I’ve recently been pointed to an article in The Atlantic “The Market as God”. This is an extremely good analysis, supporting my contention that financialised free market capitalism is the System of Satan.
Having extolled the article, there are a number of points where I think it oversteps the mark. The first of these is in the statement “Since the argument from design no longer proves its existence, it is fast becoming a postmodern deity—believed in despite the evidence.” Strictly speaking, I think this has to refer to a supernatural theist deity; the trajectory of thought since the dawn of the enlightenment has left no room for a God who created the universe and then needs to tinker with it every so often to keep it on track, like the owner of what is generally called a “classic car” these days (to avoid calling someone’s pride and joy an “outdated money pit”); sometimes such owners seem to spend more time with their heads under the bonnet than actually enjoying the ride.
There is no clear evidence for an interventionary God, just as there is no clear evidence for the picture of the Market drawn by “classical” economics. There is, in fact, significant evidence against both.
Perhps, however, the author is thinking of the postmodern view of God as an “event” (as outlined, for instance, in Badiou’s “St. Paul: The Foundation of Universalism” or Zizek’s “The Puppet and the Dwarf”), as something which, once declared (without foundation) has massive effects. While postmodern thinkers might beat about the bush on this point, I think they are getting at something like the Dawkins “meme” idea, that a belief propagates and governs behaviour quite independently of any correspondence with reality. In that respect, money and value would both definitely qualify as meme/event concepts (and as supernatural, existing in the mind but not in reality). God, however, is more like that-which-is-God, in that despite our demonstrating that the supernatural theist concept of God is dead and explaining away a lot of the effects of belief via, for instance, psychology or, with the postmoderns, claiming that God is an Event, there is nevertheless something there. So too it is, I think, with the market. There are countless transactions between humans and their institutions which create between them a force which can be studied (and process thinking would not consider the market too lacking in materiality to be properly nonexistent), but the market is plainly not as economists generally have wished to paint it. The article does show that very clearly.
The next assertion I take issue with is “In particular, the econologians’ rhetoric resembles what is sometimes called “process theology,” a relatively contemporary trend influenced by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. In this school although God wills to possess the classic attributes, He does not yet possess them in full, but is definitely moving in that direction.” While I do not claim to be a process theologian (far less a process philosopher), it seems clear to me that this does not remotely do justice to process theology, all the practitioners of which with whom I am familiar would balk at the idea that God-as-process was moving towards several of the “omnis”, notably omnipotence and omniscience, and would be appalled at the idea that God was moving towards immutability or impassibility. OK, they would be happy that God was omnibenevolent and most would be comfortable with omnipresence, even if they were not outright panentheists…
With those caveats, I think Cox does an excellent job of outlining a theology of Satan. He concludes by saying “There is, however, one contradiction between the religion of The Market and the traditional religions that seems to be insurmountable. All of the traditional religions teach that human beings are finite creatures and that there are limits to any earthly enterprise. A Japanese Zen master once said to his disciples as he was dying, “I have learned only one thing in life: how much is enough.” He would find no niche in the chapel of The Market, for whom the First Commandment is “There is never enough.” Like the proverbial shark that stops moving, The Market that stops expanding dies. That could happen. If it does, then Nietzsche will have been right after all. He will just have had the wrong God in mind.”
Actually, there are significant other conflicts with any other religion I can think of, and I have gone to some lengths in other posts to outline how the System of Satan is contrary to Christianity (or, at least, to the Way of Jesus, which is what Christianity should be striving towards). Most of all, I think the conflict lies in the totalising nature of both. Jesus comments, in Matt. 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” It is not just sparrows which the Market puts a price on. It puts a price on you and me, not only in “how much do you earn?” but in “is it worth the price of the medication to extend your life by a year”, on what an injury to us is worth, on whether we are “productive members of society”, and it has the temerity to suggest that action to reduce the impact of climate change is “too expensive” where allowing climate change to continue unchecked will at the least destroy almost all current cultures in the world (including, in all probability, the Market itself) and may prejudice the continuation of humanity as a species.
In the preceding verse (28), Jesus says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I could restate that as saying that by substituting for Maslow’s peak value of self-actualisation, The Market tells us that we can never have enough money, and that money is all we need. The Market is thus killing our spirits, our souls, and if any evidence is needed, we can look at the epidemic of addiction which is sweeping through the developed world. As Peter Rollins remarks of addiction, it isn’t a problem, it’s a solution to a problem (albeit a bad solution), it’s a means of escaping from a world which the Market has made unfit for habitation by humans. “Do not adjust your brain, there is a fault in reality” is a catchphrase which counters that particular escape. Instead, let’s abandon the whole idea that the Market governs everything, and find our value elsewhere.