Protestantism made its mark on the world in part due to its superior productive powers that began to really take off following the 30 Years’ War. The decline of Spain and later the Habsburg Empire, followed by the rises of Germany, England, and the other northern European states marked a major change in the character of European civilization and the nature of work.
The Protestant Work Ethic, as understood by Max Weber, has since come to fade, along with Protestantism more generally. More congregations have either become indistinguishable from secular progressives, or have otherwise ceased to even continue to exist.
What has replaced it, at least in spiritual similarity, is the TED revivalist sentiment towards work. TED actually stands for:
Perhaps not so oddly enough, these are the areas in which Americans are supposed to be working in, the occupations that are the high-status occupations, none of which involve much of any physical labor. Instead, all that work has to do with the mind and the spirit, without getting ones’ hands dirty.
The old industrial economy, in a previous eruption of spiritual concern with the environmentalist movement, was deemed impossibly sinful. This is one of the reasons why much of it, at least in terms of manpower intensive work, has been sent overseas: it has less to do with real efficiency, and more to do with regulatory arbitrage and tax efficiency. It’s better to manage those enormous factories overseas in China because the laws and some other factors make it tougher to do in the US and in other European countries.
Young progs, unlike the old prots, will declare themselves wholly dedicated to their work, which they are ‘passionate’ about, and which they consider to be a sacred ‘mission’ guided by a ‘vision’ from their corporate leader, with a motivation beyond money. They are screened for this sort of language at university and by interviewers, who are keen to sift out unbelievers who might just be looking for a good job that will help them bring some money home for the missus and the little ones.
Protestants believed that, through disciplined work, they glorified God. They did not believe that gleaming ikons glorified the trinity, but they did think that hard work and frugality did.
TED revivalists believe that, through innovative mind-work, they glorify the world through good works, with no special divine mission. Their demonstrated ecstasy, passion, and belief in their corporate mission is what glorifies them, and perhaps the company that they work for, giving their employer’s logo a special kind of spiritual numina.
Any material or familial obligations have been mostly forgotten. In fact, if you’re multiple-times TED speaker Elizabeth Gilbert, part of what you glorify is your abandonment of your family obligations, and your pursuit of self-glorification, rather than bringing glory to God.
Christopher Lasch might say that this is another indicator that the better sorts of person have put an image of themselves up as an object of worship, rather than a God: a rather odd form of idolotry. At least worship a cow or a pig. Much less unseemly.
The TED congregants already believe that they are among the Elect, behaving and speaking as if they know that whatever they do, they have already achieved salvation, because they know they’re among the good and beautiful people. It is this self-obsessed vanity that leads to their countless errors, and will undo everything that they have worked for. It would be nice if it could be described as a tragic flaw, but it’s really more accurate to call it a comic flaw.
They glorify false images of themselves at the expense of what their real selves might have been, always eager to appear selfless through gross acts of self-absorbtion, eager to be seen doing good works for faraway strangers while abandoning the people closest to them.