If you ask yourself which religion is the most subscribed to in Western society, answers will vary. Christianity is still at the top, with its various sects and divisions. However, other Abrahamic religions stand strong and are even growing - Islam primarily. Eastern religions are making their dent too. And you may even believe that perhaps atheism and agnosticism are the dominant beliefs.
However, religion can be defined as the following -
The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. A particular system of faith and worship. A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
Under that definition, Capitalism stands tall as our Western religion, flawed or not is our devotion to it. Certainly, the latter part, 'a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion', seems more aptly applied to our economic system than any modern day religion.
Will Self makes this point brilliantly in a piece he did for A Point of View. He discusses the grooming of our political and financial elite through the Oxford University PPE course, and how that elite has become the 'priesthood' of our 'religion'. It's a great listen, as Will builds a synonymity between religion and economics, the somewhat dark overall point of which is lightened by his wit. Oh, and it's all wrapped up in 10 minutes.
Will's summary is concise and explicit, and does not need making again here. Nevertheless, I wanted to add something to this, so I thought it'd be fun to write some of the catechisms of this new religion.
Catechisms, for those that don't know, are a doctrinal Q&A, commonplace in Christianity and particularly Catholicism. Essentially, a question is posed by the clergy to which a scripted reply is given by the laity. It's an interesting institution, and perhaps the epitome of dogmatic behaviour in the Church. People should respond to the question without hesitation or thought. This is mirrored in our economic system by our blind following of it - something Karl Marx referred to as the 'dominant ideology'.
So, the Catechisms of Capitalism. Let the sermon begin...
What is Capitalism?
Capitalism is the perfection of economic systems. It hath stood the true test of time, and it hath emerged glorious. All people are subject to the will of capitalism. It rewards he who cares for himself above all others, and punishes those who choose not to tread its path.
What should be thy hope in life and death?
The accumulation of wealth to prove thyself to Capitalism. We can hope only to glorify the system and to be glorified within the system. Our duty is to be motivated by profit, and to feel not empathy for humanity.
What is profit?
Profit is the goal of Capitalism, and is our guiding force. All must strive for profit, for none matters as much as thy bottom line.
Praise be to Mammon.
Praise be to Him.
What is the law of Capitalism?
I shall sacrifice myself entirely to Capitalism, before my loves and happiness. I shall not doubt the system, and if ever I do I shall satisfy myself by further material accumulation. All other systems have failed, no others can succeed. My hours are thine from nine to five, Monday to Friday. I exist to serve you and to strive for profit.
How shall our actions be decided under Capitalism?
Capitalism shall guide and shape our actions through two guiding hands: supply and demand. As loyal followers our demand shall be insatiable, and through that demand we show our devotion. Business shall supply, and consumers shall demand. Business giveth, and consumers taketh away.
Who has followed the law of Capitalism?
He who understands that life is about money and nothing more. Money must be gathered, no matter the cost. As the daughter, Thatcher, once said, “there is no such thing as community, only the individual.”
Thus, what is sin?
The sinner desires not material pleasures and investments, but derives pleasures from fulfilment of the mind. The sinner ignores the law of wealth creation, and desires learning. The sinner rejects individual success, and desires the growth of community. The sinner is guided by love for fellow beings, and not by love for money. They have failed at Capitalism's central tenet.
And what of idolatry?
He who believes in a system other than Capitalism and neo-liberal thought systems. From one who believes in the independent co-operative to provide instead of the financial corporation, to those who believe in a different way entirely such as the Socialist. Idolatry is not always sin, but the idoliser may also sin in their beliefs in anything but money and Capitalism.
How shall the sinner and idoliser be punished?
Capitalism will punish by not providing. He who does not question the system shall not be punished under it – create wealth for yourself and you shall never be poor. The misguided will not focus on material wealth, and thus will grow old in poverty.
When was the Second Coming of Capitalism?
The neo-liberal revolution in the West, beginning in the late 1970s.
Who led the Second Coming of Capitalism?
The son and daughter of Capitalism, Reagan and Thatcher.
Praise be to the son, Reagan, and the daughter, Thatcher.
Praise be to them.
Were Reagan and Thatcher gods?
They were mortals; prophets of Capitalism's word. They have birthed us into a new era where Capitalism is strong again, and Capitalism's greatest followers show their dedication. They are the 1%, and all should aim to prosper as they have.
And where are they now?
They lived and died for us; to show us the one true path.
And what happens in death?
The wise man will pass their wealth on to their sons and daughters, through the use of offshore bank accounts, but also spend much on a funeral to demonstrate, even in death, the power of one's wealth. The foolish man will allow their wealth to be taxed or even pass it on to charities and social causes.
Let us pray...
Our Money, which art in Natwest
Hallowed by thy savings
My kingdom come,
My will be done
Through supply and in demand
Give me today my daily bread,
And anything else I desire
Provided I have the means to pay
And keep me forever tempted,
But deliver me from evil
Unless it saves me money
And I will take out a third mortgage
Whilst still not caring for my neighbour
For mine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory