Last week, I claimed that America’s predominant religion is Me-ism, a religion which places trust in ourselves to meet our needs. But Me-ism isn’t the only non-traditional religion in America. This week, I want to take a look at some of the other non-traditional gods (idols) which Americans worship because they believe these gods will meet their needs.
As a quick recap from last week, I defined a god as someone or something we worship because we trust that it will meet one or more of our needs. We rarely seem to worship one god, but rather, worship a host of gods in whom we trust to meet our various needs. Here are five of the gods Americans worship other than themselves.
Americans worship money almost as much as they worship themselves. Although some people get a sense of security by stockpiling large amounts of money, money doesn’t actually meet the majority of our needs. For example, money doesn’t satisfy our hunger, thirst, or need for deeper intimate relationships. Instead, money can buy things that will meet our needs such as food, clothing, and a shelter. If we stockpile an unlimited amount of money, then we can buy an unlimited amount of things to meet our needs. Therefore, money is a god which is worshiped by many Americans.
A successful career can’t meet our hunger needs, but it can meet our needs for achievement, power, and control. For example, as an engineer, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete the design and coordination of a new construction project. If I was to move up the corporate ladder into a managerial position, I would gain more power and control on each step up the ladder. These needs are not normally recognized as basic needs, but they are nonetheless needs which many of us possess. Therefore, our careers can become a god which we worship in order to get these needs met.
As Jerry Maguire famously said, “You complete me.” Many Americans look to a spouse or significant other to meet some or all of their needs. For example, we all have needs for togetherness, belonging, and relational intimacy. We think that if we have a spouse, then we will no longer feel alone, will be accepted, and will be able to get our sexual needs met. Therefore, we can fall into the trap of worshiping our spouse or significant other as a god.
4. Athletic Teams
As hard as we may try, we can’t deny Americans’ love for athletic teams. In O-H-I-O, we worship the Ohio State Buckeye football team. No matter what state we live in, cheering for an athletic team is a big part of being an American. When our team wins, a need is met. When our team loses, a need goes unmet. Some people base their entire self-esteem on whether their team wins or loses a game. Therefore, athletic teams are gods which many Americans worship.
The last American idol I will be sharing is the god of retirement. We work hard for forty plus years to save up enough money in our 401k plans so that we can retire at the age of 65. Why would we want to stop working? Because we think that once we can retire to a beach in Florida, we’ll be able to kick back, relax, and focus all of our money, time, and energy on getting our needs met. Therefore, retirement has become a god many Americans worship.
Do any of these idols resonate with you? What other idols have or are you worshiping because you’ve entrusted yourself to them to meet your needs?