As a curious atheist with only an academic interest in religion I have over some time now come up with the following working theory: celebrities are modern day gods. I think it makes perfect sense. I mean, it really is the only way to explain the amount of coverage someone like Kim Kardashian is able to receive in a time where we have so many actual problems facing our existence on this planet.
We have more media than ever before, for the first time in history being published doesn’t cost anything. We have phones, tablets, computers, TV and radio are still hanging in there – all designed to give us lightening fast access to information. And wouldn’t you say about roughly 70% of that time spent on these devices is spent talking about ourselves (Facebook), improving our image (Instagram) and gossiping about celebrities and the latest corporate media distraction/sensation?
How did we get here?
Every single civilization since the dawn of humanity has worshiped some kind of gods and had some kind of religion. The Incas, the Egyptians, the Greek, the Romans, the druids and the vikings. They all told themselves fairy tales that, somehow, were more important than the life they were actually given. Human sacrifice, slavery, violence and torture, all done in the name of some God that was really into war and valued strength above all. So my conclusion from that history lesson is that there is some part of humans that is in desperate need of someone to look up to, who is better than us, and give all this human intelligence, free will and empty space some resemble of purpose, meaning and hope.
Religion is also a fail-safe way of controlling ignorant populations, which the ruling class picked up on very quickly. During the first millennia and dark ages it proved very useful. Just convince people that only you can save their immortal soul and that life should be spent repenting for sins not yet committed for the promise of eternal life after death…. oh yeah, it was a big hit. But then the Renaissance happened, quickly followed by the enlightenment era, and religion started losing its iron hold over small pockets of citizens all over the planet.
In most modern countries today religion is a choice. It is a psychological tool one can use to relate to the world around us, and as long as religion stays in the personal sphere, I have absolutely nothing against it. It’s only when religious groups start pushing their ideas on society around them that I take offense.
But how does a life without gods psychologically affect the rest of us? If you break religion down to its bare bones, it is about stories. Stories told about people who came before us and the lessons they learned. They are used a moral guidelines on how to be a decent human being. Ideally, we should not need to be told and taught how to do that but we have obviously not evolved as a species to that point yet. And maybe there is a biological void inside us that needs to be filled with stories about gods. Why else would we see this phenomena all over the world?
And that’s where celebrities come in. They are larger-than-life creatures. They are people only seen in pictures, they are beautiful, they are wealthy, they live in enchanted places and mostly interact only with each other. They fall in love with each other, they have feuds with each other, they have babies. All this and more, set in exotic locations and serene backdrops. We memorize the highlights of their life story – from rags to riches, from waiter to global superstar. We watch them crash and burn, then rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Because everyone loves a comeback, and because their lives are lived on such a larger scale than our own, we savor the wisdom they bring us.
Which brings me to the catalyst for this post. I recently binge-watched Lindsay Lohan’s eight episode reality show, excuse me, docu-drama, and I have rarely had such conflicting emotions about something. Even though absolutely nothing of real interest happened, a film crew follows Lindsay for four months in which she moves across country from Los Angeles to a luxury apartment in New York, I couldn’t stop watching. I had to see this through even though after over six hours of watching, the only things I learned was that 1) Lindsay is a pretty unpleasant person to be around, 2) her family is a mess and I can see how she got that way, and what surprised me the most but really shouldn’t have, 3) Lindsay is a hoarder.
This poor girl. Permanently trapped in the mindset of a eighteen-year old (when she reached her peak of fame), she has been an addict for most of her 20’s, and is surrounded by people who only want to use her, take advantage of her, and flatter her (you are the best actress in the world!) to reach their own selfish goal. Including Oprah. So when the last episode was over, I just felt dirty. It was like her empty life had seeped into mine and sucked all the light out of it. Her desperation to stop being the punchline of a bad joke and get back on top as a bonafide goddess, sparkling in the flashes of the cameras, it was so tangible and so, so sad. I think it is much more difficult to have been a celebrity in past tense, than to have never become one at all.
But none of this answers the question of the day: why do we care so much about celebrities??
Maybe we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts and it’s time to start filling it with something else. I hope, for the sake of our future, and our children’s future, that the hole is circular and that we can fill it with an immense love for our beautiful blue planet. Stories about other people are only satisfying if your own life doesn’t live up to its potential.
Interesting blog. I don’t personally get people’s fascination with reality shows and celebs but it certainly takes them from meaningful thoughts and activities driving people’s desire to be consumers for new cloths, plastic surgery and more interested in looks rather than those parts of us that really matter. It is in essence what my new novel ‘The Fates’ is about.
When it comes to religion I am more a believer we need to understand we are part of something bigger. What we do and how we behave matters not only to us but those around us. It is through teaching about life be it from the Dali Lama, Buddha, or the bible we can gain insight on how we should behave. Sitting Bull, Ghandi, Mandela and many philosophers have also taught these very simple truths of love, generosity, kindness and compassion.
I really appreciate your thoughts and you being a voice for a better world.
Reblogged this on Storyteller in the Digital Age and commented:
So accurate and disturbing. Must read.
Your blog resonates with me on so many levels! I’ve even had a Lindsay Lohan post brewing in the background for a few months… about how we set people up just to knock them down (I might just have to finish that piece one of these days). I have been impressed with every one of your posts so far, and I intend to keep working my way through them…
oops, not “think God” but “thank God” in the above post
Whoa. Trippy intriguing philosophical musings indeed. I suppose all of us have our own opinions and thoughts concerning, shaped by our experiences and perceptions, and seemingly everyone believes there viewpoint to be the “truth” or at the very least, some vestige of the “truth”. I mean, “THE TRUTH” has to always exist in some way, shape, or form, throughout time and space, yes? I mean, without it, what would life be? I suppose matter would and could just BE, right? But could it really work for us, given the dynamics of our nature/physiology that is? “Truth” is certainty, yes? Break it down and that’s what it is, or at least, what I believe it to be. It is a vital component, a part our very existence, that exists to satisfy the very “real” psychosocial component of our “living”, of our being, and without its presence, that is to say, without a certain level/degree of certainty in our lives, we would potentially lose any sense of purpose or sense of belonging to this “world”, and our entire neurosensory experience in this time and space would be, in essence, purposeless, which many might equate to worthlessness, right? Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that it seems religion, worship, deification, etc., all of it, serves the PRIMARY purpose of enabling us as sentient creatures to not feel as though we are “lost” or “without reason” in this existence we call life. So we keep on keepin’ on with “it”, because there’s no way “it” simply won’t exist so long as we are here existing too. But yeah, maybe if we could learn or adapt to being ok and comfortable with the idea/notion of not having any “purpose” or “worth” in life, and simply just BEING, and enjoying THAT and all the crazy amazing sh*t around us and immersed within us, taking in the WHOLE experience, “good” and “bad”, simply as it IS, then perhaps we could be truly “happy” or “free”?? Damn, I don’t know. Acceptance of everything just as it is is really hard to do! But holy cow, isn’t it really what we are really doing all of the time?? Mind f*cked now, must go eat.
Love your writing, mind and questioning Joey!! Keep at it please, for you and for us. Aloha!
I do agree with your philosophical meanderings about truth, and I take it one step further. Not only does THE TRUTH have to exist, it is absolute and unchanging. Without it life would have the potential to become a never ending nightmare (or acid trip, or whatever) from which we never awaken to experience the truth of reality and that think God it was just a dream. Does that make sense? The concept worked better in my head before I put it into words.
The problem with defining Good and Evil without the anchor point of absolute truth is, it all becomes situational. Here in TX, an honor killing in which you drown your daughter in the family swimming pool is evil, but in other cultures the man who did this was considered a “good man”. So does this mean – assuming “good” people go to Heaven – that since he did it in TX he will go to hell, but if he’d flown her back home to do it he’d have gone to Heaven? With an absolute we can know for certain whether this was an honorable or appalling act, regardless of who is passing judgement.
Actually, atheism is a religion. The only thing in the world Jesus hated was religion. He would go off on the leaders of the Christian religion today if he were to show up tomorrow.
If love is your religion, and God is love…well, you do the math.
Interesting way of looking at it. I like it a lot.
Oh thanks, glad I didn’t offend! I do that sometimes. I respect your willingness to think. Even if you don’t agree with me, at least you considered it’s possibilities.
Ya know, people need to realize how limiting looking at things through their favored worldview can be. They build palatial glass house and start casting stones in every random direction.
Explore all possibilities with an open mind and a desire for the truth, and once you find said truth, accept it regardless of where you find it or where it fits into your previous viewpoint.
Sometimes “love” means drawing a hard line in the sand and calling a drug abuser an addict, or standing up for an otherwise unpopular position. Just because you say something someone finds offensive doesn’t mean it truly is offensive, merely that it offends them based on the perspective derived from the world they live in.