Men are... immeasurably interested in acquiring fixed ideas of God, of the soul, and of their common duties to their Creator and to their fellow men. This is, then, the subject on which it is most important for each of us to entertain fixed ideas; and, unhappily, it is also the subject on which it is most difficult for each of us, left to himself, to settle his opinions by the sole force of his reason.
So observed Alexis De Tocqueville in his seminal Democracy In America, whose 23rd chapter makes a worthy companion to a story on page 128 of the May Cosmo Girl! Because... like, how times change! Some modern teens have totally conquered the age-old need for a "fixed" higher power idea. The story begins by posing the radical question: "What if going to church were like going to Starbucks?" Um, and they were required by law to display the caloric content of the communion wafers? No, silly! "You wouldn't get just a plain coffee: You could get a shot of Catholicism, a sprinkle of Buddhism, a pinch of Hindu teachings — or whatever else you're in the mood for that day."
The magazine goes on to interview a Catholic-born Shamanist who also digs Judaism, a Wiccan Buddhist who's reading the Bible, lapsed Baptists who love gays but still do charity, and an "expert" at the University of Notre Dame who wonders if there isn't a downside to all this. "If teens are thinking, evaluating, and searching, that is a good sign. The downside is that if religion turns into a customizable choice, it loses its power," she says. But Tocqueville totes knew you were going to say that! From page 508:
I anticipate the objection, that as all religions have general and eternal truths for their object, they can not thus shape themselves to the shifting spirit of every age without forfeiting their claim to certainty in the eyes of mankind.To this I reply again, that the principal opinions which constitute belief, and which theologians call articles of faith, must be very carefully distinguished from the accessories connected with them.
In other words, you have to read this story, and try not to get hung up on the charm bracelets. It's a beautiful testament to the Frappuccino-addled triumph of American reason!