I wanted to follow up on my blog from Monday about being blinded by our beliefs. I was listening to a program on NPR on the way to work yesterday morning about young men who were frustrated with their lives and had taken up religion (Muslim) as a way to fully believe in something. In the story a young man now older had grown tired of the hate that dominates some of the more extreme versions of that faith. This growing tired of an aspect of a religion seems live a sign of maturity and age-acquired understanding. The initial entry into the extreme version of this religion was more an adolescent desire to push back against the establishment.
The natural process of being a teenager is to seek to find a unique expression that can signal a person heading out on his own. This personal expression for the one seeking to be unique is best when it pushes against the family norms. This push is a biological imperative called, “individuation.” If the extreme appeals then the person can by action boast of taking a stand by being different. This is the way a young person's mind can rationalize: going against the establishment, taking on beliefs that make statements because they are so anti-whatever, joining the warrior class of "extremists" or "patriots", or other adolescent chest pumping (also recognized as ego expression).
The process of maturation is one of shifting from the rebellious nature towards one of how to fit in and make a life for oneself. This maturing journey is filled with ups and downs, twist and turns and lessons learned. The acquired understanding makes the examination of beliefs a natural by-product. This exploring and owning or disowning of beliefs is what adults sense is part of what they are to go through. If the adolescent belief system is not updated, there is a halt in the maturing process.
It seems all young people guided by religious beliefs need to go through the process of evaluating what they believe or they move forward in life guided by ideas that they don't own. A way of life unexamined is one that cannot be genuinely fulfilling because it is a life separated from the individual's unique expression. How can someone live according to another's ideas and guidelines and be fully who they are?
If a person is a Muslim, a Catholic, a Jew, a Christian or other religion, they must come to it again as an adult through a thorough examination of what are their own truths. This is a clearly individual process that may include a mentor, counselor, minister or other guide but it is still for the person to decide. If no new, different or expanded possibilities are allowed to be explored then the faith is only blind faith. Blind faith is a major problem in our world because the blind cannot see, the sure cannot grow, and closed minds are doomed to live out what does not work.
Simply put, this is a journey that is essential to the health and well-being of each individual and for the good of humanity, which includes examination of ideas and beliefs to insure ongoing growth and maturity. Without the questioning, there is only the passed on beliefs and a stagnation of growth. Without growth and maturity we are left with the ideas that made the past a mess and puts the future teetering on a shaky foundation.