Letters to the Editor

Religion, regulation

April 24, 2009


To the editor:

Research reports that those who sincerely adhere to a religion — any religion — show generally greater “self-control” (Journal-World, April 19). The ability to self-regulate by submitting to a prescribed ideology within a ritualized tradition is already easily noticed in everyday experience. Members of groups with a firm idea of their aims, of what’s worth doing and what’s possible, are often quite focused and ready to defer short-term urges for longer-term goals. Some are able to achieve astounding feats of self-denial — or even self-destruction — by this means. Religion is all about regulating (also hyping up) belief and behavior, so it’s no surprise when the faithful demonstrate such stolid qualities along with, as the study notes, comparatively low openness to challenging ideas, facts and persons.

Look closer, and you see that such “self” regulation isn’t from the self, but received from institutions and authority figures that may be giving us an inaccurate picture of reality and not truly serving our long-term interests. Admittedly I — and perhaps a congregation — could find great comfort and strong purpose in believing that I’m the long-lost son of Apollo, waiting to be revealed, and develop a supportive tradition around that faith.

At some point, though, objective reality intrudes even on the most balanced, well-adjusted and uplifting fantasy, no matter how widely believed or how reassuringly stable. The important question for the development of character is what’s true, what’s not, and do you really care to know the difference.

Springsteen is from Lawrence


devobrun 6 years ago

Bruce is dispensing received wisdom.

“self” regulation isn’t from the self, but received from institutions and authority figures that may be giving us an inaccurate picture of reality........."

I find your definition of "self" confusing. All people are influenced by their experiences. Other people, readings, physical experiences effect our definition of self. "Reality" is a slippery beast. Whether the received knowledge comes from parents, Jesus or Darwin, you and I don't make decisions about our actions independently from the world we live in.

But where you really head into pontification territory is the invocation of "objective reality". Most things that are considered objective reality are not. They are created reality.

Is love objective, Bruce? Which is more real, Bruce, feelings or thoughts? Is evolutionary biology real? Is a theory about anything as real as this pain in my back right now? Is reality relative?

Suggesting that an objective reality exists and that it will reveal itself through some kind of self study is dangerous philosophical territory, Bruce. Good luck with that and, in the mean time, perhaps you could tell me what your definition of "objective reality" is. I think that you will find yourself engaged in a discussion not dissimilar to that of religion.

Right now, this coffee is as real as it gets in my life.

jonas_opines 6 years ago

Geez, Mr. Springsteen, give it a rest.

craigers 6 years ago

No doubt Mr Nancy. And I'm sure in two or three days I can count on a letter to the editor from the same individual that called out the JW for giving a pulpit to Carl Burkhead? That's right, they won't write in because they agree with Bruce here.

Satirical 6 years ago

Knowledge isn't limited to one's empirical devices.

Left_handed 6 years ago

What a bunch of twaddle. What's important is what's true? Does Mr. Springsteen even have a clue what that means? As Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, "What is truth?" To the Christian, the bible is the source of truth, and everything must be tested in light of biblical truth. Granted there are variances among Christians (and even some non-Christians) but on balance it's better to have a source of objective truth to rely on rather than on nebulous feelings. It's snobbish anti-Christian arrogance for Mr. Springsteen to suggest that all "religious" beliefs are based on "fantasy".

boltzmann 6 years ago

Left-handed says "It's snobbish anti-Christian arrogance for Mr. Springsteen to suggest that all “religious” beliefs are based on “fantasy”."

So wouldn't it be snobbish Christian arrogance to suggest that they are not.

Satirical 6 years ago


I think if a Christian labeled any other religion/belief/non-belief as "fantasy" it would be disrespectful (or, if you prefer - arrogant). Having said that, it doesn't mean all religions/beliefs/non-beliefs can't be questioned. It is the difference between respect and acceptance; one can respect other's religion/belief/non-beliefs, but that doesn't require one to accept them.

jayhaitch 6 years ago

I think Springsteen's final paragraph has merit. Even "expert" theologians are unable to explain the supernatural aspects of their beliefs--even to each other. "Faith" permits professed believers to avoid trying to explain some things that have yet to be explained and to feel virtuous about it in the process.

jayhaitch 6 years ago


So we should all respect the beliefs of the religiously motivated 9/11 hijackers?

Satirical 6 years ago

jayhaitch... "So we should all respect the beliefs of the religiously motivated 9/11 hijackers?"

Respect, yes... accept, no.

craigers 6 years ago

Jayhaitch, the thing is about those terrorists that pulls me to respect them is that they believed their faith with all they are. I wish Christians would do the same. I think that if Christians did the same and lived the teachings of Christ and the new covenant with all that they are we wouldn't have people saying I love Christ but I can't stand Christians.

jayhaitch 6 years ago


The crusaders and inquisitioners fervently believed they were doing the right thing in the name of Christianity. You think they were? Believing that you're doing the right thing is fine if you are, indeed, doing the right thing. Trouble is, what some people consider to be the right thing often involves the extermination of those who don't agree with them. The differences of opinion about religion aren't resolvable because they're unexplainable. Springsteen is right in saying that they don't "really care to know the difference" between what they believe and what is right.

Satirical 6 years ago

jayhaitch... "The differences of opinion about religion aren't resolvable because they're unexplainable."

Wrong the differences of opinion about religion are often unresolvable because they are based on faith, which by definition isn't objective.

Also, what evidence do you have that "they (I assume you mean people of faith) don't 'really care to know the difference' between what they believe and what is right?"

craigers 6 years ago

jayhaitch, I don't believe the Crusaders were doing the right thing at all. Killing in the name of Christ like that makes no sense at all to me. Christ never killed somebody because they didn't convert or didn't believe in the same way He did. He simply let them make their choice and told His disciples if people decide they don't want to hear what you have to say then dust off your feet and don't worry about them since they obviously have made their choice. A forced conversion to Christianity isn't a real conversion in my opinion. You can't force your heart to change. If you willingly invite Christ in, then I believe a dramatic change will occur. If I told somebody to accept Christ as King of their life or I will slit their throat will only invoke fear. That is not a real encounter with Christ.

SettingTheRecordStraight 6 years ago

Like Mr. Springsteen, I deplore "religion" with its rituals and requirements. Religion, in the traditional sense, is all about humans trying to get into a right relationship with God through good deeds.

Faith in and a friendship with Jesus Christ is different. A relationship with Christ frees one from the encumberances of religion with its practices and its requirements. Indeed, knowing Jesus is infinitely liberating.

Kryptenx 6 years ago

There was only one true Christian, and he died on the cross.

  • Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900

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