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Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?Why is religion such a...

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hsf93 | Student, Undergraduate

Posted June 16, 2010 at 4:01 AM via web

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Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 16, 2010 at 4:18 AM (Answer #2)

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You mean besides the threats or promises of eternal damnation or paradise?

Kidding.  But those can obviously be pretty big motivators if the person being instructed believes in them and thinks they are real.  Given that so many people get their introduction to religion in their families, this idea can also be very powerful.

Another reason is simply that in many places it is part of the culture that people grow up with and in and around.  No matter what, if there are societal and community expectations about certain actions, there will be a strong influence on how people decide to act.

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ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:05 AM (Answer #3)

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Historically, religion has been a very powerful force in shaping people's behavior because of the church's power.  People  were judged based on their behavior and how it compared to the church's doctrines.  People who were seen as living outside the church's belief systems were charged with crimes and sometimes punished severely. 

Religion has also shaped people's actions because it teaches a set of morals that many people live by. When a family goes to church these morals are taught and emphasised as the way to salvation.  Salvation is a hugh incentive. 

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:09 AM (Answer #4)

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I think that one very powerful motivator for people is the afterlife. People do not want to think that when they die it is all over. For example, it is nice to believe that there is a wonderful "kingdom" waiting for us when we die. People who are unjust do not get to go to this "kingdom" when they die, but instead go somewhere like "hell".

I think that every religion has some sort of guidelines that they are supposed to abide by. The way that people were raised has a great deal to do with this. It also has a lot to do with culture like the previous responder said.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 16, 2010 at 8:06 AM (Answer #5)

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The previous thoughts were quite accurate.  I would like to bring forth the idea that religious worship is one of the most intense convictions one can possess.  There is little in way of negotiation on it and this purity from a spiritual standpoint helps to shape people's actions and galvanize them into action.  From a larger standpoint, the belief in a transcendent being or power of divinity is a very compelling notion.  The idea of something being totalizing, something transcendent, something infallible in a world that is contingent, incoherent, and mutable helps to move people to acting in a way that seeks to bring them closer to this ideal.  It is in this way where religion is a powerful force in shaping people's action and in providing meaning to these actions.

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lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM (Answer #6)

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Religion acts as a unifying and dividing force in communities. Take, for example, the early American Puritan settlers. The Puritan religion flourished in early America when the settlers first arrived. It was a restrictive religion that, in some ways, made little sense. For instance, the focus on predestination (it has already been decided whether or not you are going to heaven and there is nothing you can do about it) made it a religion that could easily be questioned - why do good deeds if your fate is already determined? However, the religion acted as a unifying force for the people when they arrived on a strange land with no home, no shelter, no food, and no one to cling to but each other. As the colonists prospered, however, they began to question the faith. Outside influences, such as the less restrictive Christian religions of newer European settlers, drew them away from Puritanism. They no longer needed the bond of the church. The Salem Witch Trials brought them back to the fold out of fear of evil witches, but again this was only for a brief period of time. During that time, however, the people's identities were shaped by their fear of evil. They acted in a sort of group think mentality against those who were believed to be witches.

Now, take that and apply it to today. Look at the gay marriage debate, for example. Those who oppose same sex marriage cite their religion as a primary reason, and they act out, sometimes, against homosexuals because of what they believe the church is telling them. Unfortunately, many of them don;t really know what the Bible says except through the eyes of their ministers. Similarly, the bombing of abortion clinics comes to mind. Those who do this often cite the church's attitudes against murder as a defense for their actions. In some ways, this is a way to escape personal responsibility, but they feel a safety and security in their faith and they feel they are acting accordingly.

Terrorism is another example today. The Jihad feel that they are acting in response to the requirements of their faith. They are killing for their god (the crusaders did this as well) and that makes it "right" in their eyes. Those individuals who grow up in a religious environment, particularly if the environment is radical, know nothing other than that from an early age. They are socialized into a set of beliefs. In a sense, religion brainwashes them against other possible options and informs their decisions based on a codified notion of "right" and "wrong" that allows for no deviation from that which they have been taught.

 

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 17, 2010 at 11:38 AM (Answer #7)

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Because people believe within religion lies absolute truths.  It's comforting to believe that you "know" the answers to life and how we should live it, and it tends to make us more resistant to people who challenge the belief system we've accepted.  It even makes people more aggressive in proselytizing their own beliefs towards others in hopes of converting them.  Humans want others to know the "truth" they've discovered also.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 17, 2010 at 3:26 PM (Answer #8)

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Because people believe within religion lies absolute truths.  It's comforting to believe that you "know" the answers to life and how we should live it, and it tends to make us more resistant to people who challenge the belief system we've accepted.  It even makes people more aggressive in proselytizing their own beliefs towards others in hopes of converting them.  Humans want others to know the "truth" they've discovered also.

I agree.  It is difficult to be good for the sake of being good, or selfless just because - or giving for the betterment of a society that may or may not be grateful.  It is tiresome - and as anyone who has been married for a while can tell you - impossible to do endlessly without return.  Religion provides a reason -usually a God of some sort- to be good... an audience who purportedly notices and cares.  Religion most often also provides forgiveness when we do screw up - which is another necessity for moving on in a life that is impossible to live flawlessly.

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 10:06 PM (Answer #9)

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Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

  It does because most people believe in some sort of higher being that they have to answer to for their actions in this life.  Therefore, it flavors their actions, decisions, thoughts, and words.  In our planet's history, nations have been born and died, and wars have been fought in the name of religion!

Religion should be a personal, sacred thing but it's evolved into a weapon of power down through the ages.  Evil is clouded or cloaked behind its auspices, making its usage almost a mockery at times.  But, much good has been accomplished by believers of various religions. 

Ive heard it said that most wars down through the ages have been fought for only four different things:  money, power, land, and religion.  That being the case, it's easy to see it's no small subject. 

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lynn30k | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted June 18, 2010 at 5:42 AM (Answer #10)

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Interesting posts. It is funny, people who are religious will tell you that religion brings good to the world, and I think on a purely personal level, it can. Organized religion is another matter. It becomes corrupted by money and power, like a lot of other organizations. My school was picketed by the Westboro Baptist "Church" this year, and as I told my principal, I wouldn't want to work in a place they found acceptable. Time to end tax-exempt status for these jokers.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher

Posted June 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM (Answer #11)

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One word... Fear.

Fear of not being in control of your mad, cruel, random environment.

  • fear of death
  • fear of sickness
  • fear of comets
  • fear of lightening
  • fear of famine
  • fear of things that go bump in the night
  • fear of plague
  • fear of curses
  • fear of erectile failure
  • fear of madness
  • fear of devils and evil spirits
  • fear of unknown lands
  • fear of ghosts
  • fear of fire
  • fear of the dark
  • fear of winter
  • fear of monsters
  • fear of 'signs and portents'
  • fear of almost everything

In days gone by, nothing made sense. There was no science or technology. There were no genuine explanations for anything. And in every society around the globe, an ecclesiastical class developed who provided society with 'all the answers in this world and the next'. This brought them great power and wealth and authority. And their precious Mumbo-Jumbo was handed down from priest to priest, mullah to mullah, witch-doctor to witch- doctor, through the millenia, yea verily unto the present day.

But, one day 500 years ago, a Polish scientist looked up from his scribblings and said, "Wow! Look! I can prove the Earth goes round the Sun." Since then, the power of religion to shape people's lives has been eroding, and the rate of erosion is accelerating.

In a nutshell... God is dead. Long live science.  :-)

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 26, 2010 at 12:07 PM (Answer #12)

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I have to say it would be good to focus on some of the ways that religion is a positive powerful force rather than just merely the negatives! Religion gives a belief system that explains to mankind his or her place in the world and how he or she fits in. It can provide individuals with an amazing peace and confidence in the face of persecution or oppression, and give meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives.

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sea-treasure | Student, Undergraduate

Posted June 28, 2010 at 4:05 AM (Answer #13)

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Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

Why is religion such a powerful force in shaping peoples actions?

Humans find themselves as just a very small thing in a very big world. So they tried to find that great power which created the whole world. They started to interpret natural phenomena in a superstitious way. Yet, when there are revealed religions people find in it acceptable interpretation of all what happens around them and began to believe in them completely as a way to show gratitude to God for his great blessings They follow its instruction till it became the rules which they should follow as a spiritual motivate.

 

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