A Word on Ingrouping

I think lots of people spend millions of hours and countless words trying to explain religious belief and adherence to the belief.

I think every single aspect of religion can be explained in one very simple concept: ingrouping

Ingrouping is defined as an exclusive, typically small, group of people with a shared interest or identity. And once someone becomes a member of a group, and they take on that identity, it can cause a whole lot of change in their thinking. Such as (source: Wikipedia)

Ingroup favoritism. When part of a group, and identifying with a group, individuals tend to see the group interests and other members of the group as more important, or worthy, or notable.

Outgroup derogation. People and ideas not in the group, as a result of ingroup favoritism, are seen as less important, less worthy, or less notable.

Social influence. People will adjust their preferences and beliefs more in-line with the group.

Group polarization. As a group, people may make statements more extreme than if made by themselves. If a group’s beliefs are to the sides of a normal bell curve, within that group a new center is established. Individuals are therefore able to make more radical pronouncements without falling outside acceptable group limits.

Group homogeneity. This works two ways. Positive differences are celebrated within the group, while outgroups are seen as all similarly uninteresting. On the other hand, outgroups may be seen as full of problems, while the ingroup members see themselves as similar in their stance on the issue.

Certainly, ingrouping can be a positive characteristic. Groups that work together tend to thrive, and they work together best if the individuals feel like part of the team.

On the other hand, it is also easy to see the negative effects of ingrouping. Favoritism can lead to poor decision making. Social influence can become a sort of mind control or brainwashing. Group polarization disregards the reasonable and prefers the radical. And outgroup individuals can suffer at the hands of the in group.

Religion is simply an ingroup, with a laundry list of beliefs. Left to their own devices, no reasonable person in the 21st century would believe that symbolically eating a 2000 year old Jewish zombie was the way to bring peace and happiness to the world. Yet get someone in the group early or long enough, and they may consider this a proposition worth building their life around.

No sane human in the 21st century would assume that there are some things for which you have to just be gullible and accept. No sane modern human would fault you for not believing in something until you checked it out first. But get someone in the group early or long enough, and their gullibility is lauded while simple questioning is scorned.

No intelligent person in the modern western world would assume that hurting another human being for being who they are is a good thing. But if introduced early or long enough in religion, and these same people will vote and act to degrade, strip rights, and oppress people that are seen as different.

Oddly enough, many religious people in recent decades suggest that their religion is not a religion, but a personal relationship or experience. And to a certain degree we see the effects of this mindset- increasing percentages of atheists. Outside the group, without the group think and outgroup hostility, many religious people begin to lose their religion.

Naturally, the churches also see this trend, and rally against the idea of religion by yourself. Church attendance and adherence to the bullshit the preacher spews are required, or heavily suggested. They know, even if they don’t know why, that staying in the group keeps the individuals locked in the ingroup mentality.

Now, not all groups are bad. As I stated earlier, groups are capable of amazing productivity and effort. But we don’t judge a group by how hard they work, we judge it on the outcomes.

Covering up child rape is a bad thing. Religious ingrouping makes it possible.

Denying lifesaving medical attention is bad. Religious ingrouping makes it possible

Denying happiness and equality is bad. Religious ingrouping makes it possible.

Making public policies that suppress people and keep them poor is a bad thing. Religious ingrouping makes it possible.

And here is the punchline: Every single person in the world that calls themselves “Christian” allows all these horrible things to happen BECAUSE without their participation, the ingroup dynamic would fall apart. Every single Christian provides the group with the security and mental real estate it needs to fight for bigotry, hatred, and scientifically illiterate policies.

Think for yourselves, people.

The Spartan Atheist


51 thoughts on “A Word on Ingrouping

  1. The herd mentaility rides again. Another less friendly term for ingroup think is bullying. If you don’t agree, for whatever legitimate reason, (and i’ve experienced this in groups outside of religion, too) you are suddenly demoted from whatever position you were in, to the role of barely worthy.

    I can see how people with less than solid self esteem are fenced into a group, since on one hand it bolsters their wobbly self esteem, and on the other, hovering over their heads, is the idea what “you are only worthy as long as you toe the line, loser”.

    Oh, dear, I’m getting all steamed up just thinking about it. lol.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Great point. Socially acceptable bullying.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree. Great post and great comment.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. It also happens online, where one person says the wrong thing, and the rest of the group pile on the insults. I call that ‘pig piling’ and always feel sorry for the poor schmoo at the bottom. (been there, more than once, lol)

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Well said and explained. Ingrouping is something which affects everyone, no matter where you are. But it certainly explains why Christianity has thrived for so long. No matter what church I went to, there was always this undercurrent of not questioning what the pastor taught, even if not explicitly said. After staying away from church for a few years (even though I was still Christian), I began to doubt a lot more and question with an open mind.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I see it in politics, which is where I originally got the idea for this article. There are many people that could read an exact same policy proposition, and by changing who said it would either love it or hate it. It’s shocking. But I’m trying to avoid politics on this forum.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ah yes it’s certainly applicable there too. I’m assuming that in America many people would vote based on where they were born. I suppose it happens here too, but Kiwis aren’t as die hard when it comes to politics.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, the trend is usually rural votes conservative, urban and young vote liberal.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Exactly! Much of what I came to realize in my puzzlement of the disconnect between religious adherents and the lack of evidence for their beliefs was the revelation that it’s really about being in a group, not a search for factual knowledge. It’s also a part of their identity, that if taken away, they’d have nothing left of who they are, which I believe is also why they get so defensive and hostile about it being challenged…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. well, it’s scary, being told there is no heaven, no god, no higher power to believe in. No one wants to hear that they have apparently wasted their entire life praying to invisible and non existent creatures…I’d be cranky, too.

      I grew up comfortably Catholic, but remember being told to “Never question your belief”, and strangely, to never read books on magic, or watch magicians on TV. That was the tipping point. Suddenly I saw ‘water into wine” on stage, as “water into milk” and I thought, ohhhh now I get it. It was all sleight of hand. And apparently the priest had made the same connection, too. Sadder for him, obviously.

      And we are, after all, herd creatures, so being in a group means safety, even when it’s a difficult kind of safety…

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Very good point too! I’m glad while my family traditionally was Christian, they weren’t practicing so my non-belief came about much easier. My only issue that came up was my own culturally absorbed fear of hell from the outside world though, not my own family! By the way that was in 3rd grade! I guess I was too young to ever truly believe, so that was easy! By the time middle school came around I knew i was an atheist 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Very true. I frequently, especially in political discussions, try to find commonality with the person I’m talking to. They are more likely to accept what I’m saying if they perceive me as “one of them”.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. what I never quite understand about Christian doctrine is what you pointed out, the denial of happiness…. Now, i’m not saying swing the other way and become a hedonistic self centered jerk! No way! But it shouldn’t all be about serving others but NEVER yourself, taking care of yourself, finding joy for YOU not just everyone else. Or the concept one is more righteous if they suffer and idolizing suffering instead of working to alleviate it. And let’s not forget their whole aversion to the material world ad fallen and sinful in nature! Some of these ideas came from Greek philosophical concepts but still… I don’t understand why the physical world and the material world is somehow lesser and taboo if God made it just the same really, as he could make the heavenly realm…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “eating a 2000 year old Jewish zombie… ”

      Or asking what a 1st century Jewish rabbi would do in the context of 21st century America! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My philosophy for many years now has been to be happy with myself, and let others be happy with themselves. It seems to work.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Cool… Live and let live… Don’t guilt trip everyone else for not adhering to your worldview! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. There are religious freaks galore on the “Atheism” tag on WordPress, but tell me how this can be done: irrationalists using rationalism to explain the rationalism of their irrationalism.
    Can’t be done. Doesn’t work. They are preposterous at every turn of their theistic anti-atheism, but what can you do? WordPress takes their 20 bucks and lets them spin out nonsense after nonsense. Shut ’em down, Spartan.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. the trouble with moving away from a belief is knowing that once you’ve seen the man with the megaphone behind the curtain,you can never go back to believing in Oz.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Yep, your clear explanation of the pernicious and well-documented effects of social pressure exqusitely explains the bulk of religious and political behavior that is effing up the whole planet. Thanks and peace.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Great post spartan.
    A consequence of this ingrouping is that many theists view a critique of their group beliefs as a direct attack on them

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true. They are unable to separate one idea from their own self. They have completely internalized the group beliefs.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well said. Ingrouping is a terrible thing. My group is guilty of ingrouping. I wish I could be a part of your group.


    1. John, which professional Cricket team are you a fan of?


      1. Whichever one opposes ingrouping.


      2. Snarky refusal to answer questions indicates you already know you lost this argument. Goodbye.


  10. JB belongs very loosely to the group who created YHWH as their favorite local deity, up ’til the point where that group rejects Jesus as a faux-messiah, then JB parts company with the original group, and instead identifies with a secessionist group.

    Then it’s just piddling, sectarian ingrouping all the way down to Southern Baptist — or whatever group he identifies with now — until we reach the present day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed.
      That’s why I’m eager to be part of this group! I don’t want to be guilty of ingrouping anymore.


      1. Yes, JB. We get it. You want to join a group. That is why you fail.


      2. So you’re outgrouping me.


      3. If that makes you sleep better at night, sure. A non-existent group is bullying you into not being a part of their group, JB.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. It is not possible for a non-existent thing to bully me.

        Have you ever heard the phrase “hoisted on his own petard”?


      5. And yet, somehow, you wish to join said non-existent group…. So, who is engaging in magical thinking? Me, telling you there is no group, or you asking to join such a non-existent group?

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You should look up that phrase. It’s from Shakespeare.

        Then you’ll be part of the group that appreciates the irony of your article!


      7. John, you quoting some phrase from Hamlet doesn’t make you smart. And quoting a phrase from Hamlet that has made its way into common usage doesn’t make you cultured.

        Avoiding answering questions does make you a troll, however.


      8. Spartan, telling me that I’m not smart doesn’t make you smart.
        I thought your question was rhetorical. My mistake.

        “Who is engaging in magical thinking? Me, telling you there is no group, or you asking to join such a non-existent group?”
        You. You are the one engaged in magical thinking.
        You’ve written an entire about religious ingrouping. Then you’ve claimed your group is non-existent. This is irrational. You consider yourself a non-religious person. That puts you in the group of people without religious beliefs.

        The point is: Ingrouping is unavoidable.


      9. Your group.
        You belong to countless groups.


      10. Of course I do. What group are you talking about?


      11. Dude. All I’m saying is that ingrouping is unavoidable. You’re condemning religious groups for something that EVERYBODY does. Pretending that your group is “non-existent” is just silly.


      12. What group specifically are you asking to join?


      13. I wanted to join your group. But you told me it doesn’t exist.
        That’s incoherent.


      14. Because you were wrong.


      15. How can you know if I’m wrong if you haven’t told me what group you’re talking about? I represent no group on this blog. So last chance, what group are you talking about?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Er. Did he throw up yet?


    1. He said something snarky and evasive and trollish. So I deleted it. Intentionally muddying the waters is not helpful, and he is the champ at muddying.


  12. It all started of Truthfully, but by the end it became a personal vendetta.

    I take back all I’ve said about you and leave you to your bitter conclusions and ingroup consolations.

    Sibyl X


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