An alternative religion has grown amongst us. It has millions of adherents across the country. It inspires their hopes and dreams. It dictates their lifestyle choices. It motivates their actions. It shapes their weekends.
That religion is Consumerism, and this is its creed.
The Consumer loves to eat and drink and shop. The Consumer embraces the holy trinity of expenditure.
We are all of us consumers, we all eat and drink and shop. But only some of us are Consumers, to whom spending comes naturally, for whom paid-for gratification is a natural state of mind.
When the opportunity arises, and free time allows, a Consumer chooses to spend their free time spending money.
There are thousands of free or inexpensive things they could be doing, like playing sport, or gardening, or going for a long walk, or sitting outside in a deckchair, or making jam, or reading a book, or going for a run, or making a cup of tea, or listening to music they already own, or talking with friends, but no. Their free time is filled with things that cost, because that's the way Consumers are hard-wired.
Visit any Consumer cathedral on a Sunday and you'll see them. They wander round shopping malls looking for things to buy and bags to carry. They pick up a coffee on the way in and a cup of diluted sugar on the way out. They stop off halfway round for an unnecessary burger or a bowl of noodles, then perch on a plastic seat to wolf it down. Their day out consists of multiple purchasing opportunities, sequentially linked, as if this were an entirely natural state of affairs.
True Consumers worship a multiplicity of brands, and will go out of their way to spend more on these than other lesser rivals. To these people Nike is a goddess, Amazon is a warrior, and Olympus is the choice of kings.
True Consumers always read their consumer bibles, embracing marketing spiel as if it were the gospel truth. When a disciple enthuses over some must-have must-visit experience, or when a sacred pop-up ceremonial is announced, they'll make a date and they'll be there.
True Consumers love to embrace their faith online, following false prophets and searching diligently for satisfaction. What's more they'll always spread the Word, sharing the Good News to confirm to everyone what good Consumers they have been.
The devout pay extra to bike in takeaways, rather than creating meals at home themselves. The devout spend their wages on thimblefuls of mass-produced liquid not because they like the taste but because it's the thing to be seen to do. The devout purchase stuff they already own, replace stuff before it's broken, and throw away stuff they never used. The devout eat, and drink, and shop, without giving it a second thought.
And that's the way big business likes it.
There is no money to be made in a nation of unbelievers. Every adult walking in the countryside is a wasted retail opportunity. Every child enjoying a glass of water ought rather to be enjoying a carton or a can. Every family cooking their own dinner means an entrepreneur somewhere is losing out. What's needed are evangelical citizens whose happiness relies on paying others for a service, even when they don't have the financial means to do so, because the generation of profits must come first.
If Britain's populace can be conditioned to buy first and think later, all the better. If behaviours can be nudged and tweaked to naturalise a commercial lifestyle, a multitude of shareholders will be the long-term winners. If children can be inspired to want, and yearn, and need, then another generation of Consumers will emerge to support the system for decades to come.
Britain is essentially a Consumer nation, and our economy would collapse if it were not.
But I'm pleased to be an atheist, immune to impulsive expenditure, and I often wonder why so many of the congregation still believe.