Why do people gather together to pray?
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11-06-2012, 11:06 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(11-06-2012 02:52 PM)cufflink Wrote:  Speaking of suggestion, there are interesting connections between religion and hypnosis. In both, the experience is enhanced in a group. It’s well known that stage hypnotists can get their volunteers to experience things and act in ways that are much harder to bring about without the social pressure exerted by the group.
This is super interesting. It makes me want to look into the neurological side of social pressure with group hypnosis more and what is actually happening. Mob mentality is very interesting with this, too. It seems (or is) so primal.
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12-06-2012, 10:25 AM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Hey, Cufflink.

I don't buy the less silly thing. Rtiuals evolve. Saying people feel silly doing them is like saying a platypus feels silly for having a bill. Why would it? It just developed that way.

The notion that all ritual is silly is a heavilly culturally biased one. It comes from the modern too cool for school mentality.

You and I might feel silly donning war paint and dancing around with bells on our ankles to drums and chanting, but for the Mohawk that live right across the water from me it is a powerfully important part of their culture.

The notion that Atheists don't believe anything, frankly, is getting old. Granted, Atheism makes no positive claims, but Atheists themselves have beliefs. If they didn't they'd be magically exempt somehow from memetics; ie, a wizard did it. Atheists are members of societies and as such they have beliefs and follow rituals. Even online posting is riddled with normative behaviour and ritual.

Ritual always has and always will be an important part of cultural interaction. Even secular institutions like the army are riddled with them.

If one looks at band tribes, ancient and extant, then one sees a culture in which ritual is an integrated part of making a living. This is simply because the group makes their living together. Every day. When we look at larger hierarchical socieites, it is far more fragmented. Alienation is not a factor in egalitarian societies, only hierarchical ones. There are millions of Canadians I'll never meet. There are millions, sometimes billions of members of one's religion that one will never meet. So it becomes important to set aside a day to bring people together, who otherwise never see each other, to engage in ritual to remind the members of the immediate community of their bonds to one another and their responsibilities to one another, but also, because it's relatively standardised, it binds the larger whole together. A Lutheran can go to Germany and, language aside, can be welcomed and feel welcomed into the community in a day.

Sorry, I got distracted by something and lost my train of thought. I'm sure I had something else to say but it's gone now.

So to answer your question, why do they get together to "pray", I'd say that the pray part of it is not the most important bit. Getting together and engaging in ritual is standard for humans. The nature of the ritual is determined by evolution.

In terms of the more extreme rituals, well, that's just a product of evolution. While the rituals observed at the TTA might be remarkably different than the rituals at a Pentecostal church which might be remarkably different that the rituals at a high school pep rally, they're all just rituals.

Quote:I’m no expert on prayer, but part of its purpose is surely an attempt to
connect to something outside oneself and have an experience of being
close to God. It seems that for many people, the group enhances that
kind of experience.

For sure. It's known that being a part of something larger than one's self is part of a happy life. I'll let Seligman explain it.





Oh, one last thing, I think the average minister is probably about as skilled at group hypnosis as the average undergraduate professor Cool

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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12-06-2012, 10:41 AM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2012 12:00 PM by cufflink.)
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
(11-06-2012 11:06 PM)LadyJane Wrote:  
(11-06-2012 02:52 PM)cufflink Wrote:  Speaking of suggestion, there are interesting connections between religion and hypnosis. In both, the experience is enhanced in a group. It’s well known that stage hypnotists can get their volunteers to experience things and act in ways that are much harder to bring about without the social pressure exerted by the group.
This is super interesting. It makes me want to look into the neurological side of social pressure with group hypnosis more and what is actually happening. Mob mentality is very interesting with this, too. It seems (or is) so primal.

The more I study hypnosis, the clearer it becomes that no one really understands what's going on with it. It's the quintessential blind-men-describing-an-elephant story: people look at different aspects of hypnosis and try to account for them, but no one has the complete picture. And even when the experts look at the same phenomena, they don't agreement about what's behind them. (The Wikipedia article describes some of the debate, in particular the "state vs. non-state" controversy.) A few things are clear, though. People vary in their responsiveness to hypnosis: A breakdown I often see is that 20% of the population is non- or minimally responsive, 60% moderately responsive, and the remaining 20%--the so-called "somnambulists"--extremely responsive. Response is very stable over time, and depends much more on the innate capacity of the subject than on the skills of the hypnotist. With the most responsive subjects, amazing things are possible, including amnesia, the elimination of pain, and positive and negative hallucinations. For those people, hypnosis is a powerful tool--and like all tools it can abused by incompetent or malevolent operators. The "party line" reassurance that hypnotized people can't be coerced to do anything contrary to their morality is probably wishful thinking. (This video featuring the well-known British hypnotist/entertainer--and atheist--Derren Brown is rather disturbing.)

Getting back to the relationship between hypnosis and religion, it was interesting to me to discover that a number of media evangelists started out as hypnotists. Probably the best known is the right-wing, misogynistic sleazeball Roy Masters (the Talk page is more informative than the actual article). But I also recall watching a local televangelist years ago, someone who had mentioned he had been a stage hypnotist, use blatant hypnotic techniques over the air. He worked the viewers up into an appropriate state of frenzy, then actually said, "When I count to three and snap my fingers, you will call the ministry and phone in a love gift!" I have no doubt they immediately received some generous contributions.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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12-06-2012, 11:17 AM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2012 01:07 PM by cufflink.)
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Hey Matt,

I'm the last person to say that all ritual is silly. Ritual can add beauty and dignity to life; symbolism is meaningful. I tried to express that months ago in this post, where I talked about a religious ritual that was very meaningful to me at a difficult time in my life.

My point here was that from an outside perspective, some ritual appears silly; the reason it doesn't appear that way from the inside is due to group consensus.

As for the average minister, priest, rabbi, imam not being skilled at hypnosis, it depends a lot on the kind of religious service we're talking about. Charismatic religious leaders who can orchestrate a service so it builds and builds and whip up a congregation until they're in a frenzy are using hypnotic techniques without knowing they're doing so. Then again, a lot of preachers put you to sleep very effectively, in which sense they're good hypnotists. Big Grin

Thanks for the Seligman video. Haven't watched it yet, but I will.

ETA: Just wanted to add that I thought this--

Ghost Wrote:So to answer your question, why do they get together to "pray", I'd say that the pray part of it is not the most important bit. Getting together and engaging in ritual is standard for humans.

--was a good point.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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12-06-2012, 08:30 PM
RE: Why do people gather together to pray?
Hey, Cufflink.

Word.

Quote:My point here was that from an outside perspective, some ritual appears silly; the reason it doesn't appear that way from the inside is due to group consensus.

Agreed. So long as it's understood that the source of the "that's silly" reaction is cultural rather than objective; ie, it comes from the exact same type of consensus.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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