And the plea is appropriate because prayers for deliverance are a kind of exorcism, and if any society needs exorcism it is the American Atheistic Materialistic society.
Pope St. John Paul II said there were two atheistic materialistic societies: Communist Russia and the Unrestrained Capitalism of America. The philosopher pope asserted this not because he hated America or was against capitalism per se, but because he was against the kind of unrestrained capitalism which is a form of atheistic materialism.
“Materialism” is a popular nickname for greedy consumerism. We say a woman is “materialistic” if she does nothing but go to the mall and shop until she drops. We call a man “materialistic” if all he cares about is his financial success, his career and the prosperity, power and pleasure his success will buy him. These forms of materialism are symptoms not the disease. The disease is far deeper and more incurable for it is a disease of not only the mind but also the heart.
At depth, materialism is that philosophy that assumes and asserts that there is nothing more than the material world. “What you see is what you get.” The true materialist does not believe in life after death, heaven, hell, demons, angels, miracles and “all that medieval stuff.” Instead he wants “all that modern stuff”, and by that he means the goodies, the treats, the treasures, not just the house, but the lake house, the mountain house, the beach house and the rental house. He wants more and more and more material stuff because that is the only stuff he believes is real.
This tragedy is that this American materialistic atheism is lauded as not only the right way, but the only way. We worship the Almighty Dollar, not the Almighty Deity, and our materialism is as much a socially accepted—yea mandated—form of atheism as communistic atheism was accepted and expected in Soviet Russia.
Most astoundingly, this materialistic, atheistic philosophy has taken over most of the Christian churches. Mainstream Protestants, a majority of Catholics and an increasing proportion of Evangelical Protestants have endorsed and embraced a religious form of materialistic atheism.
Embarrassed by the supernatural, the Christian teachers and preachers have gradually and gently de-mythologized religion so that it no longer deals with man’s interaction with the supernatural realm, but instead aims to simply save the natural realm. American Christianity is no longer about the salvation of souls, but self help and social justice. The preachers are increasingly silent about the other world, settling for the chance to improve this world.
Some critics have called this new religion “Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism.” In other words, “God (if he exists) is up there minding his own business while we try to be good and work hard to overcome our problems.” This is not a religion. It is a set of table manners, and one of the main reasons people are leaving the Christian churches in America is not because the churches are too religious, but because they are not religious at all.
People are not stupid. They have come to realize that you don’t need God to work on your problems and try to be good. This is why Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism will not be Deist for long. It must disintegrate further into Moralistic, Therapeutic Atheism, and from there into Moralistic, Therapeutic Atheistic Ideology and from there into Moralistic, Therapeutic Atheistic Tyranny.
The irony is that it is only a fully Christian cosmology which recognizes the true value of the material world. If there is nothing but the material world, then because all material things will eventually die and decay into dust, materialism is ultimately a creed of despair. However, by virtue of the doctrine of creation and the incarnation, Christians believe that matter matters. Unlike the Eastern religions that teach the ultimate vanity of the material world, Christians believe in the ultimate validity of the material world.
The materialist has nothing but the material world. The Christian has the spiritual world and the material world. For him the two are interfused, for the whole world is charged with the grandeur of God. The Christian poets and prophets see clearly. With William Blake, they hold “the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower…infinity in the palm of his hand and eternity in an hour.”
So the Christian has heaven and “all this too” whereas the materialistic atheist has nothing but the grain of sand which soon sifts through his fingers and the flower that wilts and fades.
This is why the surest bet for a return to religion in our materialistic atheistic age is not more relevant social programs, hip hop sermons and groovy music. The answer is not more coffee bars in church or more self help breakout sessions.
The answer is a return to mysticism and monasticism, contemplation, prophecy, poetry and prayer. Only then will the metaphysical well up within the physical, and only then will we turn from materialistic atheism—not by force of argument, but by the irresistible experience of beauty.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.