Daily Riches: Religion and Established Privilege (Thomas Merton)

Thomas Merton’s quotation on religion and privilege arrived following a national campaign with loud cheers and boisterous rallies that turn Christianity into white nationalism. “…Faith in God . . . becomes in fact faith in [one’s] own nation, class or race.”

Richer By Far

“Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and to God, easily comes to serve as the ‘opium of the people.’ And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with him. When religion becomes a mere artificial facade to justify a social or economic system–when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandists, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for this truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith…

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7 thoughts on “Daily Riches: Religion and Established Privilege (Thomas Merton)

  1. Just got to read this. Obviously it hits the nail directly on the head.

    And I fear there are some congregations of very nice, kind people who nonetheless have substituted capitalism for the teachings of Jesus.


    • Yes the oxymoron, sadness for the teachings of Jesus, and most congregations don’t know the difference. For that, I hold my clergy sisters and brothers responsible for failure preaching and teaching the gospel.


    • Carolyn, in your opinion, didn’t we all grow up this way? The challenge to undo the damage, change the paradigm by showing the juxtaposition between the teachings of Jesus and capitalism. Yes?


      • Yes, certainly. Back then, capitalism was seen as inextricably linked to democracy, and socialism was indistinguishable from communism, and both were tied to autocracy. It took me a long time to fully realize that socialism had varying degrees and was definitely not communism, and even longer to realize that capitalism was an **economic** system and democracy a **political** system, and they had nothing to do with each other. In fairness, there was less emphasis on “privatization” back then. There were private schools, but for the most part “school” still meant public (or Catholic) school. The army was the army, not a lot of greedy corporations cheating us for maximum profit every which way.

        Well, you know all this. Anyway, first I had to separate democracy from capitalism and socialism from communism before I could arrive at my current way of thinking.


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