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Broken Faith speaks to the identity of the individual in context of our adaptation to evolving social and cultural norms.
As the evolution of western cultures have shaped the idea of individual identity and lost a concept of faith in both a theistic and non-theistic manner.
Historically, social conditions were determinate in shaping identity, with gender, family background and history, as well as other social and political situations defining the various spheres of influence that established identity. With the devaluation of religion and the rise of secularizing trends, religious mandates no longer furnish fundamental criteria by which everyday choices are made.
Today, Western culture has experienced a relaxation of societal guidelines, and restrictions, allowing the individual an unprecedented degree of freedom to establish their identity. This evolution towards more tolerant and pluralistic diversity in moral attitudes make our basic values more of a personal choice, rather than relying completely on consensual ethics.
The struggle with the modern task of identity formation reflects many of societal norms as first defined the parent, where available, and then by legal, political and social behavior to determine moral values.
Our modern scientific perspective of the world has long distinguished between the invisible and the observable. However, as the psychology concerning the inner self was conceptualize, society was assisted in expanding our perception of this invisible inner nature. It was therefore suggested that the individual look inward in order to help define both the meaning, as well as the values, which were to inform our lives.
In order to adapt to these new conditions, popular culture today not only encourages, but expects us to at least seek to understand this inner world, thus this acceptance of our interior realm has thereby shaped the nature of our modern identity.
Even as the task of understanding this inner landscape has taken on greater complexity, this unfamiliar and idiosyncratic character within has been given sway in determining our identity, mostly with insufficient guidance. Paradoxically, in order to gain knowledge of this world within, we are forced to seek assistance in external sources, lest we fall into a trap of self-deception or simply fail to comprehend the task before us.
With the growing familiarity and practice of meditation and the study of various non-western cultural philosophies there is an increasing recognition in the value of seeking this knowledge. Yet this belief in an inner self has also increased the opportunity for misconceptions, allowing people to believe that this inner realm may encompass all manners of things, of which there exists no certain proof for or against.
Predominantly this search for knowledge is fraught with uncertainty and we often perceive the pursuit of self-interest and self-actualization as a meaningful way to endow our lives with value. Thus the enhancement of self is considered part of the moral path, and we therefore seek knowledge in order to understand ourselves and cultivate our abilities and talents. However, in most cultures throughout history, morality operated to restrain and oppose self-interested behaviors, for generally what benefited the social group is at the expense of the of individual’s interest. Now, the individual is free to do what is best for them, in accordance with a presumptive moral duty to oneself.
Our historic values have been easily destroyed through modernization, and they are exceptionally difficult to replace, leaving us today in moral deficit. This loss is certainly brought on through a lack of parental and social guidance but further aggravated by an absence in the kind of support that is shaped by the notion of faith; that sustaining encouragement and reassurance that is increasingly necessary in these anxious and uncertain times. The faith that was formed by history, that then tradition lent conviction to, that hope that enabled us to believe that somehow, we will be able to find a path that endowed our lives with both meaning and positive value.
Our reliance on inner wisdom to direct our moral choices may lead us to cultivate and glorify only ourselves, and fail to provide us with the values upon which we can build a foundation for faith, or solve the basic dilemma of how to make life meaningful, both of which, are key components upon which identity is based.