Thinking about religion gives people more self-control on later, unrelated tasks; according to results from a series of recent Queen’s University study.
“After unscrambling sentences containing religiously oriented words, participants in our studies exercised significantly more self-control,” says psychology graduate student and lead researcher on the study, Kevin Rounding.
Study participants were given a sentence containing five words to unscramble. Some contained religious themes and others did not. After unscrambling the sentences, participants were asked to complete a number of tasks that required self-control – enduring discomfort, delaying gratification, exerting patience, and refraining from impulsive responses.
Participants who had unscrambled the sentences containing religious themes had more self-control in completing their tasks.
“Our most interesting finding was that religious concepts were able to refuel self-control after it had been depleted by another unrelated task,” says Mr. Rounding. “In other words, even when we would predict people to be unable to exert self-control, after completing the religiously themed task they defied logic and were able to muster self-control.”
“Until now, I believed religion was a matter of faith; people had little ‘practical’ use for religion,” Mr. Rounding explains. “This research actually suggests that religion can serve a very useful function in society. People can turn to religion not just for transcendence and fears regarding death and an after-life but also for practical purposes.”
So why would religious people have more self-control than non-religious people? Speaking as a Christian, I would argue that self-control is not a by-product of religion, but that it is a tool used by Christians to achieve certain ends that fit with the Christian worldview.
First, let’s look at how people who don’t have self-control operate. I have been chatting with some friends recently about the lifestyle that people get into when they get away from their parents for the first time. (Assuming the parents don’t take education and apologetics seriously). The fun lifestyle, it was explained to me, goes something like this:
- A bunch of friends meet in a bar
- They drink a lot, listen to music and dance around
- They meet people and have conversations in which the men are careful not to express any moral judgments, religious convictions or conservative political views to the women
- They gradually get more and more drunk, and it gets later and later
- The friends retire to different people’s houses in order to hook-up, which involves anything from kissing to intercourse
- They keep doing this, there is no structured courting and no parental oversight, and occasionally people move in together or have kids out of wedlock by hooking up
- Some of these children are aborted in order to keep the woman free for work and having more fun
- The children who are born are often raised fatherless, causing all kinds of damage on them, especially making the girls prone to have sex much too early and the boys more violent
- Any marriages that emerge break up shortly after since no one is willing to sacrifice for the marriage or the children
- Government expands to address the broken homes with more police, day care, welfare, etc.
I never really knew much about this until recently when some of the people who read my blog have been explaining it all to me. The thing that strikes me the most about what secular people do is that they have no agenda for God when they go out and meet people – especially when it’s men talking to women. They don’t bring their relationships or group activities inline with religion, and so there is no reason to be self-controlled – they have no plan that they are are trying to achieve, they are just there to have fun.
Now what about Christians? When I go out with my male friends, we are not drinking anything – we’re going to play a sport like racquetball/squash or something and then we are going to go to a restaurant to eat and talk about apologetics and science and war and education and investments and parenting and education and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. After that, we might go back to someone’s house to play video games or play pool or watch a debate and discuss that. But always we have an agenda – we are trying to build each other up in our Christian lives and planning different activities like conferences, debates, etc.
But when dealing with women, who are very often influenced by feminism these days, it’s different. Most men seem to think that if a woman has sex with them, that this is some great affirmation of them. I don’t think that and my friends don’t think that. I have learned from women that they give up sex as a way to control men, to make them hang around and buy them things, but without having to be led by the man. Women who have been influenced by feminism hate the idea that men will tell them to read books, act morally, honor their obligations to men and children, develop religious convictions that exclude others and make them unpopular, mentor other Christians, and so on. They want to have men around, but they don’t want to be told not to act selfishly/irresponsibly/amorally.
Sex is a tool that feminist women use in order to get men to “like” them, without having to let men do what men do – lead, provide, set moral boundaries, defeat lies, and fit the woman to a plan so that she can help him achieve it. So the bottom line is that a woman giving me sex is no good for me – in fact, it would be bad. It would be a way for her to control me and to prevent me from having the leverage to lead her and fit her to my plan – a plan that includes a stable home for raising children who will have an influence. Instead of standing her up with duties and obligations (read this book, stop spending money, debate your non-Christian friends), I would just shut up and let her continue to let her act in ways that are no good for marriage and parenting. Men with plans understand what women are for, and the thing that we are looking for is not sex, but help. We need someone to help us achieve our plan.
So that brings us back to the topic of the post. The reason why I don’t play the hook-up game is because it gets me nothing. I cannot get a woman to do the things I need her to do by giving her leverage over me. When you first meet a woman, she is very likely not to be ready to do what you need her to do in a marriage – she needs to be mentored. Right from the start, I want her to know that what I am offering her is the ability to do useful work, to achieve important goals, and work together with someone who is supportive, appreciative, thoughtful, romantic, devoted, faithful, attentive and caring over a long period of time. And the way that I communicate that I am not here just to provide women with fun is by giving them tasks to do right from the start, and making it clear to them why I need them to do things.
Back to the original topic, I hope that this makes clear why religious people exhibit self-control when secular left people do not. Christian men have a goal for our relationships with women. We need them to support us in our plans by having particular skills and performing particular tasks. During the courtship, men refrain from sex to prevent a woman from escaping from her obligations to get those skills and train to perform those tasks. To have sex is to give up leadership in the relationship and to let women control the relationship. And when women control the relationship, it means that the goal of the relationship is almost always going to be to please them – and not God.
Christian men should never give up control of the relationship by giving up sobriety and chastity, because we know that relationships work better when men lead and emphasize what men care about most: morality, reason, chastity, evidence, theology, apologetics, marriage, family, parenting, free market capitalism, personal responsibility, law and order, illegal immigration, protecting the unborn, national security, traditional marriage, the debt crisis, etc. Self-control is the tool we use to lovingly prepare women for the tasks that we need them to perform – tasks that we often cannot perform ourselves – and always with the higher goal of making the relationship please God by achieving something for him.
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- Should Christians marry non-Christians?