Matt D’Antuono is a physics teacher in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and eight children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in special education, and is working on a master’s degree in philosophy at Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut. He returned to the Catholic Church in 2008. He is the author of A Fool’s Errand: A Brief, Informal Introduction to Philosophy for Young Catholics, The Wiseguy and the Fool and Philosophy Fridays. On YouTube you can find him at DonecRequiescat and his family at MisterD418.
In 2017, an astute sociologist reported on the fastest-growing religious revival in the United States: the religion of Athletica. Heather Smith wrote a satire piece about the forms of worship and the indoctrination from a young age that these religious zealots practice.
In my own careful sociological investigations, I have unearthed another, even more successful religious revival. While Athletica is restricted mostly to people who consume or play sports or indoctrinate their children in sports, this religion spans all people groups. There are elaborate and costly shrines in almost every home. No expense is spared in erecting these temples. Magnificent basilicas exist in most towns, and some cities have more than one. People flock to these sites to pay tribute on a regular basis. Many gather in other places like bars and restaurants for their religious exercises.
Families and friends still gather for group worship sessions, but the vast majority of our citizens carry their own personal tools for individual prayer and meditation. Often, an individual will have more than one, despite the cost of such objects. Entire networks of material have been engineered and constructed to connect the people with this god of their choosing.
At younger and younger ages, children are given their own implements for prayer, and they devote large amounts of time to their meditations. Every free moment is given to practicing this faith. In increasing frequency, people are so engrossed in their worship that they neglect their other daily duties. I even catch my students purposefully ignoring their school work to engage in their religious practices. I often hear of weekend-long retreats where these religious fanatics do little else than pray and worship.
The appeal of this religion is that is offers the hope of salvation from whatever ails us. There is a peace that comes only from this prayerful meditation. The stupor of ecstasy produced by these particular spiritual exercises is evident on the face of anyone engaged in their almost constant, vigilant practice. It allows us to relax, to de-stress. We get to tune out our cares and anxieties. It inculcates detachment from the horrors of reality and allows us to enter a world of blissful abstraction that has nothing to do with our immediate environment or the ever-present and bothersome people in our lives. It saves us from any number of maladies by means of distraction.
Perhaps greatest of all, it frees us from the grasp of that horrible condition, which the heart and mind of man simply will not abide: boredom. “Worship at my altars and you will never be bored again.”
This religion is not new. It is probably as old as the human race, but the steady march of technological improvement and convenience has allowed this hope of mankind to flourish like never before.
The name of this religion is Entertainment.
There are many denominations. There is some overlap with the religion of Athletica. This religion is a model for other religions where denominational lines cause friction and fighting. There are many who walk across denominational lines without squabble. All denominations get along just fine. It is the paragon of open-mindedness, and no authority ever condemns the practices of another religion.
The denominations I have observed most adamantly practiced are those of sports, movies, television shows, music, social media, gaming and news source consumption (yes, even reading a newspaper, watching a news show, or reading a news website can be done out of mere entertainment: “What’s new today?”). I don’t doubt that there are other denominations in this vast and ever-growing religion, but it will take more research to reveal what those are and exactly what marks off the dividing lines of each.
It even has its own form of advent, and advent that never ends. We can always wait with eager anticipation the coming of our savior: the next episode, the next game, the new release, opening night of the next movie.
It was once said by a very wise Man that it is not possible to serve two masters. Despite different denominations, all these sects serve the one master of entertainment. What it does exclude, though implicitly and silently, is the worship of any other god. The hope of salvation cannot be entertainment and something else. Part of the success of this religion is that most people have not even consciously made the choice to join it. Many who consider themselves to be part of another religion, betray their true allegiance by the overwhelming amount of time, effort, and resources they devote to entertainment in comparison to the scant attention they give to the religion they think they have chosen. But that does not change the fact that we must and do choose, wittingly or unwittingly, which god we serve.