But this surface facade of diametrically-opposed philosophies masks an underlying unity and agreement based upon a multitude of hidden assumptions. Both worldviews are in fact equally anti-materialistic. Both embrace the homogenization of reality, the concept that matter is standardized and replaceable, and hence both deny the inherent uniqueness of all objects which we encounter in our everyday lives. For the religious, mystery exists only in a separate spiritual realm; while for the secularists, the extraordinary is a figment of the imagination: all of reality consists of an underlying essence of atomic uniformity.  Though the religious may ostensibly be lifted by the prospect of an afterlife or of a world beyond that which we inhabit, in actual fact the great majority are no less depressed by the mundanity and tedium of experience in the here and now.
The origins of this separation of spirit and matter are as old as language and mathematics. In the words of John Zerzan, "abstraction and equivalence of identity are inseparable"  - when we come to describe the world in terms of generic names and figures that we can manipulate, we must see it as composed of generic objects. But left to their own devices, language and number could perhaps not account for the degree to which we actually experience a world of absolute uniformity. We may believe, on an intellectual level, that every object in our lives and every organism on Earth is the product of just so many atoms arranged in a particular fashion, but this doesn't seem to fully explain the overpowering emotional feeling of monotony that characterizes the majority of human lives in the 'developed' world (if you don't accept this, consider that most of the time, the average employed person is depressed by the prospect of work, and the average unemployed person is depressed by boredom and their own perceived failings).
If Christmas is such an exciting and joyous occasion, it is mostly because the rest of the year is bleak and insubstantial in comparison: once the festivities are over, how depressed do people become when getting on with the daily grind? It is not difficult to see that money, or at least the concept of money that has existed since Antiquity, greatly enhances this sense of blandness pervading our experience of the world. And it does this not just by compelling us to 'earn a living', as the insidious expression goes, but by enhancing the commodification of everything. As a measure of value, money relies for its power upon standardization: all that can be turned into a generic commodity is, so that it can be utilized in financial transactions for the accumulation of wealth.
According to Richard Seaford, professor of classics at the University of Exeter, the philosophical basis of Plato's 'perfect form', which consists of the idealistic division of all things -- living and nonliving -- into blanket categories, was cemented amongst pre-Socratic Greek theorists at roughly the same time at which an economy based upon coinage and abstract value began to take hold.  Physical money denoting the same agreed amount is, by definition, interchangeable: my money is as good as yours. Since financial transactions aim to quantify worth, they deal only with the generic: that which can be quantified. And as the realm of money is extended, more and more of the world is subsumed into the categories of 'goods' and 'commodities' which can be bought or sold, quantified and evaluated.
The economisation of the world consists not only of the standardization of all its parts, but also of their degradation. A given financial transaction involves the input of raw materials and the output of waste: industrial waste and pollution, land degradation, food waste, etc. Economists tend to refer to these outputs as 'externalities', hence they are generally not considered when analysing such matters as the economy of intensive agriculture, with its vast 'external' spillover in the form of a monolithic carbon footprint, topsoil depletion, etc. But it is not just the physical world around us that is degraded by economic transactions; we live in an age in which our very humanity - from our individual talents and pleasures to our very (brief) time alive on Earth - is considered a financial raw material from which we are encouraged to extract a profit. In this case, the output 'waste' may not be as physically obvious and perilous to the survival of other creatures, but it is no less real. We feel it in our bones, it is dehumanising and we lose a part of ourselves.
We ought to look with deep suspicion, then, at programs which aim to increase economic growth or national GDP (a synonym for growth), either within 'developed' areas or as part of programs for 'development'. What, in essence, do such programs entail? We are supposed to be shocked by the fact that over half of the world lives on less than $2 a day, yet we don't stop to consider how so many of them get by on this when we could envisage ourselves starving or freezing to death under such circumstances. Perhaps the aforementioned functions and necessities are provided to many of these people outside of economic transactions; perhaps the entirety of their lives have not been economized.
By extending programs of economic growth and development, we are fostering the spread and distribution of commoditization, in which each object is to be considered in terms of its objective value. We are also encouraging the dissolution of community spirit and of humanity. Economists tells us that humans are all the same: we all want money. Either in its physical form, or as the standardized and evaluated objects which it necessitates, they insist that we strive to accumulate it. Yet we know that this is not the case; we are not all the same. We have different desires, different values and needs; from the moment we are born until we are indoctrinated into this culture, we sense the plentiful nature of the world and the infinity of all that composes it. We know that it cannot be reduced and that it must not be degraded.
2. This topic is explored in much greater detail by Charles Eisenstein, in his awe-inspiring book The Ascent of Humanity: http://www.ascentofhumanity.com/
4. Richard Seaford. Money and the Early Greek Mind: Homer, Philosophy, Tragedy (2004).