An illuminating article has recently appeared in The Twentieth Century on the attitudes and values of university students in America. The article is entitled “Sex, Success and Sympathy” (Feb. 1957, pp. 116ff.). It is written by an English university lecturer, Malcolm Bradbury, who was on an exchange lectureship in the United States. He says that American university students are desperately anxious to abide by the values of their social group, to do the right thing, to conform to social patterns, and to achieve future success. Most students, in this connection, think that religion is a “good thing”; they think that it gives a person poise and self-assurance; that it enables a person to become adjusted—what is generally described as “a well-rounded personality.” One American freshman says: “Religious qualities and high moral character are essential to success.” The implication is that it pays to be good. Religion is a good business investment. Another student says: “The warmth derived from spiritual satisfaction is a prime requisite in success. Religion and business serve one another.”
It is worth noting the reasons advanced for the practice of religion. It is not that religion is true; it is simply that religion makes you feel good. One student speaks of the importance of feeling contented, and the business value of plentiful smiling; and he says: “In one of Dale Carnegie’s books he gives six ways to make people like you. One thing he stressed was a ready smile. It not only makes you feel better, but helps your appearance.” Now the question is: Is religion simply a matter of self-interest, a technique of self-improvement, a road to success? Is it true to say (as one student does say): “Jesus Christ was the greatest success ...1
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