Religious Extremists Beyond Compare


A flare at ExxonMobil oil refinery.

Oil and finance executives will hide the truth about their products for as long as we let them. These religious extremists worship the false idol of money. Above, a flare at an ExxonMobil oil refinery. Credit: CreativeCommons / Kristian Dela Cour.

We live in an age of terrifying high-definition spectacles, with beheadings and massacres some of the horrors that fill us all with fear and dread.
These gruesome spectacles have profound side effects on our perspective. They obscure the brutality and terror caused by our bombs and drones and they distract our attention from those predators who cause suffering on a far grander scale than any jihadists.
These grander predators wear power suits. They run our largest banks and corporations. They run them recklessly. The financial industry frauds that nearly collapsed the world’s economy left behind, according to the best estimates, at least 5,000 suicides, to say nothing of the millions of people who lost their jobs and homes. We have auto industry execs who value profit over safety, defense contractors who pound the drums for military engagement, private prison company chiefs who lobby to keep their cells full.
I consider all these power suits religious extremists. They worship money.
I know the pain money-worshippers can cause first-hand. I worked as a respiratory therapist for thirty-five years. I’ve witnessed the ravages the tobacco companies wrought in their continuing quest to addict as many people as possible to their deadly products. The memories will haunt me for the rest of my life: the emphysema patients struggling for every breath, the throat-cancer patients in intensive care, undergoing brutal surgery that severely disfigured their necks and faces, that often ripped away their vocal chords.
Tobacco corporation executives hid the truth about their toxic products for as long as they could. They surely rank as among the most murderous terrorists in human history — and they did it all for the money.
But these money-worshipping killers at Big Tobacco may now have to play second fiddle to an even more deadly corporate crew, the executives who run fossil fuel companies, our world’s richest corporations. Their chase after ever greater wealth is disrupting the very fabric of life on Earth. Tobacco executives hid the truth. Fossil fuel executives are sowing doubt and confusion about the scientifically established fact of man-made global warming.
In the meantime, amid the inaction against global climate change, our planetary life support system withers. We face consequences of catastrophic proportion.
Our corporate money worshippers often attend services at churches and synagogues. But they worship during the workweek at the altar of money, and we, the 99 percent, have become their sacrificial lambs. Like a drug addict looking for a fix they spend their lives rigging the system in their never-ending quest for greater and greater wealth — the rest of us be damned.
Addictions can be incredibly powerful. We all know that. But can you imagine being so addicted to money that you would be willing to endanger your planet to get your next fix?
We can’t wait for these addicts to seek help. All of us, the 99 percent, need to force the 1 percent to break their addiction. So let us plan an intervention — and act soon. We cannot wait for the 1 percent to hit bottom. Their bottom would be too disastrous for the rest of us.
In the grand scheme of things, after all, Al Qaeda can’t really compare with Altria, the new moniker for Philip Morris. And ISIS/ISIL can’t hold a candle to the likes of ExxonMobil.

Jeff Vogel is a retired respiratory therapist, New York-based labor activist and a member of the New York City Labor Chorus.

6 thoughts on “Religious Extremists Beyond Compare

  1. ……not to mention monsanto/agribusiness, chemical manufacturers, logging and mining companies and drug companies………all connected through their handymen, the Politicians………….and even the 99%, tied up by multiple strings to all of the above…………having also become addicted to our tragic dependency on the power mongers…………..i fear that ALL of us, almost 100%, need to kick our dependency and start over from scratch to create real life again on this planet………………probably the greatest challenge of all of our lives………..

  2. Money worship is not a religion, but a symptom. It is the result of materialism; of a desire for more stuff, whether out of a misconception of personal property as a source of security, or as a means to anticipated satisfaction – a satisfaction that usually turns out to be shallow and ephemeral.
    We are all, at least occasionally, money-worshipers. The ones we call the one percent are perhaps the most blatant, but we are all equally guilty by our tacit approval of the system, and more so by our (usually) unprotesting participation.
    There is no them. There is only us, the “100 percent.” When we “99 percent” break our own addictions to money, the most strongly-addicted one percent will no longer be able to support their own habits.

  3. Jeff hits the nail square on, that money worshipers are more destructive than religion-inspired terrorists – and that’s saying a lot. But as Jeff points out, the money lusters’ reach is more destructive by far than the isolated violence of the Al Qaeda, ISIS, and so forth.
    Jesus names Mammon as totally incompatible with God. Jesus says in strong terms that if one loves God, one will hate mammon, and if one loves mammon, one will hate God (Matthew 6:24 and elsewhere). So Jesus discusses God and Mammon in the same context of worship.
    And what is Mammon? It is Aramaic for money or wealth. Or to state it more plainly, the lust for money, a perversion of exchange. Just as sex in a right sense is mutual exchange, so money can be an exchange between the farmer who needs shoes, and the shoemaker who needs bread. But exploitation, or accumulation for power, or drivenness, is a form of lust, addiction, and idolatry that insults God’s creative purpose for life and community, and is extraordinarily destructive. And this money lust is a driving force in this world that is destroying future viability on this planet.

  4. The lust for acquisition of wealth runs deep. It will be difficult to counter it, but we’d better!!

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