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An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson

America's real religion:
Ignore thy neighbor and worship the dollar.
Viewing the United States as a third-world country.

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As I write these words just before Thanksgiving of 2014, we find ourselves reminded of the fact that many in our society are homeless and/or hungry. We therefore see appeals for donations on television. We observe representatives of the Salvation Army and other organizations soliciting donations while we are out shopping, etc.

I suspect that few in our society ask why there are people in need in our society. And if one does ask oneself why, one is likely to answer in one of two ways:

  • If one is homeless, it is because the person lacks a job.

  • If one is hungry, it is because the person lacks a job, or has a job, but it pays only “minimum wage.”

If one then asks why another lacks a job, one is likely to give one of two answers:

  • The person lacks the necessary training/education and/or motivation (i.e., is lazy!) to obtain a job.

  • The person has had bad luck -- e.g., has been laid off, has disabilities that prevent him or her to obtain a job, or a job that will pay a decent wage, etc.

Finally, if one asks why another person is in a low-wage job, one is likely to answer that the person lacks the education or skills that would enable him or her to obtain a better job.

All of the answers that one tends to give to explain the neediness of another have some measure of merit, there’s no denying that. The problem with these answers, however, is that none of them displays any depth of thinking. That fact is not, of course, surprising, for the simple reason that most people lack the capability of going beyond superficial thinking. The media in our society do little -- no, they do nothing! -- to help people go beyond superficial thinking.

The thinking that does occur in our society in explaining neediness in the society reflects a strongly individualistic perspective, on the one hand, in that it tends to attribute one’s success or failure to one’s personal attributes, and also tends to assume that one is oneself responsible for those attributes. Such a perspective leads, of course, to a “blame the victim” stance—a stance that enables one to excuse oneself from providing assistance to others in good conscience, for, after all, they have brought their problems on themselves. It also enables one to not ask of one’s political representatives that they address the problem of neediness, of course.

To attribute the neediness of others, on the other hand, on “bad luck” is, it’s true, a step above the “blame the victim” explanation—but at the same time has the problem of displaying one’s ignorance as to why there is so much neediness in our society.

The real reason for that extensive neediness is one that one will never encounter in watching television or reading a newspaper, magazine—or even most books. The real reason is our flawed society per se! For a country that is “advanced” in many respects, the United States is in many respects a Third World country—and many, if not most, of us would be much better off living in a different country.

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A 2014 list of best places in the world to live shows the following ten countries as being at the top of the list:

  1. Denmark

  2. Norway

  3. Switzerland

  4. The Netherlands

  5. Sweden

  6. Canada

  7. Finland

  8. Austria

  9. Iceland

  10. Australia

Note that the United States is not on that list!

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Another list of the happiest countries does have the United States on it, but No. 12:

  1. Norway

  2. Denmark

  3. Sweden

  4. Austria

  5. New Zealand

  6. Canada

  7. Finland

  8. The Netherlands

  9. Switzerland

  10. Ireland

  11. Luxembourg

  12. The United States

On indices of more relevance for the present essay the United States ranks even worse:

Index Name

Rank

Social Progress Index

16

Basic Human Needs

23

Foundations of Well-Being

36

The third index is especially relevant for the purposes of this essay, and notice the utterly disgraceful rank that the United States has on this index.

Given that other countries are providing their citizens -- most, if not all, of them -- with a decent way of life, the United States -- the richest country in the world -- has no excuse for not doing the same. The United States is an alleged “religious” country, and only one God is worshipped in this country -- but it is the Almighty Dollar! The dominant thinking in this country, however, is not so much scientific but ideological thinking -- thinking that ignores the dominant message of the Bible, to “love thy neighbor.”

Ironically, it seems to be the case that that message is honored especially in those countries where church-going is minimal!

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Originally published: 2014-NOV-23
Last updated 2014-NOv-23
Author:
Alton C. Thompson
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