Hallucinating 2

Posted on October 9, 2008 by


Driving to work the other morning, I heard an exchange on the radio that illustrated Jennifer Whitson’s study from my previous post. A woman was saying how she couldn’t decide who to vote for in November. However, the local recruiting team came by her house and told her what a great president their candidate would make. Her response was, “I believe in a higher power, and when those people came to tell me about their candidate, I took that as a sign from above that he’s the one I should vote for.”

When I heard the woman’s response on the radio, my heart groaned. I felt that she had taken God and used Him as a cheap excuse to not make a decision on her own. As you recall, the study claimed that people who feel a lack of control will find patterns that don’t exist. My faith is important to me, so I think that this is an important topic to address. Are faith and religion like astrology and supersitions: methods for confused, often uninformed mortals to make some sense of life and gain an illusion of control?

I don’t have an easy answer to this, but I like to believe that my faith is deeper than ascribing divinity to all of the random events in my life. As I thought about it, I identified four components that have each played roles in developing my faith during my life. First is social expectation — going to church just because it’s what you do, and what your friends do. Second is the faith in the supernatural, which is perhaps the closest to what the woman in the radio clip exhibited. Third is faith in the historical record, and fourth is the personal value of faith.

Each of these has supported me in different ways during my various crises of faith. Right now it’s the fourth that is dominant, the personal value of faith in my life. By that, I mean that I’ve come to appreciate the commandments for their own sake, and not just as a means to a distant eternal reward. I believe that a religion that does nothing for people in this life isn’t likely to do much for them in the next, and I’ve come to a place where my religion serves me very well in this life.

My first missionary apartment had this quote from David O. McKay taped to the wall: “Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is a blessing, [and] that love of work is success.” I took that as a personal challenge at the time; I suppose I still do. We grow and change, and life is good.

So what does all that have to do with the woman on the radio? Perhaps God did have a message for her, and He sent that message through the presidential recruiting team. I don’t want to discount that possibility, nor do I want to discount other people’s spiritual experiences. All I want to say is that any religious subtext that people may find in Jennifer Whitson’s study should be approached through a wider lens than merely how we interpret serendipitous events.

Posted in: Church, Musings