Archive for the ‘Religion and Business’ Category

A Baylor University survey on religion indicates that 32% of entrepreneurs say they practice meditation, while just 22% of non-entrepreneurs say they do. Concerning prayer, the figures are 34% and 27%, respectively. The difference on meditation dwarfs that on prayer. Furthermore, I would have expected the percentage on meditation (32%) to be lower relative to prayer (34%). What is the deal on entrepreneurship and meditation?

One entrepreneur claims that meditation helps her reduce fear and be calmer and more creative. Another cited his desire to get in touch with his inner self. According to Ken Pargament at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, “Entrepreneurs have a strong sense they can take matters into their own hands. But they also face risk, unpredictability and uncertainty. Prayer and meditation can be important resources for people who are trying to achieve a lot and yet still face the reality that there is only so much they can control.” In fact, praying to a deity can give one the illusion of additional control, thus reducing stress. Indeed, the prosperity gospel movement holds that God wants to reward those with “true belief” with material wealth. An entrepreneur believing that he has true belief might thus be more willing to put his money at risk in a new venture without so much fear of loss. While this may be so for some entrepreneurs, I suspect that a deeper connection exists between entrepreneurship and prayer/meditation.

Risk-takers may be motivated to take risks at least in part from a desire to experience the feeling of excitement that comes with the adrenaline. This motivation may be to avoid feeling nothing, which may come with a hackneyed or even banal daily routine. A motivation to experience life with a heightened intensity, such as through a risk-induced rush, can also motivate one to experience a intense religious experience wherein sensitivity is heightened. Meditation or sustained prayer can, if isolated and sufficiently intense, proffer an increased sensitivity even in one’s daily life. In other words, isolating existence itself for periods of time can result in experience itself being enriched. Both entrepreneurship and an active prayer/meditation regime may satisfy a person’s desire to feel more.

If evil is a lack of being, then the operative motive may be to move toward a greater experience to the divine in the world—obviating the feeling of emptiness by ginning up sensitivity in one’s experiencing of daily life by a practice of concentration transcending the banal world through prayer or meditation. The emptiness to be avoided—the sin—is perhaps felt not just in boredom, but also within. In other words, risk-taking, prayer and meditation may all be fillers. Economic and religious activity may be interpreted as efforts to feel more of being in experience. If so, it should be no surprise to find entrepreneurs seeking religious experience. I would expect them to feel and act from a greater sensitivity while at work—that is, to be more compassionate as a result of their inner-felt heightened sensitivity to experience. Rather than being from an ethic or a sense of corporate social responsibility, the compassion would be innate, stemming from a heightened sensitivity that results from a regular practice of intense prayer or meditation wherein experience itself is isolated and transcended. Paradoxically, experiences in the world, even at work, are enriched as one is more sensitive to experience itself from having transcended it.


Cathy Lynn Grossman, “Meditation Appeals to Entrepreneurs,” USA Today, September 20, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/story/2011-09-20/god-meditate/50470354/1





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Hanna Rosin has written a piece called, “Did Christianity cause the crisis?” in The Atlantic (vol. 304, issue 5, pp. 38-48).  She describes the current prosperity gospel, which, it seems, contributed to the sub-prime mortgage collapse and ensuing financial crisis.  Unhinged from their economic realities, many evangelical Christians who had hitherto only been able to rent decided to go for huge houses because “nothing is impossible with God,” and “God makes the true believers wealthy.”  These Christians could cite 2 John 2: “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health.”  Unlike the Christian emphasis on virtues such as self-discipline and industriousness that characterized the evangelical titans of the Gilded Age such as John D. Rockefeller, the modern evangelical relies on grace as a kind of spiritual luck applying to risky financial activities.  Little attention was paid to the predatory mortgage-lending industry, which would make contributions to the megachurches for each congregant who signed up for a sub-prime.  Hence pastors preached the believer’s right to the good life as if Jesus had been a friend of money (ignoring what he did to the money-changers).   In any case, the irrational exuberance of the housing bubble may have had in it a component of irrationalism from religion–people taking leave of their senses (and their responsibilities) and being utterly blind to it under the subterfuge of a divine sanction. 

Stepping back to grasp the phenomenon from the perspective of the religion, it strikes me that the too close a friendship between Christianity and the good life eviscerates the distance between the faith and the world.  In other words, the Kingdom of God penetrates the world rather than acts as a check or alternative.  No longer are the last first and the first, last.  No longer is there an eye of the needle for the camel–rather, the doors are wide open.  And no longer must the rich man walk away from his treasure to follow Jesus.   God and mammon effectively fuse,  adding power to self-centeredness by clothing it in gilded robes.   This is particularly evident in the preachers–the scandals alone, such as that of Jim and Tami, attest that something has been amiss.   In other words, there is something downright odd about a minister or pastor living in luxury: Christianity become too convenient for its own good. 

Stepping back even further: Is it inevitable that a religion goes through a life-cycle of sorts during which it becomes decreasingly distinct and increasingly feckless vis a vis the world?   If so, are we witnessing perhaps the final centuries of Christianity?

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