On Invoking God to Defend Mammon

The efforts to try to burnish the image of bankers have gone from being unconvincing to ridiculous. I am certain we will see Jon Stewart comment on the latest twist, of trying to claim that God wants banks (and therefore bankers) to make a lot of money.

Since Calvinism is the de facto religion of America, equating wealth with virtue would normally make perfect sense. But one of my colleagues, who is thinking about writing a book on Christianity and capitalism, points out that God as depicted in the Bible is not a very good steward of the planet. He regularly uses brimstone, floods, earthquakes, plagues, and whatnot. And there aren’t offsetting scenes of acts of nature conservancy. So if man was created in God’s image, and God seems to have a bit of an appetite for destruction, perhaps the God-invokers are barking up the wrong tree. They might instead consider passing themselves off as mere vessels of Divine will in helping make bad things happen, that the people are who are suffering, in good Calvinist logic, clearly must be sinners somehow, even if it is not obvious what they did wrong.

But the defenses we get instead are more than a bit twisted, at least as reported in Bloomberg:

Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer John Varley stood at the wooden lectern in St. Martin-in-the- Fields on London’s Trafalgar Square last night and told the packed pews of the church that “profit is not satanic.”

The 53-year-old head of Britain’s second-biggest bank said banks are the “backbone” of the economy. Rewarding high- performing bankers with more pay doesn’t conflict with Christian values, he said. Varley was paid 1.08 million pounds ($1.77 million) and no bonus in 2008….

“Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes,” he said in an interview after the speech in the 283-year-old church. “And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.”

Yves here. Whoa! I will agree that banking is probably not Satanic, but not being on a first name basis with him, I could be wrong here. “Satanic” leads to images of ritual sacrifice of babies, and I don’t think the banking industry is into that,. However, many readers were put off by the idea of securitizing life settlements. That occurs when the holder of a life insurance policy is bought out by a third party who continues paying the premiums, speculating that they will die on some sort of actuarially-determined timetable. Of course, if the investor is proven wrong, and the people whose lives he is now insuring live longer than expected, he makes less money and has reason to want them to die, and could resort to trying to speed up the inevitable.

And regardless of your views of Satanic practice, saying something is “not Satanic” is far from saying it is not sinful, or simply morally dubious. I thought that the Seven Deadly Sins were part of the Catholic canon. Seems to me modern bankers practice every one except for sloth.

As I dimly recall (I must confess I received no religious instruction growing up, but you can’t avoid picking up snippets here and there), Jesus did say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Bankers don’t have to become rich, that it not inherent to banking, but it does seem to be the point of the exercise and is occurring much more frequently than it used to. However, I have also been told that the Eye of the Needle was the smallest gate into Jerusalem, and a camel could go through it, but only if it crawled on its knees, which is difficult for them. Either way, this argument about “compatibility” is awfully strained.

Saying that banks are the “backbone” of the economy is also not persuasive. Banks should be a support function; the backbone metaphor, even if true, says the structure of the economy is not sound. And the statement implies that God wants a strong economy. My impression is that the Bible is pretty silent on that topic.

Of course, you could also turn this argument on its head. If God really did want banks to make money, they have been really really bad at it! How many years of earnings were torched in the crisis? Certainly everything since 2003. And then the banks should properly be charged for all the losses their messes created in the real economy. So the people who ran those banks should not expect to be well treated on Judgement Day, no matter how you look at their divine mission.

Then we have this doozy:

“The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest,” Goldman’s [Brian] Griffiths said Oct. 20, his voice echoing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s financial district. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”

Yves again. This is the most brazen example of Newspeak I have ever seen. The remark Griffith cited is against self-interest, it’s a clear and well known instruction to put other people’s interest on the same footing as your own, to be at least fair, if not to go out of your way to be fair. But all Griffiths pays attention to is the self love part, ignores the rest, and acts as if he can brazen his way into getting others to buy his obviously warped reading.

I think they must put something in the water at Goldman these days. The firm seems to be incapable of reasoning any more, and instead reverts increasingly to patent examples of self-serving, intelligence-insulting palaver, which to anyone with an operating brain cell looks narcissistic. Not only is the only thing that matters is what is good for Goldman, but the people at the firm are so deeply inculcated that they assume that the rest of the world recognizes their superiority and privileged claim on everything, so they no longer even bother indulging the idea that other people might have rights too.

Although JP Morgan (so far) has not invoked God to defend its conduct, by any standards it is pretty dubious. It was still trying to extract blood from a turnip in Jefferson County, Alabama, by trying to extract $647 million in termination fees on interest rate swaps. Those swaps were subordinate to $3.2 billion in bonds that the county clearly cannot pay. But did JP Morgan fold up its tent and go home? No, it had been litigating, and it was only an SEC suit that led the bank to relent, and not only drop its claims but pay a total of $75 million in penalities to local government entities. That is cold comfort for Jefferson County, since it is still on the hook for the bonds that were part of the deal that JP Morgan helped structure.

But as reader Marshall Auerback reminds us, Shakespeare was onto the bankers long ago. From the Merchant of Venice:

Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Bob Morris

    Goldman and the rest of the them have gone from ignoring the peasants with pitchforks to gently mocking them to sharp attacks and now to this derangement.

    They quite obviously are scared and feeling the heat, and have gone from being Masters of the Universe to mostly detested in about 24 months.

    1. ndk

      I wish you were right, Bob, but I fear you’re not. For almost all Americans, banking is now feared and loathed, very true. But the ultra-rich are pretty hygienically insulated from us peons.

      They live in gated communities, or buildings with doormen. They have chauffers, and private jets. They dine at restaurants that would consume my monthly food budget in a meal. The hermetic seal is pretty complete.

      They’re surrounded by other worshippers of Mammon, and there are PLENTY of them out there still. In these communities, they’re comforted, pampered, envied, and admired. To be honest, I don’t think that much will have changed for these people, day-to-day.

      There might be some guilt seeping in that encounters only a thoroughly possessed individual, leading to these bizarre proclamations. Or they might really think it’s a good way to regain public support. If you’ll forgive me taking the name in vain, God only knows.

      But it’s a little creepy to read this, in the same way talking with patients who are mentally ill is a little disturbing. There are people out there who operate completely, fundamentally different from me and those I encounter in my own life. But I ride buses with the rest of the prokaryotes(who look very down, these days).

      “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest…”

      Classic. If this wasn’t offered in self-parody, they’re not half as clever as they think. If there’s any justice in this life — and I believe there is — something important out there understands just how funny this statement really is.

  2. attempter

    “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes,” he said in an interview after the speech in the 283-year-old church. “And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.”

    Ok, then let’s have the fair reward, and get rid of all the obscene reward these bankers keep stealing for themselves.

    1. fotokemist

      Perhaps a quick search through a concordance for the subject “money-changers” would held clarify matters. In addition, some understanding of the traditional Judeo-Christian teaching on charging interest would bring further clarification. Finally, accounts of the fates of those who mocked God should be of some concern to these guys.

  3. Trainwreck

    “Let them eat cake.” attributed to Marie Antoinette, perhaps wrongly.
    “Greed is Good” Gordon Gekko

    BTW Wall Street 2 is coming to theaters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_2

    Gordon Gekko is a reformed ex-con Casandra type figure released from prison in 2008 and we all well know the story….

    1. Bob the Banker

      To blanket “christians” with that statement is wrong. Most christians I know know that little deal about the gate is a lie. The wealth church, or “God wants to give you whatever you want in this life, just tithe all your money to ME!” church has all kinds of cute little things like that to defend there greed teaching.

  4. dbt

    Ask someone in Jerusalem where the eye-of-the-needle gate was and they’ll laugh at you. There is no such gate and never was. It’s incredibly convenient how american christians insist that parts of the bible be taken literally when it suits them but then equally insist that an exhortation against greed and the needless accumulation of wealth is merely metaphorical

  5. M

    Your mixing up Calvinism with other other parts of protestantism. Earning a lot of money is not a Calvinist value. Hard work is, high moral standards is. If you make a lot of money you save and reinvest, that is.
    Also on that book about Christianity and capitalism, the writer should not skip over the first five books of the Old Testament, where rules running society are laid down with important remarks on things like tilling the land (but not on the 7th year), working 6 days (but not on the 7th), things about debts being wiped out every so and so years etcetera. Basically not profit maximising but a caring society. Of course theory and practice have not followed each other always closely.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Calvinsm did emphasize working hard, and its doctrine of election had the tendency to equate worldly success (which did not mean flaunting it, as it does in our crass modern era) with being one of God’s chosen.

        1. Stephanie

          Heh. The hard-core Calvinists I know claim one has to be chosen by God before the foundation of the universe. While, in their minds does not negate the guilt of everyone not chosen, this take seems to reinforce a certain humility. The saved and/or prosperous are not so due to any action on their own part, but simply by the whim of God. The appropriate response to being chosen is gratitude (it’s certainly not any variation on “Go me!”). I’m not sure what the appropriate response is to being damned.

          As for Griffiths, maybe he’s heard the one about “there is no greater love than this, then that a man should lay down his life for his friends”. Show the love, Griffiths.

    2. Matt

      The health-and-wealth gospel isn’t a feature, really, of Calvinism. You see it in 19th and 20th century American religious movements that have ties to Arminian thought to the extent they have any sort of deep theology.

      I mean, think central Michigan when you think of Calvinism. The banksters ideologically come from different stock, I think.

      The gate interpretation is a myth, albeit a widely-circulated one. Jesus elsewhere tells the rich young man that if wants to go to heaven he must give all is possessions away. He can’t do it.

      The liberation theologians don’t have to stretch things very far to get their picture of Jesus. Indeed, a just God would send bankers to South America to live with liberation Christians for a long, long time.

      1. SidFinster

        What on earth did the liberation Christians ever do to deserve THAT?!?

        Far as this tabbycat is concerned, yo, if there were any truth to the “Prosperity Gospel,” the holiest people on earth must be the various Sheiks and Sharifs of the Gulf States. Not only are they wealthy beyond any sane reckoning, they don’t have to lift a finger for their riches. For these people, money literally comes out of the ground.

    3. DownSouth

      As to Calvinism, I highly recommend reading Reinhold Niebuhr, who I consider to be without a doubt America’s greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century. In The Irony of America History he has an entire chapter named “Prosperity and virtue.” Here’s an excerpt:

      In Calvinist thought prosperity as a mark of divine favor is closely related to the idea that it must be sought as part of a godly discipline of life. “There is no question,” declared Calvin, “that riches should be the portion of the godly rather than the wicked, for godliness hath the promise in this life as well as the life to come.” We are long since familiar with Max Weber’s thesis in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” that his “intra-mundane asceticism” of Calvinism was responsible creating the standards of diligence, honesty and thrift which lie at the foundation of our capitalistic culture. Actually Weber draws some of his most significant conclusions from American evidence. He finds it particularly interesting that “capitalism remained far less developed in some of the neighbouring colonies, the later Southern States of the U.S.A., in spite of the fact that these latter were founded by large capitalists for business motives, while the New England colonies were founded by preachers…for religious reasons.”

      1. kws

        “the standards of diligence, honesty and thrift which lie at the foundation of our capitalistic culture.”

        That is not the foundation of our culture any more and that is the problem. They have been replace by quick rich schemes, sex, drugs, & rock-n-roll.

    4. DownSouth

      We probably owe our entire liberal-democratic paradigm to the Puritans (not to be confused with Calvanism, which was just a subset of a much greater Puritan movement).

      A must-read in this regard is Jacques Barzun’s chapter “Puritans as Democrats” in From Dawn to Decadence:

      1. Matt

        That’s right. Puritans weren’t Calvinists.

        Most of the Calvinists were from places like the Netherlands. Many of those places went to places like central Michigan (hence Calvin and Hope colleges).

        I think there has been such a mixing of thought that it’s hard to trace one sociological fact back to particular religious traditions (though it’s long seemed to me that the religious crackpots who went south helped fuel, well, further religious crackpots in the south–Kevin Phillips has some really fascinating stuff on this in _American Theocracy_ (now remaindered)).

  6. Josh

    Actually, the correct translation is “It is easier for a ROPE to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.

    The written difference between rope and camel in ancient hebrew is one little dot.

    Makes a bit more sense that way. I always have visions of a very annoyed camel with its nose stuck in a needle.

    1. Skippy

      And a rope carries nothing, but its self before god, where a rich man wishes/needs to bring his possessions as they have supplanted his identity/soul.

      1. Skippy

        To Septuagint or not to Septuagint?

        The Early Christian Church used the Greek texts since Greek was a lingua franca of the Roman Empire at the time, and the language of the Greco-Roman Church (Aramaic was the language of Syriac Christianity, which used the Targums). In addition the Church Fathers tended to accept Philo’s account of the LXX’s miraculous and inspired origin. Furthermore, the New Testament writers, when citing the Jewish scriptures or when quoting Jesus doing so, freely used the Greek translation, implying that the Apostles and their followers considered it reliable.[23]

        When Jerome undertook the revision of the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint, he checked the Septuagint against the Hebrew texts that were then available. He came to believe that the Hebrew text better testified to Christ than the Septuagint.[24] He broke with church tradition and translated most of the Old Testament of his Vulgate from Hebrew rather than Greek. His choice was severely criticized by Augustine, his contemporary; a flood of still less moderate criticism came from those who regarded Jerome as a forger. But with the passage of time, acceptance of Jerome’s version gradually increased until it displaced the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint.[4]

        The Hebrew text diverges in some passages that Christians hold to prophesy Christ[25] and the Eastern Orthodox Church still prefers to use the LXX as the basis for translating the Old Testament into other languages. The Eastern Orthodox also use LXX untranslated where Greek is the liturgical language, e.g. in the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, the Church of Greece and the Cypriot Orthodox Church. Many modern critical translations of the Old Testament, while using the Masoretic text as their basis, consult the Septuagint as well as other versions in an attempt to reconstruct the meaning of the Hebrew text whenever the latter is unclear, undeniably corrupt, or ambiguous.

        Skippy….don’t even get me started on the *First seven Ecumenical Councils* now.

        1. SidFinster

          As far as I know, the Gospels were originally written in Greek or Syriac, not Hebrew. So the argument of whether the Hebrew text referred to a camel or a rope is of little relevance.

          @Skippy: I thought it was the Septuagint that more clearly pointed to Christ, and not the Masoretic text?

          1. Skippy

            In general I agree with the caveat the multiple languages were in usage at the same time in the same location and even to today we witness blurring in definitions between users and their cultural mindset in diverse backgrounds.

            Camel or Rope to me, is not important anyway. I belive both deliver a clear message that is one in the same.

            Skippy…anyone with the first book has the answer, we are left to question.

          2. Skippy

            @one salient oversight, in general you are correct, but its really a bit of a mish mash that is yet to be sorted out.

            The books of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek, the language of the earliest extant manuscripts, even though some authors often included translations from Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Certainly the Pauline Epistles were written in Greek for Greek-speaking audiences. See Greek primacy. Some scholars believe that some books of the Greek New Testament (in particular, the Gospel of Matthew) are actually translations of a Hebrew or Aramaic original. Of these, a small number accept the Syriac Peshitta as representative of the original.

            When ancient scribes copied earlier books, they wrote notes on the margins of the page (marginal glosses) to correct their text—especially if a scribe accidentally omitted a word or line—and to comment about the text. When later scribes were copying the copy, they were sometimes uncertain if a note was intended to be included as part of the text. See textual criticism. Over time, different regions evolved different versions, each with its own assemblage of omissions and additions.

            The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

            Skippy…seems a work in progress eh?

        2. Bob the Banker

          To even bring up Septuagint in this discourse makes no sense. It was a translation done in babylon when the Jews were exiled. It is Old Testament ONLY. Hewbrew was basically a dead language when Christ walked the earth. There is simply no argument to even consider hewbrew in any fashion or form when debating this verse.

          The prophecy you speak of is the virgin birth mentioned in Isaiah. The Septuagint translates to virgin. The hewbrew they really don’t know, but some are confident it only means young girl. Personally, I would much rather perfer the translation from the Septuagint as your dealing with men who actually used Hewbrew. The truth of Hewbrew is that many of its meanings are lost. The assumptions of what certain hewbrew words mean is many. Lose a language for 2000 years and it is kinda hard to keep track.

  7. joseph

    I’m confused – I think the bankers and the media have it all back the front. Jesus quite clearly and unambigously says (Luke 6:34-35) “do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return”

    So bad debts make a good christian. I think Jesus might have caused the financial crisis.

    One day he will return to judge the solvent from the insolvent…only the bankrupt go to heaven.

    Dick Fuld is a true saint

  8. bob

    I saw the headline on Bloomberg, this is just bait for all of the jesus hating lefties….

    I’ll take it, and further the discussion…

    skippy, who has a bigger dick, Jesus or Ayn Rand?

    1. Skippy

      That would be the “J” man, although A. Rand saw *alot* more of it.

      Bob the banker I took the time for you see:

      •The lending of money or other property for increase.

      Leviticus 25:37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

      •Those enriched by unlawful, not allowed to enjoy their gain.

      Psalms 28:8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

      •The curse attending the giving or receiving of unlawful, alluded to.

      Jeremiah 15:10 Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.

      ◦Forbidden to take, from brethren.

      Deuteronomy 23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:

      ◦Forbidden to take, from brethren specially when poor.

      Exodus 22:25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.
      Leviticus 25:35-37 And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

      ◦Often guilty of taking.

      Nehemiah 5:6-7 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

      ◦Required to restore.

      Nehemiah 5:9-13 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise. …

      ◦Allowed to take, from strangers lol.

      Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

      •True and faithful Israelites never took, from their brethren.

      Psalms 15:5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
      Ezekiel 18:8-9 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.

      •Judgments denounced against those who exacted unlawful.

      Isaiah 24:1-2 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

      •Illustrative of the improvement of talents received from God.

      Matthew 25:27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
      Luke 19:23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?

      1. Skippy

        Lets talk about riches ok

        See link: http://www.bible-topics.com/Riches.html

        Feel free to browse about!

        •THE WICKED

        ◦Often increase in.

        Psalms 73:12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

        ◦Often spend their days in.

        Job 21:13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.

        ◦Swallow down.

        Job 20:15 He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.

        ◦Trust in the abundance of.

        Psalms 52:7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

        ◦Heap up.

        Job 27:16 Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay;
        Psalms 39:6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
        Ecclesiastes 2:26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

        ◦Keep, to their hurt.

        Ecclesiastes 5:13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

        ◦Boast themselves in.

        Psalms 49:6 They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
        Psalms 52:7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

        ◦Profit not by.

        Proverbs 11:4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
        Proverbs 13:7 There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
        Ecclesiastes 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

        ◦Have trouble with.

        Proverbs 15:6 In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
        1 Timothy 6:9-10 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

        ◦Must leave, to others.

        Psalms 49:10 For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

        •Vanity of heaping up.

        Psalms 39:6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
        Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

        •Guilt of trusting in.

        Job 31:24 If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;
        Job 31:28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.

        •Guilt of rejoicing in.

        Job 31:25 If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;
        Job 31:28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.

        Skippy…Could to this all day standing on my head. First and foremost the 10 commandments must be obeyed as they are from GOD him self and not through an intermediary.

        1. Skippy

          Try here: http://www.giveshare.org/BibleLaw/lawhandbook/16.html

          There shall be a cancellation of debt every seven years – a creditor can only hold a debt for 6 years and must release the obligation on the seventh year. Deut 15:1-2.
          Debts of foreigners may be continued beyond seven years. Deut. 15:3.
          Those who need to borrow from you are not to be turned away. Matt. 5:42.
          The borrower is servant to the lender. Prov. 22:7.
          You shall not think evil and withhold loaning to your brother in need because the Seventh Year, the year of release, is at hand. You shall surely give to him and the LORD will bless you in all your works. Deut. 15:9-10.
          It is wicked to borrow and not repay. Psa. 37:21; Prov. 3:27; Rom. 13:8.
          Lend to the poor and needy what is sufficient for his needs. Deut. 15:8.
          It is best to owe no man any thing. Rom. 13:8.
          Items necessary to sustain a livelihood are not to be given as a pledge (security) for a debt. Deut. 24:6; Job 24:3.
          You shall not take a widow’s garment as a pledge. Deut 24:17.
          Warnings against giving sureties for debts of others. Prov. 6:1-3; Prov. 17:18; Prov. 22:26-27.
          He who is surety for a stranger will suffer for it, but one who hates being surety is secure. Prov. 11:15.
          Pledges given by the poor for debt are not to be retained overnight. Exod. 22:26; Deut. 24:12-13; Job 24:9-10.
          When you lend your brother anything you shall not go into his house to take his pledge, but rather he shall bring the pledge out to you. Deut 24:10-11.
          The righteous man restores to the debtor his pledge, but the unrighteous does not restore a pledge. Ezek. 18:5, 7, 12.

          1. bob

            OK, so he’s got her on size, but what about swagger? How many central bankers did he have chasing him around?

            I thought this was going to be the subject of my upcoming nihilist novella, you answered too quickly, back to the drawing board.

          2. Skippy

            Bob said…OK, so he’s got her on size, but what about swagger? How many central bankers did he have chasing him around?

            Ha ha lol, you forgetith ROME did chase him around a bit and was not that, the central bank of the day ROFL, did they not send their accountants (soldiers) after him, you know lol ow ow.

            Any way to answer your question bankers do have a sexual desire for a bit of strangeness, but now I curse you for implanting a picture of A. Rand in black vinyl with toys of trouble and her callers moaning Ive been a bad boy for ripping good people off…mommy can I have another..pleaseee…damn you!…its my bed time and I will weep and sob! Yves is going to ban my IP for sure now. Damn you bob!

            PS. If that strap she has counts, it would be the tail that wagged the dog for sure…didn’t know prostheses counted.

  9. charles

    “Of course, if the investor is proven wrong, and the people whose lives he is now insuring live longer than expected, he makes less money and has reason to want them to die, and could resort to trying to speed up the inevitable.”

    Life Settlement securitization have no way to know who is the person that the insurance policy relates to, no more than a life insurance company shareholder has. Privacy regulation in this business are very stringent.

  10. Kevin de Bruxelles

    Many senior bankers are Jewish so it seems slightly strange to try to hold them to Christian values. Up until the 13th/14th centuries it was indeed thought that profit in general and money lending in particular were unChristian activities which is why these jobs were often relegated to Jews. Of course back in those days when too many people got underwater in debt, a pogrom or two could solve the problem; Jews as a community were definitely not considered too big to fail.

    This question of whether banking is compatible with Christian values is loaded. The subtext is whether it is wise to have such a small minority of non-Christians being so influential in the banking community of a culturally Christian society. But if the answer to the first question is that banking is incompatible with Christianity then there is no other answer but to continue to relegate this vital task to non-Christians. I would hope however the answer is that conservative community banking is certainly compatible with Christian values while high risk (for the taxpayers) and high profit (for the bankers) banking is not; since this is actually not banking, this is pure theft.

  11. Bob the Banker


    I would just like to say that having walked with the Lord and trying my best to study the WHOLE bible this is classic scripture pulling. The idea that the bible promotes or is “in line with” the level of pay extremes we are seeing today is insane. The verses that I could pull and post are many. Christianity is about heaven and life after this one. Money is simply a tool that the bible warns often about. The bible is a big book with just about every subject in life covered. If you want to, you can pull certain teachings out and create really whatever view point that you want. That is all that is happening. The idea that a man can stand in front of a group of christians and defend this type of pay saddens me as to how blind he has become to the purpose and intention of Christ dying on the cross. It is a shame.

    I would echo the comments of M. The original economy that God created the frame work for through the law written by moses was amazing. It is the only time God speaks toward how an economy should run in the entire bible. The other scriptures that deal with money are warnings of its pull and power over an individual.

    The work would be intense, but it would be interesting for someone who is not a Christian or spiritually active or practicing Jew to research how that type of economy would work. But truthfully, if your going to talk about where God stands on an economy, that is for sure where you start.

    1. SidFinster

      The biggest mistake the Roman Catholic Church ever made was to insert chapter and verses into the Bible. (Until the 13th Century or so, the smallest sub-divisions in the Bible were of books.)

      This makes proof-texting much easier.

  12. JG

    This reminds me of Muller’s book “The Mind and the Market”. It detailed how the 17th and 18th century philosophers (like Voltaire) redefined the way religion approached markets. Basically he argued that capitalism was able to flourish when Christian thought evolved to a point that it fit with capitalism.

    1. joseph

      The Christian-communist connection is well known. Nietzsche lumped the whole lot together as “slave mortality” (along with maths and democracy) – Russell in his “History of Western Philosophy” draws parallels between Augustine’s “city of God” and the communist manifesto.

      As a committed atheists socialist who grew up in a strongly Christian family I say crucify the bankers with other thieves

      1. Skippy

        Atheist’s only exist with in Christian theology or no Christian no atheist, do you see, just another human.

        Skippy…In mono-theocracy’s you either with the devil or with them.

  13. jbmoore

    There are two Gods in the Bible. The Old Testament God is usually an angry old man with a vindictive streak. The New Testament God which was called the Father by Jesus is the Living God who brings peace. That the first Christians were essentially Communists is overlooked or dismissed by many. They shared everything amongst themselves. The wealthy Roman matriarchs pressured Paul to “modify” Christianity because they didn’t want to share their wealth or free their slaves. One can see the transition from a commune-like Jewish church of Peter and James to the more contemporary pagan churches of Paul in Acts of the Apostles. Using God to justify one’s accumulation of monetary wealth is missing most of the spiritual teachings of just about every religion known to Mankind. As Dorothy Parker said, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

  14. craazyman

    I hath appointed Goldman Sachs as master of my dominion, and ye have been appointed as slaves and servants, to be trodden under the heal and destroyed utterly, unto your last days. Hear, children, the voices of your masters and obey, for my wrath is fierce and my judgment is swift, and there be no mercy for those with hearts hardened against the will of the Lord.

    -Bloviations, Book 5, verses 8-9

    1. DownSouth

      Ha! Ha! Sounds a lot like this, no?:

      One of these Pontiffs (Popes), who succeeded that St. Peter as Lord of the world, in the dignity and seat which I have before mentioned, made donation of these isles and Tierra-firme to the aforesaid King and Queen and to their successors, our lords, with all that there are in these territories, as is contained in certain writings which passed upon the subject as aforesaid, which you can see if you wish.

      So their Highnesses are kings and lords of these islands and land of Tierra-firme by virtue of this donation: and some islands, and indeed almost all those to whom this has been notified, have received and served their Highnesses, as lords and kings, in the way that subjects ought to do, with good will, without any resistance, immediately, without delay, when they were informed of the aforesaid facts….

      But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.


  15. fresn dan

    “Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer John Varley stood at the wooden lectern in St. Martin-in-the- Fields on London’s Trafalgar Square last night and told the packed pews of the church that “profit is not satanic.””

    I want the bankers burned at the stake not because of “obscene” or “satanic” or “greedy” profits, but because there are NO PROFITS. I might settle for them spending the rest of their lives in poverty, if it were not for the fact that I am bailing them out.

  16. joebek

    Sort of doubt that “profits” are satanic but it does seems likely that our economy has gone off the rails on the question of usury. Seems likely that banking reform will involve some acceptance of sharia. Most defenses of money interest assume a limited supply of money. But we know now that modern money is infinite in supply. Of course, the distribution of this infinite supply is carefully policed. It is the core function of the modern state. That which is in infinite supply tends to have zero price. So it does seems unlikely to that those who have privileged and well policed access to this infinite supply of money can properly derive profit from it by lending even from the standpoint of value free economics. Except, of course, by police power.

  17. jake chase

    Those who doubt bankers are satanic clearly do not understand how a derivatives desk operates. The coming unwind of the dollar carry trade may change your mind.

  18. Dan Duncan

    Yes, it’s absurd for banker to invoke God while reaping obscene profits.

    Your reference to your friend’s book about Christianity and capitalism, however, gives this post the whiff that it’s about something more than just moronic bankers trying to justify this obscene compensation.

    Add to the above the “insight” that “Calvinism is the de facto religion of America”…

    It appears that Yves equivocates so she can be provocative.

    Yves doesn’t come right out and say that Christianity and Capitalism are a disastrous combo…but one cannot help but to feel that she really wants to. But if called out, she can just say, “Whoa. I’m simply writing about bankers invoking God.”

    Hopefully Yves will clear it up. As it is, this post has the feel of a first year college student reveling in the excitement of the audacity of provocation.

    Consider the following:

    Right after hitting us with “Calvinism is the de facto religion of America” we get this pathetic attempt at profundity:

    “God as depicted in the Bible is not a very good steward of the planet. He regularly uses brimstone, floods, earthquakes, plagues, and whatnot. And there aren’t offsetting scenes of acts of nature conservancy. So if man was created in God’s image, and God seems to have a bit of an appetite for destruction, perhaps the God-invokers are barking up the wrong tree.”

    Seriously…that passage is the stuff of comedy…where the writer imitates a first year community college student who took a philosophy class from a professor with a pony tail “who actually said ‘shit’ in class!”…and now she “has it all figured out”.

    I suspect that later in the day there will be some “controversy” on this blog about one of the earlier comments—where one “wickedly humorous” commenter asks how big Jesus’ cock was….

    Recriminations and insults will fly….

    And Naked Cap, “The Blog That’s Too Smart to Sleep”, will be little more than an uber-elitist Jerry Springer Show, replete with stage crashing talk show trash, throwing chairs and hopefully breaking some noses.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      The paragraph you cite as a “pathetic attempt at profundity” seems clearly to have been an attempt at snark. You are free to have distaste for the snark, but it doesn’t change my opinion that your analysis of the paragraph is wildly and unbelievably off the mark. It’s as if we are reading two different paragraphs or living in two different worlds. We certainly have, at the very least, irreconcilable perspectives. How in the world you think this was evidence that Yves was stating she has it “all figured out” is mind-bogglingly beyond me. Delusional. Stunning.

  19. craazyman

    My masters go forth unto the people and speak the word of the lord, verily in the lord’s house they speak unto ye, and their words roll like thunder and their voices command my will. Thy losses, children, are their profits and thine profits are borne off to Babylon to be laid and stored, as of gifts to the king. This is your portion, unto the last days. Hear ye and understand, for the plagues cometh not to the wise and vainglory be not mercy. Repent and serve, for ye are dust and all your lamentations be nothing but sticks throw, as in to a furnace.

    -Bloviations Book 8, verses 12-18

  20. i on the ball patriot

    Provocative post yes, but the provocation is needed.

    For GS god is just another derivative product. Take anything of considered value — in this case man’s legitimate search for understanding and meaning — co-opt it, slice it, dice it, pervert it, and resell it it to scam the masses.

    It is not so much an arrogant mocking as it is an integral part of the game plan to create perpetual war in the masses as a means of control. All of this heightened rhetoric is by design. That design is what needs attention.

    God is a product,
    Of one’s perception,
    As real as one’s breath,
    Or a grand deception …

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  21. DownSouth

    “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest,” Goldman’s [Brian] Griffiths said Oct. 20, his voice echoing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s financial district. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”

    That seems to be a mixing of the religious with the profane. Sam Harris, one of the four most prominent New Atheists, is quick to point out the difference between the two:

    If, as I believe, morality is a system of thinking about (and maximizing) the well being of conscious creatures like ourselves, many people’s moral concerns are frankly immoral.

    Harris is of course a utilitarian consequentialist, and he asserts that public policy should be formulated to minimize harm and promote human welfare—human welfare in this world.

    Harris’ hatred of all things religious, however, leads him into propaganda and a bowdlerized reading of history. His study of religion seems to emphasize the Middle Ages, when the demarcation between the religious and the profane was very clear. But in the 16th-century, the Puritans began to blur that line, and in modern-day America it has all but vanished. As Reinhold Niebuhr points out in The Irony of American History:

    All the “this-worldly” emphasis of modern culture, which culminated in the American experiment, were justified protests against the kind of Christian “other-worldliness” which the “Epistle of Clement,” written in the Second Century, expressed in the words: “This age and the future are two enemies…we cannot therefore be friends of the two but must bid farewell to the one and hold companionship with the other.”

    So for me the blurring of the line between the religious and the profane is not Griffith’s greatest sin. Quite the contrary, it is his “this-worldly” philosophy which I find most objectionable. He asserts that “greater prosperity and opportunity for all” is promoted by “self-interest” and “inequality.”

    As David Sloan Wilson explains, this is a philosophy that grows out of Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees (1705) and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776):

    I hope that our economy recovers, but the time has come to declare its guiding metaphor dead. This is the metaphor of the invisible hand, which makes it seem as if the narrow pursuit of self-interest miraculously results in a well-functioning society.

    The invisible hand metaphor originates with Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Bernard Mandeville made a similar point with his Fable of the Bees (1705), which fancifully describes human society as a wondrously productive bee hive, even though each bee is as selfish as can be.

    Smith was critical of Mandeville and presented a more nuanced view of human nature in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), but modern economic and political discourse is not about nuance. Rational choice theory takes the invisible hand metaphor literally by trying to explain the length and breadth of human behavior on the basis of individual utility maximization, which is fancy talk for the narrow pursuit of self-interest. For the general public, unfettered competition has been turned into a moral virtue and “regulation” has become a sin.


    So religious discourse has nuance and classical economic theory has nuance. But modern neoclassical economic theory has been successful in eliminating all nuance.

    Hannah Arendt also talks of the false premise upon which classical theory is justified, and that is its claim that it protects private property from the government. But as Hannah Arendt points out in The Human Condition, this claim is bogus:

    Since no political theory prior to socialism and communism had proposed to establish an entirely propertyless society, and no government prior to the twentieth century had shown serious inclinations to expropriate its citizens, the content of the new theory could not possibly be intrusion of government administration. The point is that then, unlike now when all property theories are obviously on the defensive, the economists were not on the defensive at all but on the contrary openly hostile to the whole sphere of government, which at best was considered a “necessary evil” and a “reflection on human nature,” at worst a parasite on the otherwise healthy life of society. What the modern age so heatedly defended was never property as such but the unhampered pursuit of more property…

  22. rootless cosmopolitan

    What is it with all the excessive moralism about the banks and bankers?

    Capitalism, which never has been a permanently stable system due to its inherent nature – any stability is only tentative -, seems to have reached a period of even higher instability and crisis mode again. And once again, it’s really not a novelty, it is widely thought the cause for the crisis are some culprits in the circulation sphere of capitalism, personified now in the evil banker, called now and then also as “bankster”, as if the symptoms of capitalism in crisis were caused by some individual character flaws of the ones who are professionally in the banking business and who are misbehaving (and to not forget, their co-conspirators in the government). This rhymes to the old ideology that is caught in the dichotomy between the “greedy” (finance) capitalists and the “creating” capital, with the former one allegedly responsible for the things going bad in capitalism, and if one got rid of the former ones capitalism would be such a great place in which to live. This is what I increasingly get when I read this blog or other blogs, and what seems to increasingly be the mood of the public. And in return, some representatives of the banking industry feel compelled to reply to the moral outrage with even such ridiculous defenses as quoted in the blog posting.

    As if the banking industry was based on different principles than any other business in capitalist society, underlying the functional laws of capital accumulation, and if the character masks within the banking industry acted substantially differently compared to the character masks in any other business. The first purpose of banking isn’t altruism or serving society or the “common good” (although I never really know what is meant by this and how the “common good” is supposed to be defined), the very first purpose is making money for the owners of the business or the investors in the business. Everything else is just a mean for this end. This end is being pursued in a way the rules made up by society allow, and if the rules are lax, they will be used accordingly to the maximum extend possible. And there is no difference here in the banking business, regarding the purpose and the means that are applied for this purpose, compared to any other business in capitalism whatsoever, whether it is in the sphere of production, service, or finance. This is how capitalism works.

    All this moral outrage is just a distraction from the questions that really need to be asked, which shouldn’t be “Who is to blame?”. They should be “What is to blame”, what are the deeper structural causes of crisis, is it inherent to the nature of capitalism by itself, and can it even be solved within the given fabric of society and its economy?


    1. Siggy

      The who is us, see Pogo. The what is the failure to see that one’s self interest is best achieved within the context of supporting the larger community. Profits are neither Satanic nor Godly. The whole of this piece and its thread are a preoccupation with a non event. This is misdirection over that which is not causative of our problem. Drop the concerns over morality, follow the money and see if fair value has been rendered for the coin of the realm. If you haven’t received fair value, stop agreeing to the transaction.

  23. craazyman

    I have to go back to work and can’t make up any more fake Bible verses to illustrate the enormity of this fool’s assholesness.

    But can there be any doubt, any doubt at all, about my earlier observations that these people are possessed by demons. Any doubt?

    Here is a man speaking in the House of Christ Himself, the house of the Master who walked in Galilee as a live Man and brought some semblance of heaven to earth.

    And this Goldman Sachs ape, this miserable, morally decrepit, deluded idiot, speaks what he speaks — in controversion of any fact or any logic — the way he speaks it. This man needs an excorcism. And, afterwards, he would look back on his former self and he would truly, then, try to find a Church of the real Christ, and he would cry like a baby to God for forgiveness.

  24. Swedish Lex

    Separation of the State and Religion, or superstition if you prefer, is a great invention that allows society to advance in ways that are less prone to creating armed conflict, intolerance and opression.

    I never thougth we would have to create a wall between Capitalism and Religion, but now I am not so sure any more. :)

    By the way, was it not Christianity that first installed the prohibition agains taking interest, which is the “soul” of banking, non?

  25. DownSouth

    Another must-read for those interested in this topic is Thomas E. Buckley’s “The Political Theology of Thomas Jefferson:”

    What John Beckley termed “the RELIGION OF JEFFERSON,” Sidney Mead titled the “religion of the Republic,” and Robert Bellah called “American civil religion.” Far from being a twentieth-century-style secularist or advocating a national polity indifferent to religion, Jefferson publicly expressed what became the American faith—a complex of ideas, values, and symbols related to and dependent on a transcendent reality we call God. This civil religion interpreted the historical experience of the American people, validated their republican political arrangements, and shaped the political culture that united the citizens of the republic.

    And no, as Buckley goes on to point out, the religion of selfishness and greed is not consistent with our “American civil religion”:

    In the early 1780s, he (Jefferson) anguished over his limited success in obtaining freedom of belief and worried for the future of people’s rights once the Revolution was over. A “zealot” might come to power and begin a persecution; or society become corrupt and virtue lost as other interests, particularly a zest for “making money,” came to obsess Americans. “From the conclusion of this war,” he predicted with uncharacteristic pessimism, “we shall be going down hill.” (Jefferson, Notes on Virginia)

    1. DownSouth

      And of course a modern-day “zealot” is every bit as likely to be a secularist (or “scientist”) as a religionist, today’s neoclassical economist being a perfect example of the first.

      …the Enlightenment attempt to free oneself from tradition and history, to appeal to “Nature” or “Reason,” was self-deceptive. He (Rawls) can see such an appeal as a misguided attempt to make philosophy do what theology failed to do…
      –Richard Rorty, “The priority of democracy to philosophy”

      For philosophers like Rorty and Rawls, the enemy is dogma, and it matters little whether it is religious dogma or secular-scientific dogma.

      1. rootless cosmopolitan

        There are certainly some who want to equate science with religion, but “scientific dogma” is a contradictio in adjecto.


        1. DownSouth

          Nominally, yes, but there’s a huge difference between the definition of science and the actual practice of science, and especially (though certainly not exclusively) in the social sciences. I’ll quote Dan Agin, since no one puts it more succinctly than he did:

          I think it was Max Planck who said that we make progress in science only as the old guard dies out and the new guard assumes the helm. But I don’t know that it’s an abdication of responsibility that is so supreme as much as simple arrogance–an arrogance about knowledge and an arrogance about beliefs. Consider the march from Darwin to Anglo-American Eugenics to Hitler, the arrogance of the players at every step, the lack of humility about their knowledge of the natural world, so much pompous bombast that led to great human tragedies.


          I’m am no raging postmodernist, as David Sloan Wilson describes here:

          In its extreme form, postmodernism treats science as equivalent to any other belief system without any special claim on what counts as knowledge… I recommend the book “Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism” by philosopher Paul Boghossian… As Paul shows, nothing has happened in philosophy to challenge the truth of such statements as “there were mountains on earth before there were people.”

          I am a postmodernist, however; but of a less extreme stripe, also described by Wilson:

          There is, however, a more moderate form of postmodernism worth keeping, which emphasizes the extreme complexity and context sensitivity of cultural systems and questions whether assertions of truth in any particular culture, including scientific culture, are in fact part of the culture’s ideology. Insofar as postmodernism, relativism, and constructivism merely emphasize complexity and ideology masquerading as truth, they fit comfortably with scientific approaches that also emphasize complexity, including evolutionary theories of human belief systems, as described in my book “Darwin’s Cathedral” and elsewhere.

          1. rootless cosmopolitan

            “Nominally, yes, but there’s a huge difference between the definition of science and the actual practice of science, and especially (though certainly not exclusively) in the social sciences.”

            This is a very generalizing statement and I would question that it is really true, extended to all academic fields. Now, I am not working in the field of social sciences, but from my experience in nature sciences there isn’t much truth in your claim here. And if there are academic areas, where dogma rules, i.e., beliefs based on authority w/o empirical evidence, like it is maybe in economics with its neo-classical hegemony, then one can also observe the abandoning of the rigorous scientific approach. Dogma is not scientific. Perhaps, what you claim from your postmodernist point of view is itself only ideology?


          2. DownSouth

            Have you ever heard of George Gaylord Simpson, who in 1943 wrote a vehement attack on the theory of continental drift, first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596 and fully developed by Alfred Lothar Wegener in 1912?

            Simpson’s influence was so powerful that even in countries previously sympathetic towards continental drift, like Australia, Wegener’s hypothesis fell out of favor.

            But despite Simpson’s stature in the scientific community, his penchant for dogmatism and his fierce attacks on anyone who disagreed with him, the theory of continental drift eventually prevailed. Today it is almost universally accepted. So let’s mark one up for science, huh, even though it took almost 400 years to get there.

            Theologians and philosophers have toiled for centuries trying to convince the world that science doesn’t live up to all it’s billed to be.

            However, only recently have scientists themselves begun taking an objective look at these claims, mostly within the past 15 years. Many of these breakthroughs are undoubtedly due to technological advancements—the ability to measure chemical and electronic responses within the brain. Jonathan Haidt gives a rundown:

            Furthermore, Damasio and Bargh both found, as Michael Gazzaniga had years before, that people couldn’t stop themselves from making up post-hoc explanations for whatever it was they had just done for unconscious reasons…

            Intuitive primacy but not dictatorship. This is the idea, going back to Wilhelm Wundt and channeled through Robert Zajonc and John Bargh, that the mind is driven by constant flashes of affect in response to everything we see and hear.

            Our brains, like other animal brains, are constantly trying to fine tune and speed up the central decision of all action: approach or avoid. You can’t understand the river of fMRI studies on neuroeconomics and decision making without embracing this principle. We have affectively-valenced intuitive reactions to almost everything, particularly to morally relevant stimuli such as gossip or the evening news. Reasoning by its very nature is slow, playing out in seconds.

            Studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which was made in milliseconds. But I do agree with Josh Greene that sometimes we can use controlled processes such as reasoning to override our initial intuitions. I just think this happens rarely, maybe in one or two percent of the hundreds of judgments we make each week.

          3. Anonymous Jones

            DownSouth is mostly correct. There is far less of science that is “settled” than most would like to believe. There is faith in everything, including “science” and even the *methods* of science. Faith in theories. Faith that past results were accurately documented and transmitted and amalgamated. I don’t even have to get into the idea that most accepted “science” is constantly being proven wrong as the dint of some fallacy or cognitive bias, that some widely held belief is just there because we have yet to stumble upon the falsification observation. From a deep epistemological perspective, there is little that is *known* and much that must be taken on *faith*, most notably the acceptance of many unprovable axioms, the most basic of which is that our perceptions and measurements do in fact reflect reality. I do not even accept that “scientific dogma” is a “nominal” contradiction.

          4. Yves Smith Post author


            With all due respect, DownSouth is correct on the social sciences, and you admit to not knowing the terrain.

            In fact, I discuss the scientific pretenses of economics at some length in my book. Economists have managed to convince themselves that making economics more mathematical made it more scientific, when those procedures are in fact a Procrustean bed (not only do economists insist on mathed-up procedures, but only those of a certain type). Those procedures also happened to favor neoclassical economics, they reinforce its dominance.

            Those false scientific procedures are increasingly in use in political science.

          5. rootless cosmopolitan

            DownSouth at November 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm,

            Continental drift. You seem to imply that without “scientific dogma” the continental drift hypothesis should have been accepted already 400 years ago, or at least right after Wegener published his book. Based on what overwhelming and superior scientific evidence should it have been in this way? You also suggest it was merely the power of authority that Simpson’s rejection of continental drift was widely agreed on and that it took several decades before continental drift became a theory accepted by most geologists. How do you know that? Perhaps, Simpson did have some convincing arguments and the evidence for the continental drift hypothesis was partly flawed at first? For me, it looks like you fall for a variation of the Historian’s fallacy here by measuring the views and actions of scientists back then at what we know today.

            For certain, there are also instances where scientists succumb to inertia of thinking, or cognitive dissonance when they just can’t give up a theory, despite accumulated overwhelming evidence against it, to which they subscribed for a long time. This acknowledges, though, that there has been a scientific process of collecting this evidence in the same field, which already contradicts the equalization between religious and “scientific” dogma. I also don’t know what your quote is supposed to prove. It’s about everyday behaviour and reasoning. Is it supposed to show that scientific reasoning was an illusion? I don’t think your quote proves this. Although I find it ironic that you rely on results from scientific research to prove your point then.

            And even if there are instances, where scientists show inertia of thinking or cognitive dissonance, it’s usually a bit more complicated than attributing it to this kind of phenomenon, if replacing one scientific theory with another one takes some time. In the beginning a new theory doesn’t necessarily have the superior empirical evidence. Evidence also can support both the old and the new theory. It takes time until a new theory proves to have the greater explanatory power, after sufficient evidence has been collected and the new theory has been tested against it, successfully. So, where is the parallel to religious dogma supposed to be here? Religion doesn’t know anything of this process. It’s just not to be questioned, supposedly dictated by a higher authority. And this is real dogma, but not that scientists sometimes succumb to some character flaws that makes them human.


          6. rootless cosmopolitan

            DownSouth on November 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm,

            As for medical journals corrupted by money interests. What is this supposed to show, except that also results from research published in scientific publications can be flawed? Are you claiming this was an example of “scientific dogma”, i.e., an example for a believe system of the community of scientists in the medical field, which isn’t supposed to be questioned, where there isn’t a scientific process? I think the link to the video clip itself disproves such a claim.

            I don’t claim that scientific research can’t be corrupted by such interests. I even would go further and say that there aren’t any sciences, which are fully independent on the interests in society. I don’t need to point to corruption for this. It starts with that the priorities in the sciences are determined by society, what field of research is emphasized over others, how funding is distributed in the areas of science etc. It doesn’t follow from this necessarily, though, that the results from research doesn’t hold up to scientific standards.

            BTW: If one believes in the kind of postmodernism, according to which there are only ideology and belief systems determined by cultural context, which are disguised as truth, then this would have to be applied to the belief system of postmodernism itself, consequentially. So the assertions of postmodernism would be just that, which leads to a paradox. What follows from the assertions logically contradicts the assertions.

            DownSouth on November 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm,

            You just have changed the topic.


          7. rootless cosmopolitan


            Your pointing toward that I didn’t know social sciences and claiming DownSouth was right is just a red herring, since DownSouth’s assertions were directed at the sciences generally. I disputed his generalizing statement and the equalizing of religious dogma with the alleged “scientific” dogma. If they weren’t he/she wouldn’t try to prove his/her point specifically with examples from nature sciences.

            I am also not clear, which one of my statements you try to refute, exactly. You say the approach in economics, particularly the one in the neo-classical tradition, isn’t scientific. What did I say in contradiction to that?


          8. rootless cosmopolitan

            Anonymous Jones,

            “There is far less of science that is “settled” than most would like to believe…”

            This is quite a straw man. What is “settled” supposed to mean? Science is not supposed to be “settled”. Scientific theories are open to questioning. You actually accuse science of to not be something, what it’s not supposed to be: religion. Religion is supposed to be settled. It’s not provable or disprovable, it’s not testable, it’s not supposed to be questioned. It’s dictated by an alleged higher authority. Exactly that makes it religious dogma and so different from science.

            “There is faith in everything, including “science” and even the *methods* of science. Faith in theories. Faith that past results were accurately documented and transmitted and amalgamated.”

            The effort to equate blind religious faith with the way of thinking scientists have is obvious. It’s nonsense, though.

            “I don’t even have to get into the idea that most accepted “science” is constantly being proven wrong as the dint of some fallacy or cognitive bias, that some widely held belief is just there because we have yet to stumble upon the falsification observation.”

            This is a very bold claim. I doubt you can back it up.

            Perhaps you could make is specific. To what scientific theories do you refer as an example?

            “From a deep epistemological perspective, there is little that is *known* and much that must be taken on *faith*, most notably the acceptance of many unprovable axioms, the most basic of which is that our perceptions and measurements do in fact reflect reality. I do not even accept that “scientific dogma” is a “nominal” contradiction.”



  26. craazyman

    One more and that’s it, I promise :)

    And Don John went out unto the people and said unto them “Verily, verily I speak unto thee the word of the lord, that the money changers profits are from heaven and are good. And their profit, which increaseth by your toil, shall serve your increase and lighten your burden.”

    And there came a woman who asked Don John, “Lord, how can I increaseth your profit further and serve myself? For can I not serve two masters and be not false with one or with the other?”

    And Don John answered, “Woman. Thy masters are one, for you are me and I am you and we are one in the sight of the lord of heaven, and as my pile riseth, so your stature increaseth, just as the pile that issues forth from the rear of a camel.”

    And the multitude then said, “Don John, we will erect a house for thee, where thee might live and prosper and increaseth thy pile. And we will call thy house a John, and we will toil for thee all our days.”

    -The Lost Gospel of Mammon, III, v. 23-29

    1. SidFinster

      I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack.

      Can you tell me where you lived so I can sue someone and increase my pile?

  27. George Booth

    John Varley is not just wrong, he must be insane to spout such utter poppycock. To state such obvious nonsense in the forum of church sermon must cast serious doubt on his judgement.

  28. Mike M

    Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the taking of another man’s property, lending it out, and pretending it exists for his use on demand is probably not a very moral thing to do.

  29. Jennifer Hill

    Hey Yves – I posted this article yesterday on my facebook and added the comment “Who writes this guy’s material?, Hilarious.” Too bad this Plutocrat takes himself so seriously, sounds suspiciously like rationalizing.

    There are many of us who are looking for leadership that goes beyond solving this current economic crisis. We as a race are facing enormous challenges, food shortages, forced migrations due to war and environmental catastrophies and the looming water issue. Yet we hear little or nothing about the effect of this crisis on the poor, the disenfranchised, the over one half of our fellow humans on this planet that lives on $2 a day. This indicates there is also a crisis of conscience, a spiritual crisis as it were.

    Such change cannot occur under our current structure because the system does not appropriately value all of the contributions that are needed to keep this “thing” afloat. I call our system this “thing” because really what do we have? A distortion of Capitalism, some Calvinism thrown in,a good bit of Plutocracy and Elitism, and some 1984 added in for good measure.

    Again, our system will not change until there is a change of heart, of spirit. We must value each other for our lives, the true human right. As of today there is no demand to make life humane and safe for each living soul. That is why our current system is immoral.

    From a former Roman Catholic, turned fundamentalist, then New Ager turned Buddhist from Kansas.

    Jen Hill

    1. rootless cosmopolitan

      “I call our system this “thing” because really what do we have? A distortion of Capitalism, …”

      Reality – this system – as distortion of some ideal, which is purely imagined?


  30. Francois T

    The lucubrations on the Gospel of Wealth do not present any particular interest apart from the fact that when one needs to invoke the Almighty to justify actions that defy elementary decency, anyone with vestigial common sense can smell a rat from a mile away.

    More revealing is this:
    “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”

    Anyone remember “depends on what your definition of “is” is.”?

    The same skullfuckery is at play here: “We” means those who are the non-bankers, whereas “all” means “all the bankers men” (and women too)

    No God can save people like that from their greed, an entirely different concept than ambition or drive.

    Truly pathetic!

  31. Hugh

    Who are John Varley and Brian Griffiths? They are two of the chief architects of the greatest destruction of wealth in human history. Their actions and those of their companies will lead to the deaths of tens of thousands. They have put out of work tens of millions around the world. They have impoverished hundreds of millions more. They have weakened the great states of both the West and the East. They have set us on the road to depression.

    What I would like to know is this. Who invited John Varley to speak at St. Martin-in-the-Fields? Who invited Brian Griffiths to speak at St. Paul’s? What does it say about the inviters and those who “packed the pews”? I have no problem with what they said, but it would have been more appropriate if they expressed their thoughts before a sentencing judge or from a jail cell, not where they did.

  32. Jim S

    Hi Yves,
    As someone indoctrinated in the Calvinist tradition (Dutch Calvinism, at that), I thought I would leave a comment. I see there are quite a few great comments already, so I’d just like to highlight a theme common to many (and of your post as well): I take it as an article of faith that no matter how enlightened the creed, man can and will interpret it to suit his own purposes. And in this case, though I don’t agree with everything the founder of the creed set down, I do believe I was taught some enlightened lessons. I was taught to value spiritual things over wordly things. I was taught that frugality and stewardship are more important than wealth. I was taught, too, that I should be compassionate and merciful as Jesus was compassionate and merciful. I fall far short of these ideals in my daily life, but I hold them to be true still.

    I know well how Calvinism might be interpreted to view the poor as sinful, but I was taught that we are all sinful; rich and poor, young and old, weak and strong. No one is better than his or her neighbor; all are equally fallen. It is not by our works or by our wordly possessions that we are saved, but by the grace of God alone. That some would choose to overlook this central theme of Calvinism and turn it to self-serving purposes I ascribe to that same fallibility. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Christians, too, have both light and darkness in our souls.

    I hope I didn’t bore with the theology.


  33. Jim

    Just for the record, it should be stated that there are scholars( Sombart, Tawny, Trevor-Rober, Braudel) who argue that Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic” is of little help in resolving the mystery of the birth of capitalism, nor in addition does it contribute much to even identifying factors which simulated the development of the entrepreneurial spirit.

    Weber himself explicitly acknowledged that “…the Italians developed modern capitalist economic organization (Economy and Society Vol. 2 pg. 1400) If such is the case how could such a “modern capitalist economic organization” have existed for centuries without its own specific spirit?

    Weber also says explicitly that “worldly Protestant ascetilcism…had the psychological effect of freeing the acquisition of goods from the inhibitions of traditionalist ethics. It broke the chains of the impulse of acquisition in that it not only legalized it, but…looked upon it a directly willed by God.” (Economy and Society, vol 2, pg.1200) Yet it was precisely gain that was considered to be the greatest danger for the salvation of the soul by Puritan preachers.

  34. Luke

    As I calvinist myself, I would say you have setup strawman arguments against calvinism. No where in Calvin’s institutes does he or modern day calvinists say that God wants us to be rich. The calvary road in the New Testament is paved with suffering for Christ, not riches. This was a post abhorring prosperity false doctrine just this week from one of the leading voices of modern calvinism.


    I agree with the last comment as well that calvinists don’t assert that that one’s social standing has anything to do with their level of sin. Jesus himself corrected this notion when the tower of siloam fell on some. He said they were not worse than others, but unless those asking him repent, they will likewise perish.

    With regards to banking. In my opinion, the Bible has much to say about our banking system and God would not approve of it. The proverbs are filled with statements saying unequal scales are an abomination to the Lord. At the time this was in reference to their “money” or modes of exchange. A scale in the marketplace that was rigged, or money (probably gold or silver) that was fake or counterfeit was essentially theft, and thus an abomination. Fiat money violates the balanced scales principle because first users of this newly printed money are able to purchase assets at todays prices, while last users purchase assets at inflated prices. Fiat money is essentially counterfeit that advantages first users (rich, bankers, gov’t, etc) at the expense of last users (poor and middle class) the latters assets are inconspicuously transferred from the first users to the last users every year through inflation.

    In my estimation, Jesus would condemn the privileged money class, because it violates the principle of balanced scales and fairness. It is counterfeit and theft.

    1. Jim S

      Thanks for the link. I remember looking at the Prayer of Jaebez when it first started circulating and asking myself, “What is this? Is this really what God wishes?”

  35. Luke

    “the latters assets are inconspicuously transferred from the first users to the last users every year through inflation.”


    “the latters assets are inconspicuously transferred from the LAST users to the FIRST users every year through inflation.”

  36. Brody

    Fractional reserve lending is immoral. Normally FRL causes inflation by expanding the money supply which is a theft of the value of everyone’s money. (Thou shall not steal.)

    When a depression occurs and the PONZI scheme falls apart the fraudulant part of FRL is exposed. Fraud is a lie. Bankers lie when they loan something for 30 years when all they have to back that loan is a 15 minute deposit.

    The government backs up that lie…..trying to perpetuate the slow theft long term.

    1. Luke

      I think they should be shown that it is a form of idolotry.

      This is a new book out from a calvinist about the very topic. The subtitle to the new book is…

      “The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters”

      This would cover the power and money aspects of your question. I haven’t read it yet, but plan on it soon.


      God Bless,


  37. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am curious what Christians think of young, impressionable kids or even adults who should know better worshipping athletics and movie stars?

    1. Luke

      I think they should be shown that it is a form of idolotry.

      This is a new book out from a calvinist about the very topic. The subtitle to the new book is…

      “The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters”

      This would cover the power and money aspects of your question. I haven’t read it yet, but plan on it soon.


      God Bless,


    2. Jim S

      I believe that human beings are born with a void in our souls. Hero worship, like so many other things–the love of money for example–often becomes a rush to fill this void. This is exacerbated today by the insistence of some that, not only is there not a void, but that we do not even have souls in the first place, only some grey matter in our skulls, an electrical activity that, when it expires, causes us to expire.

      We are profoundly spiritual creatures; made in the image of God. Even if you do not believe, as John Doe of 9:18 p.m. does not, in a God, how can you deny the spiritual aspect of our beings (and I am aware of the distinction between spirit and soul, but this isn’t the place)? Open your eyes, and see the pain and need in the world. Listen to the murmur of your own heart. And cold Logic tells me that the denial of the spirit leads to nihilism.

      So is hero worship a problem, or is it a symptom?


  38. Siggy

    I have a deep and abiding distrust of organized religions. I admire the Amish in certain respects. They do not disdain a profit, they do disdain the flaunting of possessions. Would that they could see their way to adopting electricity and indoor plumbing, I’d consider joining them. They revel in the equisite beauty of existence whilst we ‘english’ make our lives very complicated and difficult. It’s not that they have it so right as that they try to focus on that which really matters.

    For myself, I do believe there is a providence, I do not believe that there is any diety to whom we can appeal for mercy, guidance or blessing. I’ve no idea who Varley and Griffiths are, however, their hubris in raising issues as to the theocratic merits of capitalism in the context of faith is itself appalling.

  39. gordon

    “Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

    “And when he heard this he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.”

    (Luke 18:22-23 King James version)

    Pretty unambiguous, I would have thought.

  40. craazyman

    And on approaching the village Don John came upon a money lender outside of the temple serving the multitude.

    And John said “Man, get thee into the temple and set up a table before the lord and serve the lord, so that ye might increase your pile and make the multitude glad.”

    And the man said, “Lord, I have a house and servants and a pile bigger than the temple itself, and I tarry here awhile, to help my debtors and widows and orphans and bring mercy upon the poor.”

    And hearing that, Don John struck the man about the head and said “Fool and hypocrite! Know ye not that pity and mercy maketh ye weak and that the poor are lost in sin! Get ye into the temple and reduce the portion of the poor through deception and vile trickery, and increase yourself and yours unto the Lord, for the servant of the poor is the servant of Satan and the man that increase his portion in the house of the lord is favored of my father.”

    And the multitude was astonished at hearing Don John’s words. And they said, “Surely this man is the son of Mammon, for he speaks with authority and not as the scribes.”

    -The Gospel According to Mammon, IV, v33-38

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Brilliant, craazyman. Thanks for the chortle. Rich stuff. Is it yours?

      To Gordon (and Luke), indeed there is so much unambiguous biblical teaching about the wealth trap, especially in the red-letter edition(Jesus’ words highlighted). But in order to bolster the gospel of prosperity as preached in many ex-urban megachurches, Conservapedia.com is conducting a new revision of scripture to remove liberal Socialist bias. No joke; check it out. Now there’s a propaganda project. Why didn’t I think of that?

      CEO John Varley’s self-serving Pharisaic speech in the cathedral is so eerily reminiscent of that other “temple incident” wherein Jesus resorts to a rare act of violence, trashing the merchants’ stalls and chasing them out of the temple, saying, “you have taken the house of God and turned it into a den of thieves.” It was quite likely that audacious incident that prompted the high priest to have him tortured and crucified.

      1. craazyman

        Yeah, I’m sitting here with my second Bass Ale and a roast turkey sandwich — cracking myself up! Too much fun. I could write the whole damn Gospel, but I’ll spare the board. Booowahahahahahah:)

        1. attempter

          If those come easily to you, and each day’s news can inspire more of them, you might have a good concept for a blog there, rediscovering the lost Book of Mammon.

  41. Seth

    I like to call the Republican party the “God & Mammon Coalition” — God talk for the poor and bucketloads of cash for the rich. But it’s funny when someone tries to square the theological contradiction so openly. Usually it operates as a confidence game in which only the Mammon-worshipers are in the know.

  42. Ron C

    I am holding in my hand a book written by Philip Mauro,”The World and its god”.If you want a better understanding of what is going on in this world it would make great reading for anyone.Philip Mauro prepared William Jennings Bryan’s arguments for the famous “Scopes” trials.

    Free Download


  43. John Doe

    Most people have it backwards.

    Man made God in his (her) own image.

    And the banks are Satanic. They sacrificed the US worker and manufacturing on the alter of quarterly profits and the dream (visions always come in dreams you know) of a vast market in China for their taking.

    1. rootless cosmopolitan

      And in contrast to what businesses or industry is the quarterly profit the highest priority for banks? For what alleged purpose does everyone else engage in any economic business?


  44. Jill Barraclough

    Capitalism : The New God
    Written by Jill B

    Capitalism : The New God


    Individual Satisfaction – Father

    Exploitation – Son

    Purchasing power – Holy Spirit

    10 Commandments

    * I will make sure I maximise my profits at the cost of everything else
    * Individual satisfaction must be 100% satisified even if it means I cheat on my marriage, destroy my childrens lives and end up divorced
    * Exploit whoever you can for whatever you can, its survival of the fittest
    * You are what you can afford
    * Love thy cheap goods even if you don’t know they came from a child sweat shop
    * Thou shall not worship false Gods: socialism, communism, et al
    * Thou shall be faithful and not lie with another man’s wife unless our wife failed to deliver for a few days or I see someone else I want in the street round the corner, like the latest purchase from that tv store down the road I just had to have as it was 50 inches wide not 45 like the one I have already.
    * Individual success and power are everything crush all enemies that stand in your way.
    * Avoid giving money to charity it is rescuing and people should be responsible for their own problems even if they are not self inflicted or were originally caused by our neoliberal economic and political policies.
    * Lend support to wars and support dictators if there is cheap oil or cheap access to valuable resources to be gained as our country has to be the most wealthy and powerful.

    New Testament Most Important of all these Commands not love thy neighbour :

    Love myself and everyone else can have the breadcrumbs that fall from my table

    12 Disciples – Enablers, Message Delivery Systems, Promoters

    * World Bank & IMF
    * Companies that exploit developing nation producers with low and unfair prices
    * Advertisements that promote materialism with irresponsible marketing messages
    * Pride
    * Greed
    * Ego
    * Vanity
    * Banks that don’t support and help small businesses, yet provide huge overdraft facilities to big organisations who really do not need that support .
    * Lenders who throw credit cards at people that they can’t afford to have or use
    * Banks that wont lend to people who actually need the money and provide the financial support they are supposed to so these people turn to loan sharks and charge huge profitable fees for bounced Direct Debits and unauthorised overdrafts.
    * Politicians with delusions of grandeur that want to control the world
    * Judas Iscariot – Enlightened invididuals that try to inform people (whistleblowers)

    The Evil One

    Devil – Socialism and anything resembling socialist systems

    Lord’s Prayer

    Our Individual Satisfaction

    That art all over the world
    Hallowed be thy buy one get one free
    Thy autumn sales come, Thy supreme shopping experience be done
    On earth as it is in the stores
    Forgive us for missing the winter sales and we will forgive the stores for closing on Sundays
    Give this day our daily buying
    Lead us into cheating, sleeping around and not looking after our children
    Let us not be tempted to really care about other people
    Deliver us from socialism
    For thine be the kingdom, the power and the glory, for as long as we practice this awful economic concept


    Note: writers note this is a criticism of capitalism in an attempt to make a few points and is no way shape or form supposed to represent the real bible and the Word of God within it.

    Copyright @ Jill Barraclough 2009 Please feel free to circulate this article with the copyright notice, authors name, contact details and Note above included. Writer can be contacted @ loventruth@hotmail.com, or jillb@jillb.me, or website is http://www.jillb.me.

Comments are closed.