As I said, a bad one.
Unlike other religions which at least have some concept of good at their core, Capitalism has nothing but greed and selfishness at its center. Whereas bad is a common side effect of all religions, with Capitalism it’s the exact opposite. With Capitalism good is a side effect while the central organizing principle is bad. It’s the worship of money, the self, and every possible sin. Capitalism’s saving grace was that it ‘worked’ but in truth it only worked like any deal with the devil. A brief period of vaunted ‘progress’ followed by the loss of everything.