BY DR. AGONSON
If, at bottom, our only motives are the gratification of our desires, what does materialism offer us? Immediately, it places certain inner wants outside the realm of possibility. Loves, like friendship, become a means to an end—not the ends themselves—and so, under the lens of materialism, love disappears, replaced by the most base and carnal lusts.
This point should be drawn out. Under the teachings of materialism, the dearest and sweetest element of life, a mother caring for her child, is on a par with the tragedy of the caterpillar acting as a host to parasitic wasps. This is not the position of someone antagonistic to the worldview of materialism, this is one of their own lessons from their own lips. The affection shown the child is merely the result of evolutionary forces. It is the baby taking advantage of the mother. The individual person is just a small particle of these great meaningless waves of matter that we call life.
Good and evil are herein discarded as well, for to pass a moral judgment necessarily calls upon none material truths. This robs mankind, not just by degrading him—casting him from the classical position of a moral creature capable of gaining heaven to the innately material being eternally stuck in a meaningless pit—but by removing his highest wants, his godliest goals. In this worldview, absent a heaven or hell, absent any ultimate justice, the forces of our nature driving us towards self-sacrifice become utter foolishness.
A young soldier who gives his life for his country, leaving this world without an heir, has lost the game. There is no personal profit for him, no logical motive. Indeed, even if he were to have an heir, someone he fought and died for, that would be no real help to him, for though his genes could then persist, he has personally been frustrated, his desires forever ungratified. Materialism makes cowardice, on the individual level, wisdom, and the laying down of one’s life, folly.
On the big picture, looking not at persons but societies, it is of obvious material benefit that individuals should, “love others as themselves,” but what cause is given the individual to act unselfishly? If materialism is true, if it has pierced the veil of priestly lies, then it simultaneously removes all the benefits of those lies. It seems materialism comes at a great material cost, and not just for the society that accept it en masse. For even a lone materialist, living in a world of those “taken in,” in the end, would be degrading himself.
In the end, there is no material benefit to being a materialist, for whatever benefits exist—immediate gratification of base lusts—are miniscule compared to the benefits of, for example, the specifically Christian worldview. You have to have Christian, not materialistic, ideals of truth to reject Christianity as untrue and accept materialism as true.
Something of a paradox is herein created: If the dichotomy of truth exists and materialism is true, then the dichotomy of truth does not exist and materialism is not true or false. As a corollary, if materialism is not true or false, and we simply weigh its benefits as compared with other worldviews, then it fails to provide for us anything beyond the meanest goods while dismantling the defenses against some of the greatest horrors in life. There is no material reason to accept materialism, and an argument for the truth of materialism is paradoxical.
I think Puddleglum puts it best:
“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
Materialism is wholly unequipped to face either the ravages of death or the demands for meaning that life entails. To deny the latter is to deny something of a cardinal truth, and to ignore the first is doom. Where is the Cross of materialism to give suffering purpose, and where is its empty grave to give life hope?
Listen to my beautiful voice: