Egonovism by Rob Vinciguerra
I had previous introduced the
to the lexicon of the internet in 2010. The term describes how Americans define
their religious beliefs based not on the teachings of priests or pastors, and
not even on centuries-old scripture, but rather from a combination of the self
(ego), and society.
The term spread far and fast; the essay was republished thousands of times, and even renowned author Anne Rice stated that she felt kinship with the term. For her comments I thank her.
Egonovism is not necessarily negative. It is, as argued, the most predominate religion in America today, and has only grown in the past three years. The term not only describes the average American, but the American president, Barack Obama, numerous politicians, business leaders, and seemingly the new Pope, Francis, as well. Their egonovist positions are so obvious that some believe them to be secret atheists. (I am sure the idea of an atheist pope delights some.)
Exodus to Egonovism
Strict adherence to the canonical teachings of religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any ancient structured belief, is more and more incompatible with existence in our society, which is produced from our wants.
We have created government to supply the deficit of moral consciousness among ourselves (to keep in check criminal acts when morals fail, to provide for the needy when charity fails), but, as proprietors of society, the first duty we have is to each other, because our natural instinct demands duty to the self and self-interests. We cannot acquire wealth, maintain health, or socialize, without society, and without society, our self-interests, be they biological needs or fanciful desires, could not be filled.
It is because of both societal needs and the needs of our own egos that we Americans have, as a country, so embraced egonovism; for the first reason, because fundamentalist religious beliefs are incompatible with society and the self; and for the second reason, because the vast majority of us require a component of spirituality for self-fulfillment. It is for this purpose that we, unintentionally, created egonovism to serve both the self and society.
The Incompatibility of Fundamentalist Religion and Society
Fundamentalist religious beliefs are too abrasive for society; therefore we protect society from them. In the Christian and Jewish scriptures God commands that if a man sleeps with a married woman who is not his wife, or if a woman who is married sleeps with a man who is not her husband, that both shall be put to death. In Islamic law, adultery is one of the three justifications given for killing a person. (This would have meant that it was someone's duty to murder the forty-second president of the United States of America.) Killing is not acceptable in our society and legalizing it would cause a systemic breakdown.
Moreover, in the aforementioned example, the act of following the laws of God would be detrimental to the self. Because -- fortunately -- society does not allow for people to be killed, the act of killing carries with it harsh punishments that prevents the self from obtaining necessary needs, and would surely remove freedom.
In order for the desires of the individual to be fulfilled, they must first be accepted into society. Old, outdated beliefs concerning science, for example, make that impossible. Not only is the outright rejection of certain scientific facts, such as evolution, becoming more and more of a social stigma every day, thereby creating obstacles for relationships of both friends and of romance.
The Incompatibility of Fundamentalist Religion and Individual Fulfillment
Spiritual fulfillment is but one aspect of the natural human desire for self-actualization. Each person determines individually what factors will lead to a satisfying life. These factors may include a career field, such as geology, which is incompatible with the fundamentalist belief in a young Earth, and may lead to financial loss and a lack of intellectual fulfillment.
The fundamentalist belief may include ideas of male superiority, which may cause incompatibility with finding a spouse and having children ; they may call for the stoning of a neighbor, which would deprive the self of freedom and also other natural rights.
Some embrace atheism and renounce religious spiritualism altogether, choosing to instead embrace their mortality and find deeper "spiritual" meaning in the wonders of the entire universe.