By Richard Savill
Published in The Telegraph here
An Anglican bishop has claimed the credit crunch is God's way of punishing Britain and other western nations for being too materialistic.
The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, has written in a church newsletter that materialism has a "stranglehold over our lives" and that some good may therefore emerge from the crisis.
In the November 2008 newsletter the bishop said: "I believe that God ultimately has allowed this crisis for good.
"Our nation, like all the western nations, has become consumed with materialism. It has a stranglehold on our lives.
"We have found our security in 'securities' and have failed to grasp that nothing is permanent other than God.
"Our confidence has been misplaced. Something was needed to shake that and that is what we are experiencing.
"If this shakes our confidence in mammon (money) and forces us back to our creator and redeemer it will have been worth it!"
"That should be our prayers as Christians. We may all have to suffer a bit, but God is an expert at bringing good out of sad, difficult, even evil situations."
But Eamonn Butler, director at the Adam Smith Institute, said many people who were not materialistic had lost their entire savings.
He said: "The Bishop of Lewes is right that the present crisis has shaken people's faith in financial securities, but it has also shaken their financial security.
"We should remember that it is people's homes, savings and pensions that are under threat. Many people, who have not worshipped money or materialism, have seen their savings disappear and their lives made poorer.
"I find little comfort in this. The spiritual world may be important to people, but they also need to feed and shelter themselves and their families."
Steve Wheeler, 34, an electrician, from Chichester, West Sussex, who has lost his job in the last month, said: "When church leaders come up with something like this it is no wonder less people go to churches on a Sunday.
"You have to ask yourself what sort of world these bishops are living in when they say the credit crunch could be a good thing."