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From Christianity to Capitalism and Back - the Story of a Homeless Man

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From Christianity to Capitalism and Back:

The Story of a Homeless Man

An Essay

Within the past couple of centuries, the man of the developed western society has found himself within the doorsteps of a new world that would not include the old promise of an everlasting shelter, which would protect him against the harshness of the real world. He has found himself in the house of the nonbeliever. Religion has lost all credibility with the development and expansion of reason and science, which have acted as catalysts in the rate of secularization (William Barrett, 1990: 24-29), or the process of separation of Religion from state. All that once gave human beings hope, has slowly eroded with the introduction of the more efficient and more productive system of capitalism. Movies such as The Passion of the Christ are now looked more as science fiction than as a part of our Christian heritage and books like The Da Vinci Code further dissolve any doubts left that there might be some true in the Bible. During this process of intense secularization, man has lost his shelter, his truth and his sense of meaning; he is now homeless. A term that Martin Buber uses to describe not a lack of physical shelter, but psychological (1938; 148-166). Insecurity, anxiety, despair and the feeling of being alienated and isolated from that, which made one feel secure are the substantial characteristics of the state of homelessness. Another term for this concept of chaos is Peter Berger's anomy, which describes the nature of a system dominated by no system; where one has escaped or fallen out of the perimeters of the sacred nomos and has found the truth within the anomy (1967; 23). The truth being that his nomos, his shelter is merely a man made machine created with the single objective of bestowing meaning to the purposeless human world. Outside of this human constructed reality, with which man has surrounded himself, he experiences his encounter with nothingness. A term used by William Barrett to describe the process of how man was stripped off from everything that made sense in his life with the degradation of religion (1990; 23-41). He is now lost, because all, which he believed in and all, which he has build to protect him from the anomy has failed him. And this is the point where, as George Steiner predicts, man is nostalgic for the absolute (1974; Chapter 1). He longs for the totality of the lost system. With the severe degradation of religion, man is now in a state of homelessness, where he is desperately looking to construct a new reality that would bring meaning into his life. This reality takes the form of capitalism, but when this system fails too, man finds himself truly homeless.

The first step that man makes when he finds himself in a state of anomy, or close to its margins is to begin the construction of a new nomos, which would be more appropriate for him. Berger calls this step externalization, or when man makes society (1967; 4). Externalization is the process of bestowing meaning upon the meaningless, labeling and naming the world according to the standards of the new system and bringing order by creating a nomos out of the anomy. The anomy being a world of chaos and anxiety. Man must first create and name his world and then begin his new life within the nomos. An example of a man assembling his nomos would be the breakdown of Christianity as worldwide belief system and the immediate birth of capitalism as a replacement program. As Religion is already no longer capable of sheltering man from the truth, Protestantism, capitalism and the sciences arise questions, which the closed system of Christianity is unable to give solutions to. Phenomenons begin being clarified by pure reason and the use of scientific knowledge; the example of the thunderstorm no longer being represented as God's fury, but as a specific physical condition. Nevertheless with the collapse of Religion, man never really becomes homeless, because capitalism gradually takes over man's life. Secularization is a continuing process, which started with Martin Luther posting his 95 theses against the power-abusing Church in 1517, which also marks the beginning of the Reformation. That was a movement, which intended to restructure the Roman Catholic Church and instead it resulted in the split of the faith in many different sub-mythologies, one of them Protestantism, from which capitalism originated. As to work, save and expand use to be parts of Protestantism, they became the foundations of capitalism. The calculating and enterprising mind of man used the deterioration of the nomos, Religion, to progressively replace it with a new, better suited one, that would make up for the flaws of the previous one. Thus it was upon the shoulders of the fathers of capitalism to legitimize the new nomos, or as Berger explains to give meaning and purpose of each of the factors that plays a role within the new system (1967; 29-31). For man, the legitimation was ultimate, he became the most important factor of production and he found his purpose as the money-maker . Thus as the Religion ceased being capable of explaining certain factors within it, and the faith of its followers declined, man became conscious that Christianity was just a man-made world, which protected him against the harshness of reality; or more like a blindfold, which hid the real world from his sight. If that reality has been exposed, man would comprehend that the truth is contained within the anomy in which he has found himself. But he cannot live with the truth that there is no rationale for his existence, which he must create for himself. Before he becomes homeless he will strive to create a new society and a new culture; he will produce laws and regulations, which will govern the latest reality and lastly he will establish dogmas and rites (Barrett, 1990: 23-41), which will serve as a constant reminder to man of the nomos. As Barrett states, man will always forget, it is in his nature, therefore he must constantly be reminded of the laws upon which his nomos was build. If man does forget he is destined to fall back into anomy, in his state of homelessness, which would eventually drive him mad.

The second stage of the reality construction is objectivation (Berger, 1967: 4), which is defined by the role of society as an oppressor. The world, which man has constructed, becomes his master and he becomes a puppet on a string, playing a role of his own script. During the objectivation of capitalism, man starts pursuing his own self-interests, for the reason that capitalism promotes exactly that. The instinct for self-preservation takes over, as capitalism cannot promise salvation, therefore man looks out for his own interests. What matters is what happens now, not after. Money, profit becomes the new shelter against terror

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