Does God Drive a Mercedes Benz or Take the Bus?

[Written by Teresa Roberts] Throughout modern history humans have denounced materialism for a variety of reasons. Whether as a path to non attachment as part of the Buddhist philosophy or from a need to find fulfillment outside the confines of mainstream life, the drive to obtain material things has often been painted in an unflattering light.

I was a child of the 60s and can easily remember a time period in America when the hippie revolution flourished upon such notions as shared living, back-to-the-earth lifestyles and the glorious goal of breaking the chains of a greed-driven world. We see this theme recycling even today with the tiny house movement and community gardens. Redefining what makes life worthwhile has driven many to form alliances. Standing alongside these soul-searching-radical lifestyles is Christianity, at least in the western world.

Although the KING of non materialism in western religions is undoubtedly Jesus, his message is often ignored by Christians themselves. 

The groups mentioned above were secular movements started by those who were weary of status quo, inequality or society's push to keep the human work force with their noses to the grindstone. Even a political theory as progressive as communism came from the desire to reduce human suffering and limit human greed. 

 The modern-day Christian, however, is just as likely to own a huge house, expensive cars and boats as well as a garage full of stuff these days. 

In fact, there has been a movement of the faithful who believe that Christians should profit in a big way just because they are Christians, a philosophy that promotes double dipping from both this life and the next. 

Yet, these same people also believe that there's a better life to come. 

This life is supposed to be about passing a test so that when death inevitably arrives upon their doorstep, they will inherit the kingdom of god. By the way, the kingdom of god for all intents and purposes sounds a great deal like an exclusive gated community in Beverly Hills. There was a time when the most devout believed that even though they might not be permitted to live a lavish lifestyle while undergoing their earthly test, if they were self sacrificing here, they'd be rewarded with the very things they were to deny themselves of while alive. 

Self denial as a whole is a rather unpopular idea in a day of mass consumerism. 

Yet, some of today's materialistic Christians also believe that the world is going to end soon — in their lifetime, yet, they toil to gather gold and silver as though they'll be able to take it with them into the next life. Plus, they also talk about trusting god with the Bible in one hand and an insurance policy in the other. 

The outlandish contradictions between what they preach and how they live is mind boggling to someone like myself. 

I'm a minimalist at heart with a touch of the humanist as well. I feel guilty when I think that by sheer luck of the lottery of birth, I find myself in the top 10% of the world's wealthiest people. That's right. If you own a house, car, have a full belly and a little money left over to squander, you're in a coveted group of natural-resource users that millions of people envy. According to Credit Suisse reports, a net worth of $93,170 is enough to make you richer than 90% of the people around the world. If you own as little as $4200, you're wealthier than 50% of the world's population. The institute defines net worth as the value of financial assets(cash) and real assets (owning a house, for example) minus outstanding debt. 

By no means do I consider myself to be wealthy. 

In America a person is thought of as wealthy by much, much higher standards. No one looks at me, I'm quite sure, and thinks that I'm a wealthy person by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, I am when compared to the world at large and as a member of the 10%, I am very much aware that there are far too many that lack even the basics. Those are sobering statistics.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25 

 Or so the saying goes. 

For the love of money is the root of all evil ... I Timothy 6:10

Another annoying reminder of what NOT to do. If I had a dollar for every time a believer kindly explained to me that god qualified this verse with the phrase "love of money", I'd have made a significant amount of cold, hard cash off the backs of the devout. Would that count as holy money? 

I get a kick out of this weak argument that materialistic Christians offer as justification for "storing up treasure on earth". 

The sin apparently isn't the greed resulting in hoarding, but the LOVE of money that offends god. If one can find a way to hoard without loving what you're collecting, god's down with that. Even though the Bible makes it clear that hoarding treasure on earth is a complete waste of time as it will be subject to moths and vermin or thieves who covet your stuff, Christians appear to be just as vulnerable to the engineered consumer spirit to buy more and more and more as anyone else. 

Show me a person who doesn't love money and I'll show you a dead person. 

 Just as I've never met a truly happy person, I've never met a person who can't be corrupted by money. Money is the number one cause of interpersonal and group problems on the planet. Christians have nurtured a long-held belief that god is watching over them and when in need or peril, even financial peril, he will step in and feed and care for them if they have faith. That kind of belief in the nurturing-father aspect of god didn't necessarily involve landing a jackpot of gold out of the heavenly blue, however. There was a kind of humility in this older version of god and money that didn't tout winning the lottery, but instead promoted the idea that god the father will meet your BASIC needs. 

Basic needs have long been defined as food, clothing and shelter even by secular movements looking to care for those who suffer.  

Suddenly, in the 20th century, god morphed into a mafia boss who wanted to see he and his followers get a bigger piece of the pie than they could consume in several lifetimes. Pay him his dues and you, too, will reap the benefits of his protection. With the advent of mass consumerism, all attempts at humility vanished and was replaced with strange bedfellows like big corporations and flashy lifestyles.

For one group of people to have more than they can spend or use in several lifetimes, is the height of waste and corruption.

There are plenty of people without even the tiniest taste for religion that recognize that the drive to be a king isn't necessarily a good thing nor does being the king make you happy. Minimalism has benefits that only those who practice it can fully understand. Stuff is often a weight around our necks rather than a boon to our sense of purpose. We have to work to buy it, care for it, store it, protect it and figure out what to do with it after we die. 

Although as a humanist, I don't think in terms of sins, I do ponder the overall good of humankind. 

I'm much more concerned with the here and now than what happens to me after I die. I brought two children into the world without a promise that I'd be able to provide for them which is scary enough on its own, but I also understand that the kind of world I leave behind for them will be partially my responsibility.

Do I really want this world where greed rules? Do I want a world where my generation uses more that its fair share of natural resources, robbing our children of a decent future?

How Christians can be so void of these kinds of long range repercussions of the choices made on earth, I'll never know. Of all the flawed humans walking the streets of civilizations, one might expect a more altruistic and socially responsible outlook from those who claim to have a personal relationship with the god of the universe. In fact, with so many people claiming throughout the world to have actually spoken to a god, you'd think the world would be a kinder, gentler place, a place where all children would be fed and clothed with a roof over their heads at the very least.

Which begs the question, what kind of a god gives a shit about how much junk anyone has stored in their garage but turns a blind eye to those who are struggling all over the world to meet their basic needs? If anything, he would be commanding his children to give away their worldly possessions to the poor and follow him. 

Oh, yeah, he already did that ...

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.