Hedonism in American Culture

Esther Quinn | September 19, 2013

America has changed drastically in the last 200 years. Our country has become something that most of us are not willing to accept.  People know something is amiss and are scrambling to find that which will make America better. We know America was great once so something in its past must have been right. But, the paradigm changed in our values and morals, which has drastically changed the character of our beloved country. 

One of the obvious changes is that self was not enthroned in the heart of Americans.  Now, people live mostly to please themselves.  This is called hedonism, or self-pleasure. 

This is in total contrast to what we have been taught by God in His word.  In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul put it this way: 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The dictionary’s definition of hedonism is as follows:

 hedonism /ˈhiːdəˌnɪzəm ˈhɛd-/ etymology

  1. The doctrine that moral value can be defined in terms of pleasure
  2. The doctrine that the pursuit of pleasure is the highest good
  3. Indulgence in sensual pleasures

Studies show that civilizations that are headed for a fall have 37 major indicators that are identical. One of those symptoms is hedonism described as follows:[1]

People have become passive, rather than active, interested in games, recreation, reading, entertainment and illusion, rather than the real world.

  • The obsession of Americans to obtain an overabundance of possessions is consuming their every waking moment.
  • They seek excessive pleasurable entertainment, while lacking the self-respect, morality to constrain behavior within civilized boundaries.  There are 428 million pornographic sites streaming from the United States alone out to the world. [2]
  • The actions of the people have become extremely rude and impolite, with no regard for others.
  • The American public appears to be reverting to a form of barbarism. Rather than becoming more civilized, as may be expected of a mature civilization, we appear to be descending into a culture lacking in morality, common decency, and respect for our fellow citizens.
  • It seems we have arrived at a current decadent lifestyle. Every day we find ourselves inundated by more examples of raw and deep decadence.
  • Enjoying all that life has to offer within the boundaries of Christian morality and common sense are more and more a thing of the past and even frowned upon.
  • Commercials border on pornography, or are already considered “soft” porn.
  • Teenage girls are commonly dressed as provocatively as prostitutes. Lewd tattoos and body piercings are covering the bodies of today's youth and adults of all ages.
  • Heterosexual, homosexual, and lesbian sex is publicly exposed in every sector of society. Our youth are being taught that this behavior is normal and accepted.
  • Instant gratification is demanded and expected.

Of course, humans are free to choose the lifestyle that pleases them but we must know that their choices affect not only them but also all of us.  What is God’s counsel for right living?  I will let the following Scriptures speak to you so you can arrive at your own conclusions of the moral state of America.  These Scripture verses are self-explanatory. 

Colossians 3:5-7

English Standard Version (ESV)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 

James 4:1-3

English Standard Version (ESV)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions [hedone] are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions [hedone].

James 1:14-15

English Standard Version (ESV)

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire [lust]. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death.

Titus 3:3

English Standard Version (ESV) 

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures [hedone], passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

English Standard Version (ESV)

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”  I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.  I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.  I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.  And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

English Standard Version (ESV)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Wise Solomon offers the value of wisdom that is incalculable. Proverbs records these action plans to make right choices to rid ourselves of fleshly desires.

Proverbs 2:1-9

English Standard Version (ESV)

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.