The Schism Between Idealism and Materialism

Religion had such a powerful hold upon the human imagination that for whole cultures – the ancient Egyptians and medieval Christians come to mind – the material world was much less real than the world of the gods or God.

Most modern people can barely fathom this worldview, because we are as immersed in materialism as they were in idealism – the belief that nature begins in subtle realms of spirit. In idealism the earth is a lower world while heaven is higher. Thus everything about earthy life – its physicality, appetites, sexual drive, disease, suffering, and old age – is further from God or spirit than heaven.

Science did not overturn this view by disproving it. Idealism was simply outmoded by a new worldview – materialism – that was more practical. Materialism brought about technology, with its attendant comforts, and it explained many phenomena that religion preferred to regard as a mystery known only to God.

The burden of proof has shifted, and now it is the believer who must prove that God and the soul are real. For many people, the triumph of materialism is so complete that even showing why we should care about God and the soul is a tough challenge.

If skepticism carries the day in some circles, in popular culture the burden still lies with proving that the afterlife doesn’t exist. Constantly polls show that 90 percent of people believe in heaven, and almost that many believe they are going there. Belief in hell suffers a sharp decline to 75 percent and only 68 percent believe in the devil.

This leaves most people in a quandary, dividing their allegiance between faith when it comes to spirituality and science when it comes to the material world.

Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).


Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy5 years ago


Brian M.
Past Member 5 years ago

I am normally quite critical of most of the fluff that Deepak Chopra writes. Yet, while this article still reveals a slight bias in favor of supernaturalism, this is, in fact, one of the most balanced articles I've ever read of his. He is incorrect in labelling what is essentially supernaturalism as Idealism. This, however, only reveals his ideological bias. Materialism, however, ultimately triumphs, because of supernaturalism's failure to meet the basic demands of probability. The most probable choice is, in fact, the choice that is found in reality. Supernaturalism has consistently demonstrated lack of probability. If it is highly improbable, then, in this world, it simply doesn't happen. Science, by demanding evidence and the repeatability of phenomena, is successful because it confirms what is most probable and real.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

Just because 90% believe in heaven doesn't make it true and just because 68% believe in the devil doesn't make it true either. All it proves is that people have wild imaginations and they don't want to grow up, they prefer to not take responsibility for their own actions (childish).

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Frederick Rhodes
Frederick Rhodes7 years ago

The sciences demonstrate that there was infact a living Singularity, that gave birth to and evolved into every life form, thing and idea. Sciences have proven that there is no longer one Singularity but a multitude of Singularities in exsistance at the pressent and that there will most likley be only be One left at the end of this life/time line cycle in evolution.

Peter B.
Peter B7 years ago

thankyou for shareing

Cat Neshine
Cat N7 years ago

The immaterial and material are not opposed. They must be balanced.

Tekla Drakfrende
Tekla Drakfrende7 years ago

schisms aren´t good - they tear us apart.... let´s come together instead!

Tracy Schaal
Tracy Schaal7 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Interesting article.