Throughout history humanity has exhibited a gravitational pull toward self-worship.
It can take the individualistic form of the modern and postmodern eras in which people devote narcissistic attention to themselves—whether appearance, achievement, or accumulation of wealth. A corollary of this is the near-worship attention given to celebrities or anyone able to seize a moment of fame. People seem hard-wired to do this sort of thing. Just look at the tabloids at the grocery store checkouts.
We can have a worshipful attitude about the way we like to see ourselves as a group. This happens when a large percentage of a society admires or exalts its own race, culture, or identity directly (as Nazi Germany did with Aryanism) or indirectly through cultural narratives (as Japanese do with “Japanism”). This can happen in America, for example, in assumptions of superiority over other nations or cultures. It happens all the time in sports.
Before pointing fingers, anyone ought to do some self-examination, because the self-worshipping tendency is universal. People commonly maintain exalted opinions of themselves or the group with whom they identify without thinking about it.
Creating Our Own Realities
Along with, and resulting from, this tendency is the inclination to construct our own realities. As human beings, if we resist bowing to an authority higher than ourselves—as in ultimate or spiritual authority such as God—we essentially become our own gods. Not recognizing any reality beyond our own, we define our own earthly realities and assume that’s all there is. We don’t overtly worship ourselves, but reserve for ourselves the seat of authority in how we think and conduct life—the seat that would otherwise be God’s. We create our own social rules and priorities—and our rules change as cultural changes, or as we change culture. We also assume that if we’re somehow “good,” we’ll go to “a better place” when we die.
The problem with creating our own realities is that it’s not honest—neither with our own human condition, nor with objective truth claims. Most people don’t outright reject truth claims (like those of the Bible or any other sacred religious text) as much as they simply ignore them. And if life is good—or just tolerable—most folks will assume that their assumptions are correct or adequate.
But what happens when disaster strikes? What happens when, in this life or at death, people confront a God and a reality that are both greater than and contradictory to their own?
How can we imagine that the material, social, political, and economic realities our society has created, and even the physical stuff of the world we live in, are all there is—that there’s not something more, far greater and eternal, behind them?
We all need to wake up while we still can.
Top photo credit: www.CourtneyCarmody.com