Unconditional

This article is part of a series entitled Correlates of Religious Impulse.
See also: 1. Purists; 2. Unconditional; 3. Perfectionism

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return,” Job famously laments; “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [1] In the Book of Job, God, urged by Satan, tests Job: whether his worship can withstand the systematic destruction of his earthly blessings; whether his religious faith stands firm and never falters; whether his devotion to God is unconditional. Satan thinks that Job worships God only for the rewards he’s been given: he taunts, “Does Job fear God for no reason? … But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” [1] God knows that Job worships Him for reasons which lie beyond temptation, betrayal, and exchange. God knows that Job’s devotion is unconditional. The Book of Job extols unconditional faith.

Religion is not the only thing which functions best under conditions of unconditionality. Continue reading

Med School Sees the Psychic

During our medical school orientation, a guest speaker came from the Business School, as a part of an Inter-School Collaborative Effort, to administer and explain the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator. I left the auditorium with nothing but a feeling of regret at time wasted. I had always been skeptical of the Meyers Briggs personality test. But now, I fully understand that the MBTI, without even the slightest glimmer of doubt, is worthless.

The MBTI test tells the test-taker where she stands on each of four spectra: from introversion to extroversion; from sensing to intuition; from thinking to feeling; and from judging to perceiving. After finishing the test, each test-taker has a type. One might be an INTJ, or an introverted intuition-using thinking judger; another might be an ESFP, or an extroverted sensing feeling perceiver.

Why didn’t the test just ask me which type I was, right off the bat? Are you an introvert, or an extrovert? the test could have asked. This would have saved me 90 minutes. Instead, the test asked 90 questions that were supposed to elucidate for me which type I am. But the questions were no more effective in elucidating my type than they would have been had they simply asked me my type. Make sense?

Take the thinking/feeling dichotomy, for example. Here are a few example questions.

6. Do you more often let

_ your heart rule your head, or

_ your head rule your heart?

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Purists

This article is part of a series entitled Correlates of Religious Impulse.
See also: 1. Purists; 2. Unconditional; 3. Perfectionism

Why do the religious seek purity?

“Because their scriptures command them to,” one might be tempted to respond. Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” (Matthew 6:19-20) [1]; the Quran instructs, “[F]ollow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just,” (4. An-Nisa’ 136) [2]; the Bhagavad-Gita commands, “All… activities should be performed without attachment or any expectation of result.” (18.6) [3]

This answer is unsatisfying. Why do all of these religions command us to purity in the first place? Supposing that religious faiths arise and evolve spontaneously in response to people’s spiritual needs, it would follow from this that purity’s ubiquity in religions implicates it as a fundamental component of the human religious impulse. Were we to suppose, instead, that God created the world’s religious creeds (or, Heaven forbid, just one), we would still have to understand purity’s role in our earthly lives, and whether — provided that this role were a positive one — God’s presiding approval were prudence or coincidence.

I’ll explore purity as a human phenomenon, then — one inextricably linked with religion, and one in need of explanation. Continue reading