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Religion, the key to “good self-control!

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A sadhu performing namaste in Madurai, India.
Image via Wikipedia

I guess that I’m like John Tierney, who writes in the Science section of NY Times, a heathen.

I certainly believe that I am an agnostic about belief in religion, the personal God and about the power of faith. I think that those human values can be destructive and lead to all kinds mayhem and unhappiness in living.

So how do I deal with this kind of thinking:

So what’s a heathen to do in 2009? Dr. McCullough’s advice is to try replicating some of the religious mechanisms that seem to improve self-control, like private meditation or public involvement with an organization that has strong ideals.

Religious people, he said, are self-controlled not simply because they fear God’s wrath, but because they’ve absorbed the ideals of their religion into their own system of values, and have thereby given their personal goals an aura of sacredness. He suggested that nonbelievers try a secular version of that strategy.

“People can have sacred values that aren’t religious values,” he said. “Self-reliance might be a sacred value to you that’s relevant to saving money. Concern for others might be a sacred value that’s relevant to taking time to do volunteer work. You can spend time thinking about what values are sacred to you and making New Year’s resolutions that are consistent with them.”

Of course, it requires some self-control to carry out that exercise — and maybe more effort than it takes to go to church.

“Sacred values come prefabricated for religious believers,” Dr. McCullough said. “The belief that God has preferences for how you behave and the goals you set for yourself has to be the granddaddy of all psychological devices for encouraging people to follow through with their goals. That may help to explain why belief in God has been so persistent through the ages.”

Certainly sounds good and useful to me. But how to do it in my own case!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/12/30 at 07:16