The Economic Religion: In Capitalism We Trust

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What is meant by an economic religion? Do you think capitalism can be considered a religion?

According to Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli public intellectual and a historian, we are living in the era of the economic religion of free-market capitalism. Although we don’t explicitly call capitalism a religion, it informs many of our ethical judgments as much as (if not more than) traditional religions do.

Keep reading to learn about the concept of economic religion.

Free-Market Capitalism: An Economic Religion?

Today, economic growth is central to every modern religion, political party, and social movement because money equates to power. Regardless of economic philosophy or political affiliation, leaders around the world put economic growth above all else, even at the expense of relationships. This demand for constant investment is the result of an ethical judgment: “Economic growth solves all problems.” This makes capitalism less of a science and more of an economic religion. Instead of promising riches in the afterlife, capitalism promises wealth on Earth at the expense of your personal life.

For example, if you had to choose between spending more time at your job or with your family, you’d have to make an ethical judgment about the importance of money. If you were a true capitalist, you’d likely choose to spend more time at work because you’d believe that money could solve any problems facing your family.

Historically, kings and queens would either spend their money on extravagances, or store it away in chests, never to be touched. In the modern era, capitalism demands that you reinvest your wealth into economic growth through methods such as expanding a business, hiring employees, or investing in the stock market.

For example, if a capitalist made $500,000 today, they probably wouldn’t put it in the bank and leave it. They’d talk to their friends and family about what to “do” with their money, looking for investments that have potential. They likely wouldn’t be satisfied until their $500,000 turned into $5 million, constantly reinvesting in promising ventures.

However, worshiping economic growth on both a personal and national level often creates ethical and moral dilemmas. For example, a young lawyer’s father has a stroke and requires constant care. She has a choice: Give up a six-figure salary to provide care for her father, or hire a caregiver. If she gives up the salary, she can ensure that her father gets loving care, but she loses her career. If she hires the caregiver, she keeps her career but can’t ensure that her father is given the best care.

The Economic Religion: In Capitalism We Trust

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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