This is cohesion?
I’m reading Nicholas Wade’s book The Faith Instinct. The core of his claim is that religion is part of human nature and that it has evolved because it helps people survive because it fosters group cohesion. He argues that belief in supernatural agents who are watching and will punish wrong-doing and cheating is a powerful way to enforce group norms and that this is very useful for survival, especially in primitive societies without secular mechanisms for law enforcement.
Not wholly new, and not wholly mad. But – I have to wonder. CNN last night was showing UN trucks in Porte-au-Prince trying to distribute food, and what I kept seeing was a lot of men pushing each other and shoving their way to the front and grabbing for the food. ‘No women,’ I kept saying; ‘no women, no women; it’s all men; it’s all pushing and grabbing and men, there are no women. Maybe the men are taking the food back to women and children…’ But the reporters said they weren’t. The reporters said the men were pushing everyone aside and grabbing the food, and children and women were getting nothing. They said it was not a good situation.
Okay. We keep hearing how extremely religious Haiti is – and how crap its infrastructure is, so it must be badly in need of these watchful supernatural agents who motivate people to do the right thing. Okay – then why are the men pushing aside everybody who’s less strong than they are, and grabbing all the food they can grab? What kind of cohesion has religion bestowed on Haiti if that’s how things are? I can’t help wondering.