The Echoes of the Mind (97-3) Social Control

Social Control

Religious texts of all major religions explicitly encourage prosociality in their adherents. ~ Lebanese Canadian psychologist Ara Norenzayan & Canadian psychologist Azim Shariff

People are more compliant when they care about the impression that they make, or even if reminded that others may be aware of their actions. With a capacity for constant surveillance, an omnipresent, omniscient Supreme Being acts as a form of social control.

Mindful agents serve as a powerful source of social influence and control, increasing adherence to socially accepted norms of conduct, whether those others are actually present or merely presumed to be present. ~ Nicholas Epley & Adam Waytz

As Josiah exemplified, social control was the impetus behind the evolution of monotheism. Compared to naturalistic or individualistic religions, moralizing religions supposedly stimulate pro-social behaviors, and monotheism is the most potent moralizing religion.

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Watchful gods arose before monotheism became the religious norm. Among others with the power to supernaturally see, the ancient sky god Horus was often depicted as a sharp-eyed falcon. Monotheism took omniscience to a new level, as it was coupled with a single, all-powerful god, and one who was a stickler for morals. That theistic package was devised for social control – to promote a religion that kept believers in line.

Such a god did not arise until societies arose where such a god was useful to political authorities. Legal codes first emerged in the 3rd millennium bce. But it was not until the so-called Axial Age (8th–3rd century bce) that moralizing ideologies gelled with such figures as Plato, Buddha, Zoroaster, and Lao Tzu. Moralizing monotheism was a heavenly vehicle constructed to bind together the sizable societies which had emerged from the conquests which created them.

People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police. ~ American journalist H.L. Mencken