Monday, March 08, 2010

Idolatry of ideology


Brother Calee and I had a phone conversation a while back in which he pronounced his suspicion that Corporate America makes regular use of religion and its various traditions as yet another means of skimming wealth off the labors of the common people.  Specifically, he was referring to the Easter holiday, making note of all the commercial endeavors geared to take advantage of a (supposedly) sacred memorial.  Think about it:  dyeing Easter eggs, buying chocolate bunny rabbits and Easter bonnets, gorging ourselves at Easter brunches.  There is money to be made.  (And let's not even mention Christmas, eh?)

Well, that got me to thinking.

Most of today's Christian holidays roughly coincide with astronomical events.  Christmas occurs near the winter solstice, while Easter and All Saint's Day (which is now called Halloween) correspond to the spring and fall equinoxes, respectively.  (I haven't been able to identify a Christian holiday that corresponds directly to the summer solstice.)

It is well-established that early Christians, in their efforts to spread the Word, co-opted Pagan holidays, which corresponded directly to these very same astronomical events, as a means of convincing Pagans that Christianity fit easily into their own customs and beliefs.  It made it much easier for missionaries to win over converts.  (Pity the poor druids and the die-hard nature worshipers who were too obstinate.  They got a real taste of Christian compassion while tied to stakes atop ghastly pyres.)

But now, is it just possible that some 1500 years later, the Christians are being beaten at their own game?  But this time, rather than some new religious doctrine, the supplanting philosophy is "free market capitalism."

I note two examples that I believe add credence to my postulate: 
  1. As I mentioned above, our society places great value on the consumption of goods during the various holiday seasons.  In fact, the holiday tradition here in the United States includes a day informally referred to as "Black Friday," which is the day that follows Thanksgiving Thursday, and is billed as the "biggest shopping day of the year."  It is the opening day of the "Christmas season." Receipts and sales activity on this day supposedly prognosticate the condition of entire economies for the coming year.  In the early Jewish days (precursor of Christianity), such forecasts were determined from the entrails of sacrificial animals.
  2. In some circles, (most particularly within the Teabag crowd, or the upper echelons of the Republican party) the term "capitalism" is pronounced in reverent tones; is held up, frankly, as holy.  The term "socialism" is vile and unholy.  For anyone to suggest that our society might have an interest in working for the common good is sacrilegious, traitorous, repugnant.  
Christianity and free market capitalism are being conflated; co-identified.  (Never mind that "Sermon on the Mount" claptrap.)  Many people in the United States do not go to church; are Christian only in that they identify themselves as such.  And yet, the vast majority of Americans participate in the shopping frenzies and consumption that surround the (supposedly) Christian holidays.

If one were inclined to do so, one might suspect that Corporate America is becoming the new church.  Maybe 1500 years hence, people will be tithing their new gods with the cream of their crops.  Maybe each harvest, the best of the earth's yield will be laid at the altar of the Holy of Holies, whose symbol is the Golden Arches or the Yellow Seashell.

Are we witnessing the birth of a new religion?

(By the way, did you hear that Easter is canceled?  They found the body!)

Note:  Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed out my misspelling of "dyeing."  Easter eggs don't die; they get dyed.  I've corrected the error.


Dan Binmore said...

Spending money and Christianity have been conflated in certain areas for centuries. The word, "Indulgences" comes to mind. There has always been an industry that supported holidays, and that industry has always wanted to make the most amount of money possible.

However, in the longer run Christianity itself is being supplanted by secular culture. The numbers of atheist or agnostic people are increasing with every generation, the majority of those who identify as having a particular religion do not follow the dogma of that religion (abortion, gay marriage, divorce etc.) if they disagree with it.

Americans are going to experience what much of Europe has become, cultural Christians. That is the rituals of Christianity are the rituals of the culture, the origin of holidays and ceremony such as marriage, but without the belief in what the rituals represent. In the UK over 70% call themselves Christian but less than 20% regularly go to church. In Spain the numbers are more like 80% and 40%. In the USA they are more like 80% and 25%.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Christ is crucified every day by churchianity and marketeers. May his truth be resurrected from such entombment. People today have the great luxury of being able to read the Bible for one's self. It's apparent that too few who use the label "Christian" really do that...