Prosperity Cult No Novelty

Europeans tend to sniff at the Prosperity Gospel, claiming that it is only possible in hypercapitalist, greed-is-good America. But the idea that the Elect will be rewarded, and recognisable, by their earthly prosperity is from John Calvin, who was a Swiss and followed by Dutch and Scots. Mediterranean Catholics, meanwhile, seem to conceive of the saints as a bureaucracy of influence-peddling: if I do this for you, you put in a good word for me in the right quarters. As for the Christian heaven, no one really understands what one is supposed to do there, while the source-text of Revelation is not actually about the afterlife but rather about being the cadre of a revolutionary government here on earth. Despite the severely monotheistic theory, at the popular level even Islam embraces veneration of saints and petitioning for their aid in earthly affairs. The covenant with Abraham was nothing to do with heaven, but a promise of reproductive success. Pre-Diaspora Judaism expected that the upright man would sit beneath his own fig-tree among his loving grandchildren; the collision of this notion with the blatant prosperity of the wicked led to the Book of Job. The obvious emptiness of any guarantee that virtue will be rewarded in this life led ultimately to the notion of another kind of life in which the wicked did not prosper; there is no other way to square that particular circle. The mu’tazili school of Islam, since extinct, held that all suffering must be merited now or compensated later. Christian prosperity teaching is thus a throwback to pre-Job Judaism; Jesus denied that the collapse of a stadium or being born blind was due to personal sin, but the TV preachers are busy correcting His mistake. In the three great Western religions, therefore, there is and always has been a mixture of heavenly and earthly rewards; promising the faithful prosperity in this world is not a modern or American invention.

The exception to the rule that all religion is prosperity cult is the mystic who seeks bliss instead of money; he employs neurochemical technology rather than economic technology.

Posted on July 28, 2009 at 20:19 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Economic Tech

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