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Observing Mass Suicide and Religion - Term Paper Example

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Observing Mass Suicide and Religion

Cult suicides are a social phenomenon that have occurred throughout history, with many of those events in the past being conducted to thwart the efforts of raiders or marauders from raping or maiming before killing an group of people. Modern day suicides group suicides are far more perplexing, and while they cannot be observed, fanaticism can be observed. The phenomenon of obedience has been studied by Stanley Milgram who setup ‘teachers’ and ‘learners’ so that the teacher would administer an electric shock of increasing intensity every time a ‘learner’ got a question wrong and was instructed to continue to do so no matter how much the ‘learner’ screamed in pain. Two thirds of the participants continued to administer the shocks long after the ‘learners’ had begun to scream and well up to the highest level of shocks. Of course, in the experiment, the ‘learners’ were only play acting, but it goes to show how authority can press people to obey even when good sense dictates that they stop (Milgram 20). The same type of scenario can be seen in the Stanford Prison Experiments. In the Stanford prison experiments a participant group was divided into two roles, prisoners and guards. The prisoners began to act like oppressed people in a very short period of time while the guards took on their assigned roles as authoritarians. While many see this as a role adaptation experiment, there are a large number of psychologists and researchers who saw this as a study in obedience. The participants were instructed to take on the roles and they obeyed those who gave them these instructions (Weiten 539). What seems to be common in these kinds of unethical, but enlightening studies is that a human being is much more likely to go along than to go against the authority. Cults prey on the ability of authority to override the sense of the individual. Group think is a phenomenon in business where people in a group will all agree on very bad ideas because no one has the courage to create disharmony by simply saying “wait a minute”. Using a variety of means through which to break down the individual, cults are able to create blind obedience to the point that they represent a single shepherd with many sheep. Even if the direction that they are being led is over a cliff, they will all follow right over the edge rather than contradict the authority. Even those who choose to contradict authority usually do so through their focus on a leader who is an anarchist. It is rarely one person who defies authority. An example of one or two people who defied the authority that was acting unreasonably does not go well for those who tried to subvert the actions taken by civic leadership. John Proctor and Giles Corey are two men who went in contradiction to all authority in order to stop a madness that had taken their community. Instead of stemming the tide of madness, they were executed for witchcraft on the words of a few little girls. Giles Corey was tortured to death, a panel of wood placed on his body and heavy stones piled on top of him with the intention of making him confess, which he never did. John Proctor was accused of witchcraft and while at first willing to sign the confession to save his life, did not and was one of the last people hanged. In total, nineteen people hanged because of the Salem Witch Trials with Giles Corey being pressed to ...Show more
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Summary

Despite urging several groups to make good on promises to commit suicide so that they could be observed, they were surprisingly resistant. Mass suicide for the benefit of religious fervor is something that is both deeply personal and done publically…
Observing Mass Suicide and Religion
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