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Economics and religion

The futility of our thinking

“You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” Ephesians 4:17

Faith in the invisible

One of the common objections to having faith in Christ is that he is invisible- its so much easier to believe in something that you see and touch.

Let’s take money as an example. You can feel, see and touch money if it is in cash form. But if you go to your bank and get a loan and you use that loan to buy a house, well then it is highly unlikely that the bank will give you the money in cash. You don’t hand a stack of notes over to the seller. Yet something happens- something invisible- and money is transferred from one account to another.

We modern, clever, people say ‘Well, that’s the way it works’. Yet to ancient eyes this transformation of nothing into something would have looked like a miracle.

The whole system of economics, of the marketplace, actually depends on everyone having faith in one another.  And on the transformation of our faith and promises into something tangible- the house in my example.

Religion and economics

Where there is widely shared belief, religion often follows.[1] So when a transaction- like the sale of a house takes place- and is multiplied daily and is in many forms like buying groceries, we have –quite possibly without knowing it, created a religion. It’s called economics.

And economics has its commandments[2] and its priests [3]. And we, whether Gentiles or Christ followers, sit at their feet and worship.

Think about this

Here’s a quote for you to think about:

“Well, think of the role of economics… it offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world, just like any religion; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands; a road map to the promised land and riches there far beyond what any god could offer and moral teachings (albeit in a language often intelligible only to a Talmudic caste, complete with its numerology and symbolism). It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells like ‘derivative’ or ‘structured investment vehicle’. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests, who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.” [4]

Be wise

I started this note with Paul’s warning to Christ followers: don’t let what you think be futile.

I hope I have sowed a seed of a thought: what we think about money and about economics itself, may be futile.

If so, we need to rethink some fundamentals about our lives. Do we trust economics, or our God?

Footnotes______________________________________

[1] Quoted from ‘Twilight of the money Gods: Economics as a religion and how it all went wrong’, John Rapley, published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2017. I am using a Kindle version. The quote is from Chapter 1 Location 83. This note is based on Rapley’s book. He is to be credited with the original thoughts which spurred me on to write this note.

[2] The basic commandments of economics are: that we humans are self interested, rational, essentially individualistic, and prefer more money to less. These are deduced from simple assumptions reflecting very elementary facts of general experience, and are ‘as universal as the laws of mathematics or mechanics: Rapley, Location 134. While Christ commands us to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, Adam Smith’s commanded us to ‘Love yourself’, meaning that if you may yourself rich, you would have more to spend, and so you would make someone else rich too- the doctrine of unintended consequences – Rapley Location 592

[3] Rapley says of Milton Friedman, who is an example of the priests of economics: ‘A economist who gets a following, gets a pulpit’ Location 170.

[4] Rapley, Location 134.

14th Dec 2018