Culture and Religion

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Social Groups

I was raised as a Catholic, even attending a Catholic grade school.

When reading online references about raising Catholic kids I can relate to my experience that emphasizing religion from an early age can be difficult because the local culture will affect their education: " The culture seeps in through every nook and cranny of a household." If the goal is to keep the chid isolated, then one should expect this will affect how well the child integrates into a secular society.

When the emphasis includes the teaching that one's life after death has one's soul going to one of two drastic alternatives, either heaven or hell, for an eternity, then all the activities in one's life before that death become less significant, just sufficiently good enough, with the judgment being so critical. The final judgment is personal. This judgment is apparently based on only how well the individual behaved according to God's ambiguous expectations. There is no group judgment, like on a family where some children might be holier than others.

The result of this emphasis on the individual means society becomes less important to one's destiny during life. I suggest the social interactions with others should be very important when raising our youth. Bullying is an example of a social problem among youth that is not always handled successfully by society.

Human beings are social creatures and so will innately make social connections (e.g., conversations and interactions with mutual respect) with other people. When multiple people share common social connections then a social group can arise. If a social group has a defined role in society, like a family for child rearing, then a social structure will arise. Every social structure will have a hierarchy for the members where someone is assigned responsibility for the group's decisions (accountability). Simple examples are the father of a family, the pastor of a church, the mayor of a community, the governor of a state; a small service business owner with a few employees. Larger business entities could have a middle layer for partial responsibity like a lead man or supervisor to manage a work group for a project or task. In that corporate hierarchy the bottom level can express their displeasure with decisions at the top through the management layers but the effectiveness of that attempted correction depends on the corporate culture being based primarily on cooperation or perhaps on the relative strength of the parties at the time. The mother will have more influence with the father than will the children; the pastor could be replaced by the parishoners; the mayor could be replaced in the next election; the governor must deal with the representatives in the state's legislature (who are elected to represent the interests of their district) or he/she could be replaced in the next election.
In each case the mechanism for accountability depends on the social structure. The employees of a small business can first try getting cooperation from management, where a demonstration of unity among employees on the issues will help. If the employees have the legal protection of a union they can temporarily stop working without losing their jobs (i.e., a strike) until management will discuss the grievances. This mechanism enables those of different responsibilities in a large company to meet as equals for negotiation; otherwise, the employees can only depend on their employer's empathy in dealing with complaints. In a corporation, the top management is held accountable by the board of directors, a construct to represent the shareholders who ultimately own the corporation. In the case of corporate debt the financial institutions might make demands on the board to protect their investment.

Social connections are not all with the same intensity. Some siblings will have a closer bond than others. A parent might bond closer with one child than another. Some friends might become very close friends. Some friends might create their own social group like a recreational sports team. It is critical to point out those are not all truly conscious decisions but subconscious 'feelings' will matter. Everyone is unique so different personalities will be compatible. You can try to pick your friends but during maturation the social connections can change.
For each person the various social groups can have varying priorities. Sometimes a family matter is most important; sometimes a very close friend or spouse nearly always has the top priority.

With the malleable nature of dealing with these social connections someone else can bring in an external influence to change the priorities (like a parent demanding a friend or group must be avoided, or one's circle of friends will want an individual or group to be shunned). Also new information should be considered during life.

There are also larger group dynamics possible. When parishioners attend a religious service together even without interpersonal interaction they are feeling their faith is affirmed by the others also in attendance. When many attend an entertainment event or a sport competition the crowd will share emotionally in that collective enthusiasm, or the disappointment when the home team loses. Crowds at events do not constitute a social structure as no one maintains the crowd's focus; if there is a hierarchy it is probably via seat assignments. However (though not real accountability) the crowd does provide feedback for the performance (e.g., cheers or boos).

I suggest this chaotic nature of society is due to the inherent variety in people and so events occur from unpredictable individual actions, but each is driven by a unique personal perspective, not the realization of a master plan.

A religion should help an individual, each with a unique human spirit, integrate into the chaotic, complex natural universe; I do not see this effort being made in modern America, as chaos and a predefined plan do not mesh. Society is far too complex to expect just following what is portrayed as God's plan is a practical approach for human behavior.

The human spirit is (to me) the combination of consciousness and various subconscious influences like our social nature, including social tendencies like introvert/extrovert/sociopath, or a contagious laugh or smile, or the draw of a like minded group). One's health is also an influence.

The first impression for a person is very important as the subconscious renders an initial judgment in less than a second.

Consciousness might use other data but it is important to note everything that happens might not be a reasoned well informed conscious decision. Often people react first with emotion and later with reason. Everyone should be aware sometimes there can be what is called a reflex action when the body will move by itself, without involving the consciousness.

I do not think of their behavior as a reflex but certainly professional athletes can perform their skills superbly and fluidly without requiring so many conscious decisions along the way. It takes much training and practice to perform without thinking (i.e., consecutive conscious decisions based on current conditions).

Modern society has many dangers (as described long ago in the famous book 1984) with the sordid consequences of the current concentration of power in one social group, the ruling class. Propaganda and media can frame the presentation of new information for public consumption. People can be given blatant lies (e.g., Iraq WMD) but the public can be convinced anyway. A common tactic for distortion is the abuse of the group dynamics behavior where the other group is declared evil but not the target audience (so there is safety being in the good group even when its leaders are immoral).

Society will prosper only when many social groups unite for a common purpose (social and political reform) as there is strength in numbers when negotiating between groups. The ruling class is entrenched and will be difficult to change. Society is rooted in social groups.

A culture will arise from the social groups involved in that community including the definition of various cultural practices like dietary conventions, monogamy, child rearing responsibilities: sometimes the extended family or community is expected to help the parents), the appropriate punishment for a crime (e.g., cut off the arm, financial penalty or defined retribution, jail time), etc.
A culture will be stronger when multiple social groups work together toward common goals.

A religion will arise from the social groups involved in that community. The religion includes the definition of various religious practices like which deities will be worshipped and how. The various deities usually arise in the religion as a result of unexpected catastrophic events. Unless the social group can accept the chaos of nature and of human society, the members of this religion will attempt to bring order to the chaos by assigning responsibility for these unexplainable events to these invisible (one or more) deities. Because a religion is interpreting the invisible deity taking an action there is no way to prove such interpretations. How ever if the crowd can be convinced of that interpretation, then everyone can take comfort in sharing those beliefs of this religion. Though believing in a particular religion is rather a personal choice in practice it must be a social group activity for the believers to share in this collective affirmation of their beliefs.

 A religion will be stronger when multiple social groups work together toward common interpretations as there is a perceived strength in numbers.

Social groups are the foundation of human society, including its cultures and religions. Ignoring the group dynamics (and how they can be manipulated) will result in inefficient solutions for problems in society.

Society will prosper only when many social groups unite for a common purpose (social and political reform) as there is strength in numbers when negotiating between groups. The ruling class is entrenched and will be difficult to change.

created - May 2018
last change - 05/11/2018
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