Calvinism; the Catalyst to Capitalism
Max Weber, one of the “Holy Trinity” founders of sociology, believes that Capitalism was created from the religious practice of Calvinists. He states that the Calvinistic belief in predestination evolved to form a culture where people would interpret materialistic gains as a sign of divine favor. Thus, they tried their best to become materially successful in order to assure themselves of a blissful destiny in the hereafter.
Calvinism, in short, is a major branch of Protestantism, which in turn is a major branch of Christianity. It stems from the theological beliefs of John Calvin, a famous French theologian of the 15th century. The five major components to this branch of Christianity are: total depravity (every person is born sinful), unconditional election (predestination), limited atonement (Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and what it accomplished), irresistible grace (God will save those who he has determined to save), and perseverance of the saints (the divine will cannot be corrupted by mankind).
Weber derived his opinion from unconditional election. Unconditional election, or predestination, is completely incongruent with rational religious principles. Basically, what predestination is stating is that God has determined before the creation of mankind, which people will be blessed with heaven and which people will be condemned to hell. This decision is not based on the beliefs or actions of these individuals, rather completely on the divine will. Hence, considering this belief, one’s actions in the world would be devoid of purpose because they would not have any bearing on his hereafter.
Therefore, predestination is rejected by Shia theologians as being contrary to divine wisdom and divine justice. It is possible that this belief arose from a misconception about divine knowledge = knowledge which is all-encompassing and not bound by time or space.
But, Weber falsely valued the effect that predestination has on one’s actions. When one believes in predestination he will realize that all of his actions and beliefs are completely irrelevant to what will happen to him in the next life. He can be a saint in the world but be condemned to hell or a heinous criminal and blessed with heaven.
This belief would make one lazy and would deprive one of all motivation to be religious. It would not translate into people believing that material gain in the world equates with divine favor and therefore if one becomes financially successful due to his hard work and diligence he will in turn be rewarded heaven. This misinterpretation of religion is common amongst non-seminary laymen who mascarade themselves as scholars.