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Paul Kirhagis

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Where do organized religions go wrong?

I identify with the idea that humans are built to transcend themselves to contribute to the group as a whole. Organized religion is a bridge that allows those who have similar values and morals to come together and to help others grow. But how would we explain things like the crusades or the Spanish inquisition in this context?

Does the transcendence that a group experiences fall apart at an individual level then rebuild itself into a mutated version of the original? or does some other process occur that twists the collective masses into behavior that is clearly against the original purpose of the group?

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    Jan 11 2013: Sharon, Peter, and John below likely have more experience with organized religion than I have, so I can put forward only a hypothesis rather than a well-supported observation. A problem arises whenever people take the position of looking scornfully on the different beliefs of some "unenlightened" other, regardless of the source they believe they have for their certainty that they are right- religious or otherwise. A diagnosis that the other is unenlightened, ignorant, unwilling to be educated, threatened by the right-thinking person or his right belief and so forth... these narrow-minded postures are divisive regardless of whether they derive from an institution or a person's personality.
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      Jan 11 2013: Do you think this is a function of a group survival instinct?
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        Jan 11 2013: Is there a group survival instinct or only individual survival instincts? We will see what others say.
      • Jan 11 2013: Just my opinion, but I think this attitude reflects deep personal insecurity. That insecurity can easily spread among a group, especially when that insecurity is due to balancing on a straight and narrow beam, with paradise on one side and hell on the other. There are many religious people with very loving, open attitudes. Those who look down on others suffer from a common human weakness, but the content of their beliefs is not wholly blameless.
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          Jan 11 2013: I can go with Barry's idea that insecurity can be an issue. There is a circumstance in which a person's entire sense of identity is based on something- a world view, belief, or self concept, and calling that worldview, belief, or self concept into question risks leaving that person lost and miserable. People may go to great length, then, to protect these bedrocks of their identity, including antagonistic behaviors toward those who see the world differently or question their views or authority.

          As Barry writes, while religion may be involved for some people, for other people it can be other forms of group identification that they protect by caricaturing some "other" negatively..

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