#1

I said to myself about two years ago that I wouldn’t write here anymore because I had moved over to an ‘official’ blog but I haven’t written very much in the last three months, partly because I realize what I have to say isn’t that interesting, partly because I realize that my blog posts have had a derisive, preachy tone to them which I want to shake off, and partly because I just haven’t felt the need to, not a constant urge to made my opinions to be known anymore.

So here I return here, and this time just to jut down some thoughts that have been bothering me.

Table of Content

  1. charisma, body language, being you
  2. organized religion

I.

I’ve experienced over the last year a change from experiencing the world through my own eyes, my own persona, and being able to experience the world through the eyes of others, and even to observe myself through the eyes of others.

I think it starts simply from being older, having more repeated life experiences, and you start to observe patterns that you can no longer ignore,

  • concerning the way people perceive you (as a first impression and over time),
  • how relationships between you and strangers develop (same as above)
  • how this perception changes when different demographics are concerned (age, gender, ethnicity, hometown)

On a personal level, it allows you to better know yourself. You know what cliche, stereotype you occupy in society, in your life, in the lives of others. Honestly, all relationships in your life are about give and take. The relationship exists because both sides there is something to be gained from the other. And by understanding the cliche you exist to occupy, it better allows you to exploit that stereotype, informs you about what you need to exploit to provide better value. I think you stand to gain more if you better understand your value proposition, if you understand your added value in the world (only if you like who you are).

As a scientist, it makes you realize many more of the biases that people and cultures have in general eg. towards attractive women, towards tall men, towards black people, or stereotypes as you might want to call them. I think our opinions of people form way faster than we think we do. “I don’t like the look of him” and from that you can very simply conclude that appearances I argue are heavily outweigh the other factors. It’s not all about what’s inside. Your kindergarten teachers tell you the opposite to make you feel better. But in today’s world, people favor those who look better. I think it allows you to understand the pressure of why a lot of people feel the pressure for plastic surgery. We like to use charisma in our discussion of people. Definition : a special magnetic charm or appeal (Merriam Webster). We would like to think that what attracts us differs between all of us but I think we all have a very good similar conception of what a charismatic person would be. At the very least, he/she would be loud, confident, funny. It’s not as personal as we think it is.

One of the ways that I’ve been able to observe other people’s reaction to stimuli is through observing facial expressions and clothing. Facial expressions are amazingly frightening and wonderful. Some of the rationalists like to think that they are logical automotons but facial expressions give so much away. We as humans living in this society have been trained so so so so well to pick out, identify facial expressions. It takes us seconds to do this and we don’t think very much about this process at all. But this is why sarcasm is hard to detect over the phone simply because facial expression gives away so much more information. (As an aside, I honestly don’t know how people talking about their feelings through text or chat-based mediums. I think you lose out on so much in that conversation as both the teller and the listener. As a listener, there are all these subtleties that you can’t pick out. And I think as a teller, those facial expressions give you a better way of identifying those feelings as well.) Clothing too, I’ve realized especially in developed countries (particularly in Asia for some reason), where it becomes a status symbol and a medium of expression rather than a necessity, provides you with tremendous insight into the way a person wants to be perceived by the outside world.

Rather than focus solely on a person’s words, you ‘read’ someone by taking into account these three things, person’s appearance, person’s facial expression and person’s words. Ultimately, the most important piece of the puzzle is the words, which I see as manifestations of their thoughts and beliefs. But this must be supported by the facial expression and the appearance which I see to be the evidence supporting the words. But ‘reading’ someone is a tricky business. We all like to think we’re always right (including myself) but clearly, we’re not. So yes, observe yourself from the third person, compare the way you are treated compared to others by strangers and close friends alike, maybe you will learn something new about yourself.

II.

Maybe this will come back to bite me in the arse one day if I do actually convert and become a Christian and a later point in life. But here are a few reasons why I have a lot of beef with the western organized religion grouped under the umbrella of Christianity.

To preface it, I want to indicate how specifically suited Christianity is for its sustainable dissemination by humans in our society by taking advantage of human psychology. 

The features

  • Division between believers and non-believers : In the Christian tradition at least, believers have a duty to preach to the non-believers. In the way it is framed in the literature, non-believers are going to hell so believers have to ‘save’ the non-believers by converting them. If there is one believer in a large community, he/she might even feel more emboldened by this daunting task because he/she sees himself as the savior of these people.
  • Christianity’s draw to people in less fortunate circumstances. I remember this from ‘Things Fall Apart’. In the book, Christian missionaries started arriving in the village where the story takes place. “Most of the other converts, Obierika finds, have been efulefu, men who hold no status and who are generally ignored by the clan.” (SparkNotes Chapter 16 Summary). When the message of the Bible is that ‘God loves you no matter what’, it becomes immensely attractive for people who have no status and respect in the society they belong in. This is I reckon why Christianity was particularly popular among the slaves in the pre-civil war era, why Christianity is popular among the incarcerated (Source 1), and why you also find ardent believers among the homeless, drug addict crowd (Source 2)
  • Very strong community focus. One of the best things about joining an organized religion is joining the community. One of the good things about the church community at least what i have observed is that they are very welcoming of strangers. In my church at least, there was a point in our sermon where the pastor would ask first time visitors to raise their hands and ushers were asked to talk to them after the service. An incredibly effective way to make strangers feel more comfortable towards the people and subsequently the religious ideas.
  • Along with the first two features mentioned above, maybe you can see now how easy it is for a stranger to a Christianity to feel welcomed by his ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who he/she thinks are inspired by their love of God and how easy then it becomes to transfer the idea that ‘God loves everyone, including you and now you must spread the love to everyone else.’
  • Furthermore, people and friends leave and die but the community itself never dies. There will always be fresh blood, fresh believers joining the community. 

There is yet another difficulty when one discusses anything connected with the Vatican. Time there is not measured according to our accepted forms. While we think in days usually, in months not always, in years very seldom, and in generations nearly never, the Vatican thinks in centuries ordinarily, in generations fairly often, in years only under the pressure of unusual circumstances, in shorter periods never. It is this difference in the measurement of time which makes the Vatican such a difficult subject for the secular political investigator. There is no time limit, in the usually accepted sense, for the Vatican’s political thought. At least it is not limited by a lifetime.  “Impressions Of The Vatican” by Vladimir Poliakoff (Source 3)

 

  • What more about this community is that precisely because it’s a religious community, you are guaranteed that if you believe in the religion, you will have similar values as other people in the community. Given this, people are a lot more willing to discuss deeply personal issues with other members of this community, which then forms the basis for stronger relationships.

The above features are the ones that I think make Christianity as a group/community a particularly well-suited religious practice for dissemination in today’s world. Note that the only pieces of religious dogma that I have taken and used here is that ‘God loves you no matter what’ and your duty as a Christian to save other non-believers by spreading the gospel, which explains my beef with Christianity. People want to think that Christianity is popular is because the set of values it espouses are good and beneficial. But really it’s because of the way it is practiced makes it incredibly effective. And obviously, what I think we ought to focus on are the ideals themselves.

So if we are to replace the role of religion in our society, we need to create a community/support network of people with similar ideals.

  I asked him if he missed the feeling of having a grounding community after leaving his church, because the place where I think religion adds the most value (I don’t mean to talk about it in a mercenary manner, just borrowing the language for the sake of explication) is its ability to create a space for one to build a consistent values-based practice and to then consistently check in with the people around you on how you’re doing on those value indicators. – JH (Source 4)

 

Sources

  1. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/16/what-percentage-of-prisoners-are-atheists-its-a-lot-smaller-than-we-ever-imagined/
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/24/atheism-richard-dawkins-challenge-beliefs-homeless
  3. http://www.reddit.com/r/TrueReddit/comments/18di7c/in_picking_successor_vatican_must_decide_whats/c8dt9rd
  4. http://fellowvoyagers.tumblr.com/post/90306233882/im-interested-in-thinking-a-little-more-about
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