threat to a religious attitude – part 3

If man’s highest value is success, if love, truth, justice, tenderness, mercy are of no use to him, he may profess these ideals but he does not strive for them. He may think that he worships the god of love but he actually worships an idol which is the idealization of his real goals, those rooted in the marketing orientation [i.e. demonstrating his attractiveness to others].

– Erich Fromm, in Psychoanalysis and Religion (1950)

threat to a religious attitude – part 2

[if you read the last post, you may be curious what Erich Fromm meant by a “marketing orientation.” This passage will help explain – and will sound quite prophetic of our contemporary drive toward “personal branding”]:

Inevitably man’s attitude toward himself is conditioned by these standards of success. His feeling of self-esteem is not based primarily on the value of his powers and the use he makes of them in a given society. It depends on his salability on the market, or the opinion others have about his “attractiveness.” He experiences himself as a commodity designed to attract the most favorable, the most expensive terms…. Commodity man hopefully displays his label, tries to stand out from the assortment on the counter and to be worthy of the highest price tag, but if he is passed by while others are snapped up he is convicted of inferiority and worthlessness. However high he may be rated in terms of both human qualities and utility, he may have the ill-luck – and must bear the blame – of being out of fashion….

It is hardly surprising that under these circumstances man’s sense of his value must suffer severely. The conditions for his self-esteem are beyond his control. He is dependent on others for approval and in constant need of it; helplessness and insecurity are the inevitable results. Man loses his own identity in the marketing orientation; he becomes alienated from himself.

– Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion

[in a few days – one last passage from Fromm, getting back to the effect of this modern human struggle on religion.]

the threat to a religious attitude

[pardon his exclusive language, but here are interesting thoughts on which modern realities most distort a healthy religious attitude]:

It is not conceivable that any discovery made by the natural sciences could become a threat to religious feeling. On the contrary, an increased awareness of the nature of the universe in which we live can only help man to become more self-reliant [as opposed to being neurotically dependent] and more humble. As for the social sciences, their growing understanding of man’s nature and of the laws governing his existence contributes to the development of a religious attitude rather than threatens it.

The threat to the religious attitude lies not in science but in the predominant practices of daily life. Here man has ceased to seek in himself the supreme purpose of living and has made himself an instrument serving the economic machine his own hands have built. He is concerned with efficiency and success rather than with his happiness and the growth of his soul. More specifically the orientation which most endangers the religious attitude is what I have called the “marketing orientation” of modern man.

– Erich Fromm, from Psychoanalysis and Religion (1950)