So, in my most recent blog post, I sort of obliquely discussed the philosophy of materialism.
I would have to do more research to confirm this, but the type of “materialism” I was referring to in that post most resembles dialectical materialism, but I am not confident that I would necessarily agree with everything in that particular philosophy.
In fact, what I am talking about might better be described as physicalism rather than materialism. I am honestly not sure.
At any rate, what I was (and am) talking about is the idea that everything in the universe is explainable through “material” or “physical” terms. And yes, that includes all types of “spiritual” and/or “supernatural” experiences.
My use of “quotation marks” there should not be misconstrued as reductive. I am not trying to delegitimize anyone’s subjective experiences, nor am I trying to say that things like religion and “spirituality” are useless.
On the contrary, I think both of those things can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level, and as long as religious people don’t try to force any of their views on other people, and as long as those views don’t oppress anyone within the religious group in any way, I have no problem whatsoever with anyone’s religious views.
Religion (and membership in any other sort of ideologically-based group) provides its adherents with a sense of community, a common set of values and beliefs, and so on. To repeat, I think that membership in such groups can have an enormously positive effect on people at the individual level. And heck, it can have an enormously positive effect at the group level, also…
Have you ever heard anyone say (or have you ever said), “I want to feel like I am part of something bigger than myself”?
That feeling, I would venture, is one that is common across all religious and/or ideologically-based groups. It’s also, I would venture, a feeling that is common to all (or at least most) human beings. The desire to feel connected to something or someone outside of and separate to one’s own physical self.
I certainly have this desire. And I have come to realize that my relatively recent (like in the past few years, I mean) attraction to various strains of materialism is a product of that desire.
This may not be immediately apparent — it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, at least — based on that last post I wrote. Someone could easily read that post as “human beings are just physical things, thoughts and emotions are just the result of physical processes, nothing means anything, we’re all gonna die” and not see anything more than that. That’s my fault; actually after publishing that post I remembered that I didn’t post it last July because it might be interpreted like that, and I didn’t quite know how to articulate how and why I didn’t intend for it to be interpreted that way.
I am not sure I can articulate it now, but I am gonna try:
I think it goes back to a phase I went through a decade or more ago when I was fascinated with transcendentalism, specifically its attempts to integrate/appropriate various spiritual traditions into one philosophy. This led me to Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, though only in a philosophical/intellectual sort of way. I never converted to anything — in “the anthropological sense,” I remain a Southern Baptist — but philosophically (and more importantly, politically), I have very little in common with most Southern Baptists, beyond “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Anyways, I have personal views and beliefs that prevent me from being able to honestly say that I adhere to 100% to any of the various philosophies and/or religions I have listed so far. I don’t quite “belong” in any of those groups.
That’s not me trying to prove I am special, or that the objections I have to various aspects of these philosophies and/or religions make me “unique” or something. I am just relating to you, the reader, that I don’t feel especially “connected” to any ideologically based group… although I am certainly “more connected” to some than I am to others.
So, what’s a person to do, once he (or she) has explored various philosophies, gone by various labels (I used to tell people I was a “Taoist,” for example), and subsequently found that he (or she) doesn’t quite “belong” in any of them completely?
Especially when this person acknowledges fully that he (or she) *wants* to belong to a group, because as mentioned above, group membership can have an enormously positive effect on one’s life?
Should he or she start (or join) a group of philosophical misfits, whose only reason for belonging to the group is that they don’t belong in any other group? Sure, one *could* do that…
Or, one could attempt to do what I am attempting to do, though I admittedly am not doing a very good job of explaining what I am trying to do: put every philosophy and every religion under one umbrella.
I wish I were able to articulate it better than that, but alas, I’m not. Let me try again:
The desire to feel connected to something larger than oneself can be satisfied (or perhaps “realized”) without even bothering to join any group. (And yes, I borrowed this idea from someone else.)
You *already are* part of something larger than yourself. You are part of the whole of humanity. You are a member of a species that inhabits the planet Earth, which is part of a solar system, which is part of a galaxy, which is part of the universe… which may be only one of many universes.
You are part of that. The process that produced lil’ ol’ you began around 13.8 billion years ago. It will keep going a looooooong time after you’re gone. After I’m gone; after everyone currently living is gone.
At any rate, that’s what sits at the heart of my own personal attraction to materialism: the desire to feel “connected.”
Does that make *any* sense whatsoever? Honest question.
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