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A Hidden Religion

Published on Apr 6, 2023.

There is a disease in the industrialized world. A cancer that has been growing steadily for a long time. Since its creation.

The disease manifests in many of the ill symptoms that are plaguing our society. Stress. Fear. Anxiety. Alienation. Hatred. Many of these come down to the unique nature of our particular disease.

While we blame our politics and economics for the pain of our modern lives, the disease is not of those organs. Maybe it metastasized and spread to them, maybe they are victims to its necrotic growth, but they are not its root cause.

It is not our politics or our economics that are broken. Those systems are just reflections of us, of our beliefs, of our way of living.

It is us who are broken. Something deep in our culture, something that shapes our lives, even though we don’t know it. We are the products of its mold, our life trajectories traced out by its hand, and yet, we don’t even know really what it is.

We get vague impressions of it, in those moments when we lie awake at night and think: “Why do I chase the things that I chase?” “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” “Does life have to be this way?”

Does it? Does it have to feel like I’m following a plan I didn’t choose, chasing goals that really aren’t mine, because everyone else does? The clock is ticking down the seconds I have to live, and meanwhile I wonder: will I ever live the life I really want?

But even that question is tainted. This disease, this cancer, is so deep that it has turned our own desires against us. What we think we want – the dreams we believe are ours – are agents under its command, shadows we are kept chasing, to keep us distracted so we don’t see the trick being played right in front of our nose.

It is our culture that is the disease. I mean the real culture, not our movies or our TV shows, or our food, or our leisure activities. These are reflections, not the real thing.

Our real culture is comprised of ideas. Ideas so deep that we have taken them for granted our entire lives. They’re as much a part of the natural order of things as the sun and moon. To us, they’re a fixed part of the world.

Except they’re not. The ideas that make up our culture, that shape the way we live, were made by human hands. They were thought up by people like us, iterated upon by people like us, adopted and transformed and modified and grown by people like us. Passed on from generation to generation, these ideas – once novel and new, once topics of conversation and critique – became crystallized. They became fixed and accepted, as just the way things are, the way things should be. The ideas become assumptions, and the assumptions become beliefs.

When a set of beliefs are no longer questioned, when the very act of questioning them puts you outside mainstream society, when they have become so deep and so core a part of the culture that they are essentially synonymous with it, there is only one word for something that has this kind of grip on the human mind.


Our ideas of how the world should work, how our society should be shaped, even which goals people “should” chase, come from this – the religion of the modern world.

This religion is so pervasive, so commonplace, and so global that we don’t even see it anymore. It is everywhere around us. It touches almost everything we do. It explains why the world is the way it is, why we have the problems we do, and why we remain complacent – confident, even – as we sail full-speed towards a historic reckoning that has been coming our way for generations. One that our religion has not prepared us to survive.

This religion began as one of humanity’s best ideas. It challenged the injustice of the pre-existing order with the shining sword of fairness. It brought forth words that today we take for granted – “liberty”, “equality”, “freedom”. It moved the world in the right direction. But then like all great ideas, it became corrupted. It came to look at itself as an end unto itself, when it was always a means to a greater end.

We are at a point where the goal becomes the maintenance and protection of that religion, at all costs. Anything is permitted, as long as it done under its banner. Any degree of indulgence, aggression, violence, and – most of all – greed.

At some level, we feel it. Our lives carry the deep stress of those seeking salvation. We blindly engage in rituals that we believe will get us close to a final, losing peace, but they never seem to quite work, and when they do, it’s not for very long. As our failures mount, we whip ourselves for not being devout enough, for not following the discipline we set out for ourselves, for giving in to that cardinal sin – our laziness.

Why do we fight ourselves so much? We are we trying to twist who we really are into some pattern of what we think we are supposed to be? Where does this pattern come from, and why are we so intent on contorting ourselves to fit it? And ultimately, who gains from the sheer madness of millions – billions – of human beings practicing this twisted yoga with their lives?