Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Does atheism cause materialism?

Some weeks ago, I read a Dutch newspaper interview with the Egyptian-Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela. She argues that the rise of European atheism causes more materialism. This ongoing debate has resulted in many Google search hits (eg, Quora, source 1, source 2).

At first glanceLeila Aboulela seems to have a valid point. However, materialism is certainly not limited to atheists. Nor is it limited to Christians and/or Jews. Just look at the extravagant wealth in several countries in the Middle East. In fact, the opposite might be true.

The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:12) show that “God gives us our gifts for a purpose, and that is to be profitable servants” (source). Wiki: “A thematically variant parable appears in the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews.” To some extent, the Quran provides a similar parable, related to the Sower (source, Wiki).

I think, feel and believe that the human focus largely was – and still is – on the first word: profitable servants. In most – if not all – religions, people forgot to focus on the 2nd word: servants.

I’m tempted to connect this “omission” to the surge of Liberalism, which focuses on freedom (Liber). Liberalism came in waves: (1st) personal freedom by the ancient Greeks, (2nd) economic freedom in the 18th century, and (3rd) today’s individual human – rather than group – right of freedom (my 2017 blog).

The 3rd wave of Liberalism may, however, cause a break with materialism. The current surge in individual human rights seems to coincide with different views on consumerism (eg, cars, houses, jobs). There is a tendency of not owning cars but using Uber. The tiny house movement may become persistent. The rise of AI Robotics (my related blogs) and the loss of human jobs, may also change the view on (lifetime) employment. 

Although Religion is in decline due to secularization, spirituality seems to be on the rise. Ultimately, everybody needs something to believe in. This expression is also a Jimmy Randolph song and part of a funny quote by American comedian W.C. Fields. Usually, consumerism / materialism and spirituality do not go well together.

There is another – more fundamental – reason why atheism does not cause materialism. Every society follows at least 3 phases: Needs, Wants, and Beliefs (my concept and related blogs). An Awakening might be the 4th stage (my related blogs). Materialism belongs the 2nd phase of Wants. Atheism and Religion both belong to the 3rd stage of Beliefs. 

“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.” A quote by Baroness Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach from her 1879 book Aphorisms.

Material Girl (1985) by Madonna – artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Living in a material world

And I am a material girl

You know that we are living in a material world

And I am a material girl

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO


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