What Do We Worship?

Posted: June 4th, 2006 by Militant Libertarian

by The Militant Libertarian

Lately, the question of what humans worship has been on my mind. It has occurred to me that there are a couple of constants in the makeup of humans: we must worship something and we rarely own up to what we truly worship.

Most people in the world, wherever they may be, have some sort of religion: Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Atheism, or whatever. This professed of religion, in my experience, is rarely the actual object of the person’s worship.

True worship is marked by devotion to, daily ritual towards, and continual meditation upon an ideal. Rarely is the Christian truly worshipping Christ in this way; seldom does the Atheist worship the absence of a god; and so forth.

My experience says that while most people pay homage to a religious ideal, most do not truly worship the object of that religion. In fact, I’ve narrowed down the focus of worship for the vast majority of the people I’ve met into three categories:

Money – any type of worldly gain, be it money, property, or other objects of wealth.

Experience – any type of titillation of the senses in order to whet an appetite. Sensual input such as eating, sex, skydiving, etc. all fall into this category.

Knowledge – any type of input into the brain of data or intelligence, such as “book learning” or scientific discovery.

The three are often intermixed with one another, with, for example, experience and knowledge playing side-by-side, or the pursuit of knowledge being made purely for monetary payoff.

To take the tangent of self-analysis at this point, I believe that I worship the pursuit of knowledge supplemented by experience (much of my knowledge is “hands-on”). I justify this in my belief that to study science and history is to study (worship) God.

I can cite more examples.

I have known a man who was in the leadership of a Christian religion, but despite this affiliation with all things perceived as holy, his true object of worship was knowledge, not really Christian worship.

I knew another man who professed to be a devout Atheist, but his true religion was not the pursuit of an absence of God, but instead seemed to be towards the experience of making other people uncomfortable with his pursuit of an absence of God. To prove this, I noted that after spending a lot of time together, he continually pushed the conversation towards the fact that I really didn’t care whether or not he believed in God. It seemed to bother him that I wasn’t bothered, if that makes sense.

As another example, I had a co-worker who regularly professed her religion of Judaism and the various aspects of that religion. While mentioning her Jewish background, however (which seemed to be a point of pride for her), she rarely gave any details as to her religious beliefs. Her focus appeared to be entirely on the acquisition of wealth (the size of her house, make of her car, her salary, etc.).

Another interesting person I once knew openly professed his worship of money and monetary gain. However, in looking at his life, it appeared that his focus on money was not as an object of worship, but merely as a means towards gaining his true religion, which was experience. He took endless vacations to skydive, spelunk, scuba, and more: his true object of worship was the experience of extreme sports, not money.

I committed these thoughts to paper (or what passes for paper in today’s digital world) because, in my own religious quest for knowledge, I wanted to pinpoint what it is that people really seem to worship in their lives. That object of worship is rarely the religion they profess to belong to, but is instead usually either money, experience, or knowledge – or any combination of those.

Organized religion and ritual, in whatever form it takes, are a regular part of the human experience and seem to have been since the beginning of man’s inception as a self-aware being. Most of these religious pursuits seem to have been made (at least originally) as a means of warding off fear (a fear of death, the unknown, etc.).

Many times objects of fear are used as a means towards organizing like-minded individuals into a group in order to ward off that fear. In today’s world, the fear of annihilation of a people (Islam) drives people to volunteer to strap on suicide vests and bomb those they deem their oppressors. While on the other side, the fear of the suicide bomber drives people to give up their freedoms so that they might be safer.

A third party looking in might consider this odd, since if both understood the other’s fears, the steps taken to allay those fears might be considered ridiculous and be called off mutually.

I have personally found human nature to be an endlessly fascinating phenomenon in my continual worship of knowledge-gathering and experience.

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