A few months ago, I drove down to the Los Angeles area to stay with my extended family and also interview at a company down there. In the end, I realized the job wasn’t really for me (it was too celebrity-oriented and I’m just frankly much too boring). But it was a nice jaunt down to SoCal nonetheless.
My extended family is very religious– Chinese Baptist to be exact. I grew up largely without religion, though my mom is Catholic and recently has become much more involved with a local church and my sister is Catholic, having been baptized while in high school. I also attended a Catholic high school so I’m well versed on Christianity and honestly probably should just become Catholic. But it’s never really been a priority for me so I never have.
So while down in LA, my aunt asked me about my desire to be Christian, especially in light of my current struggles. I know that she means well and I generally think that Christian people seem happier and calmer, mainly b/c they have this receptacle in their lives (called “God”) that they can deposit all their worries and sadness which allows them to just believe.
I told her that I have a lot of reasons that I just can’t bring myself to self-identify as Christian. I don’t like the judgment against other religions. I don’t believe in the story of Adam and Eve as the beginning of mankind (what about the dinosaurs???) I don’t like the Christian stance again homosexuality. And all in all, I told her, I feel like I’m too cerebral to truly believe the way that I wish I could. I would probably be a fairweather Christian.
In my quest to be as productive as possible during this period of unemployment, I have been reading a ton and recently finished “The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature” by Gad Saad. The book is generally about how consumer habits fit into buckets related to survival, reproduction and camaraderie.
In one chapter, he discusses how religion is really the perfect “product” b/c people believe in it and consume it despite what it actually does (or in some cases, fails to do, e.g. saving innocent lives during genocide). He writes:
Over the past eight decades, research has repeatedly uncovered a negative correlation between individuals’ intelligence and their religiosity. This negative relationship holds at the level of nations as well; that is, there exists a negative correlation between the religiosity of nations and their national intelligence scores.
Which struck me– because it’s the reason that I can’t quite bring myself to officially label myself Christian. Whereas I have a ton of Christian tendencies– for example, I truly believe in “signs from God,” what are probably just coincidences but in my mind are atypical life moments that can only be explained as God sending you messages telling you that everything is going to be okay– I just can’t bring myself to believe in something that I would spend equal time questioning. Also, I should note that what I’m not saying, in this post or via use of that quotation, is that Christian people are dumb. Just wanna make that clear. It’s just that I wonder how they are able to stay so focused on the word of Christ in light of all the other things that run contrary to these beliefs.
When I was an undergraduate at Cal, I would frequently be approached on campus by uber Christian groups while walking down Sproul (meaning they approach anybody that makes eye contact– not just because I look particularly sinful or anything like that). One time, I was studying… ok “studying” on campus while on break and two Korean students approached me wanting to discuss God. And I was like, hmmm, I’m goofing around, so sure! Well, it turned into a pretty circular conversation. For every question that I asked, including “what if there isn’t a heaven?”, “what is the point of going to Church if you could be spending that time actually doing good in the community?”, “what about Christians that are clearly bad people– why would they go to heaven for being Christian and I wouldn’t?” (Bear in mind, this was before all the scandals involving Catholic church and child molestation had come to light. I was thinking more along the lines of Jim Baker when I asked that question.) For every question I had, the response was “because that’s what it says in the Bible.”It was not a productive conversation and in fact probably did more harm than good in the effort to convert my God-be-damned soul.
But I do always wonder: would I be happier if I just gave in? Could I really totally give in? I feel like if I became spiritual, like let’s say now, there would be a tit-for-tat situation: “Dear God, I love you and I believe in you. Now, if in your extreme and divine ability you could get me a job, I promise to go to Church all the time. Thanks!” That hardly seems right. I know that people turn to religion during low points in their lives, because frankly, they need something to turn to. And I’m not against it. But then I feel like it’s selfish to become religious when I need something, if even succor, if I can’t commit to the beliefs of the religion when I’m fat and happy.
At the end of the conversation, my aunt and I prayed, which was nice. And you know, I still wonder: would turning to God bring some kind of relief in my life? (My other option is anti-anxiety medication and that seems pricey.)I like the outcome, but I don’t know that I can fully and wholeheartedly abide by the process. So still on the fence, I guess.