There is an interesting article in today's ViruteOnline, the Anglican website, Capitalism and Paganism--An Intimate Connection In it, Rev. Robert J. Sanders, a theologian and former Episcopal priest, argues that the underlying principles of Capitalism and Paganism are the same, and in many ways I tend to agree with him. (yeah, big surprise, as I'm both a Capitalist and a Pagan) Our disagreement lies in whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. He believes that the nature of Pagan assumptions leads to the excesses and sins of Capitalism; I believe the opposite.
He's correct in that most Pagan paths- be they the ancient ones, such as Native American faiths, Shinto, many other Aboriginal religions, or the modern NeoPagan ones- tend to focus on this world. Most focus on works, not beliefs, as the basis for our rewards in the afterlife (if any). Most have some concept of karma, whether they use that actual word or not. A plurality, if not a majority, believe in reincarnation. Most- both old and new- have a concept of the interconnectedness of all things.
To me, this makes Pagan paths a better business model, if one thinks deeply about one's faith, and tries to apply it in life. (And if you don't, does it matter which faith you're failing to follow properly?) It makes no sense to pollute the world if you're just going to be reincarnated right back into it! If you must pay for your sins whether you believe or not, aren't you less likely to commit them? If there are karmic consequences for your actions, (whether that's cosmic karma, or merely the certainty that the interconnectedness of all things means that every action has an equal and opposite reaction), aren't you more likely to carefully consider those actions?
Rev. Sanders speaks of this worldly orientation leading to war. But concentration on the next world- be it a future worldly paradise, or an afterlife paradise- is the hallmark of totalitarianism, the real cause of war. Democracies, being focused on this world, (Hey- I could be voted out of office!) don't go to war with each other. (And don't give me any Bush/Iraq stuff- I said with each other, and Iraq was not a democracy- had it been, neither gulf war would have occurred.)
Rev. Sanders begins his summation with "In the final analysis, these problems are spiritual." I agree- but not with a spirituality that demands one "...crucify the self that frees the heart from the ,wants instincts, desires, and passions that focus on this world rather than eternal life in Christ." How about a spirituality that recognizes and deals with the wants instincts, desires, and passions that are our birthright? How about a spirituality that believes the Divine is not petty, and that if we make ourselves truly worthy of this world, we need not fear the next, whatever it might be?