Sometimes you don't know you belong somewhere until you leave.
Why Intelligent People Are Still Religious
It's difficult to believe something when you are given no proof that it's true. That's the fundamental problem I have with religion: it professes beliefs that have no basis in reality other than a sacred piece of literature. I often encounter other people that agree with me and discussions on the matter end up at "But [insert mutual acquaintance here] is very devout and believes every word of the Bible, even when it contradicts accepted scientific theories. And I thought he was intelligent!" That person is often very intelligent. And that is the exact reason he is so religious.
Let me explain: intelligent people often have a penchant for being successful. They are interested in being the best at everything they attempt in life. As a result, they have a high chance of diving into devout outward faith when introduced to a religion. Often shown religion as a young person without the wisdom to ponder it deeply, a bright person launches for the first apparent sign of success. Here, that is advertising their newfound faith and being the "best" at their chosen religion.
This will sometimes stick with otherwise intelligent people for life, and cause a paradox when others try to reconcile their mental aptitude and their belief in unproven scripture.
What comes after consumerism?
I fought for a relatively long period to remove myself from the U.S.'s consumerist culture. It took three years to finally not be tempted with buying the latest gadget and to not worry about the judgment of people that do buy these things. I went from being interested in minimalist design, to minimalist living, to shrugging off the worries of spending all the money I make, to being content with the things that I own. Now, I do not wish to buy anything unless I need it (in the need-it-to-be-mostly-functional-in-my-culture sense).
And then I realized, I had broken my bond with my fellow Americans. As a fish that flies into the air after a sudden rush to the lake's surface, I find myself sailing in a seemingly unnatural world. What now? What comes after consumerism? What do I do when I have no 62-inch HDTV to talk about? I have no shiny toy for which I long, that I'm saving up my money to buy. How do I make small talk, explain to friends and family that I'm not interested in what they're getting for Christmas?
I'm slowly coming to terms that choosing a life other than the consumerist life places me outside of the common path. It means I will always be different than most people around me and I will have to deal with that. I find that reading, writing, and thinking are worthy pastimes. Some days, it's difficult to connect with other people. But the peace that comes along with not worrying about material possessions -- that makes it all worth it.