Have You Herd?

That title is not a typo. I am talking about herd mentality. (Thanks to grouchyfarmer for the inspiration for this post) This subject comes up a lot when discussing religion. Those inside the world of organized religion claim to all be individuals who have come to the conclusion that God exists and loves them on their own, without pressure or influence from others. But is that true?

According to the definition found on Wikipedia, herd mentality is the idea that:

“People can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis. When individuals are affected by mob mentality, they may make different decisions than they would have individually.”

People, in general, do not like to feel like outsiders. They want to fit in with a group. Standing out makes them feel like they must be doing something wrong, even if they are not. The desire for inclusion is so strong that they often do things against their better judgement. In order to blend, they do what others in a group are doing.

Religion works much in this way. When enough people become convinced that their beliefs are justified, they act as one to show it. People who disagree, or who are not yet convinced, oftentimes feel like they must be doing something wrong or that something is wrong with them. The herd, or pack, tend to target these people and use their collective “understanding” to try to convince these “outsiders.” The outsiders, already feeling ostracized, are much more easily pursuaded; their minds more malleable.

In a comment to grouchyfarmer on my last post, I offered this example from the TV show “Brain Games.” It shows how, within just a few short minutes, someone who doesn’t understand what everyone is doing is quickly compelled to submit to the herd and follow along:

This person quickly did something that felt weird and made no sense to her. But when everyone else was doing it, she felt it must be right. She even then convinced others it was right, despite not understanding why she, herself, was doing it.

When you are raised in a religious household, there is constant pressure to conform. When you live in an area that is predominately religious, there is constant pressure to conform. When you find someone that you fall in love with, you are under pressure to conform in order to keep that person in your life. In time, you might actually be convinced that, what you started doing solely because of your love for someone else, you now believe yourself…even if you are not sure why.

The human mind is a wonderfully complicated thing. Understanding how our brains work helps to eliminate a lot of unwarranted theories involving supernatural or other worldly things. I’m not here to try to convince anyone. I just think that since our brains are so complex and how what we think shapes our lives, it’s best to try to learn a bit about them before we toss aside our intelligence and instead accept the conclusions made by others in the herd. Things such as:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Lean not on your own understanding? Trust in the Lord? Which do we have more evidence of? The way our brains work or God?

 

Here is another Brain Games example of conformity:

And here is one that shows how easily our brains can be tricked by simple means:

Now imagine that instead of cake, you are told that there is a story that is better than all the rest. Not only that, billions of others already believe in it. It is easy to see how easily we can be convinced and how dangerous it can be to base our decisions on the way things are presented or marketed. Something to think about.

8 thoughts on “Have You Herd?

  1. Those clips are very interesting. I like standing out, and making waves. I admit that the herd mentality has caught me plenty of times too. I’m just stubborn when I “know” I’m right, and feel like fitting in wouldn’t be a good enough reason not to trust myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I admit that I pulled you into the herd with my mental(ity). But we all make mistakes and we can always learn from those mistakes. And now look at how awesome we both are because of it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree herd mentality does exist, but it manifests itself in all worldviews, including secular humanism.

    Also, Christianity was not always a popular position to hold like it is today. Jesus was crucified for claiming to be God. This is definitely not a herd mentality. Many of his followers were also brutally killed by the Roman Empire. Thoughts?

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    1. My thoughts are that 1, Jesus’s crucifixion is a story until actual evidence proves otherwise and 2, that his followers being killed only prove that they died for what they believed in. That doesn’t mean that what they believed was actually true. Belief is not truth. It can certainly be based on truth and it can also be based on stories that people think are based on truth.

      Herd mentality does not describe all people who follow religion. It does describe a part of the group. This post was to show that some people do tend to follow the crowd, despite the crowd not having any actual evidence to base their beliefs on.

      So again, my position is that until sufficient evidence is brought forward to confirm the existence and divinity of Christ, he is a character in a story. You see, he is said to be a big part of our lives in the here and now. Where is the evidence of that? Where is his interaction with us documented outside of the Bible? I haven’t seen any. I am open to any and all evidence and I would believe if good evidence is presented. And the only way it would be good evidence would be if God revealed himself or if Jesus revealed himself. Otherwise it is hearsay and personal opinion. I believed based on that stuff for far too long. Now, only actual evidence is sufficient.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Fair enough. I agree with most of what you said. I do think the herd mentality is a social phenomena and can be explained in the videos you demonstrated. Humans have a social conformity embedded in them, and both naturalists and theists should agree here.

        So only personal experience is sufficient for evidence? How can you trust your senses? They are known to be flawed as well. People are deceived all the time by magic tricks.

        In fact, how do you know your reasoning is logical? What if evolution’s only goal is to survive, and if false beliefs positively encourage self-preservation, isn’t that what our genes only care for? Then logic is not what matters, but survival of the fittest. And if this is the case, epistemological claims are illusory.

        I do believe there is sufficient reason to believe in God. For one, the universe is not static but speeding up. Hence, a first cause. Was it spawned by another universe ad infinitum or God? I find it reasonable to conclude some intelligent being created us. But then again, I certainly can’t prove it.

        Maybe there is no god but believing in one gives me hope to avoid nihilism and despair. I don’t think this is the case, but certainly this is a possibility. In the end, no evidence is sufficient. Everything, whether God or multi-verse theory, is circular reasoning. You are in the same boat as I.

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      2. I am not saying I can trust my own senses entirely. I could easily be mistaken. However, I trust my own senses more than simply relying on someone else’s words from thousands of years ago with no actual evidence to confirm what they say is true. Even then, again, I could be mistaken. I do think my own senses combined with others all experiencing a Revelation from God would be compelling. But that hasn’t happened. All we have now are stories of that happening. That’s not enough, I’m afraid.
        I am open to God, but the stories, as told, are insufficient for belief. The universe, nature, “creation”, etc…all these things are not proof of God. Even if they point to a god in some of our minds, that doesn’t really prove anything. It’s all conjecture and speculation. That is a poor way for a god to communicate any kind of truth to people he/she wants to know him/her intimately.
        I have heard all sorts of reasoning for God and none are evidence, just theories or feelings people have inside. Though compelling to many, I am no longer convinced…and I was for nearly 40 years. That’s saying a lot. To give up all I ever knew was not easy, but I didn’t have any logical reason to continue. A god would know I was willing and that I tried and tried. That god had every opportunity to step in and clear things up. But it never happened.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I just read your “this is about me not you” plus your feedback from my comments. I am confident you have critically analyzed your position and desire to know the truth. I commend you for your endeavors.

        I left pastoral ministry 4 years ago because my evolving convictions no longer corresponded to the doctrinal statement of that church. I was asked to kindly resign from my full-time job as a minister, which is something I deeply enjoyed doing.

        Because I am a non-conformist and desire to know the truth, even if it leads to heretical positions, I knew full-time ministry was not a safe option for my family. I have to make my income somehow and I will not serve Micah for ten shekels and a shirt just to “play pastor” so I can receive a nice salary from the congregation. My conscience won’t allow it.

        So, I chose to pursue medicine instead. I knew this was a more objective route and I wouldn’t lose my job just because my views were slightly aberrant from the group. At least in medicine, while there are some gray areas, most of it is black and white. The dosage must be exact. There is no philosophical debate there.

        I will be starting medical school in the fall of this year. So why am I telling you all of this? To be honest, I have been deeply disappointed by the church. And it wasn’t necessarily because I felt my views were more correct than theirs, but the way I was treated. My Muslim, Hindu, and atheist friends (who I built a relationship with through evangelism) were ironically the only one’s who maintained their relationship with me. Despite my worldview difference, they were more concerned for me. This just baffled me.

        Anyways, I appreciate your convictions even if they are different from mine. I know you will continue to remain open and unbiased. For now, continue to grow and learn as you have, and always be critical of every position, whether it’s Alvin Plantinga and C.S. Lewis on the Christian side or Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett on the atheist side.

        One thing is for sure, there needs to be more articulate people on both the theist and atheist sides. For instance, I watched a youtube debate a few days ago on the existence of God. Professor Dave Explains vs. Dr. Dave Hovind and it was filled with ad hominen attacks the entire time. The debate was really egregious. Hopefully the conversations get better in the future. Godspeed to you my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Chaddamitz, so sorry for your painful experience in the church. Prayers and every encouragement for your new career direction. Also, perhaps you might consider affiliating with one of the mainline denominations where diversity of views are more accepted. This is a plug for the ELCA or TEC. 🙂

    Seriously, I think as Christians we need to care for one another unconditionally and find our unity in Christ despite other differences. But, we’re only human and fall short of this, for sure.

    Again, best wishes to you. I found your responses insightful and interesting.

    Like

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