Purity condemns filth; piety disparages corruption. Amassing riches offered to a transcendental world, the priests of ancient faiths found themselves trapped in contradiction. By loaning out their resources to merchants, they made themselves pariahs to true prophets. Before Islam squared the circle, bringing capital mobility and credit creation into coexistence with devotion, religion stymied merchant capitalism. Spread through trade, Islam's innovations in commerce soothed the path to coexistence of credit and faith globally. Had a second form of capitalism - technological capitalism - not emerged, binding science to innovation, harmony between faith and capitalism would have prevailed. However, scientific advances deepen on empirical evidence that is buttressed by critical debate, which is anathema to powerful elites in countries saturated with religious nationalism. Consequently, easy cooperation between capitalism and religion is blocked in these lands, and so their potential for economic progress withers. Thus, many of these states, trapped in the invidious stranglehold of religion, are condemned to sustained poverty.
Part One: Predation, Fire and Prices 1. Idealism and Materialism in Economic History 2. Axial Thought Traditions: From Heroic Myth to Social Control 3. The Pendulum Swing in the Greek Axial Age 4. God as King in Jewish Monotheism 5. Predation, Gift Exchange, and Markets in the Roman Empire 6. One God, One Emperor Part Two: Merchant Capitalism 7. Islamic Merchant Capitalism 8. The Pendulum Swings of the High and Late Medieval West 9. Mercantilism and the Pendulum Swing 10. Japanese Merchant Capitalism Part Three: Technological Capitalism 11. The Pendulum Swing in Natural Philosophy 12. Nationalism and Imperialism Part Four: Implications 13. Religious Nationalism and Technological Capitalism 14. Religious Civil War and the Religion Trap 15. Conclusions