Nov 8, 2011

Religion and the Marketplace conference report

Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Philip Goff, of Indiana University-Purdue Indiana, then issued the challenge of the conference: “What we are doing here,” Goff said, “is turning the table 90 degrees, and looking specifically at what scholars often off-handedly use as a metaphor.”

Starting the first panel of the day was R. Laurence Moore, of Cornell University, the author of one of the major works on the subject, Selling God: American Religion and the Marketplace of Culture. Moore examined the way economic standards and values are baptized by religion. Looking at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, Moore noted that prayer is understood as a market strategy, and “the measures of profit and loss remain the same.” Even Osteen’s megachurch itself, Moore argued, is a place both of prayer and commerce without, apparently, any sense of cognitive dissonance. Mark Valeri, of Union Presbyterian Seminar, continued with a look at the way Evangelicalism gave rise to American capitalism, making it possible in the eighteenth-century colonies. Valeri criticized Max Weber’s seminal theory, using more developed idea of markets, which points to the importance of the public sphere. It’s only with the emergence of a public sphere that capitalism is established, as Jürgen Habermas has demonstrated, Valeri argued, and the public sphere in early America was formed by the discourse of Evangelicals.

The full report on "Religion and the Marketplace in the US," is @ American Studies Heidelberg