2017 Masculine Resolutions #3: Go to Church/Synagogue/Mosque/Temple
I’ve previously written on my own progression from avowed atheist to devote Catholic, and I won’t bore you with the details of it by repeating them. I will say that my progression from one to the other has been a tremendous boon to my life. Religion gets a very hard knock these days. At best it is barely tolerated by the powers that be, in a manner similar to a drunken uncle who is still invited to Thanksgiving dinner because he is family but whose soon to be demise to silently welcomed by all the other parties concerned. It should be seen as a surprise then, that religion is undergoing the beginnings of a revival. Church attendance is up, particularly among the young. The question is why.Modernity is very much a creation of the Enlightenment; its values are modernity’s values and its world view is modernity’s world view. Not surprisingly it is one that is hostile to religion, Christianity in particular. Its founders bristled at the idea of an all-powerful God who would hold them to account for their actions, so they created a new religion in all but name that placed themselves as rational men as the new deities.
The problem of course is that man as it turns out is not rational. We are creatures of superstition and the supernatural, and our actions are often motivated by things other than the cold algorithms of logic. We have questions that cannot be answered by reason, and desires that cannot be satisfied by the purely rational. This, more than anything else, is the great miscalculation made by the architects of the modern world; mankind wishes for more than the mere simply satisfaction of material needs through reason based decisions.
Moreover, it is worth asking the question of what it is to be a man. The pop culture answer to such a question is often such stereotypical characteristics as strength, and confidences, and a dominant nature; this superficial description could just as easily be applied to any school yard bully. From the earliest of ancient times, masculinity has also had a moral dimension to it that gave an expectation that men would be not just physically strong but also morally so. Be it chivalric honour or Confucian ethics, there has always been an expectation that a gentleman should be virtuous. This is where the benefit of religion comes into play for those aspiring to achieve genuine masculinity.
I will not go so far as to argue that one cannot be moral without being religious, I will theorize that it is very hard to be moral in isolation. We are social animals by nature, and naturally the expectations and pressures of our peers influence our actions. Is it that surprising that we see such rising levels of narcissism and selfishness amongst the population as a whole, not to mention the complete and utter breakdown of those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum? It really is just a simply consequence of our increasingly atomized lives void of old concepts such as faith and community that once kept our more self-destructive impulses in line.
So for those seeking self-improvement I offer this helpful piece of advice: get thee to a church (or a synagogue or mosque or temple depending on your personal inclination). Try embracing a community that will offer you both moral structure and virtuous reinforcement. Your life will be improved by it.