3. The Roots of Conformity

When we are children our parents are godlike figures to our child’s eyes, and the way they do things seems the way they must be done throughout the universe.121 _Dr. Scott Peck

A Sunday school teacher asked her class, “Why are you Baptists?” Among the many answers given, she liked one the best. It came from a five-year old who said, “It is something that runs in my family, or something like that.”

As infants we are not concerned about justice, freedom, democracy, or reason. What we need is love and safety. We want our parents to feed us, to keep us dry, to comfort us and to cuddle us. Gradually we acquire the special skills to get attention on demand. We learn that crying is a quick way of getting service, and smiling a sure way of pleasing the onlookers. We develop an unconscious fear of displeasing others, especially our parents. Few of us break away from this cycle of dependency. And if we try, we feel anxious, even guilty.

As we get older we are told to obey in order to receive recognition and approval, or to face the consequences. We soon discover that it is not worth going against the grain. Thus reinforcement and praise determine or control much of our attitudes and actions. If they are used in the light of awareness, reason, knowledge, and justice, then they will bear positive fruits, otherwise they produce conformers and controllers. Unfortunately, when it comes to life’s major questions, such as faith and belief, few take time to go beyond their comfort zone, few enter into the light of awareness, knowledge, and reason.

Thus in decision making, as a whole, feelings assume dominant role, and reason a submissive role; conformity leads, while independent investigation of truth follows. That is why, as a rule, Christian parents rear Christian children—Catholics raise Catholics, Protestants raise Protestants, and Mormons raise Mormons. That is why Jewish parents raise Jewish children and Muslim parents raise Muslim children, generation after generation. That is why children of “mixed marriages” have mixed feelings about religion, and often have a more open mind about religion. The two loyalties expand their minds.

To conclude, we all face two choices. We can either confine our souls in the comfort zone of conformity or exercise our God-given right of freedom. We can either allow the forces of despair and desolation to prevail or arise for the triumph of hope and peace. We can either remain complacent and dependent or use our talents to build a splendid society ruled by love and justice. God has given each of us a clear responsibility—to seek, choose, and strive—never to stand still. Apathy, despair, dependency, and conformity, stifle our energies and talents.

The future of the world lies in our hands. The choice we make now will determine whether we will live in peace or war, whether we will be doomed to defeat or elevated to triumph. “Every action of our lives strikes some chord that will vibrate in eternity.”

Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom.122_Bahá’u’lláh

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