Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It's the socialization, stupid!

I thought that I would start off the blog with a crucial issue that has an effect on everything this blog will be about - socialization. I showed the Jesus Camp to my first year sociology students. They were appalled and kept talking about "brainwashing". It took some doing to get them to understand the difference between brainwashing and socialization. I'm not sure if they really got it. The documentary is powerful - all the more because we see Ted Haggard before his fall from grace. Those children are being socialized in a particular version of Christianity. Of course, the underlying problem is that if those children are just being socialized into a belief system, then what does it say about every one else's belief system? That these groups of believers believe that there is a war on on religion is understandable, particularly after you see the children dancing in war paint. However ...

The world of many of the defenders in the so-called war on religion is the world of benign religious (or spiritual) socialization. They are often the most reasonable of people who don't understand all the fuss. They think that the world of the Jesus Camp isn't "real" Christianity any more than the the world of Ben Ladin is real Islam. Their Christianity, for example, is the Christianity of the enlightened soul. They believe in god-centric evolution, they are social gospelers, Christian humanists, Christian feminists. One could never confuse them with the evangelical fundamentalists, could one??

However, they also believe that "God" exists and they raise their children with an anthropomorphic, nominally monotheistic god. AND they let their children believe that the Bible is divinely inspired - it contains spiritual god-given truth. These "truths" become embedded into their neural system at a very early age and they are supported by the primary socialization system and the secondary socialization system - whichever community of believers to which they belong. Is it any wonder that the belief in god is not easily eradicated?

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