Checking Your Religion at the Door

Some highly respected investors were making this point on Twitter recently: when it comes to investing, you’d better check your religion at the door.

Why? Because, of course, if you allow your religion to interfere with your investment decisions, your returns likely will suffer.

They buttress their argument with data pertaining to returns on sin-stocks (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc.), which tend to outperform the market, and those on stocks of socially responsible companies.

It’s not an unusual position — ┬áchecking your religion at the door, that is. You hear the same thing in the business world — perhaps not out loud but certainly implicitly. All. The. Time.

What’s consistent is the belief that nothing should get in the way of making money. Not even your beliefs.

Which is fine. If that’s your thing. Yet I wonder, why bother in the first place? With the religion?

If your religion is something that can be checked at the door, then obviously it’s not core to whom you are and to what you believe. And if it’s not core, then why bother?

I suppose people bother because it provides a gloss of legitimacy. Or perhaps it provides a moral and ethical framework. Or a narrative that makes them feel good or helps counter feelings of insignificance and hopelessness.

Whatever the reason, religion serves a purpose even when it’s marginalized. Even when it’s something that you feel comfortable checking at the door.

But, again, why bother? Is the narrative that essential?

I don’t see it.

If money is the most important thing in my life, then I hope I don’t feel like I have to go through the charade of religion.

If religion is something that can be checked at the door, then I hope I don’t waste my time with the religious rituals and observances.

I get it that, if I take certain religious beliefs seriously (such as Christianity), then there are some jobs that will be off limits to me. Managing other people’s money may be one such job.

And there are some things I won’t be able to do. Or go along with.

Which means I may have less. Or earn lower returns. Or be ridiculed. Or ostracized. Or marginalized by a society that worships other things, like capitalism or status.

We can have it both ways, of course. We can proclaim the religious tenants while worshiping other things. It happens all the time. I’m sure I’ve done it myself.

But the older I get the more I wonder: Why bother?

If it’s something you feel can be checked at the door, then it’s not valuable. If it were truly valuable, then you wouldn’t dream of checking it at the door.

For anyone. For anything.

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