'Capitalism feeds on religion'

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Religion has played a significant role in the economic and social development of the modern world, says acclaimed sociologist of religion Peter Berger.

Berger, a director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University in the US, was a host of the Centre for Development and Enterprise at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Monday.

Delivering a lecture titled Faith and Development: A global perspective, he argued that religion had played a major role in the development of capitalism as the most dominant economic policy in the world.

This was because religion, referring to Christianity in particular, allowed capitalism to thrive.

Berger said that religion provided certain conditions for the advancement of capitalism through the emphasis of "hard work, frugality and delayed gratification".

He argued that these characteristics allowed society to pursue individual wealth by making them entrepreneurial and encouraging people to lift themselves out of poverty.

This was despite the notion that the contemporary world was regarded as "secular" and having little or no space for religion. The modern world has, in fact, experienced an "explosion of religious fervour", said Berger.

Africa was not an exception to this phenomenon. The rise of charismatic and Pentecostalism was proof of this.

"Pentecostalism is the fastest growing movement in the history of religion," Berger added.