Not even seeing eye to eye here, as usual
if you had to convince a 23 year old that a religious / faith / spiritual life was worth the investment, what would you say?
I recently had my 22nd birthday, so given there aren’t too many life differences between a 22-year-old and a 23-year-old, I suppose that this question could be greatly relevant to my interests. And personally, I am very interested in reasons people might make to convince me that a religious/spiritual/faithful life is worth the investment, although even still, I don’t really know what these terms mean and people are pretty unclear about defining them in an accessible, consistent way. Ah, such is life.
Anyway, several people on twitter took a stab at Joanna’s question, and as usually happens with these kinds of questions, I either wasn’t completely on board with the answer or had no freaking idea where the person was coming from.
Ah, such is life. Anyway, let’s dive in…
To bring out your highest potential to always be true to yourselve [sic] help others
Umm…ok. I would just ask for clarification on what this means…what is one’s highest potential to always be true to him (or her)self and how does a religious/spiritual/faithful life bring that out? What does one say to a jaded 23-year-old (or 22-year-old) whose experience with religion/spirituality/faith is seeing how it encourages people to be “true” to some standard other than who they are (and in fact, may actively oppose the individual as it currently exists [e.g., natural man is an enemy to God, etc.])?
This is especially evident in another of Brian’s responses:
in order to live true to your sincere convictions create a world where many share your earnest view of life …
I don’t want to be totally cynical and jaded, but I think the issue for many 22 and 23-year-olds is that they feel that religion doesn’t share their sincere convictions or help create a world where many share their earnest view of life. Whatever those are or that is.
Alan Hooker (@awhooker) has an interesting response (and a few followups to other people):
I don’t really like the use of ‘investment’. Spirituality might make you happier/healthy, but without God, what’s the point?
He clarifies his dislike of the term “investment” in other tweets:
As in, you shouldn’t have a spiritual life if you want something out of it. It shouldn’t just be an ‘investment.’
Actually, with this clarification or without it, I don’t really get what Alan is trying to say. So, is a spiritual life not supposed to have anything to it? I mean, a lot of people talk about having a “relationship” with God, but don’t relationships also require “investment”? And, is it unreasonable to want some return to come from that investment…at the very least, a response from the being with whom you’re pursuing a relationship?
Then came answers from those like TentTrash @MulletPatrol:
look at the blessings / benefits of the lifestyle vs, a more hedonistic lifestyle. I’ll take the spiritual life any day.
life without religion/faith, etc is like a soccer field without rules and goals. Stay inbounds and kick for the goals.
At this point, I began to gain the distinct impression that I sometimes get that people aren’t even seeing eye to eye on this issue, so whatever benefits of a spiritual/faithful/religious life there may be are going to be lost on people like me coming of age in society…because I can’t even get on board with the premises implied in these statements.
So the dichotomy is spirituality/faith/religion or hedonism/goal-lessness/aimlessness. That’s all they see.
This is actually a complicated one to address, because it’s not as if there isn’t something there. If you’re coming from a strict background, then yeah, some of the restrictions that most people don’t follow that you do are going to seem like hedonism. I mean, if you believing drinking alcohol, tea, coffee, whatever are sins, then how can you explain someone who drinks these other than by calling them hedonistic sinners?
But here’s the deal: this “hedonism” isn’t “black” to the “religious” lifestyle’s “white”. Rather, you can see even within so-called “hedonism” variations…so you can even see people who may drink (gasp) disapprove of Jim who doesn’t do so responsibly and consequently acts like a jerk. Because there is more than the extremes of “tee-totaller” (or whatever the abstinent extreme would be) and “raging irresponsible drunk” (or whatever the excessive extreme would be).
This get to my issue with Chris’s tweet: it’s not like you have rules, boundaries, and goals with religion/faith/spirituality, but without these, you are on a soccer field without rules or goals. Maybe nonreligious people tend to play a different game, but that doesn’t make their game illegitimate.
…but I understand that this one is also complicated to address, because once again, it’s not as if there isn’t anything to what Chris and others like him say. But again, I don’t think he addresses this deeper criticism. Maybe 22 and 23-year-olds are not satisfied with religious offerings because they think the rules enacted by those religions are uncompelling? It doesn’t work just to have any old goal or set of rules…these things have to be coherent. So, to the extent that people do dabble with nihilism and postmodernism, it’s to the extent that the current discourses are so very flawed.
Some of the responses I read after those were downright depressing, however. From Chappy @chappy:
maybe the bleak circumstances, debt, and environmental destruction leads the younger generation to seek religion…Eventually
sometimes people have to be compelled to be humble (though it is better if they don’t have to be) right?
I’m not going to begin to state that “bleak circumstances,” “debt,” and “environmental destruction” are all the fault of religion, but I would venture to state that religion doesn’t necessarily have a good track record with these. (Obviously, all religions aren’t the same, but I don’t think most Evangelicals are espousing evangelical environmentalism.)
But I guess the scary thing about these two tweets is that it isn’t really about whether religions help or hinder against these problems. Rather, these problems are going to exist and you’re just going to have to be humbled into being religious.