To Boost Ethics, Dutch Bank Employees Swear to God They’ll Be Good

Bank employees in Holland are being asked to swear a very peculiar oath for a country where easily 45 to 60 percent of citizens can be classified as nones:

“I swear that I will do my utmost to preserve and enhance confidence in the financial-services industry. So help me God.”

Which god? This one?

Actually, that Businessweek translation is a little on the tame side. The Dutch text is “Zo waarlijk helpe mij God Almachtig,” which literally means “So truly help me God Almighty.”

The vow is an attempt to boost ethics among bank personnel and increase consumer confidence in financial institutions.

The oath, the first of its kind in Europe, became binding on board members of Dutch banks last month as the government sought to rein in an industry with assets more than four times the size of the country’s economy. All 90,000 Dutch bank employees must take the pledge, or a non-religious affirmation, starting the second half of this year. They’ll be punished should they break new ethical rules, Banking Association Chairman Chris Buijink said in an interview.

But not by God, I’m pretty sure.

It’s good that a non-religious version of the oath is available for those who prefer it, but I can’t be the only one who’s puzzled that “So help me God Almighty,” or any variation thereof, was considered a good idea to begin with. Those percentages of nones I mentioned above were recorded in 2004-2007, and Dutch secularization has surely advanced in recent years. If (let’s say) two-thirds of the country doesn’t really give a fig about the Bearded Man in the Sky, bank personnel invoking the Almighty as a matter of national policy seems a bit… well, off.

Also, the conflation of ethics and God-belief is, as always, a middle finger waved in the faces of non-believers.

Disappointing, Dutchies! If any country in Europe should have gotten rid of that trite trope from yesteryear, it’s your progressive, secular-minded Holland.

(Thanks to Brian for the link. Photo by Artesis)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.


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