Religion Causes Conflict with Outsiders, Makes Members Cooperate


Scott Atran, Professor of Psychology at University of Michigan and Oxford University & Author of 'Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists' joins David to discuss the effect of religion or lack thereof as a source of conflict or cooperation.

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  1. It would seem that tribal head honcho’s sussed that a while ago!

    They employ priests to do the dirty work (and their bidding) by convincing the brain dead they are in fact doing gods bidding…tis a switch and bate theory of social cohesion…served xtianity fairly well!

  2. Should that be ‘Religion makes members cooperate to cause conflict with outsiders’.

    I remember a boy at school years ago who came under the clutches of fundamentalism expressing his tolerance in the following way, ‘You can believe whatever you want, but if you don’t believe what I believe then you’re wrong’. I still can’t work out whether to be impressed by his certainty, horrified by his closed mindedness or amused by the infinite ability of the human race to put its fingers in its ears and go ‘la la la!’ in stead of seriously addressing things which challenge our beliefs.
    The problem with the last is that it might confirm to some the smug self-satisfied nature of us strident atheists. The strength of it though is that it is what I believe (if you believe anything else then you’re welcome to argue it through with me and if you can prove your position I will change my mind – unless I’ve had a bad day in which case I’ll tell you you’re wrong anyway.)

  3. it all sounded rational up to when he states “if the other side apologises then the violence decreases”
    Apologising to Islamists is seen by them as a sure sign of weakness, and impending victory. How did he not notice this in his travels??

    Hope you all like the Nobel Peace prizewinner pictured :-))

  4. Nice job of closed captioning! A third-grader could have done better.


    “Nite blob if close pinsetting. A turd-rater crude halftime butter.”


  5. In reply to #3 by Nodhimmi:

    it all sounded rational up to when he states “if the other side apologises then the violence decreases”
    Apologising to Islamists is seen by them as a sure sign of weakness, and impending victory. How did he not notice this in his travels??

    He wasn’t offering up an opinion. Atran was describing controlled experiments he did with various Muslims from communities that support terrorism such as the Palestinians. He summarized the results of that research in his book Talking to the Enemy and one of the results was as he described, in some situations offering people money not only didn’t work but made them more hostile (e.g. to the idea of a two state solution to Israel/Palestine) where as the alternative proposal of no money but an apology for perceived crimes had the opposite effect.

  6. Similar situation with paying workers money to produce good results. Apparently the psychology is that workers would be insulted by offers of increased payment in exchange for greater productivity. So more effective motivators need to be found using other, much cheaper methods.

    Though for some strange reason the performance of very senior executives in large organisations, as scientifically established by specialist consultants employed by those senior executives, remains regarded as being crucially dependent on massively increased remuneration. Fortunately the reduced payroll resources required through alternatively motivated workers allows for much greater resources to be focused where it really counts: at the top level where real leadership performance is located.

    Interesting with the nuclear weapons situation in North Korea.

    I assumed that it was just more of the same old scam, with additional complications of dynastic succession and consolidating power. A single extremely wealthy family in control of the precise timing of a major good news / bad news media cycle affecting the fear driven animal spirits of most Asian financial markets creates incredible short term arbitrage opportunities. There’s obviously no shortage of market intermediaries with the appropriate ethical credentials to assist.

    The kim family, and associated military elite, are by far the wealthiest people ever to have existed in human history. Which might be why the Armani suit, Ferrari, and luxury hotel suite sanctions seem to have cut so much more deeply than all previous diplomatic responses. But expensive fashion, jewellery, and prestige cars are only proxies for real status and respect. Ultimately what they are really driving for is actual respect. Which is more expensive than money can buy.

    Maybe starting a nuclear war is about all that’s left to make an impact statement for your run of the mill megalomaniac who already has everything else.

    And if military operations and even nuclear weapons are a religious phenomenon then it might greatly change the odds of a real attack on Japan or South Korea. Followed by an invasion of millions of starving peasants into China. Plus the inevitable refugee inflow to Lidcombe and Penrith. Following the chaos most of the anonymous elite of North Korea will easily blend in with the mega rich of Switzerland etc. laughing all the way to the bank along with the retired millionaire leaders of various other suicidal cults who are also expert manipulators of religious psychology. The rest of the world will get the blame, and taxpayers everywhere will foot the bill for the humanitarian response.

    Ultimately it will be the psychologists’ fault for not having discovered this phenomenon sooner.

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