Materialism is the view that there is nothing but matter: there is no spiritual dimension, no moral world, no supernatural, and no God. Materialists are therefore opposed to idealists, who think that reality is ideas, and to any understanding of the world that sees in it a spiritual dimension.
But materialists are of two kinds. Some, like Marxists, are philosophical; others, like most Westerners, are unthinking. Marxists are theoretical atheists whereas secular Westerners are practical atheists. For them, materialism is not a system of thought that has inclined them to exclude God from consideration but a whole web of relationships in life whose interests are centrally affluent and whose cognitive horizons make the pursuit of the “good life” normative.
Secularism, which leads to materialism, is the assumption that the processes of life are separated from any divine or moral order standing behind them. God may indeed exist–and few Westerners doubt that he does–but his existence is not meaningful to any part of life. To say that he exists is to say nothing concrete about whether there are enduring values, an ultimate distinction between right and wrong, what life is about, what its meaning is, and why one wants to live it. Affirming God means little, denying him means little; understanding life on its own terms is everything.
If we do not, or cannot, anchor meaning in God because he is too distant, indistinct, and disconnected from our lives, then we have no alternative but to find meaning in ourselves. What is right and wrong, true and false, important and trivial, is derived from our experience. Experience becomes a teacher who both serves up what values there are and corrects us in terms of those values. So pluralism has become an inescapable part of modern reality. Who is to say that one value is preferable to another? If experience is the criterion, the quarry out of which we dig meaning, then whatever seems to “fit” for each individual should be accepted, at least for the moment.
David Wells, Turning to God, p. 139-140