How society became a 21st century god

offering to moloch

“Offering to Moloch” by Charles Foster (1897)

In the olden days, mankind used to believe that the overall wellbeing of society hinged on the gods. We believed that the gods controlled everything around us, including the weather, the sun, fire, and whether or not the crops grew. Of course, we had no idea whether or not the gods actually existed, but back then, that didn’t matter. To the ancients, survival depended on appeasing the gods, and anyone who didn’t was shunned. Later on, in the Dark Ages, survival depended on following the will of only one god, which it turns out is actually the rigid commandments of the Catholic church. Whether or not it was the word of God or the will of man didn’t concern most people, because if you didn’t obey, you were shunned or even killed. Today, in a more secular society, you’d think that things would be different. If you did, then you’d only be half-right. In today’s world, we have a new god, something that we can attribute all of our problems to, and today, that happens to be society itself.

Since the dawn of civilization and the beginning of recorded history, man has built up society in terms of prevalence, and over the years, man has been building it up so far that it has in fact become a different kind of god. Society provides much of what we need to survive, and we take that for granted, much like in the ancient world where we took what the gods gave us for granted. However, society has become a god in a different sense, in that we blame it for all of our problems. Whenever something goes wrong, we generally resort to one of two patterns of thought.

  1. Trying in vain to convince ourselves that everything will be just fine.
  2. Blaming all the problems on the breakdown of society.

The second option sounds eerily similar to how, in ancient times, we used to blame our problems on the idea that the gods are somehow unhappy, and that in order to make things right again, we must appease them with a sacrifice (in fact, the Biblical sacrifice of a goat is where we get the modern term “scapegoat”). Of course, back then, that was often our best explanation for natural phenomenon. Today, society is now something we tend to blame for problems that we’ve made for ourselves. However, we simultaneously still hold society in the same high esteem that Christians hold for their god. Personally, I think this is mainly because many of us who have abandoned religion have nothing left to revere, but haven’t even considered the idea that we need only to have faith in ourselves. In fact, both the concepts of society and an omnipotent deity make it easier to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions, or in fact for ourselves.

In a sense, society has essentially become a 21st century god not just because we as human beings place the equivalent value of a god into it, but also because mankind somehow still wants to take responsibility away from themselves, but is decreasingly disillusioned with the concept of religion, which we have made narrow for ourselves. As long as we continue to put our faith in and place blame on things such as society, we will always be slaves to the notion of a higher power than ourselves, ignoring the truth that the highest power is the individual self.

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