I was reading today about the Milgram experiment.
The experiment basically showing people’s obedience to authority figures even when they realize something is wrong. They were asked to do things that went against their personal conscience, and they wanted to measure the individual’s willingness to obey the authority figure. They were asked to do things for the ‘overall good’ even at the expense of others.
This experiment has been done more than once, and the results did surprise me. On average 65% of participates did finish the experiment even with knowing they were harming another person. If you read anything about these types of experiments the ‘harmed’ person was an actor. The people doing the ‘harm’ didn’t know this until they experiment was complete.
I think most of us would predict that society, as a whole wouldn’t go as far as these people did. I think most of us if we were not familiar with these experiments would think if you can’t stop yourself YOU must be some type of monster! I will admit before I knew about this experiment, and as I watched the videos online? I thought the same thing as most of us would – no way would I do that! If you look at the percentage what does show about human behavior? I think it reveals things about us as humans that we may not have realized.
Here is a video series on the Milgram Experiments.
It reminds me of peer pressure in a way. It shows there are situational forces that have a much greater impact on our behavior than most people recognize. It also shows me that people will do evil things if the personal responsibility is taken away. I will say not everyone took pleasure in the act, but continued doing it anyway, I found that to be oddly comforting, and sad at the same time.
I remember doing stupid things in my life where I didn’t open my mouth when I KNEW I should have! I questioned if I was missing something, and everyone else saw it but me. Come to find out I was right, and if I had been brave enough? It would have saved a lot of grief. I guess that makes me that bad person doesn’t it? Sigh!
I believe I remember reading the original experiment was trying to learn WHY people in Germany would go along with all the awful, evil things that were happening there during World War II. How most of them would say, “I was just following orders!” It seems to be a bit more than that.
People today still believe that every German who fought for the Nazis was a demon incarnate, and that no decent person would have done what our troops ultimately did at Abu Ghraib. Meanwhile, systemic abuses of power continue because people refuse to see the value of basic safeguards. This was one lesson about human nature that went largely unlearned.
Pretending that humanity is comprised of angels and demons is just another form of denial that does nothing to protect us from the next holocaust.
In 1974, Milgram more generously noted, "It is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act."
If you look at the church, and see how people willingly allow themselves to be railroaded by doctrine? How they feel certain leaders have more biblical knowledge, and instead of questioning things just feel it must be written in stone?
Under Much Grace as a lecture that she did at the Seneca Falls 2 Evangelical Women's Rights Convention, and she also included a second lecture on this very theme. YES that is what got me thinking! I think Cindy’s presentation helps us think along these lines, and how people seem to willingly just ‘accept’ some things the church says … and we truly shouldn’t.
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