Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

When bullies get money

with 5 comments

They remain, alas, bullies. Read this horror story. I sure don’t want guys like this running the country. The Boy Scout troop story is truly horrifying. What is it with religious groups and pedophilia?

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2012 at 6:51 am

5 Responses

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  1. “What is it with religious groups and pedophilia?”

    I can see why you would ask this, but I think what you are seeing is rather broader in-group behavior (where the hierarchy and other members of the group protect their fellows from “outsiders” even when the fellow member has committed morally transgressive behavior). One could think of the Penn State incident — or the Boy Scouts themselves, or hazing problems in fraternities or bands or corruption cover ups in police forces. When the group identity is very strong among the members, it may be seen, albeit falsely, as self-protective. I know that you are usually careful about conclusions you draw from mere correlative data, let alone anecdotal correlative data. This may be another arena in which you need to apply that careful logic.


    19 February 2012 at 8:01 am

  2. Good point. You’re right: the issue is not religious groups but groups that make a strong division between “insiders” (members of the group) and “outsiders” (everyone else). Any tightly knit group that (in effect) breaks off relations with society at large is at risk of drifting into excessive misbehavior toward the powerless. “Excessive misbehavior” covers a broad range, including sexual misbehavior but also various types of violence and prosecution, and it’s directed always at the powerless for the obvious reason that those who have any power use it to resist. We see it in the Amish, for example—another religious group, but as you point out, the issue is not the religion but the withdrawal from the eyes and norms of society at large. The Nazis are an example of where an entire society becomes a tightly knit group (a lot of energy was put into building the cult: the Hitlerjugend, for example, but also the monster rallies, the costumes, and so on: all with an eye to creating an in-group, and they followed through with the excessive misbehavior, which tends to bind the groups even more tightly once they actually cross the psychological Rubicon and harm other people. Another secular example: criminal gangs such as the Mafia and street gangs who require some excessive misbehavior as a condition of joining the in-group. The latter groups, though, lack the complete psychological immersion that some groups offer—that is, street gang members and Mafia members move through regular society, but in the case of the Amish and the Nazis, almost all of their daily lives are spent immersed in the group.

    In this case, Idaho and those preying on the Boy Scouts had enough power and cohesion and support within the group (as well as power over some outsiders) that they succeeded in creating the kind of group we’re discussing—and in the Catholic hierarchy, the problem wasn’t the religion but the isolation of the group from social norms and the power to ignore secular law.


    19 February 2012 at 10:30 am

  3. I would add, BTW, that religious groups are at special risk, especially those that have turned against the society (and its values) in which they find themselves. Such groups, rejecting the mores and morals of society at large, voluntarily become isolated, and since religion touches so many aspects of one’s life, the adherents quickly are quite isolated, with all the risks that entails. Add to the fact that such groups often have a strong and charismatic leader (think of Jim Jones or any of the LDS polygamy groups or the group in Waco TX), you see that are in a high-risk situation.


    19 February 2012 at 11:08 am

  4. I don’t think the groups have to be extreme as you suggest to begin exhibiting in-group behaviors. Certainly not to the extent of “breaking off relations with society at large.” Nor do I think forming an identity with a collective larger than the individual self is such a negative as you seem to perceive it — many goods come from forming communal relationships. Indeed, it is the lack of recognition of shared responsibilities in a communal relationship that raises many of the problems I have with the current Republican party. Nor do I agree that religious groups are worse than other human organizations and communities — but that is not surprising as I belong to one. I realize that from your standpoint on religion, you would take them as essentially negative.

    BTW, you say ““Excessive misbehavior” covers a broad range, including sexual misbehavior but also various types of violence and prosecution, and it’s directed always at the powerless for the obvious reason that those who have any power use it to resist. We see it in the Amish, for example”– I haven’t heard much about violence and other misbehavior among the Amish. Care to cite?


    19 February 2012 at 12:33 pm

  5. There’s this recent story and going back a few years there was this report. You can find quite a bit more with Google.

    As soon as a group starts to think “We can settle our own problems, without involving outsiders” I would say serious trouble is not far away.

    The build-up of the Nazi cult is part of the intriguing movie James Cameron’s Expedition: Bismarck.

    I agree in-group behavior starts almost immediately, part and parcel of having a group: if you have a group, some are in it and some are not, and that awareness is where it all begins. But real problems usually involve some withdrawal from society at large. In a city, for example, the job generally (but not always) doesn’t get in-group status because people show up, work together, and then go their separate ways (and to separate groups). Jobs that do develop serious in-group problems tend to be those in which members really themselves as set apart: police, for an obvious example—a group so determined that they can settle things without involving outsiders that they notoriously refuse to cooperate in investigations of wrong-doing within the department.

    Perhaps I’m wrong to thing that religions are particularly prone to this danger, but of course many new religions are automatically removed involuntarily from society at large, by being rejected by the larger society specifically because of their beliefs. So it’s not always so clear who is rejecting whom.


    19 February 2012 at 1:54 pm

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