Materialism - Definitions & Doctrines
Materialism can refer either to the simple preoccupation with the material world, as opposed to intellectual or spiritual concepts, or to the theory that physical matter is all there is. This theory is far more than a simple focus on material possessions. It states that everything in the universe is matter, without any true spiritual or intellectual existence. Materialism can also refer to a doctrine that material success and progress are the highest values in life. This doctrine appears to be prevalent in western society today. Materialism can also refer to the term, Cultural Materialism.
Materialism - Philosophies & Worldviews
Materialism and its theories can be traced as far back as the poem The Nature of Things, written in the first century B.C. by Lucretius. Other defining works include The System of Nature by Paul d'Holbach, Force and Matter by Ludwig Buchner, and the more recent research done by Richard Vitzthum, An Affirmative History and Definition (1996).
Materialism as a philosophy is held by those who maintain that existence is explainable solely in material terms, with no accounting of spirit or consciousness. Individuals who hold to this belief see the universe as a huge device held together by pieces of matter functioning in subjection to naturalistic laws. Since materialism denies all concepts of Special Creation, it relies on the Theory of Evolution to explain itself, making beliefs in materialism and evolution interdependent.
The first question this worldview should cause most of us to ask is, "If all that exists is matter only, where did the natural laws that govern it come from?" New scientific discoveries in the areas of biological complexity, cosmological design, quantum physics, and information theory bring these materialistic assumptions into doubt. A massive quantity of evidence demonstrates that the universe and its material aspects are connected by a network of energy, design and information. We now see much more than matter - we see the result of conscious creation.
Materialism - A Question of Belief
Materialism, at its simpler level, involves the focus on material "things" as opposed to that which is spiritual or intellectual in nature. We live in a world surrounded by and composed of matter. It is natural, therefore, that we may become distracted from spiritual or intellectual pursuits by material possessions, but this is frequently where problems occur. We can become obsessed by a desire to obtain them, or simply frustrated by the need to maintain them.
The questions this attitude should cause us to ask are, "Are material things really more important than anything else? Is material success the highest goal? If things are all there are, what's life all about? Why am I here at all? If life is really just about materialism, why should I even try to live a moral life? What does it matter how I treat others or how I live, as long as I have what I want? Why does what I believe about the origin of life matter?"
In a court of criminal law, a conviction arrived at by any jury requires proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. Current theories of materialism appear to be clouded by shadows and doubts. We needn't conclude that it is necessary to take a completely opposite view. After all, as C.S. Lewis once said, "God likes matter. He invented it." Consider, instead, how what you choose to believe affects how you live, for as Lewis also said, "different beliefs about the universe lead to different behavior." What we believe must either be true of false. Before settling on the position you choose, you owe it to yourself to keep seeking the truth about life, death and the universe.