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Materialism in American Society

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Materialism in American Society

Over the course of the last century America has undergone many societal changes, none of which have had as great an ethical effect as the nation's transition towards ever increasing materialism. Materialism, or the desire for wealth and possessions, has faced virulent opposition for thousands of years from both religious institutions and social activists. Throughout time, materialism has been widely slandered not only as spiritually corrupting, but also as a major cause of a multitude of societal ills throughout the world. Although absolute materialism would obviously be awful for all involved, to date materialism has overall been very positive for American society, driving it towards ever-greater productive, intellectual, and ethical heights.

First, the most obvious benefit bestowed upon America by materialism is the increased productivity of its people. With the attainment of wealth and possessions as the predominant motivation, it is to be expected that the majority of Americans go to great lengths to attain material success. Even with such a relatively short lifetime as a nation, America's capitalist beliefs have catapulted it to the forefront of the world as the only true modern superpower. One of the most significant factors contributing to America's dramatic rise in power is the capitalistic drive for success and achievement, a love for material possessions that has manifested itself in the typically American value of hard work, both in ones profession and in school. Since education and socioeconomic position are closely correlated, it is not surprising that America is the worldwide leader in higher education.

Not only does America produce great thinkers, but it also attracts the best and the brightest of other countries, people who are drawn to America's freedom of thought and the material possibilities that abound. So many great minds have made America a land of unprecedented innovation. The copious amounts of money held by American investors has made the United States one of the most inventive societies in the world, second perhaps only to similarly materialistic Japan. The standard of living enjoyed by most Americans is vastly superior to the rest of the world, and it is the productive nature of materialism that allows for such opulence. Although this increased production is overall very positive, it has not come without its negative side effects. Productivity often conflicts with environmental sustainability, and economic progress has often come at the expense of the natural world. Although some irreparable damage is inevitable, with time science will be able to remedy nearly any environmental catastrophe. Even if it is somewhat selfish, America's materialistic nature promotes a strong national work ethic, something that can be seen only as good, regardless of the nature of its motivation.

Secondly, materialism has been of great intellectual benefit to America by encouraging a clear, rational way of thought. Because everyone is working for maximum productivity, Americans are now more than ever moving away from outdated religious guidelines for their daily lives and are looking more to secular humanism and scientific fact. Many religious institutions suffer during times of increased materialism since the people are obviously giving their time on Earth more consideration than their afterlives.

When the fear of an unknown afterlife is removed from people religions lose much of their power and influence, leaving a vacuum that is readily filled by logic and science.

Humanism, a philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice and specifically rejects rituals, ceremonies, and superstition as a means to affirm a life stance, is naturally conducive to rational thought and the betterment of life on Earth. Humanism has the potential to revolutionize the world, as more and more people begin to act rationally and base their decisions on fact rather than spurious religious texts. This relaxation of religious belief is greatly beneficial to all involved as religiosity has been shown in numerous studies to be negatively correlated with intelligence and scientific interest (Wikipedia). This correlation is clearly detrimental to the progress of American society. Although there are people who believe that materialism is a shallow, sinful existence, until there is empirical evidence to prove the point, humanists will likely give the issue little concern. Materialism promotes curiosity, reason, and logic, the very



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