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Grossly simplifying, as usual, there appear to be two historical types of religious structures, and they correspond roughly to hunter-gatherer v agriculture systems.

One is the pre-science attempts to explain natural phenomena (hunter-gatherers) or what might be called folk lore. It's a kind of bottom-up organization of ways of looking at the world. These ways of looking tend to get formalized within the culture.

The other is a top-down imposition where, unable to provide relief for the wretched lives the system imposed on the mass, a life after death is promised: pay now, live later. This scam tends to wrap itself in ever more desperate ritual.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 10:25:01 AM EST
Protocol and ritual are important - they provide a pleasing illusion of power to the powerless, and an equally pleasing illusion of powerlessness to the powerful.

This is true whether you examine the medieval farming village or the boardroom of the modern corporation.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 01:20:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the recent research on this finds that it's the other way around: Protocol and ritual provide comfort to the powerful, not the powerless. The powerless are more likely than the powerful to abandon rules and ritual if it favors their interests:

How power influences moral thinking.
By Lammers, Joris; Stapel, Diederik A.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 97(2), Aug 2009, 279-289.
Abstract
The authors conducted 5 studies to test the idea that both thinking about and having power affects the way in which people resolve moral dilemmas. It is shown that high power increases the use of rule-based (deontological) moral thinking styles, whereas low power increases reliance on outcome-based (consequentialist) moral thinking. Stated differently, in determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences. For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules, irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects, whereas the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions. The first 3 experiments show that thinking about power increases rule-based thinking and decreases outcome-based thinking in participants' moral decision making. A 4th experiment shows the mediating role of moral orientation in the effect of power on moral decisions. The 5th experiment demonstrates the role of self-interest by showing that the power-moral link is reversed when rule-based decisions threaten participants' own self-interests. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)
by santiago on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 09:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should consider that the powerful have usually made the rules and that the rules benefit them. The chief beneficiaries of an inequitable system are usually among the last to see or acknowledge the inequities of that system. The inequities are much clearer to those on the receiving end.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Apr 20th, 2010 at 12:20:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an interesting study, but I don't think it actually contradicts what I was saying. Specifically:

Much ritual and protocol is focused on making the powerless feel more powerful than they really are. This makes them a lot less likely to rock the boat. At the same time reinforces the comfortable illusion among the powerful that they are simply exercising power by reference to principles, thus (partly) absolving them of the personal responsibility for the consequences of their exercise of power.

Both of these effects (that the illusion of power where none exists would make people more conformist, and that the powerful justify their actions by reference to formal rules and protocol) seem to be reflected in this abstract (with the caveat that I haven't read the full paper).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 20th, 2010 at 06:11:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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