It is not a difficult thing to end belief in God in a people…all one needs to do is to not just meet, but exceed every material desire of the people. In this way the state becomes God.
Christ understood this as he warned constantly against wealth. Before Christ the psalmist Asaph also understood this as his lament in Psalm 73 shows as he teeters on the brink of unbelief as the wealthy and corrupt of Israel revel in their fat while the faithful struggle day by day.
Asaph finds dubious comfort in the awareness that “they will get theirs” because we are eternal and in line to meet this same God we choose variously to worship or ignore. They real treasure in Psalm 73 is not Asaph’s hope in the punishment of the wicked but rather that Asaph comes to re-affirm his belief by entering the presence of God. This moment could be considered the mountaintop of a psalm that arguably starts in the valley rising to a peak in God’s presence only to slide back down the other side with his unfortunate focus on punishment.
So if wealth, comfort and excess pulls a person away from God does this mean that we must live in misery to preserve belief? It is true that the tough times often press a person into a thin place where concepts of God become more real but this is a dangerous path, especially for the religious and political leaders. Both comprehend this soon enough and see that preserving power requires oppression that periodically they may swoop in to relieve said discomfort and become gods preserving their systems and authorities…until revolution.
Revolution is the rock in the gears of oppression…every time. One cannot maintain an oppressive state forever before the people see what is going on and decide, at risk of their very lives even, to rise up and remove the autocrat replacing them with a god of their own image.
So then we come back to that state which provides its people with their every desire as the only way to destroy faith. Utopia. The problem here of course is that you cannot meet every need – sure you can meet material needs for food and shelter, wealth etc. but eventually people desire power – the one thing the state prefers not to give in an unlimited fashion.
People will define God by what they are deprived of. If people are deprived of wealth than God is a God that will liberate the poor. If the people are deprived of power than God is the God who will empower. There is no avoiding this.
In response and in awareness of these things Christ presents the God who simply is. This God resists definition and in this God’s attributes we come to understand what people lack –
God is love – People than are unloved
God is forgiveness – People live in a state of unforgiveness
God is just – people live in injustice
God is spirit (free) – people are bound
In Matthew 5:19-21 Christ says:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This is a very real warning against how we understand and define the things we attain. The battle for the hearts of people rests in the minds of people. It is not the having of wealth and the things that it can buy that draws a person away from God, it is the belief that, in having it, our appetites will finally be sated and in being satisfied – we no longer need God.
Of course the reality is that wealth does not satisfy, it begets desire for more wealth.
So then the trick to keeping people from believing in God is not so much in giving them everything they want but convincing them that it is everything they want…marketing. This is the maxim of corporate marketing – convince them that what we are giving them is what they need…and when they start realizing they don’t need it begin telling them about version 2.0 and how it will fulfill all of their desires…and so in such fashion.
The trick to keeping people close to God? Still a battle of the mind.
Or as Saint Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 –
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This will which is so well expressed in Micah 6:6-8 –
“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.“
And so to end belief in God the solution is simple – give people an over abundance of what they need – justice, mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace. Of course if you can do this you will be caught in the irony that, in attempting to remove belief in God, you will have given people God.
You decide what this all means then.