America Has a State Religion, and It Is Greed

On the other hand, in the arena of our government and secular civic activities, championing values like generosity, wisdom, or self-restraint are considered optional at best, laughable or even inappropriate at worst. And yet it's a lie that our "state" operates in some objective way, free from relativistic "values"; it just operates according to all the values that are left after the positive ones are pushed into the private sphere of personal choice along with religious affiliation: competitiveness, selfishness, individualism, and eagerness to consume or acquire as much as we can get our hands on regardless of the consequences. Values like these underlie our whole political, economic, social, and physical infrastructure. Little islands of sanity, beauty, simplicity, and kindness exist, but are constantly in danger of being swept away by the tide of greed.

The problem is, instead of ensuring that our "state" is guided by the deepest human wisdom available, we have forbidden the practice of wisdom there. We call wisdom "spiritual" or "religious," and rely instead on legalistic or economic rationales for everything. We think this makes us objective, but it actually just sets the default state religion to greed. We always have a view and we always operate according to some kind of values, even if our views and values are unconscious.

It's time for our leaders — and the rest of us, as voters and "consumers" — to realign our priorities.

It's time to reflect seriously on the prevailing "secular" values of competitiveness, selfishness, individualism, and greed, and ask whether they are getting us what we really want. And to reflect on what we really want, and how to achieve it: meaningful and rich human relationships, peace, harmonious and stable societies, time and energy to devote to spiritual growth and the cultivation of beauty, sustainable ecological systems and the persistence of wilderness, polar bears, and elephants…

And let's not just talk about doing without, because that's just a bummer and everyone is just trying to be happy. Let's remember what real happiness is, and that it doesn't need to be shipped from China.

11/18/2015 5:00:00 AM
  • Consumerism and Wealth
  • Buddhist
  • Public Square
  • Consumerism
  • Greed
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