April 27, 2015
Recent studies have shown that spirituality can bring relief to performance-driven children. But is that enough?
Another great post, Jarod. Along the lines of the "second reality" you bring up, I would contend that to some degree our fixation on happiness (which is what prompted Miller's study to begin with, to be sure) is just as problematic as our fixation on efficiency (or performance, achievement, whatever). That is, and I think this is what you were getting at, I think these sort of happiness-religion-correlation studies tragically (though not necessarily unintentionally?) miss the point of the religion they're examining: that there are ends beyond ourselves for which we should be living. That happiness is not the same thing as absolute moral good.
In one enormous, and the most important, sense it is that we are all called to be Christ-like; I agree with you. The secular world is so far removed from Christ, though, that in my opinion it is also very important today to be able to demonstrate that there exist objective ends toward which we are aimed whose explanations don't require referencing Christ. Scientism's hold on the modern mind is so firm that many people simply will not be compelled by Biblical arguments, or arguments directly from Christ's virtue. And, sometimes, even if they are moved to some degree by such lines of argumentation, they are often not moved *enough* to stick with it in the face of serious moral adversity. So, "sure, I guess there might've been a God who became man a long time ago to die for my sins, and I want to believe it, but I can't see it here in front of me right now. But I *can* see the pornography here in front of me right now; or my gay lover sitting beside me right now; etc.".
Some people are obviously moved miraculously by strictly historical or Biblical arguments. Many others are not, though; in the end they discover that perhaps they are simply not going to be happy with their lives, and they ultimately crumple; the grace might be there for them, but for whatever reason they just can't get past the intellectual aspects of the problem. For those others, I really think this is where the philosophy and metaphysics *must* come in. Certainly the whole "your personal happiness is the end-all-be-all of life" conclusion can come about from a good understanding of Christ, but considering the enormity of different movements and denominations within Christianity, you know that such an understanding doesn't always happen for all people. And when it comes to the metaphysics, in all of my studying, the only line of thought that does it truly convincingly and thoroughly is Thomism and modern Scholasticism (Ed Feser, Peter Kreeft, Jacques Martain, Phillipa Foot, etc.) in the line of Aristotle and Aquinas. Very much beside the point of your post I realize, but I think that it's something important to consider that goes along with what you said.
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