What do religions think about capitalism

1. The god of advertising and the temples of the auto religion

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Capitalism as religion

Author:Palaver Wolfgang
Abstract:Religious capitalism is one of the signs of our time. In a first step, this phenomenon is illustrated using the example of advertising and the modern car cult. In a second step, this article examines religious capitalism using an important fragment by Walter Benjamin from 1921. Third, using the example of the Ten Commandments, important ethical consequences are shown that result from the systematic analysis of religious capitalism.
Published in:a first abridged version appeared in: Capitalism as Religion. In: Quart No. 3 + 4 (2001) 18-25.



Religious capitalism is one of the signs of our time. After a short summary of the classic discussion of the relationship between religion and capitalism, I would like to present this phenomenon in a first step using the example of advertising and the modern car cult. In a second step I follow religious capitalism on the basis of an important fragment of the Jewish and Marxist philosopher Walter Benjamin, which he wrote in 1921 under the title "Capitalism as Religion". A third step uses the example of the Ten Commandments to show important ethical consequences that result from the systematic analysis of religious capitalism.


From the beginning, modern capitalism was accompanied by the question of its relationship to religion. Karl Marx already mentioned it in his book The capital (1867) dealt with the "fetish character of the goods" (Marx 85-98), for which he had to flee to the "foggy region of the religious world" in order to find the "mystical character of the goods" - which is full of "metaphysical subtlety and theological quirks" - to get to the bottom of things. A few decades later, the German sociologist Georg Simmel described in his Philosophy of money (1900) how money in modern times has slowly taken over the traditional role of God psychologically. Max Weber in turn was supported by his study Protestant ethics and the "spirit" of capitalism (1904/05) famous in which he described Calvinism as the religious cause of capitalism.


Less known than this classic of the relationship between religion and capitalism is the book by the German economist Alexander Rustow, a representative of the social market economy, published in 1945 under the title The failure of economic liberalism as a problem in the history of religion appeared. In contrast to Weber, Riistow did not claim that capitalism was caused by Christianity, but rather asked the theological prerequisites of that laissez-faire liberalism, which claimed that the completely untamed economy was able to produce the common good wonderfully from the selfish actions of individuals. According to Riistow, this logic described by Adam Smith - the founder of economics - as the "invisible hand" (Smith, Wohlstand 371) can be traced back to pagan economic theologies. Just as the Greek thinkers Heraclitus and Pythagoras, who are at the beginning of Western philosophy, saw the whole world as determined by an invisible harmony, so the fathers of economic liberalism also believed in a mysterious harmony that would lead to general prosperity without any state intervention would. For the St. Gallen economist Hans Christoph Binswanger, this economic theology has remained decisive for the economy to this day. In his book The Faith Community of Economists it shows that only the belief in the positive contribution of the economy to the common good justifies the theoretical and practical reduction of the human being to the egoistically acting economic man, the "homo oeconomicus", which is spreading again today.


These theoretical insights into the relationship between capitalism and religion are of unprecedented relevance today. A quick look at the world of advertising refutes all talk of the decline of the religious. Even if the churches have lost their social importance, advertising shows a boom in religion. Advertising has never been so full of religious symbolism and ecclesiastical characters. In Regensburg, Hagen Horoba and Andreas Fuchs, two young theologians, digitized over four hundred images from advertising that have clear religious references and put them on the Internet for further use (http://www.glauben-und-kaufen.de). They also formulated some theses that reflect the relationship between advertising and religion.


Similar to religion, advertising promises a successful life. In doing so, religious motifs are being used more and more often. Brand myths can be used to fill vacant positions that were previously occupied by traditional religion. In place of the saints of the Catholic Church, there are sports or show stars, whose divine being is supposed to pass over to the consumer when they buy certain branded products (cf. Bieber 85-93).


From a theological point of view, it is important to carefully observe this development in advertising. When in the 1970s the first traces of an appropriation of religion through advertising could be seen - the company "Jesus Jeans" advertised with the slogan "You shouldn't have any other jeans next to me" - the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini warned of one total appropriation of the human being, who in the long term could become more threatening to the church than fascism. If the church wants to censor the media, Pasolini said ironically, it must first ban television advertising. Dorothee Sölle, the Protestant representative of a new political theology, took up Pasolini's ideas and described the "god of advertising" as a totalitarian god who promised salvation to people but also demanded their total submission (Sölle, Leben 11-20; Sympathy 150-154).


Today capitalism seems to have gone over to mere advertising and to try to create religious meaning. The most impressive example of this is the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, a type of open-air museum built by the Volkswagen group, which has attracted around 3.4 million visitors - or rather "seekers of meaning" - since it opened in 2000 (Rauterberg, questions). Each car brand of the VW Group has its own pavilion, which looks like a temple. Just as there is a cult house for the Skoda brand, there is also a Lamborghini temple in the VW Autostadt. This pavilion imitates the central sanctuary of Islam, the Ka'ba in Mecca: "The Lamborghini Church ... is a minimalist powerhouse, a huge black cube that rises slightly at an angle. Believers wander around in it a core that cannot be entered, everything is calm and devout, until suddenly a thumping noise penetrates the hall, an engine ignites, lightning flashes, fog rises, and then, for a brief moment, you can see the car as it is seems to drive up the wall at an angle. Noise, miracle, the plump wonder Lamborghini has come true. " (Rauterberg, Faith). Dr. Gunter Henn, the architect of the VW Autostadt, underlines his claim to meaningfulness in an interview: "Who else offers orientation, where do we stay with our childish religiosity? ... The churches are dead, the state is withdrawing, the ideologies have lost their power. What remains are the companies. ... They will be the creators of the future. " (Quoted from Rauterberg, Glaube)


There are few texts that contribute so clearly to the understanding of religious capitalism as the fragment "Capitalism as Religion" by the Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), written in 1921. He built on the insights of Marx and Simmel in order to go beyond Weber to describe capitalism not only as a religiously conditioned structure, but to emphasize its religious essence itself: "In capitalism a religion can be seen, ie capitalism essentially serves the satisfaction the same worries, torments and unrest to which the so-called religions once answered. " (Benjamin VI, 100)


Benjamin's fragment describes religious capitalism on the basis of four characteristics. First, he characterizes it as a "pure cult religion" that knows "no special dogmatics, no theology" (Benjamin VI, 100). With this marking he shows a parallel to the interpretation of Riistow. The dogma-free cult religion is on the one hand typically pagan and on the other hand can be understood theologically as a form of pantheism. Riistow referred to the pantheistic inclination of capitalism when he found the correspondence between Spinoza's pantheistic formula with regard to the "economic theology" of liberal capitalism Deus sive natura, God is identical with nature, and Adam Smith's economic doctrine emphasized that an "invisible hand" allows the common good to emerge from the egoistic behavior of individual people (Riistow, Religion 22; Riistow, Failure 52, 163f).


The pantheistic dimension of capitalism contradicts all attempts to allow the market principle to come into effect only within a political framework. When Catholic social teaching repeatedly emphasizes that the principle of competition must be subordinated to the principle of solidarity, it implicitly starts from a worldview that emphasizes the idea of ​​a hierarchical order of values ​​and the transcendence of God towards his creation.


Because religious capitalism is characterized precisely by the lack of a dogmatic standpoint, we must ask ourselves today whether current philosophical and theological tendencies, which call any dogma into question, unintentionally promote this capitalism. Philosophically, an example can be cited to postmodern deconstruction, which, despite its critical orientation towards capitalism, largely overlooks the fact that its general rejection of transcendence and dogma plays into the hands of capitalism. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, the famous crime writer and essayist Gilbert Keith Chesterton warned against hastily abandoning dogma without realizing that a dogma-free pantheism only benefits the rich and turns a blind eye to the fate of the poor: "Above all, if we want to protect the poor, we will speak out in favor of fixed rules and clear dogmas. Come to every club regulate in case of doubt, benefit the poor member, while letting things drift only benefits the rich member. "(Chesterton 264)


The political danger of the dogma-free cult religion of capitalism can be illustrated by the example of some representatives of the western left who had or still have government responsibility in recent years. The Slovenian social philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek criticizes politicians like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder for their apolitical stance. They cannot oppose the prevailing economy politically because they have distanced themselves from all ideological positions and only advocate ideas that "work". But where politics is limited to mere functioning, it has already given up on itself and reduced it to mere administration: "To say that good ideas are 'that work' means that one has to anticipate the (global capitalist) constellation that defines what works ... All of this can also be expressed with the well-known definition of politics as the 'art of the possible': authentic politics, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, that is, the art of Impossible - it just changes the parameters of what is assumed to be 'possible' in the existing constellation. "(Zizek 39) From the theological perspective, this means that only the orientation towards a transcendent God allows a policy that allows a critical distance from the ruling ones Knows states.


As a second characteristic, Benjamin records the "permanent duration of the cult" (Benjamin VI, 100): "There is no 'weekday' <,> no day that is not a feast day in the terrible sense of the unfolding of all sacred pomps <,> the extreme Tension of the admirer would be. " All days should be turned into holidays. Traditionally, Sundays and public holidays were considered to be those days on which the actual destiny of the human being is expressed in the form of interruptions - the priority of the "ora" over the "labora" in the instruction of St. Benedict (cf. Scheler, Ethik 147) - capitalism cancels this difference by wanting to celebrate its religious cult of consumption every day. The capitalist Sunday does not mean that people are permanently oriented towards their actual religious determination, towards "one thing that is necessary" (Lk 10:42), but rather represents a form of alienation that consists in narcotizing people through entertainment. Taking the example of the great world exhibitions of the 19th and 20th centuries, Benjamin has this tendency of the modern world in his Passages factory examined. "The world fairs ... open up a phantasmagoria into which man enters in order to allow himself to be distracted. The amusement industry makes this easier for him by raising him to the level of the commodity. He abandons himself to its manipulation, by making himself alienated from himself and enjoy the other. " (Benjamin V.1, 50f)


What Benjamin alluded to here almost seventy years ago has become a prevailing reality in many ways today. By means of a flourishing entertainment industry, the transformation of the whole world into a large Disneyland, the alienation of humans from themselves and others is concealed. In the constant enjoyment of an uninterrupted fun society, the question of the real destiny of the human being threatens to disappear. Franz Kafka has this form of alienation through entertainment in his narrative On the gallery literarily condensed. The entertainment industry does not confront us with any "lung addicted female horse rider" (Kafka 129; cf. Schubert), against whose fate we would protest, but instead pretends to be an ideal, glittering world that does not allow a protest to arise. We too often feel the same way today as the gallery visitor in Kafka's story. When, during the final march, as if in a heavy dream, he lays his face on the railing of the circus gallery, "he cries without knowing it".


Third, Benjamin calls religious capitalism a culpable cult. Capitalism no longer knows any cults of atonement, but tries to drive the whole world into a state of indebtedness: "Capitalism is probably the first case of a cult that is not atonement but guilty , reaches for the cult in order not to atone for this guilt in it, but to make it universal ... It is in the nature of this religious movement, which is capitalism, "" to endure to the end "," to the point of complete indebtedness at last God's, the achieved world state of despair, which is still hoped for. Herein lies the historically unheard of of capitalism, that religion is no longer the reform of being but its destruction. The expansion of despair to the religious world state from which healing is to be expected. " (Benjamin VI, 100f)


This third characteristic of religious capitalism is difficult to understand and therefore needs to be carefully deciphered. At first glance, it speaks to the logic of economic debt that is typical of capitalism. Marx had already named the "state debt" (Marx 782), the "public credit", as the "creed of capital". Today we experience the logic of debt primarily in the individual indebtedness of many individual consumers and in the course of expanding globalism in the fate of the poorest countries, which are being pushed to the edge.


On a deeper level, however, Benjamin uses this feature to distinguish modern capitalism from archaic and traditional societies. The concept of guilt used here by Benjamin must not be identified prematurely with the biblical or Christian concept of guilt. This is not about a "moral guilt" (Benjamin VI, 56; cf. I, 138f), but about the pagan idea of ​​a "natural guilt", according to which life itself is already burdened with guilt. Goethe has this pagan understanding of guilt in his novel Wilhelm Meister's apprenticeship expressed in the harper's song. In it the "heavenly powers" (Goethe vol. 7, 136) are said to have caused a guilt that must necessarily also be avenged: "You lead us into life, / you let the poor become guilty, / then you leave him to him Pein: / For all guilt takes revenge on earth. " In paganism, bloody sacrificial rites served to atone for this apparently always existing guilt (cf. Girard, saints).Legal and political conceptions arose from these pagan sacrificial rites and contained destructive vices such as pride, envy and greed without people having to repent in the biblical sense.


Even with Adam Smith, the free competition of the economy is bounded by the nation-state framework. Smith derives the predominant notion of justice in the state from the pagan religion, whereby he himself still interprets Jesus' death on the cross as atonement in the sense of pagan notions of sacrifice (Smith, theory 291f; cf. Palaver, Mimesis 97-104). Today's capitalism has long since left Smith's attempts at cultivation behind it. Vices like envy, which formerly had to be atoned for, now serve as the driving force of an economy that seeks to pull the whole world under its spell. The pagan fatalism of natural guilt still prevails, but no longer as part of an encompassing, locally limited religious order, but as part of a logic of guilt that encompasses the whole world.


In order to be able to understand the transition from the world of archaic religions to the religious capitalism of the modern age in terms of religious history, the role of Judeo-Christian revelation must be considered as a third factor. The biblical religions do not simply continue the archaic religiosity, as Adam Smith believed, for example, but uncover the scapegoat structure of the archaic blood sacrifice religion and thereby undermine the pagan containment of human vices (cf. Girard, end 144-295). Where the origin of the archaic religion is recognized in a collective act of violence by people, this religion can no longer protect people from one another. The religiously and morally limited capitalism advocated by Smith must almost inevitably be transformed into modern hypercapitalism if biblical thought erodes the pagan foundation of its moral enclosure (cf. Palaver, Mimesis 104-110). Although Judeo-Christian revelation does not itself cause modern capitalism, it indirectly enables its modern development by destroying pagan boundaries. Benjamin rightly describes capitalism as a "parasite" of Christianity (Benjamin VI, 102).


To better understand the transition from archaic societies to modern capitalism, it is helpful to examine the functions and properties of money more closely. First of all, money represents a certain form of humanization of human coexistence, because it originally took the place of bloody human and animal sacrifices. In the legal institution of "Wergelde" - the atonement of manslaughter through payment of money - traces of this substitute function can still be seen (cf. Simmel 482-489; Laum 63-80, 105; Benjamin VI, 102). Similarly, Norbert Elias describes how a violence-mitigating function of money can be ascertained in the age of knights: "In the age of knights money already had its affect-dampening and transforming effect from time to time. Usually only the poor and inferior were mutilated for them no substantial ransom was expected, and spared the knights for whom a ransom was hoped. " (Elias, Prozess I 267) However, it becomes clear from two properties of money that it has become not only a blessing but also a curse for people.


A first problem shows itself in the ability of money, completely detached from all nature, to make unlimited expansionism possible. Money is an object that is detached from all boundaries of nature and is particularly suitable for hoarding and "treasure-building" (Marx 144-148). The decoupling of money from natural barriers enables an increase in human desire to infinity. This limitlessness can be seen in concrete terms today in our destructive exploitation of nature. For example, by increasing the possible objects of dispute between people through expansive strategies such as mass production to the limitless, we are simultaneously causing a sacrifice of nature that has never been there before. Factory farming and mass meat consumption are just one example of this expansionism (cf. Eder 240). The mass culling of hundreds of thousands of cattle is the clearest expression of a world that only seems to have left the narrow boundaries of archaic sacrifice in order to replace them with a world of mass slaughter (cf. Palaver, Globalisierung 181-189). The German weekly newspaper The time sees in the current mass slaughter a return of "ancient sacrificial rituals" and asked Carl Amery, among others, for which god the animals would probably die today. In his answer, entitled "For the market price", Amery referred to the ruling capitalist religion, referring to both Benjamin's fragment and Girard's cultural theory for its interpretation. Massive environmental destruction is part of the capitalist logic of debt with its tendency to destroy existence.


A second problem is related to the more distant form of interpersonal competition made possible by money. The more money moves into the center of human desire, the more people can evade direct confrontation themselves. Your relationships with others become much more distant and dispassionate. Money is an abstraction, an abstracting medium that does not require the direct fight of everyone against everyone, but anonymizes the competition between people. As an anonymous competition that is limited to very specific areas by the division of labor, it can be brought into play much more strongly than in archaic societies. But this de-emotionalization of competition and human relationships through the money medium also has its price. It leads to the "social coldness" that is often mentioned today and that has become typical of our modern society. Georg Simmel already referred to the "heartlessness of money" at the beginning of the 20th century (Simmel 468). For our time, the German media theorist Jochen Hörisch aptly described the indifferent coldness of money: "Money should not only be called indifferent and cold because, unlike flesh and blood, metal and paper are cold elements, but because money is everything to the medium of exchange." Jacket like pants', so it is largely indifferent. It does not care about the people who trade, the times at which they are exchanged and the things that are exchanged. Money is actually and literally a medium of equivalence - the equation, but also the equivalence. " (Hörisch 24) In modern competition there is indifference towards those who fall by the wayside in the competitive struggle (cf. Dumouchel 25-256, 299; Thureau-Dangin 217). The money doesn't care about the losers. It is true that money has removed us from the passionate bloodstreams of archaic sacrificial rites, but it has now been replaced by capitalism that silently sacrifices people through its systemic indifference. Jochen Hörisch suppresses the violence of this indifference when he positively contrasts the coldness of money with the world of blood sacrifices without questioning: "Our culture has ... switched from hot passion stories to cold functional stories. No more bloodstreams that were sacrificed for us and that we close are willing to make sacrifices, but flows of money hold our culture and society together. " (Acoustic 24)


According to Benjamin, even socialism - a mere apparent opponent of capitalism - remains under the spell of debt capitalism. He seems to place all his hopes on the "indignation" that is supposed to follow global destruction - the goal of the debt logic of capitalism (Marx 790). According to Benjamin, "non-reversing capitalism ... becomes socialism" (Benjamin VI, 101f). Socialism does not rely on individual conversion of people, but hopes for a universal scapegoat mechanism, when the worldwide misery of the masses will only have become so great that there will finally be the "expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people" (Marx 791). The pagan logic of the blood sacrifice should then once again create an earthly paradise on a global level and then forever.


Finally, according to Benjamin, debt capitalism also includes the "insanity" of "worries" (Benjamin VI, 102). He thus characterizes the problem of scarcity caused by capitalism. Overcoming scarcity is considered to be the basis of the economy. Because there are scarce goods, economic action is needed that should enable all people to meet their needs. According to this understanding, if scarcity were a central problem for mankind, it would have to show itself much more clearly in archaic cultures than in our modern societies due to their comparatively small amount of goods. In fact, it turns out that in these societies, in contrast to our modern world, there is no scarcity. The much greater emphasis on solidarity in such communities forces them to share the essential goods with one another. If this does not succeed, the whole culture disappears rather than an individual being starved to death (cf. Dumouchel; Simmel 328). So while there is no scarcity in primitive cultures, it is downright typical of modern societies. Modern capitalism does not overcome scarcity but, conversely, creates shortages by constantly awakening new needs that need to be satisfied as quickly as possible. Advertising in particular serves almost exclusively to generate scarcity. Capitalism nourishes itself from a spiritual state of society, which consists in an inevitable increase in "worries" and was already criticized in the New Testament as "false worries" of the "pagans" and as idolatry on the "mammon" (Mt 6,19- 34; see Kierkegaard; Ruster 152f). This side of capitalism also belongs to the logic of debt: "The worries: a mental illness that is characteristic of the capitalist epoch. Spiritual (not material) hopelessness in poverty, vagabond - begging - monasticism. A state that is so hopeless is guilty. The worries 'are the index of this sense of guilt of hopelessness.' Worries' arise in the fear of community-based, not individual-material hopelessness. " (Benjamin VI, 102)


The fourth trait of religious capitalism, according to Benjamin, expresses itself in the fact that its "God must be kept secret" and "may only be addressed at the zenith of its indebtedness" (Benjamin VI, 101). In this hidden God that person can ultimately be recognized who has become Nietzsche's superman: "The thought of the superman does not relocate the apocalyptic 'leap' to repentance, atonement, purification, repentance, but to the apparently steady one in the last span but explosive, discontinuous increase ... The superman is the one who has arrived without turning back, the historical man who has grown through the sky. " (Benjamin VI, 101) The secret god of capitalism, like the superman, stands for the "bursting of the sky through increased humanity". We are dealing here with the attempt at self-deification of those who reject repentance. From a theological point of view, this person is the proud person of the fall, the original sinful person who closes himself off from all redemption. In Dostoevsky's novel The player shows how human pride is ultimately hidden behind the modern idolatry of money (cf. Girard, Resurrection 73-78). Out of proud rivalry with our fellow human beings, we pile up money to impress the others: "No, it wasn't about the money! At that time I just wanted all these Hinzes, all these head waiters, all these pompous Baden ladies, that they all speak of me, that they all tell of my happiness, that they marvel at me, praise and envy me, and all should bow to the power of my new wealth. " (Dostojewski 205f) While biblical thinking calls the sinful man to repent, the thought of repentance is missing in archaic paganism as well as in religious capitalism of the modern age. The latter, however, not only differs from biblical thinking, but also gives up the pagan containment of vices by taking a fatal flight forward without any atonement. But this idolatry of the proud man threatens to destroy the whole world today.


Anthropologically, the prevailing religious capitalism raises the question of the essence of human beings. The religious side of capitalism shows that man cannot get rid of his religious nature even in a time of dechurchification and dechristianization. Classical Christian anthropology can help here. For Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, man is characterized by an infinite desire that forms the root of his religious nature (cf. Niewiadomski 68). Max Scheler summarized these anthropological insights at the beginning of the 20th century. Scheler recognizes man as a "being who prays and seeks God" (Scheler, writings 46). Driven by a "lust for God", man is a "seeker of God" (ibid. 51f). His "essentially infinite love" aims at an "infinite good" that alone can give him peace (Scheler, Grammar 88). The call of God in the Confessions of Augustine, that "our heart is restless until it rests in you" (Augustine, Confessions 33), expresses this anthropological truth just as Thomas Aquinas recognizes that "that which is less than God, our heart does not can fill in "(Thomas Aquinas 253). However, where man does not succeed in directing his infinite desire towards God himself, his inextinguishable religious desire leads to elevate objects within the world to idols. Scheler calls this human inclination "procurement", of which the idolatry of money, "mammonism", is a typical example (Scheler, Ewigen 163, 263, 398f; Ethik 152, 161f; Grammar 89f). Because man cannot simply give up his religious desire, he is ultimately faced with the decision to serve God or to bow to an earthly idol: "Man either believes in God or he believes in an idol. No third party!" (Scheler, Ewigen 399).


In our present, the French-American literary scholar René Girard has deepened the Christian anthropology summarized by Scheler. He expressly follows on from Scheler's insights into the indelible religious nature of man when he wrote his first book Figures of desire Scheler's thesis of the inevitable choice between God and idols as a motto. In contrast to Scheler, Girard - based on the great novels of European tradition - emphasizes not only the infinity of human desire but also its reference to a model (Girard, Figures 20-23). Human desire is essentially characterized by imitating the desire of others. This imitative desire is part of human nature, which enables all learning as well as it can become a source of destructive conflict, where it leads people to focus on an indivisible object at the same time.


Girard's explanation of human conflicts by means of his theory of imitative desire is illustrated by the example of the last two commandments of the Decalogue (cf. Girard, Satan 7-10; Hauerwas 129-139). The ninth and tenth commandments prohibit the desire for each other's objects. Ex 20.17 illustrates that every object of the other can ultimately lead to conflict: "You should not ask for your neighbor's house. You should not ask for your neighbor's wife, his slave, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. " From the point of view of Girard's theory, disregard of this commandment leads to those human rivalries that can ultimately lead to murder. Lies, theft, adultery or murder can arise from a desire that seeks to appropriate the other person's goods. The commandments that complete the Decalogue thus summarize the second table of the Decalogue, which regulates human life with one another (fifth to tenth commandment), by revealing the desire dynamics on which these prohibitions are based. Where people focus their desires solely on the objects of their neighbors, peaceful coexistence is impossible. This insight can also be found in the catechism of Thomas Aquinas, where he explains why we should not covet the good of our neighbor (Thomas Aquinas 252-255). Desiring the goods of one's neighbor weakens the sense of justice and kills the love of God and one's neighbor. It takes root in the human heart as greed and ultimately creates all kinds of injustice.


Archaic societies know about the dangers of imitative desire and limit the human desire dynamics by means of a rigorous religious order.Strict prohibitions forbid the objects of others and through rites all transgressions are collectively atoned for by consciously repeating the scapegoat mechanism that is at the origin of human cultures (cf. Girard, Saints). Benjamin's reference to the "atoning cults" sums up this order of archaic cultures.


Capitalism has stripped all the fetters of archaic cultures and tries to solve the problem of human desire by means of an overproduction of goods. At first glance he seems to have overcome the violent narrowness of archaic cultures. A second look, however, shows that the problem of human desire has not really been solved, but merely shifted to another level. Capitalism, characterized by Benjamin as a "culpable cult", redirects interpersonal violence to overexploitation of nature and into deadly indifference towards one's neighbor.


Both answers, archaic religion and capitalism, miss the biblical view of human desire. The latter sees neither in bloody sacrificial rites nor in the capitalist logic of debt an answer to infinite desire that is appropriate to human nature. From a biblical point of view, it is important to recognize the close connection between idolatry and the fixation on the objects of one's neighbor. This connection is expressed in the Ten Commandments by the fact that the rejection of any idolatry required in the first commandment - "You shall not have any gods next to me" (Ex of the whole of the second table of the Decalogue (fifth to tenth commandments). Only when our infinite desire is directed towards the one true God can we escape that self-idolatry and the idolatry of our neighbors that results from it, which would inevitably force us to appropriate their goods. The first and last commandments of the Decalogue include it in its entirety. The possibility of love of self and neighbor flows from the right love of God. Where the New Testament summarizes the Decalogue, it expressly emphasizes this connection: "The first is: Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your thoughts and all your strength. The second is: You shall love your next like yourself. No other commandment is greater than these two. "(Mk 12: 29-31)


At the center of Christian tradition we repeatedly come across this insight that only the alignment of human desire towards the one God prevents us from getting into violent conflicts with our fellow human beings. Augustine knows about the close relationship between imitation and religion. For him, the core of everything religious shows itself in the fact that we imitate what we worship (cf. Augustine, God's State VIII.17). He therefore contrasts every false imitation and its idolatry with the love of God, a humble and true imitation, which protects us from quarreling with our fellow human beings over merely inner-worldly goods (cf. ibid. XIV.28). Our desire should therefore always be directed towards God first, whose eternal goods are solely for our "enjoyment" (frui) are thought, while all earthly goods are "used" for this ultimate goal alone (uti) (cf. ibid. XIX.13.17). For Augustine, greed or love for money was an example of the misdirection of human desire. According to Augustine, it is wrong "if one wants to enjoy the money but want to use God by not giving the money for God's sake, but worshiping God for the sake of money" (XI.25). He distinguished between the pagan idolaters, who also gave their supreme god Jupiter the nickname pecunia - Money - in order to give their love of money the highest divine orders, and the Christians who, out of love for God, only use money for this highest good (cf. ibid. VII.12).


For Luther, the temptation of mammonism at the end of the Middle Ages is even more evident than for Augustine (cf. Ruster 154-165). Where he in his Great Catechism interpreting the first commandment ("You shall not have other gods"), he immediately refers to the idolatry of money as the clearest example of its disregard. For Luther, too, human desire is aimed at God or an idol: "What you put your heart on and rely on is actually your God." Luther sees mammonism as a wrong way of satisfying human desire for God: "There are many who think that they have enough God and everything when they have money and goods, and they boast that they are so stiff and sure that they have on no one gives anything. See, this one also has a God, who is called Mammon (Mt 6:24), that is, money and goods, on which he puts all his heart, which is also the most common idol on earth. "


Using the example of Augustine and Luther, it could be made clear why only a rejection of idolatry can save us from conflicts with our fellow human beings. Where we do not direct our desires to the true God, we remain fixated on our neighbors and their goods and end up in a worldly war of all against all. The first table of the Decalogue (first to fourth commandments), which regulates our relationship with God, forms the foundation on which the second table, the rules for living together with our fellow human beings, is built (cf. Long 236-238). Against this background, the real meaning of the Sabbath or Christian Sunday can be seen. The third commandment belongs to the first table and serves to align our desires with the true God. In the Sunday Eucharistic celebration we experience the gift of a foretaste of "eternal bliss" and the "Sabbath rest of the divine state" (Augustine, Divine State XXII.30). Neither in the "atoning cult" of archaic religions nor in the "guilty cult" of capitalism does human desire reach its goal, because the "ultimate goal of our longing" is God himself, who gives us the feeling every Sunday that he is everything to us , for which we rightly long: "Life, health, food, wealth, rest, honor, peace and all goods" (Augustine, God's state XXII.30). Because it is the "one" thing that is only "necessary" (Lk 10:42), the celebration of the Sunday service becomes a rejection of religious capitalism with its never-ending "worries". True worship arranges people's desires in such a fundamental way that it can become the nucleus of an economy and politics that neither remain dependent on the bloody victims of archaic religion nor are condemned to the silent killing of religious capitalism (cf.Long 234 -237).




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