Friday, May 8, 2009

Church goin' leads to torture

This is sad: Survey: The More Often You Go to Church, The More Likely You Are to Support Torture

I mean really sad. Unfortunately, though, not surprising. A couple of reasons:

This is not true of all strongly religious people, but those that are driven to attend church by their deep religious conviction tend to be more willing to submit unthinkingly to authority. It's right because our pastor/priest/rabbi/imam told us it is. I'm not sure we should do it, but my leader told me we should, so we will. I always thought torture was a sin, but our fearless and wonderful leader says it's essential, so we need to do it.

This level of religious conviction is also strongly correlated to the belief that sin -> punishment -> redemption. It is right, therefore, that "bad people" be punished for their crimes in this world as G-d will punish them in the next. Because "they deserve it".

Frequent church going produces a strong us/them mentality. There are strong divisions between individual congregations within the same faith, let alone between denominations, religions, cultures, etc. Philip Zimbardo found that this us/them mentality is an important first step in dehumanizing others; this, in turn, allows the development of mindsets where torture, killing, and oppression are possible and, in fact, required.

Most obviously, of course, is that history shows many, many, many terrible things were done by religious people in the name of their religion, or inspired by religious ideals.

There is nothing sicker, in my mind, than this basic, fundamental perversion of religion. It takes an institution supposedly created to foster love, compassion, and holiness and turns it to murderous and degrading purpose. If you are the leader of a church and your congregation supports torture, you have failed in your job. Start over with them, at the beginning of the book, and read carefully this time through.

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