The Pox of Materialism

There is nothing wrong with the good things of life: the pleasure of leisure, the joy of good wine and good food, the happiness of dance and music, the comfort of a nice home, the delight of travel and all the other stuff of life.  But there is everything wrong with making these things the center of our lives and the measure of our success. 

This is precisely the attitude of all the hateful totalitarianisms of the last century.  All railed about the wrong allocation of "stuff" or the need for a state plan that would produce more stuff for the masses.  While we are not as evil or dishonest as Bolsheviks or Nazis, the character of our spiritual disease is the same.

Materialism is the worship of the gadgets, cars, vacations, homes, food, and such things in place of the worship of the Creator of these things and the values of honor, compassion, sacrifice, decency, and love.  The more we worship stuff, the less we care about what is really important in life. 

The more we judge our lives by stuff, the more addictive it becomes to us.  Like all narcotics, stuff grabs hold of us, and we must have bigger and bigger fixes of stuff to satisfy, for the moment, our insatiable appetite for more.

We see the consequences of this addiction all around us.  Politicians prattle on about the vital importance of the economy or the proper distribution of national wealth despite the fact that Americans live much better than they did fifty years ago.  No one is really hungry in America anymore, and our "poverty" is largely a lack of relative affluence in a land filled to the bursting point with stuff.

One might think that in a land where the greatest health problem is obesity from overeating and the greatest mental health problem is boredom leading to pathetically puerile electronic games, all of us would see that we are rich by the standards of any other age of mankind.

When your whole universe is simply stuff, however, all perspective is savaged, and all sense of value is warped.  Most of us think like Hollywood stars or sports heroes or wildly successful businessmen and assume that stuff is all there is in life and that no value above economic value can exist.

The inevitable descent into seedy and unsavory lust of stuff slowly dissolves all real hope in life to nothingness, because life inevitably ends in death.  If this is all there is – or, more precisely, if we behave as if this were all there is – then there is truly nothing at all of value in life.  The dismal, shadowy realm of naked materialism will engulf and devour our souls. 

The tonic is faith in something greater than stuff, but that trust in the transcendent instead of the transitory is harder and harder to find in our world today.  Europe is almost totally materialistic, and faith has dwindled into almost nonexistence in many European nations.  The other English-speaking democracies like Britain, Canada, and Australia are just about as interested in stuff rather than spirit. 

Dreadfully, Islam has more support in our world today than Christianity or Judaism, which means that when people look for something greater than stuff, they find it in Islam.  The prospect of an increasingly atheistic Europe surviving an invasion by radical Islam grows more hopeless by the day. 

The contempt young Muslims have for stuff-mongers in Europe, who are concerned more about their pensions than their souls, has a perverse logic to it.  Why respect someone who behaves like an amoral and gluttonous rodent and not a divinely created man?  If these Europeans behave as if they had no souls, then why treat them as if they have souls?  This seems cruel to us, but we permit – even fund – each year the murder of half a million unborn babies based upon equally macabre reasoning.

Stuff can never make us good, never make us happy, never find us peace, and never provide meaning to our lives.  In its proper and narrow place, stuff serves a purpose, but when we make it the center of our lives, we lose everything.

There is nothing wrong with the good things of life: the pleasure of leisure, the joy of good wine and good food, the happiness of dance and music, the comfort of a nice home, the delight of travel and all the other stuff of life.  But there is everything wrong with making these things the center of our lives and the measure of our success. 

This is precisely the attitude of all the hateful totalitarianisms of the last century.  All railed about the wrong allocation of "stuff" or the need for a state plan that would produce more stuff for the masses.  While we are not as evil or dishonest as Bolsheviks or Nazis, the character of our spiritual disease is the same.

Materialism is the worship of the gadgets, cars, vacations, homes, food, and such things in place of the worship of the Creator of these things and the values of honor, compassion, sacrifice, decency, and love.  The more we worship stuff, the less we care about what is really important in life. 

The more we judge our lives by stuff, the more addictive it becomes to us.  Like all narcotics, stuff grabs hold of us, and we must have bigger and bigger fixes of stuff to satisfy, for the moment, our insatiable appetite for more.

We see the consequences of this addiction all around us.  Politicians prattle on about the vital importance of the economy or the proper distribution of national wealth despite the fact that Americans live much better than they did fifty years ago.  No one is really hungry in America anymore, and our "poverty" is largely a lack of relative affluence in a land filled to the bursting point with stuff.

One might think that in a land where the greatest health problem is obesity from overeating and the greatest mental health problem is boredom leading to pathetically puerile electronic games, all of us would see that we are rich by the standards of any other age of mankind.

When your whole universe is simply stuff, however, all perspective is savaged, and all sense of value is warped.  Most of us think like Hollywood stars or sports heroes or wildly successful businessmen and assume that stuff is all there is in life and that no value above economic value can exist.

The inevitable descent into seedy and unsavory lust of stuff slowly dissolves all real hope in life to nothingness, because life inevitably ends in death.  If this is all there is – or, more precisely, if we behave as if this were all there is – then there is truly nothing at all of value in life.  The dismal, shadowy realm of naked materialism will engulf and devour our souls. 

The tonic is faith in something greater than stuff, but that trust in the transcendent instead of the transitory is harder and harder to find in our world today.  Europe is almost totally materialistic, and faith has dwindled into almost nonexistence in many European nations.  The other English-speaking democracies like Britain, Canada, and Australia are just about as interested in stuff rather than spirit. 

Dreadfully, Islam has more support in our world today than Christianity or Judaism, which means that when people look for something greater than stuff, they find it in Islam.  The prospect of an increasingly atheistic Europe surviving an invasion by radical Islam grows more hopeless by the day. 

The contempt young Muslims have for stuff-mongers in Europe, who are concerned more about their pensions than their souls, has a perverse logic to it.  Why respect someone who behaves like an amoral and gluttonous rodent and not a divinely created man?  If these Europeans behave as if they had no souls, then why treat them as if they have souls?  This seems cruel to us, but we permit – even fund – each year the murder of half a million unborn babies based upon equally macabre reasoning.

Stuff can never make us good, never make us happy, never find us peace, and never provide meaning to our lives.  In its proper and narrow place, stuff serves a purpose, but when we make it the center of our lives, we lose everything.

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