Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Them and Us

The more I read and memorized, the more I participated in united activities that strengthened group cohesiveness, such as singing, dancing, group readings, etc., the more my views and mindset changed. I valued the opinions and ideas of fellow members while disregarding those of outsiders. After all, "we" were the virtuous ones who had given up all to follow Christ. (St. Francis comes to mind...)

Outsiders were considered unenlightened followers of Mammon (materialism), while we were "free" as the "lilies of the field." The concept of "them and us" was crucial to uniting us to the cause, and is also a fairly common mental bias and was easy to fall into.

A further strengthening of this clannishness was public (or private, yet publicly known) humiliation and/or punishment of traitors or those that expressed doubt. This, of course, would have the obvious result of arousing fear of upsetting the status quo or doing anything to damage my position in the group. The shepherds were not exactly trained in personal relations, so generally any correction of perceived sins was in the form of loud and humiliating harangues, even if behind closed doors.

To quote Jonathan Haidt, "Religions and their associated practices greatly increase the costs of defection (through punishment and ostracism), increase the contributions of individuals to group efforts (through cultural and emotional mechanisms that increase trust), and sharpen the boundaries — biological and cultural — between groups."

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt

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