The End of Materialism?
Materialism is a philosophy that teaches the only thing which exists is what science call matter or energy. For the materialist there is no spirit, soul or even consciousness. As a philosophy, it represents the foundational world-view of atheism. Materialism and its birth child of atheism will never be the preeminent world view because it leaves humanity empty and without meaning. Any illusions of meaning it might offer are quickly drained by suffering, the brevity of life and him him death. Of course, there are some who have the intellectual ability to build and maintain a huge bulwark of superficial and peripheral arguments to protect their illusions of meaning. The most that can be said about these arguments is that they divert people’s attention away from reality onto their quibbles, which seems to work fairly well for those who have very little expectations of life. This is one of the biggest problems and dangers of atheism; it has the tendency to hollow out people and diminish their expectations or hopes for the future or life in general, which in turn precipitates an existential crisis that often leads to nihilism.
In his classic book “The Denial of Death”, Ernest Becker points out that humanity denies its death by creating illusions. He claims that one of these delusions is religion, but he acknowledges that it’s just one among many. The most typical method of delusion is simply to force the idea of death to the back of your mind. Most humans are so well-practiced at this deception that they do it with very little effort or consciousness.
In fact, it has been my experience that people of faith think and talk about death more than the non-religious. In this, they demonstrate more of a grasp on reality, at least in this one area, greater than the non-religious. The secular man appears to avoid the issue of death altogether, which seems to be a far deeper form of denial, than trusting in an afterlife.
Of course, you must demonstrate that religion is false, not just flawed, before you can totally dismiss it as a delusion, which Becker doesn’t attempt. However, in his conclusion Becker does demonstrate the utilitarianism of religion and affirms that religion does work well in dealing with the fear of death. This dispels the shallow idea of the new atheist type that says religion poisons everything and intrinsically has no value.
The end of materialism can be seen throughout the west and especially in eastern Europe where we have a preview of its demise in Russia where materialism was forced on the population by an atheistic government for decades, at which point it left the populace hollowed out and empty. The Russian model of materialism demonstrates the unworkable and the destructive nature of materialism and the atheism that follows.
I personally feel that the biggest problem with materialism is that no one can live as though they really believed it. If consistent, the materialist must also be a determinist and deny the free will of man and I have yet to see a man live as though he is a slave to the mindless movement of matter. One of my pragmatic friends put it this way; “I’ve never known a man that didn’t look both ways before crossing a street.” You cannot live a consistent life and be a materialist.