The Problem with Blind Obedience…and what of Religion?

A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.

Facts of recent history and observation in daily life suggest that for many people obedience may be a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed, a prepotent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct.

The German Officer Corp were brought up in the most rigorous code of obedience in the name of obedience they were party to, and assisted in, the most wicked large scale actions in the history of the world. The Nazi extermination of European Jews is the most extreme instance of abhorrent immoral acts carried out by thousands of people in the name of obedience.

These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only have been carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of people obeyed orders.

The person who, with inner conviction, loathes stealing, killing, and assault may find himself performing these acts with relative ease when commanded by authority. Behaviour that is unthinkable in an individual who is acting on his own may be executed without hesitation when carried out under orders.

The essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another persons wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.

….and what of religion?

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Muslim protesters take part in a demonstration outside the Danish embassy in London, Friday Feb. 3, 2006. Hundreds of people protested against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 

 

 

 

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source: Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo (ISBN: 9781905177325)