Need for Certainty: a deeper trait than religion


Dil Aram Ministry: India circa 1970s

In my youth, I worked for a brief time in a halfway house in India. “Dil Aram” (Heart of Peace) was a large Christian communal house in Dehli’s rich suburb of Defense Colony.  Dilaram’s mission was devoted mainly to helping Western travelers who had drug problems (many out of local jails) or those psychology lost. Clients did not have to be Christian, nor was conversion required.  But these rehabbing addicts did have to participate with the community which meant cleaning, cooking, and shopping together as well as attending prayer meetings and bible studies.

Inevitably, many of these troubled vagabonds converted. But ironically, while they were coming in, I was going out — I was slowly leaving Christianity. And watching the conversions of these ex-addicts was part of helping me see my way out of my Christianity.

Many of these addicts were manipulative, charismatic types. And what I observed was that they created their new belief in God and love of the Bible (yes, it was a Protestant group) around these personality traits. That is, their personality didn’t change much, just the tools their personality used.  Their Christianity was manipulative — they used it to gain favors and admiration — and all that, very charismatically. Mind you, Christianity served them better than their buying and selling of drugs, but the person did not change much.

Tom Rees, reviews a Polish study here which shows that “need for certainty” may be a common trait for vehement Atheists and religious folks alike. The study seems weak to me, but for some atheists, I certainly see this to be true — they may be open to lots of other ideas but they are certain that religion is only for the ignorant, superstitious and foolish. Their atheism allows them to divide up their world with some certainty — the foolish vs the wise.

As a huge number of my posts on this blog show, I disagree with such atheists strongly — but fortunately, I find that they are disproportionally more common among blogging atheists, compared to the general population of religion-free folks.

My point, and one I make often in this blog, is that our beliefs (religious, political and more) are flavored highly by our personalities. We usually use our beliefs to clothes our inner traits — it is those traits that are more telling of who we are, rather than our beliefs.

More info:

  • Here I write on how complex beliefs (all knotted up) can deceive us into certainty
  • Those months with Dil Aram were eye-opening. Here is a post I wrote about a more inane insight I had during my time at Dil Aram: “Peeing Epiphany”.
  • Interesting !  Just before posting this, I ran into this video set on the Dilaram house in Delhi.
  • Dilaram was a ministry of the protestant missionary group YWAM (Youth with a Mission)


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