Almost every day we see images and videos of people having their heads chopped off. These beheadings have left the world in a state of shock. How could anybody do such a thing? we wonder. And how could they do that in the name of a religion?
A man name Stanley Milgram did some research about what motivates people to commit hateful acts toward other people. He did his famous Yale study of the late 1950s, labeled the “Obedience to Authority” experiment, because he was shocked by Germany’s extermination of Jews and others during World War II.
In his experiment, subjects were told by an authority figure (a scientist conducting an experiment) to administer electric shocks to other subjects, who were in fact actors who were only pretending to be shocked. About two-thirds of all subjects were willing to administer 450 volts of electricity, hearing the subjects screaming in another room–all because an authority told them it was all right to do so. Milgram concluded that people will be hateful to others if an authority says it’s all right.
It’s hard to dispute his findings. Every war that has ever been fought since the dawn of time has been waged under the banner of some kind of authority such as a political or religious leader or a religious or political document. The Bible has been used by Christians as a reason to burn witches and go on Crusades. The Koran is now being used by some Muslims to justify beheadings.
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