America and the world are currently dealing with an economic crisis. Religious leaders love a good economic crisis because when people are desperate, they are willing to believe anything. This week’s Washington Post “On Faith” topic is: A faith-based economy?
America is being separated religiously and politically by battles over the economy. “Americans who believe strongly in God’s plan,” according to a recently released Baylor University study, “are much more likely to believe that ‘the government is intrusive’ and that ‘healthy people don’t deserve unemployment benefits.’” Daniel Burke of Religion News Service, wrote earlier this year that “moral arguments against excessive borrowing are getting a new hearing among Christians already anxious about the economy.” Does religion play a role in our economic policies? Should it?
There is a fundamental difference between the way some religious believers view government’s role in the econemy and the way many atheists view government role in the economy. For the believer, Governments are instituted by evil sinners. But they derive their authority from God. So when it comes to the economy, Godly people are better off without the middleman of government. I think this is I think why many religious believers believe that government is in their way.
On the other side, many atheists like me see it a different way. I think that governments are instituted by the people in order to use our collective power to make the world around us a better place for everyone. Government is a tool created and used by the people for our mutual benefit. The problem comes in when we forget that and focus on our individual greed and desires. So when it comes to the economy, I would rather the government step in and help those in need so that they can get back on their feet and make their lives better and that betterment ends up helping everyone.
But what does the Bible say? Well, it depends on what verses you read. There are some religious believers who claim that God rewards the just with riches on Earth and in Heaven. This is the root of the Prosperity Gospel. The supporters of this movement cite various verses such as, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 25:14-30, John 10:10, Philippians 4:19, and 3 John 1:2 (source Wikipedia).
On the flip side, the case could just as easily be made that the opposite is true and that people should give away all their money. To support this point of view, one can cite Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:24, Matthew 13:22, Matthew 19:21-24, Luke 12:33, Luke 14:33.
So depending on what verses you read, the Bible either supports the view that God rewards those who have everything or that God rewards those who have nothing. Personally, I think it is much more reasonable to live somewhere in the middle. When people have a comfortable amount more than need, they tend to be happier. Often times too much money will make people greedy, callous, and wasteful while too little money almost always increases stress and causes a host of other problems. Government can help to strengthen the middle class and reduce the poverty rate for everyone’s benefit. To do that, we have to stop the ultra-wealthy from corrupting the system for their own greed. Making churches pay their fair share wouldn’t hurt either.
Please check out the Atheism 101 series for frequently asked topics.
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