Sunday, November 29, 2009

The In Crowd. I'm not part of it. (Neither are you.)

This week's religion/spirituality topic is going to be tolerance. Rather, it is about how we're so intolerant of others: other religions, other practitioners of our own faith, and other people in general. Today, I'd like to start off by discussing why and how this intolerance occurs, and a possible remedy. This came from my senior thesis. Thoughts on the article should go to IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com. There are references in this article that are cited in my study, and if you'd like them I can pass them along for your research. I understand that the inclusion of these sources can make it a bit odd to read, as it is segmented from various parts of a thesis paper, but I hope you'll forgive that and look at the general content.


As previously mentioned in the study by Patterson from 2007, it seems that intolerances are “culturally transmitted.” Our culture is made up of all human influences: teachers, religious leaders, those in the media, friends, co-workers, family, et cetera. However, intolerance can be tempered with education. While many studies find various amounts of hate crimes committed for various reasons, one particular study done by Thomas Pettigrew of the University of California and Linda Tropp of Boston College found evidence to support a “contact hypothesis.” The basic idea behind the hypothesis is that if a person makes contact with individuals of an “outgroup, you're less likely to individuate them, to pay attention to individual characteristics, than when you meet members of your ingroup,” (Pettigrew, Tropp, 2001)


The problem with education is that it is “fostered by the parents” (Siegel, Welsh, and Senna, 2006 p. 275). That is to say that the values of the parents are passed on to their children. Also, in the same article, it is shown that “adolescents derive much of their identity from what happens to them in school,” (p. 275).


Since I have mentioned the terms in-group and out-group, they need to be defined. These are the academic definitions of such terms as defined for this research article.

Ingroup: members of a social group that feel superior to other social groups; mostly part of a majority group.

Outgroup: social group towards which an individual feels contempt, opposition, or a desire to compete.

Unlike grammar or math, there are no set rules to how one learns tolerance. Nobody has ever tried to figure out the best way to teach many children tolerance and responsibility in a classroom setting. It is known, though, that people in general learn tolerance and responsibility for themselves when constantly exposed to the ideas of equality, and the actual “outgroups” themselves (Pettigrew, Tropp, 2001). This is due to the fact that studies show that if children are exposed to what they are not used to, and taught that it is completely acceptable, then they will be far less likely to adopt intolerant biases and commit bias-based crimes later in life.  



Basically, you are far less likely to be intolerant of a group you've not had first-hand, positive, constant contact with. Since there are an enormous number of groups, sub-groups, and niches that we've not come in contact with, it is only natural that we would have a certain amount of intolerance of out-groups. 


To bring it back to a pagan perspective: you might be part of the out-group of paganism, but that doesn't mean you're not part of an in-group. The in-group of paganism is, what I like to call, the 'love and light' group. This group accepts everyone and everything, whether this person claims to be the reincarnation of Harry Potter or a genuine fae-turned-human fresh from the High Fairy Court. (I've had conversations with people claiming both. I was nauseous by the end and eyeing the exits with fervor.) This in-group HATES when someone calls one of the in-group out on their fantastical claims, making the questioner a part of the pagan out-group. I have no problem being part of this particular out-group, however. And, if you're a fan of this blog, you're part of it, too. Though, I think we're quickly becoming the in-group. The key here is to impose honesty, non-judgmental discussion, sound research, and CONTACT between the two groups. This will create a unified Pagan religion. Though we may not all practice the exact same thing, we will at least not fight amongst one another about who gets to wear the mantle of Pagan.


But, I might be wrong. Send me your thoughts on the matter.


Love and Lyte,


Fire Lyte

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