Why do religions, claiming high ideals, always seem to end by being divisive ? There may perhaps be many reasons. One is the obvious, often noted fact, that every priest and shaman is in competition with every other, for hearts and minds, in a very vicious and highly competitive industry. Yet perhaps, it occurs to me, there could be another reason, which is simply an effect of the religion industries main product.
And what is religions main product ? You may ask. It is hard to see. Which is strange, since most businesses do not make a big mystery of their outputs, you know that the baker makes cakes, the carpenter makes furniture, etc. So what is the main product of religion, and why the mystery ? Well I would suggest to you, that the main product of religion, is one, that it would not openly like to admit to. Because it is basically, the feeding and fostering of narcissism. Religion sets out to tell its followers, that. “You are special. You are given special knowledge not given to others, your existential worries are not selfish and egocentric but important even to the whole universe, you mean something special to the universe, God loves you more than others, and people who do the things we do here, get to be raised up, filled with light and wisdom, etc. etc. .”
And unfortunately where you tell a person that they are special and privileged then by default, you must also be telling them that the rest of humanity are not special, not privileged and not equal, as well as driving all the other egotistic weaknesses and inhumanities that narcissism brings with it.
Does that help to explain the divisiveness of religion do you think ?
The narcissism isn't an aspect I've considered before, but that makes sense. The believers (in many cases, but not all) are made to believe they are special and they will be rewarded later for the suffering they are doing now. They are made to believe that non-believers are evil and not to be trusted. (I've experienced this myself from believers.)
I would say that the divisiveness is mostly between belief and non-belief currently where I am, though the divisiveness has been between religions in the past, as history shows and present day still in the war torn parts of the world. In both cases, the religions have been weaponized for political purposes.
So, it follows that the believers need to have reason to feel they are special with a "God is on our side" attitude. The churches offer a feeling of a group think, so "we all are on this side or that" of any controversial subject.
Believers want to belong, so they go along with it and don't even need to worry their little heads about it. Acceptance by their peers or authority is more immediate. It's a case of "the Emperor is surely wearing clothes, even if we don't see them." They have to believe stronger in order to see them, so they fake it to fit in.
I agree that the narcissism developed in believers is very useful to those using religious faith to instruct the followers what to believe and how to vote when it comes to social issues that make the powerful more powerful, often at the expense of the believers who are used as pawns in the game.
I do know some believers who are very open minded and very liberal in their views and they realize their style of belief isn't what is being weaponized, but they see it in others.
Even the new age shamans tend to play to the narcissistic tendencies, in whatever oils, books, crystals, etc., they are hawking.
Exactly. The rest of humanity is not special and privileged and your group is the only one with the truth. Nice plot background for a movie but I'm finding adults of all ages today who believe it. Some also seem sad that I cannot grasp it, especially with my fundamentalist background.
Are religions especially divisive? No. At least not in modern societies.
The most salient and dangerous separations and segregations we see in the US or in other Western countries have nothing to do with religions, but with politics and ideology. There is a healthy competition between hundreds of denominations and churches and sects in the US, but the society is not divided along these lines. Joe Biden is hated by millions Americans, but certainly not because he is catholic.
In countries like Germany or France, religion is not important enough to cause any deep divisions in society. That was the case in the 17th or 18th century, but certainly not today.
And what is the main product of religions in modern societies?
Certainly not narcissism (if you want to know more about the roots of the modern epidemics of narcissism, I can recommend the book by Will Storr: "Selfie. How the West became self-obsessed" - religion is not among these roots), but religions todays sell mostly commodities like meaning of life, community, orientation, a feeling of belonging, spirituality.
(About the main functions of religions in history, see my post a made a few days before.)
(BTW: Shamans are almost never in a competition with each other. Every tribe has its trusted shaman. And why should priests compete against each other? Churches in the US or Brazil do, but that's very special case)
Can't disagree with any of that.
My own humble thought is that religion is a non rational activity, and such activities sooner or later result in irrational thinking and behaviour, which leads to destructive and devisive acts. Monotheism is especially culpable of that, but I don't find anything good about any religions. Some on this site try to convince themselves that religions produce values and even scientific thinking, but that's baloney. Positive values and critical thinking grow despite religion, not because of it.
Just some thoughts.
Absolutely, though I don't have much to add. Humans like contrast and dehumanizing others to feel more powerful ourselves has some appeal. Religion reinforces this in two ways, it cements our sense of belonging to a group and it is condoned by authority.