Taylor: The world’s greatest religion

…religions…refer to belief in some kind of controlling power…author Harari describes [one belief as]…“the greatest conqueror in history.”

The world’s dominant religion is not belief in Jesus, with some 2.3 billion adherents. Nor is it belief in Mohammed, with about 1.5 billion. It is belief in money—and it counts 7.3 billion people as its disciples.

Wait a minute, you’re saying, money isn’t a religion.

Look up definitions of religion. They will all refer to belief in some kind of controlling power and to a set of commonly agreed upon convictions which affect the worshippers’ conduct and behaviour.

Fits money, doesn’t it?

In his massive overview of human existence, Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari describes money as “the greatest conqueror in history.”

“Money,” Harari goes on, “is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation.”

We don’t know who first introduced money as a vehicle for exchanging goods and services. We do know that there is no nation on Earth today that doesn’t use money. Even those that despise free-market economics happily use capitalist currency.

Yet money doesn’t actually exist. “Money is not coins and banknotes,” says Harari. “Cowry shells and dollars have value only in our common imagination. Their worth is not inherent in the chemical structure of the shells and paper, or their colour, or their shape. In other words, money isn’t a material reality—it is a psychological construct.”

He’s right. I rarely pay cash anymore. For anything. Most often, I use a little plastic card. I pay bills from my computer. I transfer money by e-mail. Even a cheque is not money; it’s merely an assurance that someone’s account has enough imaginary money in it to cover its face value.

You don’t even need real cheques now. You can deposit digital photos of cheques.

Money works only because we agree to treat it as if it were real.

Harari calls money a system of trust. I think the whole system is based on faith.

Some people disdain religion because it deals with convictions that cannot be empirically rested and verified. Exactly the same can be said of money.

Nations worship their Gross Domestic Product, the calculated total value of their goods, services and assets. When the GDP rises, we sing hallelujahs; when it declines, we panic about recession.

Only tiny Bhutan, sealed among the peaks of the Himalayas, with a population roughly matching Winnipeg’s, rejects the GDP. In 1972, it declared its own Gross National Happiness Index. Which is mostly subjective.

We don’t really know how to measure value—except through money.

How do you measure the value of clean water? The euphoria of falling in love? The exhilaration of sliding down a mountain on skis? The satisfaction of a stimulating conversation?

Oh, sure, we know how to measure the negative side. The cost of falling out of love, of going through a bitter divorce. The price of purifying water, of cleaning up toxic spills. The cost of lift tickets, or of teachers’ salaries.

But we have no objective way of assigning a value to the cleanness of a lake or river. To a goodnight kiss. To an unexpected insight. To a moment of sheer delight.

As the ads say, such things are priceless.

Just Posted

Two Okanagan cities listed in Top 20 “rattiest” list

Rats. The Okanagan has them and they’re really a problem in two cities, according to this list.

Kelowna transit to adopt NextRide technology

Technology to reduce time lost waiting for the bus

Kelowna golf tournament donates to end world hunger

The second annual Swing to End World Hunger is April 28

Accepting nominations for first business awards

The Grant Thornton LLP Thompson Okanagan Business Excellence Awards takes place in June

Kelowna gallery exhibition features relic-like art

Immaculate Deception, by Penticton artist Johann Wessels, will be displayed until July

Peppa Pig draws a crowd

Okanagan toddlers squirming with excitement over Peppa Pig

Issues split Trump and Macron, handshakes and kisses aside

Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron professed a sunny, best-friends relationship

How hospitals prepare for mass-casualty incidents

Code Orange alerts explained following the Toronto van attack

Jury to deliberate after Cosby painted as predator

A jury of seven men and five women are to decide actor Bill Cosby’s fate

Memorial to victims of Toronto van attack continues to grow

The subway station where a van was used to run down pedestrians has reopened in Toronto

Small aircraft touches down on Calgary street

The twin-engine plane was apparently short on fuel forcing an emergency landing

South Okanagan woman allegedly had 6-years of SPCA complaints

Penticton woman is set to go to trial on animal cruelty charges on Thursday in provincial court

Okanagan College students show skill

Trio clean up at provincial Skills Canada competition

B.C.’s living wage increase curbed due to MSP cuts, child care subsidy: report

Living wage varies between $16.51 in north central B.C. to $20.91 in Metro Vancouver

Most Read