The first job that ever taught me anything was at a bar by my house. My commute was a five-minute drive.
It was late one night, the end of a shift, and I was wrapping up the host booth. Not too far away, one of the bouncers was there eating.
He was a great guy, great at his job, rarely complained. From what I could gather, his life wasn’t easy, but that night he was eating like a king; the kitchen had cooked a steak by accident, so that was what he was getting for an end-of-shift meal.
We started chatting, and he told me that earlier, he had thought of how great a steak might be. This thought, he said, had been broadcast to the universe, and the universe had provided him with a steak, just like he wanted. He was convinced that this was the secret to getting rich, living life to the fullest, and being successful. He talked about it like a preacher talks God, or a barefoot runner talks about how running shoes ruin your joints.
I didn’t think much of this at the time, but looking back, this was my first encounter with a particular American belief system, one supersedes all our other beliefs, even the Christianity many of us believe to be the bedrock of our country.
It’s part of a faith I call the religion of the Vending Machine God.
The Vending Machine God has its own church. It has its own texts, doctrine, and clergy.
It’s a faith you’ve never heard of, but it’s everywhere.