So we’re headed toward the fiscal cliff and, while our legislators are hot on the job (or on vacation, either way), many Americans are wondering how we got here. Well, Benjamin Wiker over at The National Catholic Register has figured it out: it’s secularism.
That we seem to be merrily rolling along toward a fiscal cliff is evident. Why is not as clear — at least not the deep why. Some of the depth of the problem can be plumbed out if we look at the relationship between secularism and our current morbid financial mess.
To live in a secular world means that the only heaven, if there is to be one, will be on earth. And since there are no souls in a secular, materialist world, then the only goods we can get are bodily goods. Thus, we run on from the self-preservation of having sufficient food, clothing and shelter to seek superfluous pleasures, titillations, entertainments and luxuries.
The horror! People actually want to be happy! And they actually want to be happy in this life, rather than chasing the carrot of titillation, entertainment, and luxury after we die.
A read-through of the article (which I recommend only for the most ambitious masochist) reveals that Wiker doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the national debt and the fiscal cliff. No matter, he can just lean on god for advice, which is a lot easier than research.
I did read through the whole thing, even after the glow of my initial “Ooooooooh, this is batshit insane” reaction waned at about the third paragraph, because I wanted to see if Wiker would propose that we avert the fiscal cliff by following the Catholic church’s example: pay zero taxes. It never happened. Instead, the piece was full of your standard GOP talking points about entitlements (or, as Jesus liked to call it, healing the sick).
Both in America and Europe, the burden of increasingly bloated entitlement programs is sinking state ships. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment, disability and so on make up about 62% of the U.S. budget. We’re approaching ever nearer to the roughly 65% spent by European liberal democracies.
And yet, many of those countries are doing just fine economically. Take liberal-as-all-hell Finland for example. They have free education through college (and have the best education on the planet, with even high school teachers required to have PhDs), paternity leave (and lots of it) for both the mother and the father, universal healthcare, and despite being less resource-rich than many other European nations and remains one of the most stable economies in Europe.
So a social safety net is clearly not what sinks an economy. And even if taking care of people from all the diseases with which god decided to lace his supposedly perfect creation really is a financial hurdle too great to overcome, what does that say about the world god made? Thanks for the world in which treating your endless gobs of diseases leads to economic collapse, you dick.
…as we became more secular, things became more crass. Some began to argue that a vice, greed, was actually good, because the desire for wealth — especially if it is inordinate and all-consuming — will produce more wealth for oneself and others and spread technological, medicinal and practical benefits that enhance everyone’s life.
Hold on a sec…isn’t greed the driving force behind capitalism? And isn’t the “free market” and “purely capitalist” approach the ideal of the GOP which is largely supported by Christians and opposed by atheists?
So what happens when some people realize that they can get a lot richer, a lot more quickly and with a lot less work, if they milk the system for whatever its worth, whatever the consequences for anyone else? They make super-risky investments with other people’s money, sell rotten bundled loan packages to unwitting investors, strike secret deals with members of Congress, crush competitors by gaining control of regulatory agencies, set up super-cushy CEO compensation packages in companies they’re riding into the dirt (companies that then get government bail-outs), and rig and manipulate stock market trading with elaborate computer programs. Government covers the risky investments, rewards rather than punishes the chicanery and, even more, becomes the place where the money-makers increasingly go to control the market.
I see. So, as secularism grows, we become this.
Good to know.
Given Wiker’s opening salvo about how pursuit of happiness in our one guaranteed life drives us to acquire worldly goods (like the type pictured above), I have to take a moment and pity Wiker. Does he think there’s no avenue to happiness in this life aside from avarice and deceit? Is it really a revelation to him that we can dredge pleasure from this life by telling others the truth, and thereby making friends (as opposed to smiling while looking for an outlet to swindle them)? Has it escaped his keen eye that caring for others generally makes us feel good, and can be done for that reason and not because god is pointing our greedy asses toward the destitute (who, it should be noted, he can’t be bothered to help)?
But no, in Wiker’s world, the only way to get ahead in life (and, hence, to be happy in life) is to connive and cheat. This explains a lot about the Catholic church.