Consumerism: America’s Most Successful Religion

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari describes how Consumerism is the most successful religion in the history of human history. Yes, that is right, I said religion. A religion does not have to be an officially recognized creed; one’s religion is whatever they choose to commit their life to. Like other religions, Consumerism promises order, peace, and a meaning to life. It says, make yourself at home in this world. Create and purchase your way to the life you desire. Of course, most people have good intentions. People simply want to provide for themselves and their families. I myself am one of the most consumeristic people I know. Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop comfortably with a cup of coffee by my side. At the same time, there is a fine line between providing for yourself, and committing your life to the pursuit of material.

Consumerism is like smog. When you’re inside it, it’s difficult to notice. But from the outside view, it is afflicting every person breathing it in. It is discreetly present in everything we do, affecting our decisions and thought-processes at the most basic levels. I believe there is an underlying lie we have bought into. It is that our things & our external environment is the ticket to the good life. It is much more than materials. Consumerism affects relationships, the way you spend your time, and even how you approach going to a church/religious place. Derek Sivers says that everyone should repeat this phrase before any purchase: “It won’t make you happy.” Is that something you believe at a fundamental-level: that your materials, that your external environment can never make you happy? Look within yourself.

If Consumerism is a false religion, then what does satisfy?

Jesus once said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The real treasures of life are found in the inner-life. As Josh Waitzkin put it, “Cultivate quality as a way of life.” Most people cultivate quantity. More things. More experiences. More relationships. All great things, but one quality experience is worth more than 10 surface-level ones. One honest friendship is worth more than 20 surface-level ones.

Quality as a way of life, starts and ends inside yourself.

Naval Ravikant explained how most people think life is a multiplayer game. That we are competing with or against others. But life is a single-player game. You — and you alone — are training yourself to be the best person you can be. If nobody takes notice in your efforts, then that is an opportunity to practice humility. Keep an inner score card of your own inner achievements. Cultivate the inner-treasures of life. Kindness. Compassion. Empathy. Self-Reliance. Curiosity. Authenticity. I’ll say it again: If nobody takes notice in your efforts at cultivation, then even better.

Back to Consumerism. It is is a way of life competing against you for your true treasures. It is exceedingly difficult to value outward adornment and treasure at the same time as you value inner-treasure. You have to choose between the two. You have to enter the single-player game, and seek quality over quantity. The joyous thing is this: Once you discover it, you will find that ordinary moments — a conversation, a trip to the coffee shop, a run outside — have immense quality to them. In this pursuit of inner-treasure, you will find joy in outward things as well. That is the beauty of it all.

Where to start?

  1. Seek quality over quantity.
  2. Simplify your life. What you say no to, is more important than what you say yes to.
  3. Don’t take things at face value.
  4. Give more than you take. Everyday.
  5. Humility is the most powerful force for good in your life.

As Josh Waitzkin says better than I could, cultivate quality as a way of life.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear any feedback on my thoughts. Appreciate it.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Tyler Lingle’s story.