An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of Capitalism
Strictly-speaking, Mammon is not a named demon-- in the sense of R. C. Thompson's Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia. (Generally, these may be understood as ritual alignments--in the sense of Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm. See, for ex., Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara's Ritual Alignment System--or RAS--described in their book, Dark Mission. Also see Thompson's Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon. I credit Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend for their insight that most 'demons' are representations of failed --or "out of joint"-- astronomical alignments.)
According to Wikipedia, one likely source for the Biblical (NT) expression, Mammon, is the Aramaic 'mamon' - used by Jesus (Matthew, 6:24) - or in Syriac Aramaic, 'mámóna...' "[A] loanword from Mishnaic Hebrew ממון (mamôn) meaning money, wealth, or possessions... The word is unknown in Old Testament Hebrew, but has been found in the Qumran documents." "The Greek word for "Mammon", μαμμωνάς, occurs in the Sermon on the Mount (during the discourse on ostentation) and in the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:9–13). The Authorised Version keeps the Syriac word; John Wycliffe uses richessis." Wikipedia notes that "No trace, however, of any Syriac god of such a name exists." One could add: (any god) or demon.
However... There is a long tradition which associates the Golden Calf with worship of wealth. Cattle understood as money or bride-price. And, can there be any doubt about the significance of Wall Street's Charging Bull? What is fascinating, then, is the witting or unwitting elevation of wealth--Mammon-- ostensibly only as a sign of God's favor, but more cogently, as the One (Only) True God (of this world), by Christians of a certain disposition. Those who believe that "God helps those who help themselves" is "in the Bible."
For whatever reason, these people have turned their backs on the Jesus of the Sermon On the Mount, and, instead, worship the Wrathful Lamb of the Apocalypse. THEY are nowise "stewards of the Earth," but merely "witnesses" (or would-be witnesses) to its destruction. Cf. Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt: "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." (1983). (Watt insists that this remark was taken out of context.)
In the meantime, Powers and Principalities, in the form of MNCs (multi-national corporations) prowl the world like roaring lions, looking for someone or something to devour.
Despite Laurence R. Iannaccone's assertion that "most rank and file fundamentalists and evangelicals are not economic conservatives and would probably reject any free market consensus that did emerge from their leaders," I think his description of the economic views of fundamentalists, as imagined by the "average American" bears more truth than Iannaccone wishes to admit: "Theological and economic conservatism go hand in hand. Theologically conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of market capitalism. They denounce every form of socialism, reject paternalistic government spending programs, and advocate free enterprise as the solution to virtually every economic problem." - Fundamentalism and Economics In the U.S.
(For a very thoughtful review, see Is the Market Moral? Protestant Assessments of Market Society, by Brian Steensland and Zachary Schrank, Review of Religious Research, December 2011.)
For discussion of this, see Ideological Disaster – An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson and then the article From Poverty to Perversity by Margaret R. Somers and Fred Block (American Sociological Review, April, 2005) and a comment by Alexander Hicks Free-Market and Religious Fundamentalists versus Poor Relief and a reply by the authors Poverty and Piety. (both in the June 2006 issue)
And then, Deus ex machina--Faith in the free market and Baylor Religion Survey reveals many see God steering economy
And then Religious and Free-Market Fundamentalism Have More in Common Than Their Fans in the Tea Party, by Mugambi Jouet and Tax Revolt as a Family Value--How the Christian Right Is Becoming A Free Market Champion and especially Why Do Christians Worship Greed? Only in America can one find significant numbers of Christians who argue that unfettered capitalism represents God's Plan for human thriving, by Peter Laarman .
In "God and Mammon," R. T. France writes: "[I]t is not only wrongly acquired wealth, but possessions as such that Jesus declares to be in competition with God for men's allegiance. The competition is such that Jesus elevates 'Mammon' into a principle, almost personifies it, in a way that even the Targums, with their attack on the 'mammon of falsehood,' do not do. It is the principle of materialism, and it is diametrically opposed to the service of God, because 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' "
So... The true god of the fallen world is self-interest.
This true god is the Greed of what Daniel Quinn's 'Ishmael' calls the Takers.
And in that sense this true god is a "God of Excess" and Consumption. (see Gaither Stewart ).
In the movie "Constantine" (2005), adapted from the Hellblazer comic series, Mammon is attempting to break into this world, an event that will usher in the Apocalypse. But surely this is intended as irony!
Comic books aside, should we account Mammon/The Market God a demon? According to the formula of de Santillana and von Dechend, demons are failed gods that no longer order the seasons (in Hamlet's Mill, this was due to precession of the equinoxes and the shift of the pole star).
I would argue first that the only truly global "world system"--in Immanuel Wallerstein's sense-- that exists today is that of the neo-liberal, so-called, "Washington Consensus." That is, McMurtry's Market God, represented by GATT and the WTO, orders our world. (The UN is dysfunctional by design.)
Second, I greatly fear that the problems that face us represent a future evolutionary bottleneck-- the last such bottleneck having been between 125,000 and 60,000 years ago when no more than 7,000 humans were alive--note that every one of descends from one of the (approx.7) "daughters of Eve"
[Problems that face us]:
the carbon crunch (peak oil; peak coal; "peak carbon");
the steep decline in ecological services everywhere--perhaps best represented by Health of World's Ocean 'Collapsing Before Our Eyes';
and, of course, global "climate change." (More accurately, climate chaos.)
Third, I think constitutional optimists like Julian Simon wrong. I do not believe the problems that face us admit a market-based solution, or market-based solutions.
In that sense, the Market God--even though it orders "our" world--is a failure. Because the real world is coming apart at the seams!
And so, I do account Mammon a demon. A god whose failure to "order the seasons" is rapidly becoming all too clear.
Demon Mammon? | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden)
Demon Mammon? | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden)