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Total Lack Of Empathy


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I have just completed an oral history project on my former Church. This Church has a worse than average reputation for screwing people big time. It received the honor of being included in Ron Enroth's best seller books, "Churches that Abuse" and "Recovery from Churches that Abuse" So on to my project. (The L.A. Church of Christ) After interviewing a number of people, some still in the Church, some long time out of the Church I think I have identified a pathological symptom of current church members. It is a total lack of empathy for those who have been hurt by their experience. This includes people who were sexually abused by the main minister, people who lost their careers, homes, families because of leadership decisions in their lives. It is uncanny! While interviewing the current members they will talk about the will of God, work of God and how the past thirty years has all been a wonderful manifestation of God etc... Yet no acknowledgment of the people who have suffered mental breakdowns, suicides, financial ruin, lost relationships. To the current members its like these people aren't people! Its like anything they have to say doesn't rate beyond rat shit. For them, being in the will of God blinds them to anyone elses concerns. It is just like the Nazi's who just carelessly gassed men, women and children and didn't think twice about what they were doing! O.K. they aren't Nazi's but it does seem to be on the same channel. It really is an odd/queer sort of feeling talking to these people, For one they are so nice, good, decent people. They are loving parents, hard working, tax paying citizens. (I almost felt like going back and become a member) Then I will go and interview someone else. someone who was hurt by these very same people! Wow! Why don't they see it? Why don't they care? It really is weird!

 

 

I'm sure someone has done a study on this sort of thing? Anyone know of one or a book I could read?

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I don't really think it's that they don't care about the people that were hurt by the church. How do I say this? They need that church for some reason. They are so dependent on it to fill something in their lives that they need it to be perfect. So they can't acknowledge the horrible things their church has done because it somehow takes meaning from their lives

 

Sorry if this isn't very clear it's just hard to describe that dependence a christian has on their church.

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I agree with Mr. Majestic, think about people that are genetically predisposed to be drug addicts or alcoholics, typically they have less than normal neurotransmitter levels (like lacking sufficient dihydroxyphenethylamine aka Dopamine, the reward chemical). Regardless, they lack proper functioning [what would seem proper to the majority who value empathy and compassion that is], and they naturally seek out ways to fulfill their desires without any apparent care or empathy for those around them that may be suffering, or even suffer as a result of their actions. You really can't hold the people accountable for the manner in which their biochemistry is setup. People can be helped, but only if they are able to recognize the fact that they need it, and then they have to want it - its a long road, but there is hope.

Peace, Love, and Tranquility. -SRW

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Even most/many of the parents and families of boys molested by priests in the RCC continued to attend church. Women remain with their batterers. Some needs run deeper than reason can reach.

 

It reminds me of the incident some years ago involving a mother who set fire to her young son in his bed. And he knew it was she who'd done this. While he was being treated in the hospital, he continuously cried out for Mommy.

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I don't really think it's that they don't care about the people that were hurt by the church. How do I say this? They need that church for some reason. They are so dependent on it to fill something in their lives that they need it to be perfect. So they can't acknowledge the horrible things their church has done because it somehow takes meaning from their lives

 

quote from Mr. M

 

 

Its true they don't care, but I think it goes farther than just their needs. I know its a bad analogy but how could

the Nazi's commit such atrocities without having the slightest twinge of guilt? I think it has to do with the fact that these people believe God is on their side. The people who are being hurt, abused don't matter, they aren't legitimate people as far as they are concerned. I know there must be some work on this somewhere? Anyone?

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Some keywords would be authoritarianism, totalitarianism, mind control.

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I'm thinking FACTnet might be a good resource if you haven't already checked them out. I think that is based at least in part on a court case regarding the Church of Christian Scientology. I'm speaking from memory and may be a bit off with my facts here re name of church and all but it's a good site re mind control, etc.

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Guest quietheart
I'm thinking FACTnet might be a good resource if you haven't already checked them out. I think that is based at least in part on a court case regarding the Church of Christian Scientology. I'm speaking from memory and may be a bit off with my facts here re name of church and all but it's a good site re mind control, etc.

I am confused, I know there's Christian Science and there's Scientology, but I've never heard of the Church of Christian Scientology.

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A little bit of insight into the RCC. My father's side of the family is devout Irish-Catholic, and as such, they seem to think that the church as a whole entity can do no wrong. Take the cases of molestation, for example ... When brought up in conversation they pounce with their ready answer: "Well, there are bad people in every walk of life. You can't blame THE CHURCH for what a few have done." No amount of reasoning, logic, or pesky evidence can convince them otherwise. Believe me, I have tried. I am no expert by any means here, but I believe that they do in fact *cough* need *cough* the church in their lives. Churches like this make sure of it. By their standards we are born with sin and will always be sinners. The best we can hope to do is to continually remind ourselves how wretched we are and live our lives in a state of perpetual fear and apology ... then maybe, just maybe we can be forgiven by that perfect being in the sky (you know ... that omniscient, omnipotent being that *made* us imperfect). Anyway, that is my theory on why people believe they need such a poison in their lives.

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I'm thinking FACTnet might be a good resource if you haven't already checked them out. I think that is based at least in part on a court case regarding the Church of Christian Scientology. I'm speaking from memory and may be a bit off with my facts here re name of church and all but it's a good site re mind control, etc.

I am confused, I know there's Christian Science and there's Scientology, but I've never heard of the Church of Christian Scientology.

 

I've probably got the name wrong. Sorry. If you look up the link you can find it.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest quietheart
I'm thinking FACTnet might be a good resource if you haven't already checked them out. I think that is based at least in part on a court case regarding the Church of Christian Scientology. I'm speaking from memory and may be a bit off with my facts here re name of church and all but it's a good site re mind control, etc.

I am confused, I know there's Christian Science and there's Scientology, but I've never heard of the Church of Christian Scientology.

 

I've probably got the name wrong. Sorry. If you look up the link you can find it.

I think you meant Church of Scientology, from what I saw and know of Factnet, that was what was confusing me. They are a very litigious "church" for sure and have also been sued a few times. They've also been responsible for trying to frame a lady and drive her crazy, "Operation Freakout", this was discovered during a raid on their LA offices, I think, where they discovered the CoS's "Operation Snowwhite" which was were the CoS broke into federal offices and stole paperwork. Very scary imho. I'm not saying all Scientologist are bad, I've met a few former members who are really great people, the management is mostly to blame imho.

Quietheart

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I am confused, I know there's Christian Science and there's Scientology, but I've never heard of the Church of Christian Scientology.

 

 

Hmm.... well, if anyone on here wants to make a few extra bucks, we can go found it ^_^

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Stephen R has a point. I read an article recently (on mindhacks.com) that showed the same area of the brain lights up for sexual stimulation as religious fervor. I'll try to find it and post a link today.

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Guest Zenobia
I know its a bad analogy but how could the Nazi's commit such atrocities without having the slightest twinge of guilt? I think it has to do with the fact that these people believe God is on their side. The people who are being hurt, abused don't matter, they aren't legitimate people as far as they are concerned. I know there must be some work on this somewhere? Anyone?

 

I think you are definately onto something here. The nazi's did what they did because they did not believe the people they murdered were HUMAN... they believed Jews, people of color, etc - everyone who was not Aryan - were INFERIOR, even less valuable than animals and thus they didn't feel any moral angst about killing them.

 

The kind of Christians you talk about sound similar to the kind I grew up with. They believed they were the ONLY true church, and that God had chosen THEM and THEM only... they definately believed god was on their side. We had members kill themselves, we had members lose everything because of the church and there wa no empathy at all - because these people were judged to be "lacking" or to be "inferior" to the rest. It was the same psychology the nazi's had IMHO.

 

I remember a sermon where a minister talked about a teenage girl who had killed herself. He was reading from her journal and, basically, making fun of her. There was no sympathy for her, no understanding, no compassion or love. He told the congregation that she was selfish and cruel to her family for what she did. She was judged.

 

Another sermon I remember was about a boy who drowned because he went swimming. He happend to go swimming on the Sabbath, so because he "sinned" by swimming on the sabbath - he was judged. There was no sympathy for him in the sermon, even though he drowned. He had sinned so somehow that made him inferior I guess.

 

I don't pretend to understand this way of thinking at all - I can try to explain it, but in my own heart I really have a hard time understanding it. This was a big part of why I left the church - the kind of judgement and lack of empathy or compassion... which eventually was turned against me when I began to feel myself leaving the fold.

 

I remember after I stopped attending services... the minister never made any attempt to contact me or ask how I was doing. But a couple months down the road I received a letter from him telling me I was disfellowshipped. He had my address, and he could have contacted me (to be honest I'm glad he didn't - it would only have prolonged my departure because I was going to leave anyway) but instead, he judged me and wrote me off.

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I remember after I stopped attending services... the minister never made any attempt to contact me or ask how I was doing. But a couple months down the road I received a letter from him telling me I was disfellowshipped.

 

I wish this happened to me! I've been trying to get some sort of certificate of excommunication from the evangelical lutheran church that brainwashed me, but I'm told all the way up the line that they do not do that, and if I have not attended in over 15 years, then I am not counted as a member anywhere...somehow I just don't believe that last part. I just want something official to frame and hang on my wall. Is that too much to ask?

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Guest Zenobia
I wish this happened to me! I've been trying to get some sort of certificate of excommunication from the evangelical lutheran church that brainwashed me, but I'm told all the way up the line that they do not do that, and if I have not attended in over 15 years, then I am not counted as a member anywhere...somehow I just don't believe that last part. I just want something official to frame and hang on my wall. Is that too much to ask?

 

LOL yeah... one of these days I'll have to frame my disfellowshipment letter and hang it on the wall. I am quite proud of it actually...

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When your brought up under the notion that your view is the ultimate truth and humans are sinful disgusting creatures which can only exist/be saved by your so called truth then it's no wonder empathy can't exist. To have empathy for "sinners" means your going against gods word. Thus no room can be spared in such a mind set.

 

A spectrum cannot exist in a black and white world.

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I'm sure someone has done a study on this sort of thing? Anyone know of one or a book I could read?

 

Not a book, an article: What is the monkeysphere?

 

The people outside this church are literally not people to insiders. Insiders are probably not deliberately conscious of this.

 

I have a theory that people that don't belong in the above fashion to some group can be more inclusive in their thinking, because they don't have any interests in maintaining a group. Such maintenance requires exclusion among other things by definition.

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Guest Zenobia
Thanks Zenobia.

 

Yep, I heard sermons just like the ones you mentioned. They were used to scare people into staying in the church. I wish I had more time to research this topic more!

 

You're welcome, and you're not alone by any means. In my experience, even after I left the church, the more dogmatic people become about religion (any religion!) the less compassionate they are and the more judgemental they are.

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This might apply to the question.

 

Ben Franklin Effect

 

Description

 

When we do a person a favor, we tend to like them more as a result. This is because we justify our actions to ourselves that we did them a favor because we liked them.

 

Benjamin Franklin himself said, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged."

 

The reverse effect is also true, and we come to hate our victims, which helps to explain wartime atrocities. We de-humanize the enemy, which decrease the dissonance of killing and other things in which we would never normally indulge.

Research

 

Jecker and Landy (1969) involved students in an intellectual contest where they could win significant money. Afterwards:

 

* A: 1/3 were approached by the researcher and asked to return money as he had been using his own funds and was running short.

* B: 1/3 were approached by a secretary and asked to return money as it was from the psychology department and funds were low.

* C: 1/3 were not approached.

 

Then all were surveyed to see how much they liked the researcher. Group B rated him lower than Group C (so impersonal request for a favor decreases liking). Group A rated him higher than group C (so personal request for a favor increases liking).

link

 

Edit: And this

 

 

Attribution Theory

 

Description

 

We all have a need to explain the world, both to ourselves and to other people, attributing cause to the events around us. This gives us a greater sense of control. When explaining behavior, it can affect the standing of people within a group (especially ourselves).

 

When another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal personality factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. And vice versa. We will attribute our successes internally and the successes of our rivals to external ‘luck’.

 

When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’.

 

Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination are very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world.

 

We will even tend to blame victims (of us and of others) for their fate as we seek to distance ourselves from thoughts of suffering the same plight.

 

We will also tend to ascribe less variability to other people than ourselves, seeing ourselves as more multifaceted and less predictable than others. This may well because we can see more of what is inside ourselves (and spend more time doing this).

 

In practice, we often tend to go through a two-step process, starting with an automatic internal attribution, followed by a slower consideration of whether an external attribution is more appropriate. As with Automatic Believing, if we are hurrying or are distracted, we may not get to this second step. This makes internal attribution more likely than external attribution.

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  • 5 months later...
Its true they don't care, but I think it goes farther than just their needs. I know its a bad analogy but how could

the Nazi's commit such atrocities without having the slightest twinge of guilt? I think it has to do with the fact that these people believe God is on their side. The people who are being hurt, abused don't matter, they aren't legitimate people as far as they are concerned. I know there must be some work on this somewhere? Anyone?

 

Alice Miller did a lot of research on this topic!

 

I don't think your analogy with the Nazi's is a bad one.

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I think you are definately onto something here. The nazi's did what they did because they did not believe the people they murdered were HUMAN... they believed Jews, people of color, etc - everyone who was not Aryan - were INFERIOR, even less valuable than animals and thus they didn't feel any moral angst about killing them.

 

I recently watched a documentary on the SS, and apparently many of the officers shot themselves because they couldn't handle all the murders they were required to do. That is until their superiors started rewarding them each time they did it. Once they began to be rewarded, the suffering and humanity of their victims quickly became meaningless or even the basis of jokes. They felt part of the in-crowd elite, helping to exterminate an infestation.

 

As a side note, a short clip from this documentary showed a movie taken from a window in one of the camps where a Nazi officer was separating a young child from his mother and put the child in a group of kids about 20 paces away. As soon as the officer turned his back, the boy would run back to mom. This happened a few times, with the officer almost gently leading the child back to the other group. It just brought home the basic humanness of the victims, and I think this is what caused the SS guys to commit suicide initially.

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Its true they don't care, but I think it goes farther than just their needs. I know its a bad analogy but how could

the Nazi's commit such atrocities without having the slightest twinge of guilt? I think it has to do with the fact that these people believe God is on their side. The people who are being hurt, abused don't matter, they aren't legitimate people as far as they are concerned. I know there must be some work on this somewhere? Anyone?

 

Alice Miller did a lot of research on this topic!

 

I don't think your analogy with the Nazi's is a bad one.

 

Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning is a great look at one unit of "National Guard" troops tasked to carry out some of the executions of Jews in Poland.

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