Why materialism fails us

We’ve already looked at how evolutionary Naturalism gives us reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties to discover truth, And Naturalism’s close ontological cousin, Materialism, has also failed us. 

Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all phenomena, including mental phenomena and consciousness, are identical with material interactions. (Wikipedia)

For more background on this subject. consider reading these posts:

When the materialist-driven Enlightenment Age birthed the Industrial Age, culture began a major paradigm shift toward consumerism. This is from an article at vision.org:

“As recently as 150 years ago, people in the mostly rural communities of the world lived lives governed by the seasons, produced most of what they needed, and stayed in their communities for a lifetime. They valued stability, thriftiness and family.” (Cloer, “Manufacturing a Consumer Culture“)

Now we have “stuff” to fill up our lives. We don’t shop for survival but for psychological and sociological fulfillment—we need the latest styles, the latest smart phone, the nicest house, or the sexiest car—in order to feel like we’re alive…to feed our ghosts.

This societal fishbowl we’ve been swimming in has engulfed both atheist and theist alike. It effects every area of our lives: our careers, our politics, our relationships, and our mental well-being.

We used to see ourselves as human beings created by God with infinite intrinsic value…now we’re consumers.

It’s interesting how this term has been cleverly shifted in people’s minds in just the last 100 years.

“The word consumption increasingly lost its earlier connotations of destroying, wasting, or using up, and came instead to refer in a positive way to the satisfying of human needs and desires.” (Stephanie Coontz, “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap”)

So, how did we get this way? According to Bernardo Kastrup (Brief Peeks Beyond), we can lay the blame on our materialist paradigm. Even though largely debunked by advances in quantum mechanics, materialism’s persistence is sustained by its symbiotic relationship with our economic system. The following excerpts are from pages 147-149 (emphasis added).

“By linking consciousness and personal identity to limited and temporary arrangements of matter, materialism inculcates the following subjective values in our culture: life is short and you’ve only got one to live; the only source of meaning lies in matter –after all, nothing else exists –so the game is to accumulate as many material things as possible; we should consume as fast as possible, even at the expense of others or the planet, for we have nothing to lose since we’re going to die soon anyway. It’s easy to see how these values encourage runaway consumerism –err, ‘economic growth’ –and reinforce current power structures. Indeed, in a significant way, our economy depends on this value system.”

“Never before have we been so wealthy and dominant as a species, but have our lives ever been as meaningless as today? Materialism crushed most of the myths that lent significance to the lives of our ancestors. We’ve become orphans of meaning. We go on chasing one material goal after the other, as if there were a little bag of magic goodies at the end that would retroactively bestow meaning on the entire enterprise. This is akin to chasing ghosts. What do we live for? Life has turned into a mad scramble for the accumulation of things and the status they confer, for the sole sake of leaving it all behind at death.”

“Shockingly, it is illusions that maintain our mental balance. We need ghosts to chase, because once we see through the game and realize what is really going on, we question the sense of it all and may succumb to apathy and depression.”

“The more we accumulate, the more we have to lose, so the net result of achieving ‘success’ is the opposite of what we would have hoped: we become even more paranoid and stressed out. Life quickly turns into an appalling nightmare; a self-created horror show where we play both victim and perpetrator. And since we don’t know of any other option, all we can do is engender some new ghosts to chase. This goes on and on until the cycle repeats itself enough times that the illusion can no longer be sustained. We are then left mentally broken and defeated.”

“You see, the illusion only works for as long as it lies in the future, just out of reach. Like the proverbial carrot hanging in front of the horse, the entire allure of wealth and status lies largely in not having them.”

“When purchasing a television set was a magical, nearly untenable consumer dream rich in projected meaning, its appeal was huge. Now, other things have to be invented that can serve as receptacles for our projections, from smart phones to cars, to porn-style commercial sex, to major promotions at work. As with any addiction, it gets increasingly harder to achieve the same high. Eventually, we will no longer be able to keep up as far as engendering sufficiently numinous material aspirations.” (p. 147 -149).

We’ve traded the magic of transcendent mystery for the magic of materialist technology. But at what cost? It’s a scary proposition indeed, as David Bentley Hart observes:

“And today’s magicians truly possess the powers they claim: the occult energies of matter have really been unlocked, the secrets of the cosmos truly fathomed, and the realms of physics, biology, chemistry, and so on—the chief glories of the modern age—are also now places where real monsters can be bred, and real terrors summoned out of the depths of nature.” (Hart, “Atheist Delusions“, p. 233)

We’ve lost the plot because we failed to listen to what we’ve always known. As Jesus put it:

15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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51 Responses to Why materialism fails us

  1. john zande says:

    Do you believe the spirit, or ‘soul,’ (the primary immaterial thing you believe exists) represents the person?

    • Mel Wild says:

      If you’re asking if I believe we are not soulless zombies enslaved to the physical workings of the brain, yes, I believe we have a soul or consciousness that is an integral part of who we are as a person.

      • john zande says:

        an integral part of who we are as a person

        But does that mean you believe the soul represents the person, is their personality?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I say integral because the soul is affected by the brain, and vise versa. Brain damage can affect our personality, but we can also affect our brain by concentrated thought processes. Either way, the soul is not the brain, if that’s what you’re getting at.

        • john zande says:

          Sort of, yes. What do you mean by “the soul is affected by the brain, and vise versa”?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Brain damage can affect personality. And we can actually change neural patterns in the brain through focused study, or purposeful mental thought processes.

          Okay, we’re getting way off track here. Do you have a comment that actually relates to the post?

        • john zande says:

          This is related to the post. But I’m not entirely sure I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying a person’s personality is not reflected in the soul?

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, this has absolutely nothing to do with the post. The post is about the problem with materialism and its effect on our culture. I answered enough of your irrelevant questions.

        • john zande says:

          Your post seems to be conflating ‘materialism’ with ‘consumerism.’ They’re two completely different things.

          I am, however, interested in the materialism aspect of the post, and I do apologise, but I’m just not understanding completely what you’re trying to say. I might be missing something, so sorry if I am.

          To your point, what you appear to be suggesting is an absolutely horrible man (like Trump, for example) contains a soul that is, in effect, Not-Trump. In life he lies and steals and cheats, but his soul is not reflective of this.

          Is that correct?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Your post seems to be conflating ‘materialism’ with ‘consumerism.’ They’re two completely different things.

          Of course they’re not the same thing. I’m not conflating materialism with consumerism at all, but saying that consumerism is one of the logical outcomes of materialism. It’s not coincidental that we became a consumer-driven culture after the materialist-driven Enlightenment birthed the Industrial Age. Why? Because if the physical world is all there is then we must get all of our fulfillment from material things in this life. Government and commerce have manipulated this myopic need to their own end. Now, we are a consumer-driven culture. That cultural change could not have taken place without a materialist ontology behind it.

          To your point, what you appear to be suggesting is an absolutely horrible man (like Trump, for example) contains a soul that is, in effect, Not-Trump.

          No, and I don’t see how you could make that conclusion from anything I’ve said. You are insinuating some form of Gnosticism or Cartesian “ghost in the machine”. I said quite the opposite. The soul IS affected by the brain and body (and vise versa), and also greatly affected by its environment: what we learn, our understanding of reality, our subjective experiences, etc. But you cannot say with any empirical authority that consciousness arises from brain chemicals. The two work together but they do not appear to be the same thing.

          I might do another post about the soul sometime in the future. That’s about all I want to talk about it here.

        • john zande says:

          I’m not conflating materialism with consumerism at all, but saying that consumerism is one of the logical outcomes of materialism.

          I wouldn’t say it’s a logical outcome. The two are in no way connected. Excess and desire has been with humanity since, well, humanity. The only difference between kings and queens and their courts of old and modern societies is the emergence of the middle class and the availability (and marketing) of consumer goods, and that is the product of trade, politics, credit, and economies of scale.

          The soul IS affected by the brain and body (and vise versa) … The two work together but they do not appear to be the same thing.

          Yes, “not the same thing” would seem to imply that, to use my example, that the ‘soul’ of Donald Trump does not represent the cheating, lying, stealing Donald Trump. I don’t think that’s exactly what you’re trying to say. Surely it either is, or it isn’t. The soul (that immaterial thing) must represent the person, and the person is their personality, and their personality is reflected perfectly in their soul. Yes?

          I’m curious therefore (honestly curious), how you reconcile this belief with what we know about brain injury.

          Brain injury can and does produce immediate and profound changes in a person’s entire personality. Their temperament can change. Their interests and skills turned on their head. Their emotional states altered. An aggressive person can suddenly become a calm person. A calm person can suddenly become an aggressive person. In the case of neuroscientist who suffered a severe stroke, her once mathematically orientated, data-driven personality transformed into an artist and a poet. Remarkable for a person who before the stroke couldn’t draw a straight line, or write a single creative word, nor ever felt the urge to do either.

          And it’s not just unexpected brain injury. You need only research Dr. Walter Freeman’s ghastly trans-orbital icepick lobotomies to see nearly 2,500 cases of this terrible procedure (since banned) profoundly changing the person’s personality.

          So, if spirit represents the person (which is to say the spirit is their personality, their disposition, their interests, their loves and hates, their temperament, their emotional interactions with all things), then where is “spirit” in this situation?

          How can spirit “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely?

          From a theological perspective, this also raises a really interesting question: If it’s not the person’s personality, then what is actually being judged by your god, Yhwh?

          This appears to me to a monstrously important question for you considering that you believe eternity is at stake, and eternity is (by your narrative) determined by the judgement of the “person,” and the person is their personality.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I wouldn’t say it’s a logical outcome. The two are in no way connected. Excess and desire has been with humanity since, well, humanity.

          To say it is no way connected is just nonsense. But you are right that these desires are inherent in human nature. But materialism legitimatized it in such a way to give rise to a consumer-driven culture. There was no such thing before the Enlightenment, a movement which was fueled by materialism and naturalism. Consumerism is only about 100 years old. And it does logically follow that if this world is all there is, then our desire will be focused on getting things in this world in order to find meaning and purpose. If we just die, then it’s logical to get what we can here. This was not so before this; belief in the after-life mitigated against going fully in this direction. Modern marketing, with materialist ontology to inform us of reality, had great success in manipulating people this way. Even the definition of consumption changed from something bad to something good and desirable. You are ignoring the connection between materialism, modern science, the industrial age, and slick marketing.

          Brain injury can and does produce immediate and profound changes in a person’s entire personality.

          Of course, it does. And if you were actually interested in real conversation you would know that I said this three times now. Brain injury DOES affect personality, but it doesn’t totally change everything (unless the person is in a vegetative state). This has been known for 100 years now, it’s not some startling revelation. And it doesn’t refute the argument for a soul. The soul is affected by injury, trauma, but the soul is NOT the brain.

          This appears to me to a monstrously important question for you considering that you believe eternity is at stake, and eternity is (by your narrative) determined by the judgement of the “person,” and the person is their personality.

          People are not judged by what they are incapable of understanding or even their personality type, so this is a bogus point.

          John Z, this whole thread is a case in point. It’s evident to me that this is primarily why so many commenters seem to just write you off as an obnoxious twit. Your questions are nothing but a pretext to argue your points. You constantly engage in red herrings (continuing to argue about the soul instead of what this post is about) rather than engage in honest discussion that’s directly related to the topic. You don’t really listen when people answer your question several times, you just go on and on like a broken record. And you never stop talking. This doesn’t do anything to lend credibility to your position. Folks just stop listening to you. So, believe whatever you want.

        • John Branyan says:

          Nan posted about this post on her blog, without referencing you, of course. Instead, she mentioned that the blog belonged to a “Christian pastor” so the atheists wouldn’t accidentally agree with your premise.

          JZ’s comment is probably the reason for her post since she doesn’t usually invent topics all by herself.

          Anyway, she’s asking the nitwits for their thoughts about the difference between materialism and consumerism. They will respond with seething criticisms of Christianity.

        • The Isaiah 53:5 Project says:

          “Asking the nitwits for their thoughts…”

          They still do this?

          I wonder what atheists would do with themselves if Christians stopped blogging? What would they talk about?

          I haven’t read Nan’s post and I won’t but, rest assured, she wasn’t asking for any thoughts, she was getting a pick on Mel session going. Same thing the rest of the nitwits have been doing for years, smh.

          It is my persistant prayer that, one day, they will grow up.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I wonder what atheists would do with themselves if Christians stopped blogging? What would they talk about?

          Obviously, very little. Rant about Trump, I suppose. Some spend more time on my blog that I do!

          It is my persistant prayer that, one day, they will grow up.

          So you believe in miracles? 🙂 I do, too, but I’m not holding my breath. I wish them the best.

        • The Isaiah 53:5 Project says:

          Rant about Trump? Good Lord, the only thing more inane than their rambling on about religion is their rambling about politics. Stunningly ignorant and intolerable.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Anyway, she’s asking the nitwits for their thoughts about the difference between materialism and consumerism.

          If they have to even discuss the difference between materialism (an ontology) and consumerism (a cultural behavior) then “nitwit” would be the appropriate term. And it is good thing they know I’m a “Christian” so they don’t accidently agree. That would be unthinkable.

          But, at least I’m giving their blogging lives meaning and purpose. Glad I could help. 🙂

        • john zande says:

          But materialism legitimatized it in such a way to give rise to a consumer-driven culture.

          No, it didn’t. It has absolutely no connection whatsoever to it.

          And it does logically follow that if this world is all there is, then our desire will be focused on getting things in this world in order to find meaning and purpose.

          Are you forgetting that most of the world’s population are theists?

          If we just die, then it’s logical to get what we can here.

          The human lineage is about 7 million old, and for all those 7 million years our ancestors have sought food, water, shelter, safety. We have always looked to get what we can.

          This was not so before this; belief in the after-life mitigated against going fully in this direction.

          Again, the majority of the world’s population are theists. Your argument simply doesn’t hold water.

          Brain injury DOES affect personality, but it doesn’t totally change everything (unless the person is in a vegetative state).

          Absolutely it can, and does. Often. We are not talking about small affects, rather complete personality reversals. Interests change, loves and hates, their very temperament can be flipped on its head.

          So, you haven’t addressed the question:

          How can spirit “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Are you forgetting that most of the world’s population are theists?

          This is a bogus point. You’re forgetting that I said that this paradigm has affected both atheist and theists alike. But only where materialism is the prevalent ontology. We only find consumerist theists in industrialized cultures (mostly in the West) that have been influenced by naturalism and materialism (the US and Europe). For instance, Eastern Christians, or even other religions in non-commercialized world don’t think this way at all. They are actually more inclined to be anti-materialists.

          Here’s your problem. You cannot logically give any reason why materialism ontology should produce self-sacrifice, altruism, or non-consumer behavior, or any foundation for society that transcends greed and covetousness. You have to borrow that paradigm from other places, like world religions.

        • john zande says:

          This is a bogus point

          No, it’s not.

          Any reason why you didn’t address the question?

          How can spirit “represent” the person if even some minor cerebral trauma evicts it so completely?

          You, of course, tried to downplay the effects of brain trauma, but that’s just being evasive. You’re good at that, but it won’t save you.

          You might have heard of Phineas Gage (a well-studied case of a man simply becoming a different person entirely after brain injury) but there are thousands of cases of near complete personality changes. For example, in 2000, a 40-year-old schoolteacher suddenly became a paedophile, trading in child porn and molesting children. After his arrest he complained of imbalance, at which time doctors found an egg-sized tumour. Once it was removed, the man’s uncontrollable urges simply disappeared and he returned to his usual self. But when the tumour regrew in 2001, “its associated nefarious interests returned.”

          You can read about this particular in New Scientist: Brain tumour causes uncontrollable paedophilia

          Paedophilia is not some minor behavioural change, Mel. We are talking complete changes in temperament, in interests, in likes and dislikes, in anger management, in emotional responses to events, etc. The person’s personality is turned on its head, they become a different person.

          Where is the “soul” when you can take an icepick and perform a lobotomy and when the patient wakes they are no longer the same person?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Any reason why you didn’t address the question?

          Is there any reason why you blather on with your red herring here? You are just being obnoxious and obstinate, ignoring my answers, even though your point is entirely irrelevant to the post. It’s probably best to just ignore you.

          Okay, now to the relevant point:

          The question you asked was “Are you forgetting that most of the world’s population are theists?”

          To which I said that I had mentioned in the post that this paradigm affects atheists and theists alike. But this is only true where materialism is the prevailing ontology (Mostly the West). This is NOT true of Christians and other theists in parts of the world who don’t hold to this ontology. And this is the only subject that matters here, not some extended discussion on the soul. That is a red herring fallacy.

          So, unless you have something relevant to say about materialism and its connection to cultural consumerism, I will ignore you.

        • john zande says:

          This is NOT true of Christians and other theists in parts of the world who don’t hold to this ontology.

          Words. Got any data to back this up? I believe you might be confusing lack of economic prosperity/opportunity with religious fervor.

          Okay, so you don’t want to address the enormous elephant in the room regarding your belief in the immaterial.

          Fair enough.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Words. Got any data to back this up? I believe you might be confusing lack of economic prosperity/opportunity with religious fervor.

          Okay, show me an advanced culture not influenced by the industrial West where there consumerism drives the culture? You won’t find Hinduism or Buddhism producing consumerism. And you don’t find it in Asian and Middle Eastern Christians who are not in industrialized nations. The fact that we even measure a culture by economic prosperity should be a clue to what I’m saying. It’s the fishbowl we’re swimming in.

          Even much of our science is driven by this economic monster. Results are geared for economic success, not necessarily for what’s best for our civilization. For instance, there are major cancer cures that will never see the light of day because it could cost billions to big Pharma.

          Consumerism is only one fruit from this ontological tree but it’s the real elephant in the room in the West.

        • john zande says:

          You won’t find Hinduism or Buddhism producing consumerism.

          Mel, have you ever travelled to India or China, or Japan? They (India and China) are desperate to launch themselves into the middle class and enjoy what we enjoy. The ONLY thing that has held them back is economics and opportunity.

          I’m not saying consumerism is good, it’s not, I agree with you, but your point is simply not factual. There is just one country on the face of the planet with an active anti-consumerism policy: Bhutan. I’ve been there. It’s lovely. Instead of GDP they have the Gross National Happiness Index. Unlike you, I’ve also been all over Asia and India, many times, and I can tell you, you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

          Consumerism is only one fruit from this ontological tree but it’s the real elephant in the room in the West.

          I agree, it’s not healthy at all, it’s killing the planet, but it has nothing to do with the science/philosophy of materialism. What does have a great deal to do with materialism is the stunning absence of evidence for anything but…. and that’s your dilemma, which you keep evading.

          So, if you ever do figure it out, I would be interested to hear how you defend the existence of a ‘soul’ (which must represent the person, or else what purpose does it serve) when a brain tumour pushing against certain neural structures, and not other neural structures, can turn an ordinary school teacher into an aggressive paedophile.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Mel, have you ever travelled to India or China, or Japan? They (India and China) are desperate to launch themselves into the middle class and enjoy what we enjoy. The ONLY thing that has held them back is economics and opportunity.

          Haven’t travelled there myself but I personally know people from there. China is desperate because of Western influence. China has a lot history of Western commercial influence. The genie is already out of the bottle. Again, the idea that their being “held back” is only valid in relationship to a consumerist mindset. There could be other ways to provide stability other than making them like the West. But that will never happen because the “powers that be” will never allow it. There’s too much money to be made at the prospect of nearly 2 billion consumers entering the marketplace.

          My point is that when materialism came to dominance in Western culture as an ontology it put highly combustive fuel on the fire, if you will. This gave industry and marketing the language and ontological authority to shift people’s mindsets into becoming “consumers,” which changed the whole paradigm of business and commerce from providing a needed product to something psychological and sociological. Now, most people in our culture only think this way. They don’t think in terms of honor, sacrifice, delayed gratification, and self-giving. They define themselves by their job or education and think about how they can get ahead and live financially comfortable lives and have social status, to buy cars and take vacations in luxurious resorts. Everything is measured by the things they possess. This is why materialism’s persistence is sustained, even though there’s good reason to doubt its validity from advances in quantum physics (another subject). It’s sustained because of its symbiotic relationship with our economic system. They fit perfectly together. But, as you know, at a terrible cost and with nightmarish possibilities. I don’t know how you would stop this monster without dramatically changing the way people think about themselves, and materialism cannot provide that answer. You have to go elsewhere.

          We can talk about the soul when that is the subject.

        • john zande says:

          This gave industry and marketing the language and ontological authority to shift people’s mindsets into becoming “consumers,” which changed the whole paradigm of business and commerce from providing a needed product to something psychological and sociological.

          People have always been consumers Mel. People have always been traders. The ONLY variance in this fixed truth throughout the ages has been people’s access to goods and services.

          Stick to theology, Mel. You’re a terrible anthropologist/sociologist/economist/behavioural scientist. No offense.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You should try to understand. Yes, people were traders, but consumerism means something different. People shop for psychological reasons now. It’s an altogether different mindset.

        • John Branyan says:

          The pagans are demonstrating the futility of their worldview. It shouldn’t bother them to admit to materialism. They are materialists! Reality is just the physical world. Given that, amassing vast amounts of material wouldn’t be a bad thing. Spending your life obsessed with “stuff” makes sense.

          They’re not interested in discussing their worldview. They’re only interested in disagreeing with you.

        • Mel Wild says:

          It shouldn’t bother them to admit to materialism. Reality is just the physical world. Given that, amassing vast amounts of material wouldn’t be a bad thing. Spending your life obsessed with “stuff” makes sense.

          That’s what I don’t get either. What are they ashamed of? Materialism gave us the right to “grab all the gusto” now and not be ashamed. Greed is good! There is no evil. There is no God! Whatever you get away with is good! There is no after-life, so consume everything you can and be happy about it, for tomorrow we die!

          They’re not interested in discussing their worldview. They’re only interested in disagreeing with you.

          Very true. Of course, if I had their worldview I wouldn’t want to shed any light on it either. And they couldn’t possibly admit that anything they believe could have negative repercussions. Only Christians should do that! LOL!

        • Mel Wild says:

          People have always been consumers Mel. People have always been traders.

          More on your erroneous point. And, btw, I’m not an anthropologist but I used to work with a company as their Director of Education and we taught people about the dangers of this consumer mindset. We did a lot of research on consumerism. At the time (30 years ago), I didn’t understand the ontology behind it like I do now, but there’s a pretty clear correlation once you study it out.

          The consumer culture as we know it today was pretty much birthed after WWI. There are lots of studies on it but these excerpts from an article by Gus Lubin (Business Insider) are pretty clear and concise about the purposeful psychological manipulation of government and business (emphasis added).

          “Americans weren’t always addicted to buying things.
          Long before U.S. consumers racked up $11.3 trillion in aggregate debt, people used to save money for things they actually needed.
          But in the age of plenty that followed World War I, corporations countered the threat of overproduction with a manipulative psychological strategy.”

          [After WWI] Banker Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers saw the way forward: “We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.

          In 1927 an American journalist wrote: “A change has come over our democracy, it is called consumptionism. The American citizens first importance to his country is now no longer that of citizen, but that of consumer.”

          President Hoover told a group of advertisers and public relations men: “You have taken over the job of creating desire and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines. Machines which have become the key to economic progress.” (Lubin, “There’s A Staggering Conspiracy Behind the Rise of Consumerism”, Business Insider)

          Of course, now it’s the fishbowl we’re swimming in. But, no, it was never like this before.

        • john zande says:

          I’m not questioning the rise of consumerism. I know the history quite well. What I am pointing out is your disastrously faulty causal model.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Well, it certainly didn’t come from religion or any other ontology in the world. What we believe about our reality has repercussions. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And with the rise of materialism quite coincidentally came the Enlightenment, industrial age, and finally consumerism. This is totally a Western invention built on naturalist philosophy. Again, it has good fruit, too (medical, science, etc.) But its ugly stepchild is certainly consumerism.

          Why can’t you just admit there might be some causal connection? You would have a lot more credibility if you did.

        • john zande says:

          This is totally a Western invention built on naturalist philosophy.

          You simply couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. But carry on, your Glenn Beck Blackboard looks lovely.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And you can carry on being mulishly obstinate and ridiculous. Keep your head stuck in your myopic and incoherent worldview. I’m sure you’re always right in that fantasy world.

  2. John Branyan says:

    Good post, Mel.
    The stuff we can see and touch can’t possibly satisfy our deepest longings. We aren’t made of “material”. Material is a veneer stretched over our spirit. Eventually, we’ll shed the wrappings. It is indeed silly how much time, energy, and money we invest in things that are destined to disappear.

  3. Amen,Mel. The guy who wrote the Shack said that “pornography is like bad theology,” in the sense that both reduce love into nothing but consumerism. We go from being higher beings made in the image of God, to two-dimensional consumers or goods for consumption. Then we begin to perceive ourselves that way and treat one another that way, too.

    The problem with materialism and covetness is that it must always pour things into the abyss of it’s soul because it’s hungry, it’s starved for some real nutrients. It is based on scarcity rather than the Lord’s abundance and plentitude. He is the bread of life, not the daily and limited manna we need just to survive. Scarcity is starvation mode, empty calories, it does not feed you. There is no joy and fulfillment there, there is only more hunger.

    • Mel Wild says:

      The guy who wrote the Shack said that “pornography is like bad theology,”

      Yes, that’s a great quote by Paul Young from the foreword in “The Shack Revisited.” I posted it here a while back. So true.

      The problem with materialism and covetness is that it must always pour things into the abyss of it’s soul because it’s hungry, it’s starved for some real nutrients. It is based on scarcity rather than the Lord’s abundance and plentitude.

      Of course, you’ve described the central point here. We were made for transcendence and purpose. When we reduce it to the material world, it does something terrible to our soul, as Kastrup so brilliantly points out. Before materialism destroyed this transcendence in our culture, people were governed by something more than what we accumulate. And they intuitively knew that there are more important things about life. They made moral decisions, even to their own hurt, based on this ontology. Now, if we follow materialism to its ultimate conclusion, there is no reason why we should be internally governed this way, other than we don’t want to get caught. This is because materialism will not give your life any true or higher meaning and purpose. As the old commercial put it, “Grab all the gusto now.”

  4. “The American citizens first importance to his country is now no longer that of citizen, but that of consumer.”

    Your points about materialism and consumerism are right on, Mel. I grew up off the grid, outside of public school, pretty much underground, and one thing that did do for me, was show me how pronounced the contrast really is, how much of an impact materialism and consumerism has had on how we think and behave, how we treat one another. Our foundational belief systems shifted in our culture and the evidence is all around us. It’s a bit scary because if you’re in a fish bowl, you don’t realize it’s a fish bowl. Fish don’t know the water is wet because they are immersed in it.

    I got to work with some hoarders a few years ago. Taken to the extreme “stuff” now has profound meaning, status, wealth, protection,security, well being, emotional fulfillment, keeps the demons at bay, a whole human soul just walled off by piles of stuff. That’s an extreme of course, but we all suffer from a milder form of it within this society and it actually alters our brains and our psychology.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Good points, IB.

      As I mentioned, I worked with its effects firsthand. We worked with people drowning in debt and studied the psychology behind it. What we found is that they were programmed to do so. But, before that, they were programmed to only think that this life is all there is. What is interesting is that many Christians are programmed this way, even though they give lip service to a greater reality. Like you said, it’s the fishbowl. We don’t even realize it’s been done to us. “It’s the world pulled over our eyes…You’re a slave, Neo.” 🙂

      But what John Z and possibly others don’t want to see is, what ontology better correlates to consumerism than materialism? Because everything we do has at its foundation in how we see reality. Like in a computer, the ontology is just the “machine language.” The marketing manipulation is the higher operating system that uses the ontology to decode life.

  5. Ron says:

    Who is this me>we you keep mentioning? Is there a mouse in your pocket?

    I can’t speak for you or others, but my life is far from meaningless. I get up every morning thankful to be alive and excited by what lies ahead. In fact, life has been pure bliss since I cast off my childhood religious indoctrination.

    And I find it highly amusing that a blog post bemoaning the meaningless existence of consumerism contains embedded links to book purchases, one of which is your own. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Buying something (books), in and of itself, is not the same thing as consumerism.

      • Ron says:

        Ture. But shilling religious materials is no different than shilling for other products. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And still irrelevant. Consumerism is a psychological mindset, that ties identity and desires to what you own or possess, it’s not about making your product or ideas available to the marketplace. They are two very different things.

        • Ron says:

          And religion peddles to a psychological mindset, that ties its identity and desires to extending one’s existence into an unlikely hereafter.

        • Mel Wild says:

          So, how did a religious ontology create consumerism, Ron?

          Let me know when you actually have something relevant to say.

        • Ron says:

          Who are we kidding. Catholicism is the bedrock of Christian consumerism. The modern prosperity gospel is it’s spire.

        • John Branyan says:

          Science, Ron!
          SCIENCE!
          SCIENCE DID IT!

        • Mel Wild says:

          Haha…right. Science created the cosmos, too. Science created the laws of physics, science created gravity and logic and mathematics. Science holds the world together. Science is God!!!!

        • John Branyan says:

          Finally! It’s starting to soak into your thick head.
          Science is all you need.

          Ron gives thanks to science every day when he wakes up!

    • John Branyan says:

      “I get up every morning thankful to be alive and excited by what lies ahead.”

      Thankful to whom?

  6. Pingback: Pulling back the curtain on materialism | In My Father's House

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