October 11, 2021

Link between religion and the spirit of capitalism

Rukudzo Mangoma

As tears roll down our faces, hands raised in a position of surrender, we bow down to Heaven to intercede on our behalf.

We pray for happiness, for health, but above all for prosperity and wealth. For the lucky few, their prayers are answered, but for most of us we wonder why we deserve to wallow in abject poverty, to suffer, but above all we wonder if being religious and praying brings success and wealth. In our lifes ?

In one way or another, every Zimbabwean is affiliated with a religion, which gives hope to some people in difficult situations. Raised in a Christian society, I was taught that prayer is my best hope for being rich. I have been taught that my suffering here on earth is a test of my intentions to seek wealth, and even if I am not successful here on earth, I will find it in Heaven.

What if it was this kind of thinking that impoverished Zimbabwe and Africa? Are we not more concerned with the future than with the present? After all, to change the future is to change the present.

To the extent that we are taught that religious texts offer hope even in the most difficult situations, I am of the opinion that although in rare situations in life hope is good, this is not a good strategy to use in the pursuit of wealth.

On the contrary, I think more often than not, hope could in fact be a barrier to wealth. It is because hope immobilizes a person from taking charge of his life because he thinks it will be done for him as long as he does not waver in hope, which is prayer.

As bizarre as it sounds, our religious leaders have monetized hope. By simply telling people that religiosity bears the fruits of wealth and leadership, people are now paying them a lot of money to hear more lies that their poor living conditions are only temporary and that if the we are faithful, we will live a life beyond all measure. But who put forward the idea that religiosity leads to prosperity? Who defended such an idea without looking at the case studies from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana?

It seems that the ideology was created by the German philosopher and economist Max Webber. In his book “Protestant ethnicity and the spirit of capitalismWebber argues that the “spirit of capitalism” can promote prosperity and that the “spirit” or “drive” is strongly correlated with religion.

To understand this confusing link between religion and poverty, we must first understand what “the spirit of capitalism” and “the Protestant ethnicity” mean, and then we must examine whether the religiosity of Zimbabwe induces a capitalist or a market economy. , therefore prosperity.

“The spirit of capitalism” can be broken down into two elements: The impulse to accumulate wealth and an economic way of life.

“The former needs a disciplined and well-qualified workforce and a constant flow of capital injection, while the latter requires maximum self-control.

“The idea is that wealth should be accumulated for the betterment of society and should multiply with each generation and not be senseless wasted on luxury.

Although capitalism is greedy for wealth, it is motivated by morality and ethnicity. Capitalism, being a highly competitive, ruthless and no-frills game, has a set of rules that must be followed, if one lives in a capitalist society. Those who are players of the game, whether by design or by default, must be disciplined, consistent, and must master their skills in order to survive in the long run. The rules that capitalists should adhere to come from religion.

For example, these values ​​are found in the Bible and are derived from Calvinism. The general ideas of “duty” and “vocation” are common to both Christianity and capitalism. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with strength”, and 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says more bluntly: “If anyone does not want to work, he must not eat either. “. This shows that the Bible hates laziness and sets out injunctions to save, invest, and be prudent in business.

The above still leaves the glass half full to explain the link between religiosity and poverty. The answer lies with economic historian Niall Ferguson. Ferguson lists what he calls “the six prosperity-killing apps,” which have given the West a competitive edge over the rest of the nations. These “six killer apps” include competition, science, the rule of law, medicine, consumerism (industrialization depends on a consumer society) and work ethics. The idea is that the “spirit of capitalism” and the moral energy of religion, in conjunction with social, political and economic institutions drive the capitalist economy, which brings wealth and prosperity.

Coming back to Zimbabwe, it is well known that Zimbabwe does not have all the political and socio-economic institutions to support a functioning market economy. Zimbabwe does not have the rule of law, an efficient bureaucracy, social institutions (schools and hospitals) or a competitive environment, to name a few, that allow for a viable capitalist economy. Such institutions emerge from deliberate and determined political choices that a country makes. Given that Zimbabwe did not make these decisions, we can safely say that it lacks the “spirit of capitalism” necessary to do so.

It can be said, according to Webber, that there is a link between religious values ​​and the spirit of capitalism. Zimbabwe’s religiosity lacks moral fervor and the will to foster a viable capitalist economy and hence prosperity. For example, Zimbabwe has now shifted its focus to agriculture.

It neglects all other sectors of production, including mining, tourism, and the film and arts sectors. A capitalist economy must not behave in this way, but must draw from all the economic cylinders to accumulate wealth.

The truth is that Zimbabwe’s religious practice is systematically wrong. It did not have a positive impact on governance.

Even if the Bible says, “Justice exalts a nation,” Zimbabwe will remain impoverished because it lacks righteous rulers brought to power by righteous citizens. The nation is marred by injustice, corruption, abuse of power, laziness and cowardice, so Zimbabwe’s religiosity is being eroded instead of helping to defend prosperity.

In conclusion, I want to stress that being a “prayer warrior” and a regular practitioner will not bring wealth or success into your life, but rather will abide by the laws of success and wealth accumulation that have survived the test of time and guided the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos do very well in their quest for wealth which is to work hard, save, invest and be consistent.

Rukudzo Misheck Mangoma graduated in Development Studies. He writes here in a personal capacity


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