Whenever Two or More Are Gathered

I really enjoy my daily runs through my neighborhood.  The trail I take runs along a river, and on days like today, when the temperature is 75, the humidity is low and every rosebush and peony is in bloom, it is especially thrilling.  The sun makes the water sparkle like diamonds, herons and bald eagles circle and the endorphins rush easily.  I think I have trained my brain as well as my body, because it is very easy for me to reach a transcendent state.   

I am aware that these experiences—where I feel at one with nature—are a product of the working physicality of my brain.  But I can see how feeling “one” especially in a group can be a powerful force.  Religious leaders are trained to create this feeling in their followers by playing with their emotional state and speaking in a familiar language laced with group code and with a defined cadence.  They lie and tell their flock what they are feeling is the spirit of god, rather than just the experience of another human emotion. 

Children are especially vulnerable to this type of manipulation.  It is common for adolescents especially to feel a strong need to belong to a group.  Religious groups like Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ take this fundamental desire to belong and manipulate it for their purpose.    The feeling of transcendence is particularly powerful in children who are unfamiliar with this emotional state.  They are led to believe what they are feeling is god.  With enough reinforcement, these experiences can be enough for them to believe they have “felt god” for the rest of their lives.

I try to always to point out this very same sense of unity when it occurs, especially when I am working with children.  Being on a sports team, or in a play, in a concert, or even working on a group project—children have lots of experiences where the community comes together and their emotional state transcends the task at hand.  It is my hope that by teaching them to recognize the feelings that come from working with others at a task or toward a common goal they will become less susceptible to manipulation.

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About Brick Window

A mother and an atheist--Just trying to do the best I can in a suburb full of believers.
This entry was posted in Little Fundies, Manipulation, Young Life. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Whenever Two or More Are Gathered

  1. Jay Walker says:

    We have evolved to feel this emotional high with working closely with others because it help our ancestors survive as groups. We are also evolved to see agency in events in nature. This is another survival instinct. It was evolutionarily beneficial to at first suspect that the rustle in the bush was an animal or other living thing instead of the wind because if you stopped to try to figure out what it was, you might get eaten.

    We need to teach our children to recognize these feelings as part of our natural make up and not something supernatural. It comes back to the the idea that just because we can’t immediately explain something doesn’t automatically mean that “God did it”.

  2. fribnit says:

    BW, you described the working of cult recruitment very well. Your description exactly matches how cults recruit and indoctrinate their members. Hmmmmm

    Feelings of belonging, a shared experience, all attributed to a higher being.

    Only those that learn to understand these feelings and their true origins can look at the world with the critical eye needed to break free of the cult.

    very well said BW and Jay

  3. fribnit says:

    have we lost you? are you alright?

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