Saturday, May 26, 2007

What It Takes to be Successful in America

According to David Brooks, it takes being a skeptical practitioner of religion:

In fact, if you really wanted to supercharge the nation, you’d fill it with college students who constantly attend church, but who are skeptical of everything they hear there. For there are at least two things we know about flourishing in a modern society.

First, college students who attend religious services regularly do better than those that don’t. As Margarita Mooney, a Princeton sociologist, has demonstrated in her research, they work harder and are more engaged with campus life. Second, students who come from denominations that encourage dissent are more successful, on average, than students from denominations that don’t.

This embodies the social gospel annex to the quasi-religious creed: Always try to be the least believing member of one of the more observant sects. Participate in organized religion, but be a friendly dissident inside. Ensconce yourself in traditional moral practice, but champion piecemeal modernization. Submit to the wisdom of the ages, but with one eye open.

This is based on a study by a Duke sociologist of non-Hispanic Catholics; they attend church regularly, don't take their church's teachings too seriously, and they are doing remarkably well economically.


Susan said...

This sounds alot like the children of all my Catholic friends (in my book group of 12 there are only 2 non-Catholics) and perhaps also the children of my protestant friends too.

Although not a Catholic, it sounds like me 30 years ago. Give these college kids about 10 years and hopefully they will have developed beyond critical thinking into a more wholelist outlook on life.

It takes a whole lot of negative energy to be a constant skeptic. At some point, if you want healing, you have to look at how you are the same as those around you--not focus all the time on how you are different from the flock. You have to be FOR something and not AGAINST something all the time.

liberal pastor said...

Perhaps it has something to do with personality type. It takes lots more energy for me to believe anything without question than it does to view it with a skeptical eye. Skepticism comes naturally and I find the process itself healing. And I find comfort in the company of fellow skeptics - who are not against something all the time, but for the truth always. Just skeptical about anyone who says they have it or know it. If they know they have it they don't have it. If they think they have it and are continuously searching, they may be getting closer.

Susan said...

Yes, I think we agree that no one holds the TRUTH. And then, with that shared belief that there may be many TRUTHS for each person, we all live together peaceably and working to help each other!