Pavlov's Gods: Religious Conditioning

"Forget about what you think you know about life, about friendship, and especially about you and me." - Tyler Durden [1]

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I grew up down the street from a small Catholic church, and one of the things I most remember of that church are the bells. Those bells would let everyone in the community know that mass would soon begin. Even though my family and I were not Catholic, hearing those bells caused thoughts of church and Christ to come into mind each time we heard them. This is what is known as a conditioned response, and while it didn't sink into the human mind overnight - what these bells represent in the way of a call to church and in essence a call to Christ, did not take too long to impress itself into human culture and the human psyche.

Bells were introduced into Christianity in 400 CE by Paulinus of Nola, and became popular rather quickly.[2] As societies spread and villages popped up, quite often the church was the center of the village or town. When it was time for worship, the bells would ring. When a wedding or funeral were going to take place, the bells would ring. They became intricate and lavish for the churches with great wealth. They had many bells of various sizes with which to play many different tones. And in this modern age, there are many who simply have speaker systems and recorded bells which play on timers.

No matter how those bells are rung, they evoke specific thoughts in the minds of those of us who have grown up around them and in cultures where they are common. In much the same way that Pavlov provoked dogs to salivate to the sound of chimes, the church has used the bell to imprint itself into the minds of all those within earshot. But their imprint quite often goes even deeper. Many times the simple act of hearing tones of church bells can cause you to feel guilt over perceived shortcomings. The fact is that without people truly understanding it at all, the church and holy men have imprinted and ingrained a great many ideas into the minds of followers. Many of those ideas persist even if your other beliefs or ideas change because they imprint all the way to the subconscious.

A True Scotsman

The bells are a neat trick to be sure, but the church has been doing this conditioning thing for some time and they've gotten rather good at it. The proof of this is clearly evident in how people view atheists and the term secularism. You see, even though less people are attending church or even really identifying as religious, they are hesitant to identify as atheist and still claim to be distrusting of atheists. The reason for this is that the church has conditioned us to be averse to certain ideas and terms.

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Now you might say, "I'm not religious and never have been, so they couldn't have conditioned me". But the reality is that they have been doing this for so long that these conditioned responses are ingrained and embedded into the very ideas we think of as culture. Ideas such as "traditional marriage" are often embraced by people who wouldn't identify as religious at all, and I doubt very highly that they've given any thought as to where that idea comes from and whether or not it's something they actually agree with or not. Commonly, when people are asked to examine those ideas and offer justification for them, if they are honest they will see that there actually is no justification for them. The reality is that we've been told that this is "normal" and that is "right" and we've ceased to address those ideas and see if they truly have merit.

Nowhere is this mindset as noticeable as in the US political system. It is inevitable that each campaign season becomes a "God Off" between candidates to tell us who is the best Christian. Who cares about voting records or policy endorsements or bill sponsorships; what we want to know is which church he goes to and how often and is he gonna do something about that socialist Muslim in office! All the while I sit in amazement of the idiocy before me thinking that I could care less whether Obama is a Muslim or not and I wish with all my heart he was a socialist who actually implemented some socialist programs. Most people who hate that man seem to, not because of his politics or his record, but because they believe he isn't a true Scotsman. They don't believe that he is what they have been told that they are supposed to want. The reason we've been told what we're supposed to want is because one group wants to stay in charge. Of course there may be something much more beneficial for us that we've simply been conditioned to be averse to.

Rethinking Our Thinking: Unconditional Equality

We've all been conditioned and trained. Here in the US the vast majority of people tend to walk on the right side of a path or walkway, just as we drive on the right side of the road. In school, we are lined up leaving class and going anywhere and we are asked to stay in line and keep to the right. Long after our school days, we still tend to fall in line and stay to the right. This conditioning is beneficial because it allows for us to all be able to traverse around one another in a more structured, and hence more efficient, manner.

From buckling your seatbelt to not drinking and driving, we are constantly being conditioned and programmed. The reason that it is important to understand that we are being programmed is because not all conditioning is beneficial to us. This programming can put nearly any idea firmly in your mind no matter it's validity. As with all ideas we must question whether the subtle suggestions being implanted in our minds have merit.

Is there a valid reason to travel with the flow of traffic?

Of course there is, because anything less will impede the flow of traffic and mess things up for everyone.

Is there a valid reason to trust a person simply because of the labels they wear, like Christian, Jew, Hindu, or even atheist?

Certainly not, because we can claim to be anything, but only our actions can prove our worth.

The reason that the church calls its followers in so often is that they must be reminded of things, lest they forget and succumb to the pressures of the dark world outside. A world where homosexuals and people of other nationalities and people who live their lives completely differently than you, well they're all just people. They're all just different people trying to get by in life and nobody really wants to be hassled. So when the preacher man tells you that homosexuals are a plague on mankind, and you let that influence your perception and your actions like voting these "good Christian" bigots into office that oppress a minority group through legislation based on religious ideology and nothing more, you are to blame. You are to blame for denying a fellow human being the same freedoms you enjoy. In essence you are saying that they are less than human and we have traveled that road before. We should well know better than to indulge this idiocy. But the goddamned preacher man rings the bells and oh how the dogs salivate at the thought of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their lord. Little do they realize that they're actually feeding on the freedom and dreams of their fellow man - or perhaps they've all grown accustomed to the taste like Soylent Green.

References:

[1]http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0137523/quotes?item=qt0479163
[2] http://www.awakentoprayer.org/church_bells.htm

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