1/24/2016 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
Great discoveries that have changed our understanding of the world: Evolution, chemistry, electricity, and... psychiatry. Each has also contributed to our understanding of ourselves. Before the science of psychology, including the offshoot of sociology, the average person did not think very much, if at all, about the unconscious forces driving his or her decisions, motivations, and actions. Psychology universally gives us explanations. Already, brain and neural imaging are extending the explanations.
Thousands of years before the science of psychiatry, the psychological manipulations of religions were reigning. They still continue to, in spite of the fact that humans ought to be on to them by now. Billions of people still continue to believe the buck-naked emperor is clothed in elaborate raiment. They continue to give religions credit for the good they themselves do by nature. This sneaky tactic too, is psychological manipulation.
How many times have we heard of a Christian believer, "If he had been born into the Moslem faith, he would have been just as certain it's the absolute truth and defended it just as stridently?" (And maybe would be convinced into killing a member of the other faith.) Let's extend the thought beyond that.
I've known a couple who are dedicated to their church. They spend tons of their time in helping with its ﬁnances, building maintenance, planning, lawn cutting, etc. They are very generous with their time helping members of the church. But they haven't always been members of this church; they came from, I understand, not being members of any church. If they had been born into the faith of Islam, Judaism, or Hinduism, would they have been just as involved in those faiths? Wouldn't they ascribe their good works to their inherited faiths? I've come to the conclusion their good works have little to do with whether they believe if their faiths are true. Church is a channel for their charity.
They are like many people; outgoing, socially dedicated, in action, there when you need them, ready to give the shirt off their backs and of their free time and not so very free time. True, part of their personalities involve doing what they are willing to do their way only, but that's a small price to pay them. If you ponder why, you'd conclude it's because they can't help themselves. It's their nature, whether they are religious or atheist, socialist or communist, or indifferent to all belief systems.
Without a god, they are told, they would be amoral, they could do nothing good. All social and religious movements want people like them for their own purposes, which is understandable. Such good people become the examples, dedicatees, open to the single-mindedness used for recruiting new members. We might ask ourselves, “Do they need to be needed, or have they simply been raised to think of others more than themselves?" And when they are praised, they press on with even more dedication. Extremist movements, cults and politics, lure and love them in. The more that is asked of them, the more they are thanked for doing, the more they will endeavor to give. They are always the examples of what believers, defending their faiths, call "True" Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Jews, etc.
Exploiting people who are naturally helpful and caring is a traditional tactic for religions. Without a god, they are told, they would be amoral, they could do nothing good. This is not only a way to keep them dedicated to the religion they're members of, but a lie, and degrading. It's the methodology of telling a cult member, an Islamic terrorist, a Nazi, etc., "You're nothing if you're not with us one hundred percent." To brainwash good people with the dogma, "Without God, I can do no good,” is ludicrous, and meant to keep the dedicated do-gooder chained to the religion.
Religions claim they are necessary for maintaining morals. Psychological manipulation, again. Let's be honest and look at the big picture: Without God or gods, billions of humans are doing good, loving their families, being true friends, even unthinkingly sacriﬁcing themselves in the service of others, and physically, emotionally, helping one another day by day. (Consider the atheists Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett and his sister, for outstanding examples.) Billions of members of faiths are doing likewise. We are all pretty much the same everywhere. And we pretty much all fail in the same ways.
Now, depressingly, there are a lot of believers who will be offended by what is said here; some will be really pissed off. No one should apologize for being truthful. If there is one thing I've found out over the decades about Christians (and they are the only ones I'm familiar with), it's that if you want to get them pissed off, intentionally or not, all you have to do is tell the truth.