Sunday, October 19, 2014

Flirty Fishing Follows

As if the in-group promiscuous sex wasn't enough, potential converts were included in this practice.

In this thinly veiled prostitution, the women were encouraged to seek out men to "win to the lord" through having sex with them. How naive! It was easy to find men who were eager for some cheap sex with a young, healthy girl, even if they had to endure a bit of ridiculous religious preaching to get it.

So it was that I lost my virginity to a (fortunately for me) very kind man from Jordan just before my 21st birthday. 

This practice was called "Flirty Fishing," in reference to the Bible verse where Jesus said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Yet, I rejected the terminology the cult used for such men. I could not bring myself to think of these outside men that I had sex with as "fish" or "kings," but rather I preferred to think of them as "friends." (Perhaps that is one way I dealt with the cognitive dissonance I experienced with this new morality.)

Why did I do it? Perhaps here is a piece of an explanation.

In the early 1960's, Stanley Milgram conducted some rather controversial experiments on obedience to authority. He postulated that people will do what they are told, even to the degree of contravening their own sense of morality.

He set up his experiments using 3 different subjects: the Experimenter (authority figure), the Teacher, and the Student.

The Experimenter explained to the Teacher that he would be part of an experiment on operant conditioning (think B.F. Skinner). The Student would be “punished” for answering questions wrongly, so that the Experimenter could (ostensibly) learn how punishments affected learning. Unknown to the Teacher, the Student was a confederate of the Experimenter and only acting his part, and the experiment actually involved studying the Teacher's level of obedience.

The Teacher, believing the experiment was about negative reinforcement, was to help the Student answer questions correctly by administering slight electric shocks when he gave a wrong answer. These would gradually increase in strength as the Student answered incorrectly. The Teacher tested an initial 30 volt shock on himself and thought it wasn't so bad, so he had no problem delivering that same shock to the Student.

The machine used for these electric shocks (although not a real shock machine) was labelled with various switches, such as "mild shock," "moderate shock," "severe shock," and "XXX." Clearly, the shocks were to get dangerously strong as the experiment progressed.

When the Student gave an incorrect answer, the Teacher gave him an electric shock, just as the Experimenter told him. After each incorrect answer, the strength of the shock was increased by 15 volts, gradually building up to frightening levels as the experiment went on.

Although some of the Teachers grew visibly agitated, the majority carried on with the experiment, continuing to deliver shocks at the request of the Experimenter, in spite of the screams of the unseen Student in the next room. After 300 volts were administered, the Student became quiet, which the Experimenter deemed as an "incorrect answer" and ordered continuing shocks, which a disturbing number of participants delivered.

These results have been replicated by other psychologists. Milgram wrote, "Authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives...and...authority won more often than not."

He wrote further, "Often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act."

Perhaps the Teachers felt that they weren't responsible. It wasn't their fault if the Student was hurt. They were just doing what they were told.

The moral implications are alarming.


  1. The Milgram experiment was recently replicated in Poland, suggesting human nature has gotten worse in the last 50 years or so.

    In the Milgram experiment only two thirds of people continued all the way up to the maximum 450-volt level.

    But when the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland replicated the Milgram experiment, 90 per cent were willing to inflict the highest shock level of 450 volts

    Interestingly, this new experiment found that when the person subjected to "shocks" was a woman, three times more people refused to administer the "pain".

    Both experiments were conducted in a secular setting with education as the supposed subject matter. That is, there were no religious connotations and the authority figure represented a science researcher rather than a religious authority figure. It would be interesting to see what the results would be if test subjects believed they were obeying religious authority figures. It would probably be hard to do that experiment because religion is far more multi-faceted than science. But I have no doubt that religious believers are more likely to obey religious authority figures than non-believers would scientists, especially in fundamentalist sects, cults and high demand, closed in-groups.

    1. This morning I heard an interesting radio program somewhat related to my comment above yesterday. For those interested in philosophical discussions on morality you can listen to the podcast at the following link:

      "Is it ethical to swallow a morality pill?"

      Research scientists debate the ethics of a pill that improves morality. No such pill yet exists, but there is research and experiments heading that direction. What caught my ear was a description of one of the experiments, reminding me of the Milgram and related experiments. In this one, test subjects were offered money to inflict pain on a person. They were then tested again, but this time some were given a drug first. Those who took the drug were less likely to inflict pain for money. Other studies found similar results.

      There is no general purpose morality pill, yet, but it's an interesting philosophical discussion on morality.