Sunday, June 02, 2013

religion historically the most important form of social control - that is all....,



nih | A social contingency analysis of religion is presented, arguing that individual religious behaviors are principally maintained by the many powerful benefits of participating in social groups rather than by any immediate or obvious consequences of the religious behaviors. Six common strategies are outlined that can shape the behaviors of large groups of people. More specifically, religious behavior is shaped and maintained by making already-existing contingencies contingent upon low-probability, but socially beneficial, group behaviors. Many specific examples of religious themes are then analyzed in terms of these common strategies for social shaping, including taboos, rituals, totems, personal religious crises, and symbolic expression. For example, a common view is that people are anxious about life, death, and the unknown, and that the direct function of religious behaviors is to provide escape from such anxiety. Such an explanation is instead reversed—that any such anxiety is utilized or created by groups through having escape contingent upon members performing less probable behaviors that nonetheless provide important benefits to most individual group members. These generalized beneficial outcomes, rather than escape from anxiety, maintain the religious behaviors and this fits with observations that religions typically act to increase anxiety rather than to reduce it. An implication of this theory is that there is no difference in principle between religious and nonreligious social control, and it is demonstrated that the same social strategies are utilized in both contexts, although religion has been the more historically important form of social control.

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