Someone recently wrote to me:
It seems that you have tried to elevate business to a religion to fill the hole left when you dumped Christianity.
Perhaps your hatred of religion…
At any rate, business and the market are not my "religion" and I don’t "hate" religion.
The whole thing–all things really–come down to what values individuals adopt and hold. I use the term "value" broadly. That is, anything that a person seeks to gain, hold, adopt, or keep, including ideas (not just material things). In this sense, values can be good or bad for people, i.e., they can enhance or diminish a person in various ways depending upon what sort of values they are and how a person interacts with the values he upholds.
In me personally, there was a tremendous value shift fourteen years ago. I began to realize that what happens to me in life is a direct result of what I value or disvalue. If I value a certain set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of other competing ideas, either just different or in contradiction, then my life tends in one direction. But what if this direction is one where I may not really want to go? This is a value conflict, because you may value one direction in life, but you may hold a set of beliefs that just cannot get you there without accepting a whole bunch of contradictions in your thinking.
Some people are capable of being walking contradictions. They can lay out and understand some set of facts, and in the next breath, say, "well, I just ‘think’…" I’m not like that. I seek to root out inconsistency, contradiction, internal conflict.
And, so, here I am. It was simple, really. I came to understand that religious beliefs, in general, had their place in time but that their place in time beyond a set of revered traditions (Christmas celebrations and the like) had past. At a time, religion was absolutely essential to the survival of man. Man needs a framework, a "matrix" if you will of internally consistent logic as sort of a catalyst to action. To state it a little plainer, he must feel as though he understands his place in existence ("why am I here and what is my purpose?").
Man simply did not have the tools available to him to even begin to grasp the mystery of existence, yet he had no choice but to grasp it. The natural outcome, the outcome necessary for man’s survival was the invention of religion in every single culture on Earth. Religion is a wholly natural phenomena, just as are baby talk and baby steps. But once a child attains certain abilities, the baby talk and baby steps are left behind.
For these last hundreds of years, scientific knowledge of existence has been secularizing humanity. It’s a slow process when viewed on a worldwide scale. There are still deep-rooted religious beliefs (and resultant actions) that will take hundreds of more years before they are seen by most people in their proper context, i.e. as secular traditions, like Christmas mostly is in the United States.
Thankfully, individuals don’t have to wait for the rest of humanity to figure things out. For these last fourteen years, I have been headed exactly in the direction that I always wanted to be going. But it literally would not have been possible under my old, outdated and rather quaint religious beliefs (for me anyway). It required not just a new view of existence and my place in it, but a more accurate one. You see, getting what you want out of life really comes down to making more good decisions at the right time than you make bad decisions at the wrong time. To do that, you need to have an accurate view of the real vs. the unreal or wished for, or hoped for. You need to get down and dirty with the reality of things. So, if I can conjure up some hoped-for "guy in the sky" and base decisions and actions on such self-delusion, then can’t I convince myself of just about anything? And if I can do that, how on Heaven’s Earth am I to assure myself of making mostly good decisions when it’s so easy to fool myself and make bad ones?
So, you see, my admiration of business and markets and my somewhat dim view of religion beyond secular traditionalism is not out of hatred or a need to "fill any gaps." It is simply a matter of finding a better tool for the job. I knew the job I had to do, wanted to do, and religion as an overall worldview was just too inadequate to give me any reasonable assurance beyond mere hope that I would ever attain my ends in life.
I’ll take up the issue of the morality of markets in a subsequent post.