Is the god of money really the problem?
by: John Tyrrell
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Traveling back to Rome from a Catholic World Youth Day in Krakow, Pope Francis explained why he did not see Islam as a source of terrorism. He stated that there are violent people in every religion, including Catholicism.
He did link religious fundamentalism to violence, however. And with respect to ISIS he said “It’s a fundamentalist group that calls itself ISIS, but it can’t be said, it’s not true, and it’s not fair, that Islam is terrorist.”
I tend to agree with Francis on this. I don't think religions are inherently violent or inherently terrorist. But on the other hand, pretty well all religions have teachings that can be used and/or interpreted by followers to support engaging in violence and terrorism. Just as they have teachings that can be used and/or interpreted by followers to support engaging in promoting charity and peace.
Francis should have stopped there. But then he went on to blame the global economy as the source of terrorism -- “ the first terrorism... terrorism at the bases.” In what has been widely interpreted as an attack on capitalism (though he did not use the word), he blamed the "god of money." Perhaps it really was intended an attack on capitalism, after all, he has attacked it in the past as did his two predecessors. But the "god of money" which the Pope sees at the center of the global economy is not necessarily capitalism -- the global economy is a mix of economic systems all of which use money -- and none of which has achieved the apparent Star Trek ideal of no money. And there is no economic system yet devised in which some individuals are not capable of accruing more than their fair share of money - and that especially includes economic systems in which religions control the economy.
Blaming the "god of money" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of money in the global economy. At heart, money enables the economy to function. It's a medium of exchange. Without money, the global economy would collapse. Trade would be limited to barter. We'd be back to the stone age.
If Francis wanted some abstract idea as the fundamental source of terrorism, money was not the right choice. What he should have said was "the god of power." Who has power? Who is powerless? What are people prepared to do to take power?
If we look at ISIS - which Francis was at pains to distinguish from the rest of Islam - we can see clearly what they want is power. They make no bones about it - they want to set up a caliphate to rule the Islamic world (and eventually subjugate the rest of us.) It's a clearly stated aim. It's all about obtaining power that they currently lack. And it's the same for most terrorist organizations, whether religiously or politically based. They want power for themselves -- and they want to take that power away from those that have it now.
Power - it's all about imposing your will on others -- something the Catholic church has been attempting to do for nearly two thousand years. Perhaps that's why Francis did not point his finger at the "god of power" as the source of the world's problems.
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