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A company shows up to someone’s house in Pennsylvania.  For a few hundred bucks a month, a family leases its acreage to a fracking well operation, all in the interest of providing cheaper natural gas to help power the engine of America’s resurgent economy.   And then bad things happen; the water turns brown, the dog loses his hair, the faucet shoots flames, people get asthma, maybe cancer.  It’s like the movie Poltergiest.  And it’s a parable for what is happening to all of us.

It’s not the fault of the family that rented their property.  It isn’t really the fault of the company that drilled the well, or the company that provided the poisonous fluid that was injected down it.  It isn’t the fault of the public officials charged with regulating the process.  The fault lies with the every consumer of natural gas or oil in this country, which, unless you’re an organic vegan bicyclist living off-grid, is all of us.

Why not blame the Houston-based oil and gas developer?  Well, for example, Cabot O&G is, like all its competitors, a corporation.  Corporations are simple economic organisms that blossom like mold on the bready substrate of our society.  And like any organism it is designed first to survive, and then to thrive through replication.  As such, corporations are not immoral but rather amoral.  A little bread mold can save your life as an antibiotic.  It can make a delicious cheese.  Or it can trigger a fatal asthma attack.  It’s not that mold is intrinsically good or bad.

As many others have pointed out, we have become as a society addicted to fossil fuels like an individual becomes addicted to, say, crack cocaine.  The more you use, the more you need, and so on and so forth.  The addiction model can be extended to just about everything a consumerist culture embraces, from Mobil gasoline to Nike shoes.  And feeding the addiction means that everything we do as a society, depends on increasing our purchasing power.  In a nutshell, in order to buy what we think we need, we will sell whatever we have, whether that be our health, our children, our souls.

An addict makes classically bad choices.  And just as an addict would sell grandma for crack, we trade what makes our lives worth living in exchange for increasing our ability to buy stuff.  For starters, as Americans at the voting booth, we choose economic growth over all other considerations.  This means, for most of us, jobs, and we will vote for more jobs even at the expense of public health or environmental devastation.  If you don’t believe me, just go to anyplace in the shadow of a nuclear power plant, or a oil and gas refinery, or an industrial pig farm.  You’ll encounter salt of the earth American citizens who will rationalize the dangers they face, their cancer clusters and polluted air and groundwater, all in support of the economic base these industries provide.  

Perpetual economic growth is an academic fantasy turned into an accepted political reality on both sides of the aisle.  Economic growth is the rush, the high that keeps America knocking at the dealer’s door (right now, the candyman lives in China).  It has led us as a society to value jobs and monetary gain to the point of endangering public health, to the point of environmental devastation, to the point of spiritual hypocricy and philosophical sterility.

This is the downward spiral.  It starts when we succumb to the powerful psychological lures of advertising and branding. We equate our well being with the ownership and use of objects.  We trade away the stability of unions and domestic manufacturing for cheaper products made with indentured foreign labor.  In order to acquire these cheaper goods, we trade away entire communites and ecosystems of small businesses and tradesmen in favor of efficient shopping supercenters.  And in order to provide the jobs that we need to pay for these perceived-essential products, we trade away what’s left- the environment we live in.  Grandma’s been sold.  And it’s not Wal Mart’s fault, or Chinese factories, or the energy companies.  It all starts with how we spend, because in the final analysis, how we spend is really how we vote.  

The irony is that the one bogeyman that most Americans can agree upon as the enemy, Islamic fundamentalism, is the most glaring repudiation of our consumerist culture.  That’s what makes the Taliban brand of terrorism so scary, as opposed to say, the Zeta brand of narcoterrorism.   The Taliban does put a serious damper on commerce, whether it’s entertainment or fashion, tourism or technology, and as such, nurtures the real seeds of destruction for what is becoming Western Civilization.  

I am in no way an apologist for theocracy.  I believe that the one thing all religious fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or Jewish, can agree upon is how to put women down.  The next thing they all agree on, in varying degrees, is how best to perpetuate social inequality through general ignorance.  What I’m saying is that we have to somehow delineate progressivism from the consumerism that  permeates it.  Our liberal way of  thinking actually could use some theological fracking.   As much as many on the left feel that all religion is poisonous, an good injection of it may be just what the left needs to dissolve the consumerism that keeps us in circular political policies.

This is hardly a call to reject progressivism in favor of nostalgic pre-scientific theology.  That would be like trying to run a Subaru on charcoal.  We need the economic and social equivalent of solar power, a truly sustainable system, not one that trades away our quality of life for more cheap, branded stuff.  And certainly not one based on the fallacious principle of bottomless economic growth that’s at the heart of our societal malaise.  

Most Americans can agree that a life based on things bought at the mall is a hollow one.  Religious economics as God-given fruitful multiplication is now embodied by the hypocritical paradox of a Christian Religious Right.  Our best hope may come as a religious reformation in America, much as Martin Luther did in Germany five hundred years ago.  A new type of Christian leadership, one that embraces Jesus’ own progressive notions of stewardship of the earth, the commitment to social justice and most importantly, a rejection of monetary materialism, may turn out to be the game changer America needs.

Originally posted to martinjedlicka on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:03 PM PDT.


Does religion have a place in American society?

13%28 votes
2%5 votes
15%32 votes
1%3 votes
37%79 votes
30%63 votes

| 210 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you"

    by martinjedlicka on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:03:09 PM PDT

  •  Well then! This is a bit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadGeorgiaDem, Temmoku, Dar Nirron

    round hole square peg isn't it?!

    I'm not even sure what oragami creature you are attempting to create out of these two completely unrelated topics!

    Barney Frank: "I Can Complain & Vote At The Same Time!"

    by Detroit Mark on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:13:27 PM PDT

  •  I'm not interested in Christian leadership (5+ / 0-)

    I'm Jewish!

  •  One of the best diaries I've read in weeks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, JG in MD

    Actually, I think you strike at one of the root causes of most of our problems: our unfettered materialism. It's immensely destructive, and I think you're right about it being an addiction.

    Of course, what we're discussing is a spiritual or philosophical problem, at bottom. It has consequences for politics, but basically lies beyond politics. To me, spirituality is the solution. (I'm sort of mostly Buddhist, part Christian, but not the devout sort.) I can't see any mass religious movement or reformation - especially a Christian one - being the solution. The solution can only be personal. Everyone must find it in his or her own heart to liberate his soul from this "addiction".

    I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Blue Knight on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:20:42 PM PDT

  •  Whenever I get the urge to explain the world (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sceptical observer

    in a single statement, I know it's time to step back and parse things out for the sake of conversation.

    This diary as two or three major themes running through, but could probably benefit from splitting out those items into more distinct paths of thought and/or inquiry.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:25:51 PM PDT

  •  this reminds me of Mercedes's irritating (8+ / 0-)

    speech to Kurt on Glee last night that said "YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING!"

    Shit like this is why I grind my teeth at night and have to wear a mouthguard.

    I mean, where does one begin with this? It reads like a liberal version of what the Right claims: America, despite being super-majority Christian, has lost its Christian way. Let's bring it back, even though 77% of us are still Christian, because secularism is TEH WRONNGRZ. Or as you state it, philosophically sterile.

    You know, hint hint, that secularism can quite easily address the problems of materialism (and IT HAS!). It's just that Americans aren't interested. Why would they listen to their pastors and preachers and Reverends (who, outside of the Prosperity Gospel churches and the churches/traditions busy scapegoating gay people, ARE talking about the problems of materialism)?

    That and this is like a mashup of like 4 different diaries.

    russia ablaze. pakistan afloat.greenland aslush. gibbs doesn't matter.

    by terrypinder on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:28:53 PM PDT

    •  Thankis... (5+ / 0-)

      ...I thought I was the only one driven batty by Mercedes' speech!

      No...YOU have to believe in something (a magic man who controls everything and does a shitty job at that).  I DO NOT.  STOP SPEAKING FOR ME.

      As an atheist, I think the most tiresome part is constantly being told by the religious what we actually believe.

      I get equally annoyed by the preview for Shyamalan's "Devil" where the character says "everyone believes in him a little."  Or something like that.  NO I DON'T.  I'm not scared of your red pitchfork guy with the tail.  Really, I'm not.

    •  I didn't see the speach, but I also don't (3+ / 0-)

      HAVE to believe in anything.

      Religion: Treat it like your penis. Don't show it off in public, and don't shove it down your children's throats.

      by MinistryOfLove on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:46:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It was a great episode, actually (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Which hit perfectly on classic attitudes and arguments - on both sides of the god question, for a change.

      I thought both Kurt and Sue presented strong atheist arguments - Kurt more thoughtfully and intellectually, as besuits his character, Sue more emotionally and viscerally, as besuits hers.

      Similarly, the arguments for faith covered a range of classics (not the same as stereotypes) that are consistent with the overall characters as developed in the series.

      While Sue responding affirmatively to her sister wanting to pray for her was a little grating, it fit within the context of their relationship, rather than Sue having a religious epiphany. She represents the former religious theist whose atheism is, at least in its origins, an anti-reaction, while Kurt represents more of those of us who reached a rational conclusion that god and religion make no sense, and who are less inherently hostile to every expression of religion (although justifiably impatient with well-meaning people who feel we are "missing" something and need to be "helped".)

      I was glad to see Kurt able to accept the generosity of spirit in Mercedes' church, without compromising his beliefs.

      All in all, rather than the usual "atheist finds god" TV trope, it was all about accepting, respecting and embracing one's friends and fellow humans and the love they share, without having to accept, respect or embrace their beliefs.

      I likes that "Grilled Cheesus" remained "Grilled Cheesus" throughout, and was eventually eaten.

      I liked the rational debunking of intercessory prayer.

      And, I was particularly delighted with Kurt's invocation of Russel's Teapot. Whoever wrote this episode did their homework.

      I can't remember the last time I saw an atheist character on TV who was so secure in his atheism, who was not represented as a hollow character missing some essential "spirit", and who presented arguments for atheism - and a lack of deference for religious magical thinking - in a non-defensive, affirmative way.

      It also depicted all these thoughts at an appropriate, realistic level for the teenage mind.

      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

      by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 02:00:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ? (4+ / 0-)


    feathers fall around you, and show you the way to go... -- Neil Young

    by bubbanomics on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:43:18 PM PDT

  •  You have a firm grasp of the obvious.... (9+ / 0-)

    ...when it comes to the diagnosis: we're fat, wasteful, greedy, and oblivious to the side effects of our uncontrolled consumerism.

    Your prescription boggles my mind:

    A new type of Christian leadership, one that embraces Jesus’ own progressive notions of stewardship of the earth, the commitment to social justice and most importantly, a rejection of monetary materialism, may turn out to be the game changer America needs.

    There is no form of Christianity that will cure our disease. In fact, I think we'd soon find the "new Christian leadership" worse than the disease.

    Weenie liberals of the world unite! ...soccergrandmom

    by Giles Goat Boy on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:43:41 PM PDT

  •  No fucking thank you. (9+ / 0-)

    I've seen quite enough "christian leadership" for one lifetime.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:44:23 PM PDT

  •  WHY do we need Christian leadership? (7+ / 0-)

    Can't we just use our brains to do the right thing?  Religion has had a long turn--it failed.  Time to try something new.

  •  Why not go for the gold standard of a society (0+ / 0-)

    in which its government compels its people to completely reject both materialism and religion?

    Pol Pot, where are you?

  •  After reading this post I am struck by your (6+ / 0-)

    passion for your belief. I respect that. Now, if I can ask you to respect something from us. The Constitution clearly states in the 1st amendment:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,"

    So what you are advocating is to rescind the first amendment of the Constitution for:  

    A new type of Christian leadership, one that embraces Jesus’ own progressive notions of stewardship of the earth

    No offense, I'd rather not.

    Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature...Einstein

    by tazz on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 01:04:56 PM PDT

  •  There's Never Been a Major Christian Sect (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, sfbob

    fully following Jesus' teachings, they all oppose some or others.

    It would be nice if more Christians produced that kind of leadership among themselves, but that's not the business of government. We're a secular nation, and we have two bans on religion in the Constitution and Bill of Rights for good reason.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 01:33:42 PM PDT

  •  Disturbing that the poll choice... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ..."without god there is no society" managed even 21 votes on this site.  Hopefully the votes mainly come from Redstate bigot trolls.

  •  Ah, the kinder, gentler theocracy argument. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Apost8, Aves

    Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

    by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 02:03:43 PM PDT

  •  NO (0+ / 0-)

    Any type, whether new or old, of Christian leadership is always subject to the possibility of being overtaken by the next new kind.  

    Even if there were one that I could tolerate as a government, the next incarnation that people would craft out of whatever snippets of text would end up being worse than the original.

    Out of all the things taht are conspiracy theories, I"ll never understand why the story of Jesus and the ensuing centuries of promotion of Christianity by world power brokers isn't on that list of CT.  

    Blog simply so that others may simply blog

    by otto on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 02:04:02 PM PDT

  •  religion??? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a recovering christian, I believe that christianity - as practiced in the states - is a shame.  I call it Christ-less christianity.

    They preach and talk Jesus but govern as Leviticus.  As was recently pointed out they know little to nothing about their own denomination let alone other denominations or religions.

    Many are led by self proclaimed "experts".  This is especially true with baptists.  They allow themselves to be lead by the nose on all facets of their faith by the likes of Buchanan, falwell, dobson, CBN, televangelists - oh hell, the list is endless.  Many condemn variants of interpretation other than king james - which the majority can't understand because of the complex Shakespearean syntax.

    What was the question?

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