Naturalism, Materialism, Consumerism

To make sure we’re all on the same page, please read the following definitions.

Naturalism: the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms without recourse to spiritual or supernatural explanations

Materialism: a desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in ethical or spiritual matters.

Consumerism: A preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods.

QUESTION: Based on the definition for Naturalism, does Materialism naturally follow? And does Consumerism then naturally follow Materialism?

A blogger seems to think so. He writes … if the physical world is all there is then we must get all of our fulfillment from material things in this life.

He further suggests … consumerism is one of the logical outcomes of materialism. 

Background: This blogger is a pastor of a Christian church, which naturally follows that his outlook is different from many of us. Nevertheless, his perspective on this particular issue intrigued me and I decided to open it for discussion.

What do you think? Does one follow the other? If we reject spiritual or supernatural explanations about our world, will we then be entirely focused on the accumulation of wealth and material possessions? Will our entire focus on life be directed towards the buying of consumer goods?

P.S. Someone left the following comment related to this blogger’s post:  It is indeed silly how much time, energy, and money we invest in things that are destined to disappear. I couldn’t help but think to myself … It is indeed silly how much time, energy, and money some people invest in things that don’t exist.

47 thoughts on “Naturalism, Materialism, Consumerism

  1. Materialism has a dual meaning and I think that is the reference here. Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental aspects and consciousness, are results of material interactions.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Mormons hold that world view, a materialistic combination of spirit and matter as all things are one. They incorporate the physical world and the material nature of God and the cosmos is all intertwined.

      Liked by 3 people

    • This is a second definition of materialism: the philosophical theory that matter is the only reality. But based on the blogger’s post, I felt he was leaning towards the definition I provided.

      Further, in my experiences, Christians tend to think all “naturalists” are driven by the accumulation of “things” because without “God” in their life, there is nothing else.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Equivocation is the apologists stock-in-trade. Start with one definition and drift to another. Post someone else’s quote as your own. Misrepresent cause and effect. Blame non-believers for the age-old problems. Throw in a non sequitur that atheists are deluded. And please purchase some of our lovely books before you leave.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. No, the logic does not hold.

    Understanding nature comes from knowledge adduced from nature. Knowledge about nature therefore comes from explanations adduced from the natural world, explanations about the natural world independent of who is trying to gain this understanding. The explanations stand independent of who is is doing the asking or answering. They come from the natural world and can be seen by anyone through demonstration to work, to remain the case, to be utilized as propositions that are the case that then leads to other explanations that also work, and so on. Knowledge can be wrong, can be incorrect, but still quite useful and seemingly the case (see classical physics, for example).

    Moral and ethical considerations are not ‘knowledge’ in this view; they are philosophical spectrums we use upon which to place the consequences of selected behaviours or actions in order to compare and contrast them. As such, they are not ‘natural’ ie existing in nature independent of what we might think about them; they are useful constructs.

    The jump to materialism in the same vein as the gaining knowledge adduced from ‘naturalism’ becomes a non sequitur when it is predicated on a non natural naturalism! It makes no sense to claim this to be the inevitable child of naturalism but is independent of it. As such, anyone can participate in assigning consequences a place on these spectrums. And these placements have absolutely nothing to do with knowledge about the natural world nor does it somehow advance any understanding of it.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. C’mon Nan, “Christians tend to think” … really? I think provocateurs of the religious sort tend to blather on about things they know very poorly, even scripture. And the rank and file Christians often only repeat what they hear in sermons, without further thought. There are very few significant Christian thinkers because, well, what is there to learn? What is there to say that has not already been said? Like Biblical archaeologists who existed to show the truth behind the events of the Bible, but then had nothing to say when they found a giant heap of non-corroboration, other than “we must be interpreting the data wrong.” How would this pile of nothing attract thinkers? (Please do not offer up William Lane Craig or others of his ilk as he has already admitted that anything he were to discover that contradicted his faith, he would set aside. That is the antithesis of thinking.

    Now, I have to go back to the kitchen and baste the baby I have in the oven.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good points! Especially liked: There are very few significant Christian thinkers because, well, what is there to learn? What is there to say that has not already been said?

      At least with SCIENCE, there are new things being discovered each and every day. The bible is old, stale, and completely irrelevant to today’s world (contrary to what Christians believe). IOW, wash, rinse, repeat.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Had it been the case that materialism follows naturally from naturalism and consumerism being their relative, one would be tempted to ask why are believers, who aren’t naturalists, also preoccupied with consumerism?

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Does one follow the other?No.

    If we reject spiritual or supernatural explanations about our world, will we then be entirely focused on the accumulation of wealth and material possessions?No.

    Will our entire focus on life be directed towards the buying of consumer goods?No.

    There are 5 basic necessities to life, surviving, and thriving:

    • Clean Air
    • Clean Alkaline Water
    • Food, preferrably fresh organic
    • Shelter, with a source of heat and cooling
    • Sleep, restful recouping sleep

    To thrive more in life these 5 basic requirements do NOT need excessiveness and wastefulness. One person and one family do NOT NEED 1,500 – 3,000 extra sq ft of wasted space to live inside! One person and one family does not need more than 1,900 to 2,500 calories per day per average person to comfortably survive/thrive. It is recommended that 6-8 hours of restful sleep per day minimizes health risks and cognitive impairment. And remember, there will NEVER be more than 24-hours in one day/night. Somethings that are truly unnecessary for a (5 Point Necessities above) healthy thriving life should be a low priority or completely eliminated. From a psychological standpoint, materialism and consumerism (independent of each other) are early-stage hints or preforms of addiction.

    However, arranging these terms strictly in this order, as if one always follows the other, is conjecture and imaginative fiction. Doing so is a probable sign of sleep deprivation and cognitive impairment. 😉 😛

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Non Sequitur.

    Explaining the universe in “Just because I’ve no idea how it works doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation” terms is unrelated to “I must accumulate material possessions at all cost!”

    It seems to be a symptom among believers of several faiths, though I run across it mostly among monotheists. That automatic assumption that if a/the god/s is/are removed, there is a massive void that must be filled. If divine intent is removed, there must be another meaning and purpose, even if it means creating a connection with unrelated matters.

    Interestingly, materialism is already ingrained in several Christian subgroups. From the Calvinists/Huguenots (I think. Pretty sure about the latter) for whom wealth was a sign of divine favor, to the ‘Seed’ preachers who promise wealth from god in return for money.

    For the rest – well, the Professor already made the point I was pondering, far better than I could have. As did the other commenters. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I say the answer is no Nan. My reasoning is that there is something besides materialism and consumerism that is very much a part of my life. I see it every day in the kitty that rushes to me purring, the other one who sleeps on my pillow across my head at night. I knew it in the eyes of the dogs I had, the cat I rescued who would sit at my feet with his head on my shoes. I feel it in the gaze of my husband / lover / friend of 28 years, and I know it every day in my thoughts of him. Many hugs

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Then irony of course is these half-wits use practically every avenue of materialism to further their case that materialism is somehow wrong.

    eg: ”I have just written this Sunday’s sermon on my brand new apple mac and will tweet it to encourage full attendance at my brand new church built from funds donated by my flock. Excuse me, I must take a call from my local TV station as they want to finalize details of my new evangelical TV ministry where the donations are expected to flood in … thank the Lord.”

    Liked by 6 people

  9. >>> “if the physical world is all there is then we must get all of our fulfillment from material things in this life.”

    Nonsense. One does not equate with the other. Obviously, love and many other intangible emotions are present in human psychology irrespective of materialism and of course religion.

    >>> “… consumerism is one of the logical outcomes of materialism.”

    There probably is a sociological correlation.

    The author’s comments suggest a Calvinist perspective.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I assume you are talking about Mel Wild’s post. When I read that this morning, I immediately recognized Pastor Mel’s enormous heroism. There he was, knocking down a strawman all by himself.

    After seeing your quote from a comment: “It is indeed silly how much time, energy, and money we invest in things that are destined to disappear” — I took a look to see who made that comment. It is completely brilliant. He is telling us that we should starve ourselves to death rather than invest in food, because food just disappears when we eat it. Apparently it is better to invest in worthless baubles that don’t disappear than to invest in food.

    Anyway, I did have a good laugh.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Doesn’t matter. He’s off-base no matter how he interprets the topic. When you’re a “Christian,” you can only see things one way … and the sides of the tunnel are quite narrow.

      Liked by 3 people

        • John, haven’t you figured it out by now? He and his “friends in the faith” are all cerebrally-challenged when it comes to the world outside “the church.” Everything they do … everything they say … everything they believe about life in general is tainted by “the book”

          And all those who don’t live by that same “book” are simply “pissing in the wind.”

          Liked by 5 people

            • I actually think they want to stay ignorant because they have been dug in so long and deep that reality, science and more sophisticated and worldly thinking, overwhelms them. It is simply beyond their capabilities.

              Plus it’s the easy way out of a thinking life, but they pay a price for not truly appreciating and understanding the wonders of the universe, evolution and biology. They live very narrow religiously obsessed little lives.

              In fact, lack of naturalism for them could incline them to materialism and consumerism even moreso. This lack strips them of knowledge and wonder and an awareness that we are part of a huge amazing self perpetuating universe that humbles one rather than the religious view that leads to arrogance and thinking they are special and chosen above others.

              Liked by 5 people

  11. I could be wrong, but I think it’s too soon to know a definitive answer to this question, Nan. We haven’t really experienced a wholly secular society for a great length of time to know if naturalism is more likely to lead to materialism across the board.

    I’ve known many secular people who are not materialistic, and some people of faith who are very materialistic. But, then, people don’t always act in ways that are completely consistent with their profession or their world view either. Perhaps, there are other variables that can’t always be predicted.

    Plus, a secular person could reason that since this life is all there is, they especially want to make a positive difference, leave a legacy that transcends materialism.

    I haven’t read all of Pastor Wild’s post, so would have to give all of this deeper thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re correct. We can’t know if naturalism is more likely to lead to materialism. But some people seem to think it does … and this is the crux of the discussion.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Why would it matter? I’ve known people of both persuasions (religious and naturalist ) and it seems to just depends on the person. All of us have some materialism and therefore some consumerism. It’s degrees. I can’t see why naturalism would lead to materialism any more than religion. The vast majority of people are religious, so they must account for most of the materialism and consumerism.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mary are the vast majority really religious? I think the really vocal most demanding religious people are not a majority, but instead a minority. I really think the more spiritual lite and new age christian / religions are the real majority. Then you have the nones which include atheist and that category is growing. I know each group likes to claim they are the biggest and their membership numbers are getting bigger every day, but I just don’t see that as true. I am interested though as to what others think, as I could be caught up in my own bubble and not see what is really happening. Hugs


          • I hope you’re right, Scottie. But as you know living in Fla and I’m in the interior of the state, not the larger cities, that there are lots of old folks here (myself included) and the majority I see here are quite religious and Trump supporters, so it skews my outlook, I guess. When I lived in Asheville NC, I felt it was more even, but they were there too. I saw a Pew Research chart that showed an estimate by 2050 worldwide, that Islam would be almost as large as Christianity and the non believer group was actually down. That does not bode well.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I agree Mary. I noticed a huge difference between West Palm Beach where we lived for a decade before coming over here. It seems like a different country. I guess I am lucky, I had always wanted to go to the center of the state, but it never worked out. I am flummoxed as it is, in a deeply religious area I would be put in stocks in the town center. 😃😄😉😎Hugs


          • Well, I think to project numbers, one looks at trends, and to predict human population trends, I look to the young to indicate direction. I think there is lots of growing evidence that the young – under 35 – are becoming far less religious and the under 24 group even more so. Outside of the US where religious belief is not the law, there are some really stark examples. In particular, the latest poll out of Iceland of a thousand kids under the age of 25, the number who reported they believed in god was… zero. Seriously. I also look at the backlash against Pinker’s new book and see an upcoming battle for the survival of Enlightenment values and see this as a tipping point where individual liberty – including religious freedom – is going to be on the line and so I think there will be a coming together to move it back into the private domain where it belongs and away from the public which is where we get so much trouble.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hello Tildeb. It has been a long while since we have had a discussion, although I often do mention your comments when arguing with certain theist. Sadly they do not win me as much favor as I think they should.

              I am curious as to what you mean by ” Pinker’s new book”? I have read a little on it and it seems he has been unfairly attacked but the purity left for trying to make rather common sense correlations. I have read what Jerry Coyne thinks, the university professor, but I have not really seen much else where. So if you would indulge me by sharing your thoughts I would be grateful. Thanks. Hugs


            • Hey Scottie, I find myself in much agreement with every comment you make here and elsewhere and feel as if I can’t contribute much to it so my absence is often a good thing!

              Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now (a Quillette review of its reviews is here and well worth reading) is an important work – for this and the next generation – because it tackles what I think is the single biggest threat to the continuance and/or decline of Western civilization, namely, the rise and power of, and push-back against, the Regressive Left. And the reason for the scope of this threat, as I’ve argued for decades now, is because it’s an attack against the fundamental principles, the pillars if you will, of liberal democracy and secular Western civilization. It attacks the very autonomy of the individual, which undermines the role of the individual authorizing political consent.

              Post Modern thinking now pollutes every facet of our public institutions – especially universities but clearly infects Google and Apple and Facebook and Twitter – and its toxicity eats away at the City of Light that are our highest and most productive secular and humanist values… especially and specifically targeting legal autonomy for the individual. It raises its ugly PoMo head every time being offended is held in higher esteem in need of apology and redress than respecting what is true.

              And this happened to me on Coyne’s blog (and it is a blog and not a website) when I tried to counter an argument raised by another Canadian commentator that the Governor General was an archaic and ceremonial office, that having a foreign head of state was contrary to having a mature country. I tried to explain why this notion was factually wrong on many levels and was put into moderation by Coyne until I apologized for offending this other person for questioning her lack of civic education as a Canadian. And I have taught exactly this in several provinces so I know exactly what I’m talking about.

              Even on such a site as WEIT, this PoMo influence exerts its power and even otherwise staunch classical liberals are not immune to using its allure to avoid respecting what is true without realizing what they actually doing, using the very tools that define membershil in the Regressive Left, namely social shunning, character attacks, banning and censoring and deplatforming and disinviting to avoid critical review, to maneuver around facing what is factually true head on as a mature adult responsible for him- or herself with one’s autonomy intact and respected.

              That’s why this new book is important, because the effect of its perniciousness gives rise to the opposite, to those who see in Trump an alternative to the politically correct idiocy currently sweeping the media and the nations of the West.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Wow a lot to digest. I am sorry you had that experience on Coyne’s blog because he is a staunch supporter of free speech. Makes me wonder how fully he supports what he claims.

              Let me go from the top. I enjoy reading your comments even if sometimes I do not really understand them. Sometimes you go too deep for me to follow but that said I do enjoy reading your comments to things.

              While I do not have knowledge of Pinker’s book I do know I do not like the regressive left. It seems to me they sabotage the very thing I have worked for and advocated all my life for, yet they claim to be the same left view as my own, and that is not so. Yet how to stop the seeming runaway train that is now the far left. It seems common sense has no meaning anymore.

              I do not support the regressive left, yet I am in my own view a far left person in my views. The things you mention including deplatforning I disagree with. I want to hear what those I disagree with are saying so I can counter them if I choose to.

              I need to go to bed now as I am very tired, been a long day. But I would like to hear more of your views on this subject. I don’t know if here is the right spot,s o if you want to email me or communicate some other way I am open to that. Here is my email. . Good night, you be well. Hugs


            • With tolerance from Nan for this momentary diversion from the main topic, I think this is what is replacing religious belief in secular nations: the ideology of the regressive Left put into law by well meaning but deeply misguided social justice warriors. This is what it looks like in action and it is in direct contrast and conflict with fundamental Enlightenment values of individual autonomy in law.

              Liked by 1 person

  12. Just because a preacher can draw a line from naturalism, to materialiasm, and on to consumerism, does not mean the assertion has any merit. Or that a preacher has any business drawing lines.

    In fact let’s leave the drawing of lines to those who are capable of actually doing so with actual “logical outcomes.” This guy is not qualified for the job.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. It seems to me that animals illustrate how the natural, materialistic nervous and chemical systems in organisms are not at all inconsistent with the non-materialistic, emotional aspect of life—fear, contentment, lust, sadness, sociality, etc. As Darwin pointed out, even sleeping dogs sometimes are dreaming.

    Brock Haussamen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey 3.8BY … thanks for visiting! I have a hunch your comment may bring a response (or two) from a couple of my”regulars.”

      In any case, thank you for stopping by. I hope you’ll visit again … and often.

      Liked by 1 person

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