Selling Salvation V: An Economy of Spirit

In my last post, I suggested that philanthropism — giving away goods, services, and knowledge, rather than selling them — was a more ethical choice, and one which could be viable even in the modern capitalist world economy.  Many thriving organizations — charities, non-profits, and open-source organizations — give away their work for free, subsisting only on donations of money and labor.  And plenty of small, tribe-sized economies have existed without money or trade in the past.  But could the whole modern world really run this way?

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Selling Salvation IV: Philanthropism

In my last post on this topic (Selling Salvation III:  Property and Prostitution) I talked about the ethics of trade — the free market exchange — and suggested that buying and selling anything is inherently, at the deepest level, an act of disrespect.

druidzodiacWhy? In brief, when you buy or sell something, you’re saying, “You’re worth $X to me.”  This demeans it.  You’ve bleached out its essential uniqueness and inherent absolute worth, and given it a value on a dollar scale.  In unfettered capitalism, everything is placed on a dollar scale, everthing becomes a commodity, and everything — including sex, work, life, and salvation — is valued only in the marketplace.

But the other extreme — living without trade — presents problems for daily living, because the exchange of goods is the foundation of the modern economy.  While capitalism is far from perfect, it has some serious moral and practical advantages over other economic systems used in the past (all of which relied heavily on the use of overt physical violence).  What alternative is there?

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Selling Salvation III: Property and Prostitution

Suppose you know the Meaning of Life.  Would it be moral sell that information to the highest bidder?

becomedeathA year ago, in “Selling Salvation:  How Much is it Worth?”, I pointed out that the great religious leaders of the past — Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mohammed — had given Salvation away for free, to anyone who would listen.  Shouldn’t we follow their example?

Quite apart from that, I argued that a free market in religious ideas (or any kind of information) tends to drive prices down to zero.  I decided that it was not only probably immoral to sell information; it was, in the long run, almost impossible.  Therefore, immediately, I started offering everything on my site for free.

Amazingly enough, I haven’t gone broke — on the contrary, I’m doing quite well.  How can this be?

I’ll explain.  But first:  prostitution.  Trust me, it’s relevant.

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Selling Salvation II: Setting a Price for Your Product

A glance at the comments on the previous post shows what a complex topic this is; it easily merits a follow-up.  For this article, I’m going to focus on the conundrum facing the individual who is trying to set a price for mediumship/life-coaching/therapy/etc.  The economics are much more interesting than selling physical commodities, or even regular services like lawn-mowing or waiting tables.

simplemagicWarning!  I’m not an economist; I’m just a thoughtful guy who’s interested in economics, and has read and thought a lot about this problem.  If you want to try out my advice here, I suggest doing it first in a small inconspicuous area where a permanent stain won’t show…

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Selling Salvation: How Much is it Worth?

Mercy is calling you, won’t you give heed?
Must the dear Savior still tenderly plead?
Risk not your soul, it is precious indeed;
What would you give in exchange for your soul?
What would you give? What would you give?
What would you give in exchange for your soul?
Oh, if today God should call it away,
What would you give in exchange for your soul?

(Bluegrass standard; lyrics by FJ Berry)

How much is salvation worth? In dollars?

No, really, I’m serious. How much would you pay? And I’m not just addressing those Christians and others who believe in literal salvation; I’m talking about ultimate spiritual fulfillment in whatever belief system you follow.

FireAndWaterAnd I’m talking about hard cold cash here. Imagine you’ve got a dollar bill: you can put it towards a loaf of bread, you can put it towards college, and now you can put it towards Nirvana. Your choice. How many dollars would you be willing to pay?[Continue Reading…]