How to Lose Your Faith in Human Nature and Find Your Faith in Something Else

Today’s a snow day, and I’m reading Hemingway for the first time and wondering when it became acceptable for the majority of 20th century stories and novels to end with those vague, inconclusive observations on the meaninglessness of life.  My husband thinks it’s a result of the disillusionment that followed World War I and II, the disorientation that resulted from feeling betrayed by the efforts of church, law, diplomacy, and authority in general to prevent war.  People had “lost faith in humanity” and didn’t know where else to look, so their literary heroes were just as lost and wandering as they were.  Later on, they placed their faith in evolution, acknowledging that human nature wasn’t to be trusted, but declaring that it would one day evolve past its flaws–whether into socialist man, or into the enlightened explorers of the Star Trek universe, whose technological achievements would free them from the need for hatred, greed, war, and so on.  (Of course, in order to make this believable, Star Trek had to transfer the dark side of human nature onto the countless less-evolved species that their new humanity encountered!  Even Star Trek didn’t seem to believe in the possibility of a universe where everyone is good. ) These days we don’t have the same faith in politics as the generation before the world wars, and the utopian promises of socialism and technological development have failed to materialize; but we still seem to have a vague faith in “human nature” that is just as vulnerable to betrayal.  Social media is full of stories of stupidity, inhumanity, or appalling ignorance labeled “just lost my faith in humanity” or “I no longer want to live on this planet.”  Meanwhile, stories of people sacrificing themselves for the sake of strangers, treating animals with humanity, and standing in solidarity with the oppressed are guaranteed to “restore your faith in humanity.”  We seem to be still suffering from the same problem as our turn-of-the-century ancestors; since our highest faith is in humanity and its accomplishments, it’s awfully easy to have that faith crushed. How can we inoculate ourselves against this constant, emotionally-draining tug of war?  Put a little less faith in “humanity” and a little more faith in something else.  Remember who made humanity, or at least remember the eternal principles of goodness and truth that human nature in action often falls short of.  But don’t be like the post-war generation, and let your exposure to the very worst side of humanity make you toss the baby out with the bathwater.  Find something unshakeable to put your trust in, and you won’t be stuck scrambling to find enough good people to tip the scale. Thank you for reading!  I’ve got a lot on my mind.   Please stay tuned for thoughts on Langston Hughes, Bruce Springsteen, therapy and self-help books, original sin, natural family planning, existential crises, why I love the authority of the Church, and probably more Star Trek.

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4 thoughts on “How to Lose Your Faith in Human Nature and Find Your Faith in Something Else

  1. Re faith in stuff. There’s a letter of Flannery O’Connor with this “My mother said to [the wife of a suicide] that she didn’t see how anybody with any faith in God could do such a thing. [The widow] said ‘oh she was sure he had faith in God, but he didn’t have any faith in people’ – which is to accuse him of the great asininity … His tragedy was I suppose that he didn’t know what to do with his suffering …” Nothing’s changed has it. I’ll have to check this new blog out on a regular basis

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    • Thanks for your comment! I love the last part of the quote. I have never understood how people with no faith in God deal with the bleakness of the world. It’s bad enough to deal with the suffering of the innocent; but O’Connor is right, it also makes it very hard to give meaning to your _own_ suffering.

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