Commentary: How Christianity Created Capitalism

by | Dec 24, 1999

Michael Novak’s “How Christianity Created Capitalism,” (The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1999) makes interesting fiction reading, but it totally ignores all the essential issues. The essential elements of religion are: supernaturalism (God transcends natural law), faith (as a means of gaining knowledge), and self-sacrifice (as the highest moral virtue, as exemplified by Jesus). The […]

Michael Novak’s “How Christianity Created Capitalism,” (The Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1999) makes interesting fiction reading, but it totally ignores all the essential issues.

The essential elements of religion are: supernaturalism (God transcends natural law), faith (as a means of gaining knowledge), and self-sacrifice (as the highest moral virtue, as exemplified by Jesus).

The essential elements of capitalism are: natural law including the law of cause and effect, reason as man’s means of gaining knowledge, and egoism (the selfish pursuit of profit). If religion were still dominant in this country, we would still be living in the middle ages (like Iran is today).

We should thank Thomas Aquinas, not because he was religious, but for helping to free the western mind from religious dogma and opening the road to secularism, freedom and unlimited progress.

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Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is: EdwinLocke.com

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