Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Who Would Jesus Torture???

This is, of course, the $64 billion question for a supposedly faith-based administration, supported by the self-annointed "religious" right:

Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Why is it that supposedly religious people, supposed followers of Christ, whose words I just quoted, are those most willing, even eager to torture people?

At least part of the answer comes from the work of Robert Altemeyer, who discovered and developed the concept of rightwing authoritarianism (RWA), which is defined thus:
Rightwing authoritarianism is the convergence of three attitudinal clusters in a person:

1. Authoritarian submission—a high degree of submission to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
2. Authoritarian aggression—a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, that is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities.
3. Conventionalism—a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities.”
Over the years, Altemeyer has uncovered a fair number of correlations involving RWA, most of which can be grouped into four broad categories, (1) faulty reasoning, (2) hostility to outgroups, (3) profound character flaws and (4) blindness to one’s own filings and those of authority figures.

Character flaws include dogmatism, zealotry, hypocrisy, bullying, creation of intergroup conflict, and destructive competitiveness. Blindness includes the use religion to erase guilt over their acts and to maintain their self-righteousness.

The authoritarian relationship to religion is particularly troubling, as several different sorts of flaws tend to work together to blind authoritarians from seeing what they are doing. Perhaps most striking is the greater likelihood to compartmentalize their thinking, and not notice contradictions between compartmentalized beliefs. In a 1985 experiment, students were asked what they thought about two passages from the Gospels: “Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged. (Matthew 7:1), and “Let he who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” Altemeyer reports:
Twenty Christian Highs said we should take the teachings literally. Twenty-seven other Christian Highs said we should judge and punish others, but none of them explained how they reconciled this view with Jesus’ teachings. Apparently, they ‘believed’ both (contradictory) things. But the kicker came when I looked at various measures of authoritarian aggression I had gathered from these students. No matter what they said they believed, both these groups of Highs were quick with the stones on the Attitudes toward Homosexuals Scale, the ethnocentrism Scale, and Posse-Homosexuals (Enemies of Freedom, pp. 222-224).
In short, high RWA “Christians” have a much deeper belief in rightwing authoritarianism than they do in Christianity.
Matthew 7: 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Okay, America. Time to wake up and smell the brimstone. By their fruits ye shall know them.