In my studies of personality psychology I have come to learn that some people share an innate capacity to appreciate religion and spirituality, where some people seem to lack this capacity to begin with. The easy explanation is that we simply choose to appreciate or disregard religious notions depending on upbringing and cultural norms. But I have found that religiousness seems to go far beyond culture or choice. Devoutness appears to be a personality trait, and has nothing to do with whether you are a feeling or thinking personality type.
People have repeatedly told me that they “Need” something to believe in. If there is nothing to believe in, to what purpose do I exist, who or what do I serve, what do I act in accordance for? The need for something higher to fulfill you, spiritually, appears to run far deeper than choice. While we can choose whether or not to express belief or what we decide to believe in or serve, the need to have something to believe in is closer to core. Because of this, I have come to see Devoutness as a personality trait.
What is Devoutness?
If you have the devout personality trait, you have always been searching for a more religious or spiritual explanation to life. You have wanted to find something higher, something that goes beyond earthly life, self-indulgence, and the pursuit of stimulation and personal gratification of desire. Perhaps you’ve even wanted to be free from desire altogether.
You’ve wanted to transcend your body and you have wanted to live in a way that stands above it. These feelings have existed for thousands of years. Philosophers have argued among one another for millennias about how we are supposed to live and for what purpose. Some have been pursuing hedonism, enjoyment, and happiness as the ultimate meaning. Others are pursuing belief, service, and spirituality as the answer. Devoutness as a personality trait runs directly contrary to Hedonism. Devout types tend to want scaled back and simplistic designs and less materialistic lifestyles. There has been a long popular theory in genetics that there is such a thing as a god gene. A gene that makes us attribute significant meaning to religious and spiritual experiences.
What is Hedonism?
The way I see it, hedonism is the desire to live a rich and meaningful life. To have great experiences, to try new things, to have pleasure, happiness, to have satisfaction. If you are a hedonistic type, you enjoy good foods, rich experiences, music, pleasant imagery. Hedonism can express itself in materialistic desire and a desire to have, and in particular to have good things. Experiences are here seen as meaningful in themselves, for their own reason, because they are beautiful, warm, pleasant, taste good. But there is one other defining characteristic of hedonists. And it runs so core it will spook you.
As a hedonist, if you can’t have good things. If you can’t enjoy life, pleasant things, you begin to feel overcome with a feeling that life seems to lack in meaning. Life starts feeling dull if there’s nothing to look forward to. When asked to go to church on a good sunday, when you’d rather be out with friends and enjoy a good latte. When asked to do a boring obligation, to show fealty, to send positive vibes to someone struggling. To express belief and devotion towards someone or something. To submit or to show respect to superiors, family members, god, or to society. Hedonists seem strongly opposed to the idea of respect and appeals to authority. A hedonist will rarely do something simply because it is the wish of a superior, of god, or of an authority.
Does god exist?
At the same time, hedonists are not by any means unethical, and many work hard to end suffering in the world. To bring happiness and pleasure to other people. Hedonism should not be seen as an antithesis to devoutness. Only an alternative to it. In fact, hedonism does not have to run directly contrary to the belief in a god, only how this belief is expressed. Some may see the pursuit of pleasure as a pursuit of the divine. Others may pursue the divine through prayer, acts of fealty, and through respect of a god’s wishes. Whether this god is real or not, is a question still unanswered. At least, it remains clear that a great many of us need belief, where other people seem agnostic or apathetic to this notion.
If devoutness is a personality trait, that must change how we understand religious conflicts in the world. It should bring a greater humility and respect and increased understanding for those that believe, and for those that don’t. If god is real, he or she has given people different ways to explore the divine. Perhaps we hedonists have been serving god all along, through appreciating the good things he or she has given to us?