In general identity gives you strength while making you stupid. This can sometimes be a good trade, especially in stressful situations. E.g. I think this is one reason people in the US are so much more religious than they were when I was a kid. People who 30 years ago might have been skeptical of preachers are now thinking that religion may at least save their kids from meth.
Couldn't something similar be said about any emotional response. In that emotional responses give you something but are inherently irrational.
I'm curious about the actual trend of religiosity, and I'm somewhat skeptical of anecdotal data (for the very reasons in your article). What is the general trend from someone who's been following this longer?
Yes. It was very noticeable when I went back to Pittsburgh recently. When I was a kid, people went to church, but it didn't spill over into everyday life. They did it more as a matter of form. Now people's conversation is filled with religious references. Someone who 30 years ago would have said "we have two children" now says "we've been blessed with two children."
As a rationalist/atheist/whateverlabel of course I'm not sure I'm altogether comfortable with the rapid increase in religious adherence in recent years but that's a different discussion.
Very interesting essay PG!
For example, are there really as many Evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians as it seems, or do they just sound louder because they are broadcasting on more channels?
It is often times the case that people/groups with less power or advantage are louder since they are trying to draw more attention and have less to lose in doing so. But for those not well informed, that loudness translates into legitimacy even though it can indicate exactly the opposite. PETA comes to mind as an example.
They moved from 94% believing in God to 73%. Might just be the small sample or differences in questions asked though.
If I were to guess I'd say that what's on the decline is nominal religiosity. Those who don't believe, don't worship, in greater numbers. At the same time, among those who do believe, there's been an assertion of cultural power since the 1980s or so.
No data here, just an observation from someone about the same as as pg.
I think there's another variable strongly influencing how "identity" behaves in the wild.
Consider the examples of Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. Both men very strongly identified with the cause of their people, but despite that identity had an amazingly noble approach to their oppressors. Horrible atrocities were committed by their foes, yet they reached out to them with grace - both during their struggles and after their victories. They studied their "enemy's" culture and language extensively and had empathy and compassion for them even while fighting for their cause.
There are many examples of wonderful Lincoln-esque people who strongly identified with a cause, yet had compassion and understanding for the other side. From examining them, it seems that identity was not a factor in causing strife and stupidity when it was coupled with that genuine graciousness and understanding.
Tragically, there seem to be far more examples in history of people taking the other approach - envy, hate, violence, etc. In those instances, identity seems to be the vigorous fan that stokes the flames.
While those may be extreme examples, the same principles apply to today's conversations. For instance, very few people would get into a heated debate with a down-syndrome child over a religious point of doctrine or political policy - no matter how adamant she was about it. Why? Well, it's hard not to have compassion for a mentally-handicapped child who is so innocent in her understanding. Yet when people come across a 35 year old man with the same view (who incidentally may be just as 'innocent' in his understanding) - it's much easier to throw away that compassion and understanding and attack him personally with vitriol.
If someone has genuine love and concern for another person it's hard to imagine the kind of stupid debates and spiraling into dumbness that pg describes - even if the participants are at polar ends of the religious/political identity scales. Some of you may remember what ParticleTree did to effectively reduce trolls and flamers: http://credibility.stanford.edu/captology/notebook/archives....
By giving commenters a reminder of compassion, they took a lot of heat out of identity-stupidity.
Lincoln, Ghandi, Mandela etc understood this principle and used it for great good. It reminds me of a great quote from one of my favorite sci-fi novels that shows Charity not as a flaccid quality - but like this:
"And now it came. It was fiery, sharp, bright, and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light; it was Charity, not as mortals imagine it, not even as it has been humanised for them since the Incarnation of the Word, but the trans-lunary virtue, fallen upon them direct from the Third Heaven, unmitigated. They were blinded, scorched. They thought it would burn their bones. They could not bear that it should continue. They could not bear that it should cease." - That Hideous Strength, CS Lewis
I've know highly religious/political people who were extremely dedicated to their views, yet seemed to get along with just about everyone even while having lively debate that even decreased dumbness! Unfortunately, we've also seen much of the opposite. The main key always seems to be whether the person has genuine love and compassion for the others holding opposing views - so much so that the others know that disagreement doesn't threaten the relationship. It's a rare and wonderful quality we can all strive for.
In a nutshell - have all the identity you want - just make sure you couple it with the Golden Rule (thankfully found in just about every belief system, religious or not, yay!).
- Planting landmines that killed people indiscriminately in rural areas
- Torture and executions esp. in foreign camps
- Burning people that worked with the apartheid government alive (necklacing). Mandela's wife killed a 14 year old boy without spending a day in jail (Stompie Sipei)
- Church Street bombing and Magoo's bar bombing (which killed civilians). Bombing of an Amamzimtoti shopping center (which killed two children and a woman).
- Factional fighting with the IFP in the late 80ies and early 90ies (which killed more than 15,000 people).
What happened in South Africa was amazing - but it was not just Mandela that made a great leap. White people gave up all power that they had - military, political, just on the basis of a constitution. This knowing full well that there were no other successful democratic African country.
This brings this post to a familiar ground - we do not want to be discussing politics on YCNews. So if you want to use a person as a hero, use Archbishop Desmond Tutu who advocated for non-violence from the start.
The real world is unfortunately not entirely black and white. I never said that what Mandela fought for was wrong - I said that the way it was done was wrong. Unfortunately most people spend time on the Apartheid era's misdeeds but ignore that of the liberation movement.
I said he should use Desmond Tutu as a fine example. Tutu fought for the same thing as Mandala (equal rights) but he did it in a non-violent way. He denounced violence and terrorism on both sides (he even intervened once risking his own life to prevent a crowd from necklacing a person).
You will also notice above that I recommended moving off from the politics topic because it is unnecessarily divisive and not really the focus point of YCNews.
EDIT: Why I also think that Tutu makes an excellent example is that his actions (such as the non-violence he promotes) stems from his religious identity. This is clearly the case in which a person's identity is a good attribute.
I get the feeling that children growing into adults have an innate need to find identity, and if you have an identity vacuum at home they'll find it elsewhere.
I am from a big family and I just see the differences when comparing myself to single sons, but I find the differences interesting, I even admire them.
I also wonder what are the influences of growing up in a family dominated by women. Anyone wants to elaborate?
That was put to music recently in a country western hit, "Drugs or Jesus".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer in a nutshell.