Archives for posts with tag: religion

Jag har gått och funderat på den så kallade nya ateismen ett tag nu. Ämnet dök senast upp i en konversation med en kompis för några dagar sen och det jag frågar mig är följande: vad är det som ligger bakom ny-ateismen? Eller snarare, är det ett utryck för genuin ateism? Ateismen har ju fått rejäl luft under vingarna under de senaste åren i Sverige och fler och fler kallar sig ateister. Men är alla dessa människor verkligen de facto ateister – med den filosofiska övertygelsen att det inte finns någon gud/högre väsen/andlighet? Eller grundar det sig snarare i en religionskritik, dvs man vill inte ha något med kristendom, islam eller annan organiserad religion att göra och kallar sig för ateist? Ateist blir i detta fall – snarare än filosofisk övertygelse – ett ställningstagande mot något (religion som fenomen), snarare än för något (materialism).

Min kompis var benägen att hålla med mig. Enligt honom har ateismen – det vi kallar den nya ateismen – fått ett uppsving sen den 11 sep 2001. För många har religion blivit något mycket negativt och man, som sagt, vill inte ha något med det att göra då religion står för allt för mycket elände i vår värld. Alternativet blir att kalla sig ateist. Men är man egentligen då, frågar jag mig, ateist i ordets rätta bemärkelse – utan den filosofiska materialistiska övertygelsen? Jag kan hålla med i mycket av den religioskritik som förs fram idag – även om den stundtals också blir ganska vinklad och onyanserad – men visst finns det många viktiga poänger i det som Humanisterna och andra för fram mot organiserad religion. Men det gör mig inte till ateist per automatik – jag tror att det finns en Gud och jag vill följa denna Gud och vara med i det goda som denna Gud gör i vår värld. Jag är kristen men också kritisk mot delar av vad religion är och gör i vår värld, inklusive inom den kristna kyrkan. Men människan lyckats skapa olycka med annat också – oavsett vad det är för -ism eller övertygelse. Problemet ligger snarare i oss själva än religion som fenomen.

Det som också slår mig av det jag mött av den nya ateismen är att den verkar vara rätt känslobaserad (dvs i sin kritik som religion som fenomen) snarare än just grundad i en filosofisk övertygelse (fast här är jag kanske alltför generaliserande och orättvis). Man reagerar känslomässigt mot det negativa man ser i religion (ofta med rätta) och drar sen slutsatser om gud och andlighet. Detta tycker jag står i ganska stor kontrast mot ateismen som modernt fenomen grundat på förnuft och vetenskaplighet. Det känslomässiga, brukar man ju säga, hör ju hemma i den post-moderna kulturen. Kanske kan man säga att den nya ateismen är en slags post-modern version av den gamla klassiska ateismen? Bara en tanke jag har sent en onsdagskväll.

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holy-toastA while back I asked whether or not the free global market can be regarded as a religion (you can read the post here)? My question was inspired by an essay I wrote as an undergraduate theology student some eight or nine years ago, in which I came to the conclusion that it very well may be seen as a quasi-religion, if not as a religion proper. Some of the reasons for this are…

1. We often speak of the Market as a “mystery withdrawn from us”, something beyond ourselves that for example demands certain behavior, rewards correct action and punishes us if we are disobedient (the Market demands that we make certain cuts in the budget, the work force, accept certain national policies etc).

2. The Market also has a specific end in view, a specific mission: a total global market in which everything is for sale (in this sense the religion of the Market is monotheistic, it clearly wants to the only god followed and worshipped).

3. The Market is providential, that is, it sustains and preserves the order of things, and provides the best of all possible worlds.

pencil-toppers14. To be a follower of the Market also involves an aspect of faith: As we’ve seen in the economical developments this autumn, there’s an element of unpredictability in all things financial, and we need to trust the system and that it in the end is benevolent (even if we not always understand it, or if the developments that are occurring at the moment seem to suggest otherwise).

5. The religion of the Market involves a certain ethical behavior: for the system to work smoothly people need to possess virtues such as  honesty, truth-telling, trust, self-interest and individualism. 

6. The Market also involves a certain teaching, or systematic theology: the theories of scarcity, price mechanisms, property, free trade etc. Or to quote my own essay: “The market economy clearly teaches that the right way to wealth and prosperity is the road of open markets, free trade, and the right to own property, while the road to economic stagnation is mercantilism, protectionism, statism, and increased governmental control.”

7. The religion of the Market has its own prophets (business analysists etc) and priests (stock brokers, real estate agents, salespeople etc who turn commodities into money and money into commodities).

8. The Market also provides people with a “matrix of meaning”, it gives us a specific world-view, a way to view the meaning of life and purpose for human kind.

glitter-jesusSome suggest that the religion of the Market in fact is the ultimate religion – because it has managed to turn other religions into commodities, which means that a certain thing can be marketed and sold at a certain price. I took the pictures shown here at a stationary shop in Chester when we were in England last week – now anyone can own a glitter Jesus, amazing isn’t it?! I think they can serve as a good illustration to what we’re dealing with. Religion in general, and sometimes Christianity, is something we can buy, consume and make into an accessory, something that I add to my life like a new bag or shoes. 

Well, anyway, if the free global market can be viewed as a (quasi) religion, how does a person who wants to the a faithful follower of Jesus deal with all this (and I’m not talking about whether or not to buy a glitter Jesus…)? How do we live as faithful followers of Jesus in a society so fundamentally affected by (the religion of) the free global market? Does it even matter?

the-market-as-godIn these economically turbulent times I’ve come to revisit a dissertation I wrote as a theology undergraduate student at Cardiff University some eight or nine years ago. I was looking for something less ordinary to write about and came across an article written by Harvey Cox (professor at Harvard Divinity School) titled The Market as god – living in the new dispensation. I found the whole thing quite intriguing and decided to put his idea to the test   – can the free global market really be regarded as a religion? I mean, from a Christian view point, if this is correct it would create some interesting issues to deal with, wouldn’t it?

Cox writes that 

A few years ago a friend advised me that if I wanted to know what was going on in the real world, I should read the business pages. Although my lifelong interest has been in the study of religion, I am always willing to expand my horizons; so I took the advice, vaguely fearful that I would have to cope with a new and baffling vocabulary. 

Instead I was surprised to discover that most of the concepts I ran across were quite familiar. Expecting a terra incognita, I found myself instead in the land of déjà vu. The lexicon of The Wall Street Journal and the business sections of Time and Newsweek turned out to bear a striking resemblance to Genesis, the Epistle to the Romans, and Saint Augustine’s City of God. Behind descriptions of market reforms, monetary policy, and the convolutions of the Dow, I gradually made out the pieces of a grand narrative about the inner meaning of human history, why things had gone wrong, and how to put them right.

Cox finds myths of origin, sacraments, eschatology, and he describes how the Market god has evolved from being a deity sharing its glory with other gods, to a state where it has “risen above these demigods and chthonic spirits to become today’s First Cause.” 

Well, then, what would the aim and mission be for this deity, one may wonder? According to Cox, it is to turn all things into commodities, with the help of motivational researchers and the prophets of Wall Street, and to reach a “total market” where all things are for sale to prices determined by supply and demand.

Hmm, you might think that this is totally ridiculous and far fetched. And you’re probably right. But I remember that  I really enjoyed writing the dissertation. And for sure, we’ve totally managed to evoke the wrath of this deity this autumn. And it demands its sacrifices. People and laid off, business are closed down, countries fall into recession, and the world trembles. Thus is the will of the Market. For the Market has spoken.

Anyway, the whole thesis really stands and falls on two issues:

1. How you define the free global market

2. How you define religion

 

These are quite complicated subjects, and its way too late in the evening for me to start thinking about these things now. I’ll leave it at that for now and come back to this later…