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Entries in Harvey Cox (2)


Getting Beyond Dualism of Economics vs. Religion, Money & Spirituality

Dualistic thinking keeps Spirit and Matter separate in the MultiEarth view of the world. I mean really SEPARATE—with a hard bold line between them! OneEarth thinking, on the other hand, sees a world in which Matter is infused with Spirit. In OneEarth consciousness, as in quantum physics, Matter and Spirit are as difficult to separate as wave and particle are in defining light.

That gets me to how OneEarth consciousness thinks of economics and religion. For most of my life economics and religion have been as separate as baseball and gardening. It’s not true for me anymore, but in a group I met with recently some challenged my description of the economy as religion.

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Harvey Cox: The Religion of the Market

My dive into jubilee economics took me into many other important waters of change. In 2004, I heard Barry Shelley, a political economist with theological training, give a presentation to the Sabbath Economics Collaborative on economics as religion. Barry explained that approaching economics as religion was not just a quaint idea, but was being used by other economists, academics, and writers in their critiques of capitalism, markets, and consumer behavior. They use religion as a frame in which to view economics in order to better understand the powerful grip economic assumptions and practices have on people, governments, and business models. 

Then in 2009, Barry and I were invited to co-lead a session on “Economics and Spirituality” at the Solidarity Economy Network Forum in Amherst, MA. As we prepared for the session, Barry shared with me several articles on economic religion that fueled my interest. One, entitled “The Market as God,” written by Harvey Cox, who at the time was part of the Harvard Divinity School, had appeared in the Atlantic Monthly (March, 1999). Cox describes his own discovery of “business theology,” and how “current thinking assigns to The Market a wisdom that in the past only the gods have known.” Cox’s surprise at how economics and theology tracked with one another was matched by his conviction that he had uncovered a huge, damaging religion. He wrote: 

Discovering the theology of The Market made me begin to think in a different way about the conflict among religions. Violence between Catholics and Protestants in Ulster or Hindus and Muslims in India may dominate the headlines. But I have come to wonder whether the real clash of religions (or even of civilizations) may be going on unnoticed. I am beginning to think that for all the religions of the world, however they may differ from one another, the religion of The Market has become the most formidable rival, the more so because it is rarely recognized as a religion.