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The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  14 reviews
A grand and startling work of American history

America was founded, we're taught in school, by the Pilgrims and other Puritans escaping religious persecution in Europe--an austere and pious lot who established a culture that remained pure and uncorrupted until the Industrial Revolution got in the way.

In The Money Cult, Chris Lehmann reveals that we have it backward: America
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 18th 2016 by Melville House Publishing (first published March 15th 2016)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  84 ratings  ·  14 reviews

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Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Religionising Society

Like Harold Bloom ( and Terry Eagleton (, Chris Lehmann identifies Gnosticism as the central belief of Americans, not just in terms of the theological rationalisations provided by the growing number of proponents of the uniquely American 'Prosperity Gospel', but also in terms adopted from this theology by the secular culture. It is this continuing path from religion to culture rather than any c
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
"The Money Cult"traces the development of the idea that wealth accrues to the pious, not to the corrupt, the criminal, or the already-rich. The central thesis is that religion in America has never been secularized; instead the "market was sanctified". From the early days of modern American history, Protestant settlers justified their expansionist ambitions by deciding that their material success was God-given. Lehman traces a direct line from the early Puritans through Mormons, Pentecostals, Chr ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Good treatment of the symbiotic relationship between a certain strain of Christianity that is apparent in the likes of Joel Olsteen and Creflo Dollar these days but has a long tradition in American Christianity. A mixture of prosperity gospel, market boosterism, belief that wealth equals virtue and other assorted ills that have help the pathology of the american brand of capitalism. The relationship between this mammon like form of Christianity as a bulwark of plutocracy goes back pretty far may ...more
An exploration of the associations between American capitalism and Christianity.

The author develops the thesis of what he calls the "money cult," a symbiotic and mutually reinforcing relationship between certain tenets of American Protestantism and its developing capitalistic economy. He looks fondly upon the Puritans as having a more communitarian practice; he explores what he deems the degeneration of this culture as it moves toward the more rugged individualism of the later colonial era and t
Edward Sullivan
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
A compelling work of social criticism examining the intricate ties between American Protestantism and capitalism from the colonial period to the present.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm calling this one done. I'll probably actually finish it just because I'm nearly done, but he could have said this in way less pages. There was not a lot of new information for me coming out of the "evangelical" culture. I think he's stretching trying to tie the prosperity gospel religions to the early Americans, though. Maybe the Mormons (they are the richest American domination and there's a much better book about that out there somewhere - I think it's called "The Mormon Murders"). I grew ...more
Tom Buchanan
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really takes off once it gets passed the butter churn era.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just as it is impossible to begin to understand the complicated rivalries of the Middle East without an appreciation for the crucial role that various religious faiths have long played there, so is it also difficult to comprehend American politics without an awareness of religion’s central role in the story of the United States.
Unlike in Europe, where Protestants and Catholics competed for the loyalties of its people since the outbreak of the Reformation, Protestantism early assumed a dominant r
David Dinaburg
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
A sense of trauma permeates this text; I will not let it into my mind. Though packed with information, I leave each page either despondent at the state of the world or devoid of remembrance. The minutia is impressive, but impassive; Johns and Thoms and 200 years of colonial appellations, their lifes’ arc radiating outward from their introductional interruption of the text.

I cannot handle it, I cannot absorb it. Sixty-odd pages passed before I hit a moment of textual flow:
Broadly, these millenni
Bruce Greene
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
Reading this book requires a mule and a plow. It is esoteric in the extreme. Each and every sentence and paragraph is a semantical summersault and leaves you exhausted. The conclusion of this book was entertaining but it could not save it. So here's what I thought I was getting into: A book that would follow the money - who gives, what they get for it, how it is spent and perhaps the outcomes of corruption, fraud, etc. Instead I read an evolutionary history of religion in America from the 1600's ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for The Money Cult because the introduction was incisive and prophetic - I hoped for an indictment of the modern American church's love affair with and worship of mammon. However, whatever prophetic statements Lehmann makes get lost in the mire of an excessively verbose, seemingly intentionally confusing writing style. This book could have benefited from serious editing - there's a lot of history, which is great, but not every historical piece of evidence of what formed the mode ...more
The Money Cult is broad in its scope, examining Protestant Christianity's relationship to wealth from the first settlers off the Mayflower to modern peddlers of the Prosperity Gospel like Joel Osteen. Lehmann shows how over time Protestants moved from an ambiguous attitude toward wealth, to sanctifying it, and ultimately embracing it as a sign of divine favor. Lehmann's tone is balanced and objective, at least until the final chapter when he launches a sharp (and highly entertaining) critique of ...more
Frank Ogden
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly Recommended in understanding the economics of our church.
Angie Lee
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to really like this book, I have long been fascinated as to how "good Christians" is determined by how much material wealth one accumulates without helping others. I had expected this book to touch on that a bit more based on the first few opening pages but instead I got a long winded history of how people got into church and then used their own belief system as a way of making their own little cults. I think that Lehmann makes some excellent points but a lot of it got lost in the prese ...more
Ben Vance
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Jun 15, 2019
Chad Clark
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May 15, 2017
Ken Schaefer
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Dec 12, 2016
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Campbell Shelton
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Mar 02, 2017
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Sep 29, 2017
John Van Horn
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Mitch Williams
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