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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Attribution Sins

What is the danger of associating someone's misfortune with sin? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1460).

We may think of this question in relation to religious fanatics who feel completely justified in withholding all empathy, compassion, and assistance from the unfortunate. I remember well how justified some felt holding an it-serves-you-right attitude after Katrina or upon the affliction of aids.  In short, in the name of religion, people's hearts turned cold, hard, and cruel.  This attitude is not only confined to those inflated by religiosity, but holds true in secular areas where people believe in salvation and justification by works in concert with the delusional worship of seamless  individual mastery and control.  From this point of view, virtually ALL affliction and suffering (other than one's own) is well deserved .  The problem here is that not only is compassion stymied, but intellectual analysis is foreclosed--in the name of "objectivity" all objectivity is lost.  This is reminiscent of the fundamental attribution error in which others' stumbling invariably is assigned to sin while my stumbling inevitably has circumstantial justification.  There is an inherent bias against helpful analysis when findings of sin close the door to empathy, exploration, or administration of effective remedy.  The obdurate stigmatizing and stereotyping of the incarcerated come to mind.  Unfortunately being "tough on crime" is the red meat fix pandered passionately to a lascivious, self-righteous political base.  The plight of the poor is an additional à la carte.

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