Religion and materialism

 

 

Black Friday has almost become a holiday in its self for some, but since 1997, for others this day is to be called-international buy nothing day which was started by Ted Dave who called it, “a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.”

Thursday, Nov. 17 a panel of UVU professors with very differing perspectives; Islam, Latter Day Saint, Buddhism, and Secular Humanism, got together to discuss consumerism. The panel was organized and moderated by Alex Simon of the UVU Department of Behavioral Science.

It seemed that through the differing perspectives, a consensus was reached that consumerism is a problem in society. The participants included; David Keller, professor of philosophy, Grant Richards professor of physiology, Farid Islam, professor of finance and economics, and Kenneth White, lecturer of philosophy and humanities.

Richards was the first to speak, representing an LDS perspective. Richards clarified that he was not representing the church its self, but used his time to cite some LDS literature relating to consumerism.

Richards quoted parts of the “Book of Mormon” which emphasized that riches should not be the emphasis. He continued by quoting prominent church leaders such as Brigham Young, who lived before consumerism was such a large issue.

“My worst fear is that they cannot withstand wealth,” Brigham Young said.

Richards said the LDS church approaches this problem by organizing programs that encourage giving, such as the humanitarian, and welfare programs.

Keller spoke second as the voice of secular humanism.

“Consumerism is the dominant social paradigm of our society,” Keller said. “The bigger economy is, the happier we are.”

Keller quoted a book titled One Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse, who believes Americans are “finding their soul in their stuff”.

According to Marcuse, “If you live in a trailer park and take out a loan to buy a nice car, you can appear to be a middle class citizen, at least on I15.”

Keller spoke of false needs saying value and worth are very separate in our society.

“The social value of something is independent from its worth, we own things not for use value, but for their social prestige.”

Keller explained that work gives life meaning, saying that when a stone mason identifies himself with the wall he built, or a sculptor identifies herself with a sculpture, they feel a certain ownership in their work. He went on to state that alienation happens when someone specializes in a portion of the product, robbing them of experiencing the self-worth involved.

Keller concluded his remarks saying ours is a dehumanizing and morally degrading political economy, one which should be replaced with an ethical political economy.

Islam spoke next, representing the Islam perspective. Islam explained some of the teachings of the Curran, which gives answers to questions such as, how much should one give to the poor? And how much does one really need?

“The Curran says to give whatever you don’t need,” said Islam. “We create needs from thin air and have things beyond what we need… sometimes we don’t even use them.”

Islam explained that famine has grown in the past 20 years.

“850 million people hunger, about one out of six,” Islam said.

White spoke last and is not a practicing Buddhist, but has studied it and had a lot of things to add to the discussion. White started out with a joke.

“Why don’t Buddhists vacuum in the corners? It’s because they don’t have any attachments.”

White continued to explain the idea saying the goal of Buddhism is to achieve non attachment. The problem is not the stuff of the world, but what we do with it.

According to Buddhism, the three marks of existence are Impermanence, non-self, and nirvana. Impermanence is a concept which states that understanding that nothing is permanent will help people to attain happiness.

“We don’t suffer because things are impermanent, we suffer because we think things are permanent,” White said. “The more we understand the idea of impermanence the happier we are, merely depriving yourself is not enough.”

White explained that commercials have been telling viewers why they probably want something such as a car, and now the trend now in advertising is to persuade the viewer that he or she deserves the car.

“We have to work on wanting, because there will always be things we can’t have.”

 

Written by Tiffany Thatcher

Asst. News Editor

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