Disturbing Early Morning Thought

great-ozIf you lived with someone who had done EVERYTHING, say a superstar father or mother – a famous author or adventurer or actress or athlete – how would you gain a sense of your own worth and value? How hard would it be to chart your own life course? To find and develop your own talents?

Would you live your whole life feeling inferior and lesser? Knowing that you could never do or be anything unique, that you would always live in the giant shadow of their spectacular accomplishments, that by comparison you were nothing and nobody, and always would be, would you give up even trying to write or act or adventure or compete?

If your father were a world-famous philosopher and and thinker, and you were made to believe over and over that your thoughts were juvenile and empty, that nothing you could think of on your entire best day could equal what went on in your father’s mind in one second, that all the amazing and profound and true thoughts about how to think and live and understand had already been thought, that you would be inevitably wrong in every new and different thing you tried to think, would you bother to try to think on your own? If you knew you could never match the power or understanding of this huge mind in your life, would you place any value AT ALL on your own inner voice?

It occurs to me that this is one of the hidden prices of religion.

Belief in an all-powerful supernatural superbeing might not have a definable effect on any one particular person, but as a statistical force, a steady pressure upon hundreds of generations of children and then the billions of adults they become – squeezing them down into that mindset of hopeless subservience, of creative and inventive futility – I simply can’t imagine it not having a blanket effect upon the people within it.

It would, without question, diminish and retard the progress of the entire civilization in which it took place.

  • dgrasett

    Yes. And, since I have been doing some reading, this might be the reason why the”dark ages” showed such a slow rate of innovation and went on for so long. The place of literacy and culture was the church. There were wars, plagues and such, frequently. Wouldn’t people become aware that wounds healed better if they (and the hands treating them) were washed? and other ideas you do not need me to go on about.

  • michaelpowers

    I’ve often thought about that very thing. There is speculation that, while life in the universe may be abundant, intelligent life may be decidedly more rare. Once a species developes the ability to imagine it’s own end, it invents something akin to religion, and in doing so, seals it’s fate.

  • dd

    Well, if you did grow up with a parent like that, and they failed to cultivate your own sense of self worth and uniqueness, they’d be a pretty crappy parent. Similarly, if you are worshipping a deity that makes you feel that way, it makes them a pretty crappy deity. In both cases, I think it makes them not worth any of the admiration they’re being assumed to deserve.

  • machintelligence

    You may be onto something, but I’m not sure how robust the effect is. Most people are smart enough to play to their own strengths, in spite of what their parents have done. Our culture does not generally have the expectation of “following in your fathers footsteps” to the extent that some others do. (My son met a student in Japan who had 6 or 7 levels of grandfather who had all been doctors — pressure much?) My dad might be a philosopher, but I think I’ll drive stock cars is pretty much an OK attitude in the USA. I attribute more of the problems of the dark ages to the fact that so much of civilization and technology had been lost so folks sought out the “wisdom of the ancients” rather than working to acquire new knowledge. I doubt that there was a single cause.

  • Melody Hollis

    The other thing that religion does is make people think they already have all the answers they need and that the things they don’t understand are God’s territory. I remember trying to reconcile all the obvious problems with an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God who always has been and always will be. I was about 5 years old. My parents answered by saying that our little human minds just can’t comprehend God’s greatness and that we just have to accept that that is how it is. So, I stopped asking and every time doubts crept up, I repeated what I had been told. “I just have to accept that I will never understand. God’s ways are beyond question.” It was a lot like Brave New World, where people were brainwashed with happy little sayings to soothe any dissatisfaction they felt.

    So, yes, I agree that religion can lull some people into a stagnant position where they don’t feel the need to advance their knowledge. It also allows them to ignore science that contradicts their beliefs and shun the acquisition of knowledge that may conflict with what they think they know. Besides, they are all just biding their time until they get to heaven, so what happens here on earth isn’t important – unless it’s in the service of their god.

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  • davidct

    Unfortunately some parents are able to create the same effect without any help from religion. Think some kind thoughts about the dad you had.

  • Dark Jaguar

    I didn’t put together that you were speaking of religion at first. I should have, but didn’t.

    Instead, it really depressed me because I have thoughts like that my whole life. No amount of “you are valuable just as you are” ever convinces me that there’s any truth in it, because that’s said, then they go on their own lives. The vast majority of people will die in obscurity, never accomplishing anything of any great importance. These are the thoughts that depress me the most at times. It is the most depressing thing in the world to slowly realize all your dreams are going to be shattered by your own inadequacy to realize them. Not necessarily social injustice, just that you can’t wrap your head around math, can’t memorize names and dates, can’t even properly come up with how to test something without someone who’s actually got a scientific mind telling you how it is done.

    I remember one time asking a question about relativity, heck a few of them, getting an answer, struggling to understand that answer, and then eventually utterly forgetting what I just understood. All I remember is that I “got” it for a fleeting moment, but it’s gone now.

    No, saying “maybe that’s just not your thing” won’t help. Science is the only thing I’ve ever cared about, and art? I’m a failure artistically too. At best I can say “hey, sometimes people I care about are in trouble and I help them a little”, but that’s it. No, saying “that can mean all the world to them” doesn’t help.

    Sorry, that whole thing just put me in a bit of a funk. I’ll snap out of it.

  • Karen Locke

    I grew up in the Catholic church, which does hold that sinners can be reconciled back to God via the sacrament of confession. The whole bit of Jesus’ death and resurrection was atonement for Adam and Eve’s original sin; you got to atone for your own sins as you committed them through life by going to confession, making it right with anyone you harmed, and saying a few prayers to reassure God that you really are sorry. Growing up, that safety valve worked very well for me, until I started questioning the church’s stances on too many things. About that time I got married ( a Catholic wedding), and after awhile my husband and I started to attend an evangelical Christian church. The evangelical message was clear: you are a total fuck-up by definition, and it’s only by the sake of the grace of God that you’ll be saved from hell if you believe the right things. What I didn’t realize that this message was just feeding my latent depression, and feeding it generously. When it got to the point that every sermon made me cry, Husband insisted we no longer go to church.

    I’ll probably always be on antidepressants; I’ll probably always struggle with depression (atheism/humanism, where I am now, has its own contributors to that struggle). But evangelical Christianity made it a whole helluva lot harder than it had to be.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    The plight of the hypothetical son described above reminds me of a real son exposed to a somewhat similar circumstance.

    Except that the father proved, in the arena where he chose to play, rather mediocre. And the son, using his father’s connections to play the same game, attempted to out-achieve his dad, but fell so far below mediocre that just about everyone but his father rejected him.

    We would all be better off now had George the XLIII accepted the inferiority to George XLI that was taught him from early childhood.

  • http://www.facebook.com/corey.finney.1 coreyfinney

    There is a BIG problem with religion. Mainly in condemnation because of sin. The Bible says that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, those who are striving for excellence in all things through His Spirit. We love Him because He first loved us. We can do all things because of His goodness which strengthens us. Religion says. “Oh wretched man that I am,” and stops there. That’s the trap, to not continue past that point. I thank God, it is through Jesus Christ, my Lord. His Spirit is forging a new law within. Sometimes I fail, but He’s faithful to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness.

  • dogcctw

    Three parts: 1) Fed up enough to change things like Occupy Wall Street 2) Use the model of I’m going to change this (instead of change this for me) 3) When making the change don’t put back the same system that brought the dissatisfaction in the first place

    See the Venus project for what to put in place: http://thevenusproject.com/


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