Projection is the psychological defense mechanism of assigning one’s own bad qualities to someone else, usually the opposition. For instance, a hypothetical football player (cough… cough… T.O.) who is well known for selfishly wanting all of the spotlight for himself might suggest that his team is somehow conspiring to keep him from his just rewards by selfishly not throwing the ball to him enough. By assigning the quality of selfishness to the quarterback, he absolves himself of his own selfishness.
Christians are particularly good at this. I read an interesting post this afternoon, in which a Christian said he thinks consumerism at Christmas is due to a secular materialist worldview. I admit, I almost choked on my iced tea when I read that. A short trip through Googleland produced 387,000 hits for “Christian Merchandise.” Curiously, “Secular Merchandise” spawned only 171 hits.
Ok, I know, that’s not fair. Nobody labels their stuff “secular merchandise” but the point is still quite valid. Christianity is big business, and anybody who doubts it needs to have their head examined. The point I want to make is not that Christians are particularly evil in their consumerism. As I mentioned in my blog about scary atheist morality, Christians operate on the same principles as everyone else. They just think they’re different.
We’re all materialists. We have to be. We live in a material universe, and our only way of staying alive is to consume. We must have clothes, shelter, and food. We accumulate resources because we recognize our own fragile mortality. We want to have enough tomorrow.
The fact of the matter is that the only thing separating one person from another is the degree of materialism. Some people want “stuff” more than others. This goes for Christians, atheists, Muslims, and Buddhists. Some versions of Christianity preach a much more materialist worldview than others. TV evangelists promise that if we just send in enough money, God will give us so much money that we’ll never want for anything again. Other churches preach the value of an almost ascetic life, eschewing the trappings of the material world. It’s the same with non-Christians. Some people think the one who dies with the most toys wins. Others think we have an obligation to preserve the earth for future generations.
The point is that the distinction between “secular materialism” and “Christian ethics” is a non-distinction. It simply doesn’t exist. We’re all people, and we all have our own values. Once again, Christianity proves divisive for no good reason. It’s not us and them. It’s just us.