"Faith is a disability insofar as it constrains you from self-interest."
I found this line from Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree to be sobering and tremendously thought-provoking. It caused me to reflect upon the many times in my life – and in the lives of those close to me – when faith in religion, faith in what I had been taught by parents or others, or faith in my own abilities, had prevented me from seeing and/or accepting reality – which was definitely not in my self-interest.
One of the supreme ironies of religion is that it teaches people that they must have faith in their creeds and in their gods in order for their adherents to ultimately achieve what is in their best interest, i.e., salvation; but all too often that same faith causes adherents to do what is not in their self-interest.
I am a poster child for such a proposition. I could write a book about why I joined the LDS Church, what it meant to me, how it affected my life, etc. My life after joining the Church became a synthesis of the Church’s doctrine and how it mixed with and impacted my own trauma, dysfunctions and identity issues that I had brought along out of childhood with me into adulthood. Then, when I got married, added to the mix was my former wife’s own brand of spirituality and faith.
So, I cannot blame the Church – entirely – for how I conducted the majority of my adult life, but it certainly was front and center stage in the drama that unfolded. I remember writing in my journal, shortly after I joined the Church, that I never had to worry about making another mistake in my life because the Spirit would guide me. Then there was that pithy statement by Joseph Smith that, “When the Lord commands, do it!” And that scripture in the Book of Mormon: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
I (and my former wife) made many decisions in the decades that followed in the face of illogicality or even irrationality simply based on the “feeling” that this is what the Lord wanted me/us to do and that, in so doing, I and my family would be blessed in some way. A lot of these decisions were just plain crazy, financially; and the belief – the faith – that I/we were recipients of “special” guidance and direction that called us out of the herd of “ordinary Mormons” resulted in a blindness to reality.
Then there is the faith that we put in the teachings of others, such as parents. Many is the child that has come to learn, usually when they enter adulthood or later, that what was taught to them as “gospel” by one or both of their parents ain’t necessarily so. When undue faith is placed in such teachings, it can and often does result in the child doing things that are not in his or her best interests, primarily because such faith prevents the child from seeing his own reality.
Lastly, there is the faith we may have in ourselves or in our situation that causes us to refuse to see or accept reality. Whenever we are in such a state of denying reality or refusing to see reality, we cannot possibly act in our best interests. Decisions must be made on what IS, not on what we might HOPE it to be, no matter how desperately we might desire it.