“A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.” — Jonathan Swift
On Sunday, the Personal Finance blogosphere went into a tizzy over a guest post at Get Rich Slowly, a popular blog written by J.D. The guest blogger, from Free Money Finance (FMF) wrote about why he thinks a person’s religion should impact their finances and readers (132 of them) chimed in with a plethora of views.
Let me set the proper stage by having FMF explain how the topic came up. He writes, “Recently J.D. and I were emailing back and forth discussing a possible guest post on the topic of religion and money. I cover the issue every Sunday on my blog and I tossed out several ideas I thought were worthwhile. Then J.D. said something that decided the issue. He wrote: ‘I’ve intentionally kept my political and religious leanings obscure at Get Rich Slowly — they have no bearing on personal finance.’ ”
“Ahhh, but they do — or at least the religious leanings do. So I’d like to discuss why I think a person’s religion should impact their finances.”
FMF continues on with his point, “Every religion has a set of principles detailing how a person should behave, worship God, treat others and the like. For each of these principles, a context could be (and most likely will be) experienced where money is injected into a situation that challenges a person to either follow or ignore these principles. In other words, how a person reacts with his money in a given situation often is fundamentally tied to whether or not he’s actually following his religious practices — it’s a visible, outside indication of his true belief in the principles of his religion. Therefore, it follows that our religious beliefs should significantly impact how we handle our finances.”
One commenter named Brad writes, “Please do not confuse faith and morality. All of the tenants you talked about above are fundamental parts of morality. One need not be religious to understand right from wrong, good from bad. While I understand that some people look to a holy text to gain understanding and a stronger sense of morality, others (such as myself) rely on an internal compass, as well as the examples set for us by society. I don’t need to go to church to know that it is right to help the needy, donate to charities, etc.”
“I’m sure the author absolutely didn’t have any intention of starting an uproarious religious debate on this site. And I agree with the above posters. This article is “only a little offensive.” Please simply take care not to bootstrap religion and morality. I’ve had more than my fair share of life experiences where someone implied I was the token immoral atheist. Being an atheist and being a “good person” are not mutually exclusive.”
John, another commenter writes, “I don’t really see what this post has to do with personal finance at all. It’s unfortunate to see it on an otherwise great and informative blog. Matters of faith and matter of money, regardless of what the author attempted to prove, have nothing to do with one another. The author is making religious arguments on a finance blog, one: that religion and morality are mutually exclusive (Which they are NOT – basic human morality preceded the Christian age by at least 3000 years with the Babylonian and Sumerian cultures, then later with anicent Egyptian cultures. Furthermore, there are plenty of friendly atheists and agnostics out there).”
“Two: The author indicates that the Bible contains some generalized axiomatic statements about handling finances. How useful these are in the face of solid and specific monetary advice dealing with the modern age is up to the reader…I would rather have a copy of The Intelligent Asset Allocator over the bible any day (or at the very least, for axiomatic advice… Ben Franklins Poor Richards Almanac, and that was written by a Deist who understood all too well the divisions between church and state).”
“As a reader looking for solid financial advice, it’s kind of annoying to see a “Christian” perspective where it really doesn’t belong. I could go to Church for that.”
A few other bloggers continued the discussion on their sites including David on Finance and Gather Little by Little. Back at Get Rich Slowly some of the comments spiraled into Christian-bashing and missed the point of FMF’s post. After all, a personal finance blog is supposed to be “personal” and if someone’s personal faith influences how they think about money, aren’t they free to write about it. I’m not a religious person, but even I read FMF’s blog from time to time and when he starts quoting scripture, I typically skim over those passages much the same way I skim an article written by Suze Orman where she assumes all women are idiots when it comes to money. Move on, right?
Money is personal… how we make it, spend it, invest it, use it, abuse it, entrust it, etc. Look at any financial best seller and the author dishes out advice based on their belief system. For example, Dave Ramsey bases the ideas in The Total Money Makeover on his Christian faith. Even though I’m not a believer, I’ve always given the Christians an A+ for trying to help eliminate the ills of our consumerism culture. We can all learn from each other.
I understand where FMF is coming from when he tries to represent as a specific segment of the population. Try writing a queer blog about finances… we regularly get hate-mail from people that disapprove of our lifestyle. Delete and move on, right?
I once had an email exchange about Queercents with a financial writer from MSN Money and he was confused as to why we needed a personal finance site for gay people. He writes, “That’s an interesting concept but I wonder — are personal finance issues for gays and lesbians really that different from say Chinese, stock brokers or people who live in Baltimore, i.e. any other sub-category of the population?”
He makes a valid point: Money is money. Of course gays and straights experience many similarities with money issues but there are differences for queers and these often revolve around marriage, children and protecting assets. Queercents gives the LGBT community a destination that addresses finances from a perspective that we can identify with… one that’s missing from the mainstream. For example, have you ever seen a queer couple profiled in the Fidelity newsletter?
Free Money Finance gives Christians a place to go for money principles based on a specific interpretation of the Bible. And as Seinfeld might add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”
Can’t we all make money, blog about it and get along? What do you think?