Incentives, Fear, and Organized Mindrot

September 29, 2008 at 4:55 pm (Wrongs of the World) (, , , , , )

The most painful part of my daily routine is my laziness to do the things that I should do, like go to class and do assignments and prepare for tests. I have no incentives to do these things, nor any fears of not doing these things, but I still do, however, accomplish them, most of the time. While not doing them will create problems with my tuition, I do not consider this when the question of being diligent or slacking off comes up. Many parents, however, egg their children on with fears (You’ll be working at McDonalds for the rest of you life!) or with incentives (Do your homework and you can play with your friends!).

This is okay, but only because children, until some uncertain age, are not self aware. They cannot draw those extended conclusions themselves (that studying should eventually lead to a larger salary and better quality of life), nor can they fully comprehend these conclusions even if parents tried their hardest to explain. So incentives and instilled fears are an acceptable substitute for understanding and logic, for children.

What is NOT acceptable is when these children grow up and are still self-unaware! Adults who need to be scared by Hell or induced with Heaven just to be moral and ethical people most certainly skipped a necessary step in their adaptation to adulthood.

I run a Roleplaying Academy at RPGFO, and a few months back I abolished the old “class” system for a new tutoring based system. Graduation from the old classes was “rewarded” with a medal that appeared beneath the avatar on every one of that user’s posts on the forum. My new system did not, because there were no distinct classes and because I did not feel that learning required any more sugar on top. Well, just recently I got a very determined, perhaps socially challenged member coming out and saying that he wanted those old and no longer attainable medals, and simply would not accept that the medals were abolished in part because knowledge is the greatest reward for learning (and that public flaunting thereof is socially stupid).

Similarly, it seems that the greatest reward for being a good/ethical person is knowing that you either contributed to making the world a better place or that you helped slow the worsening of the world. If you want to be self-centric, then your good deeds hopefully inspired more good deeds from others in a chain-reaction of goodness, which will eventually ripple back to you (and make your life better). The incentive of a deity’s favor (or the fear of a deity’s disfavor) based on the presence or lack of ethics in a person’s daily life seem like childish sugar coating to me. And you know what too much sugar leads to, right? Rotten teeth. By indoctrinating people into religion before their mental development can take hold, organized religions are eliminating the need for asking questions and finding answers: the religion becomes a necessary crutch that dictates that individual’s actions and prevents that individual from forming their own opinions.

Incentives and instilled fears rot the mind just as much as sugary treats rot the teeth. Induced and fearful individuals then depend on, and often expect, incentives in other facets of their lives, meaning that the person is willing to give only when he/she gets something back as well (or give to cancel out something they don’t want to get, like hell for all eternity). Why not be unimpeded by incentives and be willing to give just for the good of it? Increase the net goodness without looking for personal benefits? Incentives make me sad on the inside. Dropping off religion and leaving just the doing good thing is called humanism… which needs no indoctrination from birth, has no set of laws or code of conduct, makes no promises of heaven nor any threats of hell, and has a huge support network of just about anyone and everyone who bothers with websites like Richard Dawkins Forums (and there are a LOT of us that do)! If the point of organized religion is to promote ethics (read: humanism) then simply learning about humanism is a better method of getting that point across. If organized religion has any other agenda, then that agenda is most certainly NOT within the bounds of an ethical organization. Organized religion is obsolete in our day and age, and we would all do better without incentives and instilled fears, at least in adulthood. After all, we eventually give up the notion that Santa Clause, Saint Nicholas, Ded Moroz, and others are just our father dressed up in a funky coat with a stick or strap on beard acting to demonstrate a kid’s story. So why do so many people keep believing in God and Satan and all that, well after they have graduated from childhood?

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1 Comment

  1. Strike that, Reverse it! « Thick with Issues said,

    […] things without gods, what is the benefit of believing in gods at all? I have already discounted the promise of an afterlife, I have discounted the necessity of religion for morality, and just now I have discounted the […]

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