Rational Religion

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The Joys of Mental Disobedience


The Survival Tribe means the young people of every generation whose "natural" tendency seems to be to push the envelope of "accepted" behavior and thereby become a trial and frustration to their parental generation. 


They want to do things their way, and until the society beats it out of them they can be pretty hard to take.  This penchant for rebellion seems to arise as a function of adolescence, independent of the individual's mental capacity or even her/his default personality. 


Unless it leads into one-way blind alleys such as addiction or fatal automobile accidents, the rebellion usually turns out to be as impermanent as adolescence itself.  The rebels - especially those without any particular cause - "grow up," look around and find that their parents' style of behavior is more suited to the adult world they now must - again by default - live in. 


The natural impetus towards adolescent rebellion takes on a different and sometimes more permanent character in those individuals who happen to have a truly intellectual bent.  


When their peers have tired of sowing wild oats and settle back into the society's more accepted modes of living, these unfortunate souls - having questioned the society's fundamental precepts and often found them sadly wanting - are likely to discover that they no longer have a home. 


Young people who have achieved the power of abstract thought, and have not rejected it as too much trouble or just plain dangerous (It naturally calls into question some of the most cherished traditions of the parental society), often find that it has become a habit that they don't want to give up.


Some of these young people are the most likely to be attracted to the Rational Religion.


People whose rebellion was really "without a cause" - which means most people - will more easily return to the dogmas of their society, and live comfortably within them.  Within a decade or two they will have so much invested in the status quo that a Rational Religion (a Rational MuchOfAnything, for that matter) will be beyond them. 


Forced to confront it, they will simply rationalize it out of existence and dismiss it with all the other mental stimuli which make them uncomfortable  - from awareness that about a third of the world, at any given moment, is starving or dying of AIDS or malaria; to the statistical proof that despite these thriving diseases we are reproducing ourselves out of planet and home and nobody with any power to do anything about it (except maybe the Chinese) is doing anything about it.


But the youthful rebellious thinkers are liable to be left with troublesome rebellious thoughts, well into their majority.  Many of them will need a Rational Religion, but they will probably need to acquaint themselves with it while they are in the throes of their rebellious phase.


Institutional metaphysics, of whatever flavor, is powerfully seductive.  For one thing it offers peace of mind and the illusion of community; for another thing it promises easy answers to difficult questions. 


By the time even the adolescent questioners are a decade or two beyond their adolescence they too are liable to have so much invested in some status quo that it will be easier to reject a Rational Religion out of hand than to explore it for possible answers to their remaining questions. 


Therefore, like the tobacco companies, I very well know that if I don't reach you at a tender age I probably won't get to you at all.


Now, a word of caution for those few whom I do reach:  do not be contemptuous of your former peers who have fallen back into the illogical and even corrupt ways of the society which for a time you all scorned.   Do not underestimate the mental health benefits of conformity and do not expect people with heavy investments in the society to reject its values out of hand. 


In the first place, they weren't the same kind of rebel that you were.  Their rebellion was physical; a necessity to do things differently from established practice.  That is why they so often did a lot of very dumb things very similarly to each other.  It's natural to want to reject parental ways of doing things.  Bur it's scary to be out there all alone, doing nothing the same way anyone else is doing it.  The Survival Tribe is, after all, a Tribe.


This is also why, quite possibly, you had very little trouble conforming to your parents' standards of physical behavior.  Your rebellion took a mental rather than a physical track; you didn't obviously join the Tribe, and its membership often did not recognize you as a member if you tried..  And you learned that all you really had to do to avoid family strife or the critical scorn of your aunts and uncles was simply to keep your mouth shut.


This, now, for young people whose interior lives are so different from those of their parents' generation that they are scared to "come out," for fear of being rejected or unfairly criticized: 


It is perfectly all right - in fact it is sometimes absolutely necessary - to be Mentally Disobedient. 


If it is necessary to dissemble; to conceal who and what you really are from your family and support structure (your church; your school) in order to avoid criticism and strife, then for pete's sake, do it!


As a specific example:  If you are gay, and are sure of it (there are so many variations of human sexuality that I am not sure that "gay" and "straight" really mean anything, but that's another essay) and you are also sure your family will go ballistic if you tell them.... don't tell them. 


Oh, you will probably find it necessary to level with them somewhere down the line but it is perfectly permissible...even rational... to put it off until you have some of the authority and power of being an adult yourself... and maybe readier to deal with the shit when it hits the fan.


And a tentative word of succor for anyone inclined to be anorexic: 

Your problem is possibly that you feel powerless against an authority figure...or maybe a whole family structure, or the entire damned society!... which seems determined to make you in its image. 


Maybe you don't realize this, but you have taken charge of an important part of your life in a somewhat corrosive and maybe even suicidal manner.   And you have done this because, when you got into this self-perpetuating behavior, you did not understand that mental rebellion (thinking what you want to think, even if it is far outside your family pale) is much more personally satisfying and much less perilous than physical rebellion (i.e., not eating.) 


You can, for example, still love and respect your father while realizing - and daring to explore the fact - that he is a rather inflexible personality who is more influenced by what people think of him than is strictly admirable.  When you give up on him as your ultimate role model, you may even be able to eat, again.