I was a youth leader years ago. I had the the fortunate event of riding the bus with one of the youth who I led years ago. He is now 24 and going to the University of Washington. We had a great conversation on faith, spirituality, and even dating. There is always a bit of trepidation on what information to share because our youth leaders always have a special place of authority in our hearts. We often respect them and look up to them sometimes even more than our own parents. So, I pray that nothing I said could lead someone down the wrong path. However, during this conversation I remembered a few things that I considered during my time in the military many years ago. It was one of the items that brought me to my faith, a faith that is perhaps one of the most restrictive of faiths. It is the notion that in a general sense those who subscribe and adhere to restrictive faiths are rewarded the most temporally.
This notion is not founded on any scientific research, but purely on empirical evidence collected over the years. One of the most glaring examples of this is when we examine members of the Jewish faith. For centuries the Jews have been associated with being doctors, lawyers, and bankers...in essence some of the most successful people in our society. Some of our smartest scientists have been Jews. Likewise Mormonism has created some absolutely marvelous works in North America. As a people they settled most of the intermountain west and as individuals they are involved with government and exist in many high paying professions. Devout Catholics and "Christians" often carry with them positions of authority in our society as well. It seems that there is somewhat of a correlation between societal acceptance of our faith to our temporal success.
I have pondered this a bit and after living as a devout man of religion for more than a decade I can say that there are many reasons for this. Some may simply state that "God blesses us for our obedience". This is true, but it still leaves one to question how God is blessing us, does He magically put thoughts in our brains so that we behave differently? Or perhaps does he use more natural, psychological means to create those blessings. Can they be replicated outside of a religious context? I can't answer all of these questions in a single blog post. However, I will state that I believe that he works more in line with natural means. I will use Nietzche and the discussion of misery in my previous post to give my general hypothesis.
Members of faiths who are outside the mainstream must in some way justify their existence, prove to themselves and the world that their path is worthy. In a larger context Jews were shuffled around Europe for many centuries, which ultimately resulted in the holocaust. Mormons endured mobs and many crimes against them, while Catholics also endured a period of ostracism and even ridicule in certain areas of our country. Under such difficult challenges a rational person would ask why someone would voluntarily adhere to such a faith, for why would one voluntarily put oneself through misery at best and in the worst of circumstances death? In my case my choice of faith was the cause of much consternation in my family which resulted in many conversations on why my choice of faith was wrong and that I was "going to hell". As tragic as this may seem to many, it provided great value in my life in that I needed to prove that my path was a worthy one.
In my previous Nietzche post I mentioned the concept of misery. It is the enduring of self-sacrificing misery that causes us to grow, to develop, to be exalted above our peers. When we conform to the mainstream we find ourselves in a state of mediocrity and eventual decline. This rule applies not only to individuals, but to societies as well. It is those individuals who subscribe to non-mainstream beliefs who find themselves driven, to one degree or another, to excel beyond their peers. Once more, those who adhere to these non-mainstream beliefs tend to bond together in society creating more of a fraternity. We see this pattern in various ethnic communities in our country as well.
I could expound on this conversation a bit more, however my eldest daughter is feeling a bit sad that I am spending time on this computer instead of with her. Alas, my daughter must win.