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.