The word materialism may connote different things depending on the context in which it’s used. Yet at the heart of the word lies a common idea. Tobias Churton, in his book The Gnostics, puts it this way:
“When we hear the word ‘materialism,’ we might think that it implies a critique of our civilization, in that people are acquisitive; they want things, they value things, they study things, they produce things, they exchange things, they work for things, they die for things, they kill for things, they dominate things. . . .
“In fact, materialism is much more fundamental a concept, and all the above are in a sense only symptoms or rather effects of it. Materialism means that the source of all things is matter and should we go back far enough to when matter was not, then there would be nothing, absolutely nothing—because there can be no thing without matter. . . .
“Our civilization may not actually believe in materialism but it certainly acts as if it did.”