In an academic paper I am trying to argue that there is a stark difference between neoliberal capitalism and traditional religions (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism etc.). Do you know of any philosopher who has tackled this question?

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    See "Faith and force: destroyers of the modern world" Chapter 7 of "Philosophy: Who Needs It" by Ayn Rand.
    – alanf
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 10:26
  • Does anyone think there is not a stark difference?
    – user20253
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:11
  • @PeterJ — Oh, I've heard plenty of people argue that Capitalism is a kind of faith (Max Weber is maybe the most famous). One only needs to look at cold-war rhetoric to see people on both sides of the fence trying to enforce doctrine with all the zeal of a pentecostal preacher. Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:20
  • I see what you mean. It can often be a dogmatic ideology just as religion may sometimes be idolatory and dogma. .
    – user20253
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:33
  • Max Weber did argue that one of the main factors for the rise of capitalism is religion. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the current form of capitalism and the traditional religions differ at a deeper philosophical level of epistemology and ontology. Isn't it interesting to note that what originated from traditional religion is now threatening it?
    – Shoaib
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


The Market as God (2016) by Harvey Cox who is a theologian.


Welcome Shoaib

Would your topic change if you omitted 'capitalism' and referred simply to 'neo-liberalism' instead ? Perhaps it would - I only pose a question.

Approach via logic

One approach might be to consider if one could adopt Buddhism, Christianity or Islam and consistently support neo-liberal capitalism. E.g., is 'I am a Christian and I support neo-liberal capitalism' a contradiction ? Formally at this level of abstraction there is no contradiction but can Christianity and neo-liberal capitalism be further specified to the point where one could say whether they are mutually independent or contradictory? You could pursue this line of inquiry.

Approach via ontology

The following is one viewpoint:

... religion provides symbols, rituals, and an ethic that, taken together, give deeply satisfying answers to core ontological questions about the coherence of the universe, the purpose of human life, the nature of evil, and the reasons for suffering and death. Smith argues that Christianity provides a set of answers to these ontological questions that is deeply satisfying on an emotional level, and that is why it has been so successful across the span of history. (Penny Edgell, 'We Still Don't Know If Christianity "Works," Much Less Why: Response to Smith', Sociology of Religion, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Winter, 2008), pp. 445-452: 445; C. Smith, "Why Christianity Works: An Emotions-Focused Phenomenological Account." Sociology of Religion 68:165-78.)

For your purposes the angle here might be that neo-liberal capitalism is unconcerned with such questions and deflects attention from them. A culture that valorises neo-liberal capitalism does not interlock with one that gives central importance to the kind of ontological questions indicated. So there is not a logical contradiction but a social-psychological mismatch.

Better suggestions may well be made in other answers. Here I simply open the topic with two possible approaches. My own views don't make an appearance.

  • Thank you Geoffrey for your answer. If we look at human nature, can it be the case that neoliberal capitalism advances a notion of competitive, hedonistic, winner-take-all mentality while traditional religions focus on co-operation, self-restraint, sharing?
    – Shoaib
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:10
  • Yes, that was the kind of tension or incompatibility I was pointing to in the second part. Thanks for reading and commenting on my answer. Best : GLT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 19:14

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