Authoritarian Personalities and Religious Fundamentalism

I don't usually do this, but Prup (aka Jim Benton) informed me of an online book by Bob Altemeyer, called The Authoritarians and wants others to be aware of it for a discussion. I haven't read through it, but if anyone wants to discuss it, go ahead.

Altemeyer is releasing this book onto his website, one chapter at a time -- the first five are already there, the sixth is due tomorrow. Jim said that he thinks I'd find it 'very interesting.' Jim also said he doesn't agree with all of it. But he did suggest that I read it here, and bring it up in some discussions. The most relevant for our discussions, Jim said, is Chapter 4, Authoritarian Personalities and Religious Fundamentalism.

Okay, have at it. Anyone want to start by reading through it and summarizing it? Jim?


vjack said...

It does sound interesting. Hopefully, it will be better than Hood Jr. et al's The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism. That one was a serious waste of time.

Byron said...

Altemeyer also was mentioned in John Dean's book "Conservatives without Consense", a book about the American right wing and why it behaves the way it does. Altemeyer co-wrote the short book "Atheists" which I recommend.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

This issue is self-evident, what I've been harping upon in 99.9% of each of my posts here and the ensuing tyranny. The book "Moral Politics" suggests that conservatives think like a 'strict father' and liberals take the side of a 'nurturing mother.' The Authoritarian personality type is the central mentality that religion and government ride upon, a sort of "Grand Moral Arbiter" who gets to )often arbitrarily) decide what [activities, literature, anything] is "good" or "bad." This is the primary reason why, under God (or theocrats), (god being the "ultimate Authority") democracy is not possible. 31% of the population of the United States (Time Magazine) believe that God is an authoritarian (totalitarian due to all of the quslities attributed to him other than 'benevolence') figure.

Jesus, too, was very vain and self-centered, an apparently benevolent character who rewards only those who believe that he is the Son of God.

TGA said...

I just read the first three chapters and I have to say that ALL of it applies to our discussions. The first chapter is a little dry as it puts forward the theory and the work that was done to verify its correctness. But the following chapters are a great read. This theory succinctly explains why extreme right people and religious fundamentalists think the way they do. I found it to be a very enlightening read. Unfortunately, the very people this paper discusees will dismiss it as the work of a liberal atheist.

The depressing part is that this also shows why no amount of evidence will ever convert the fundamentalists.

TGA said...

Here how he summarizes chapter 4:

This chapter has presented my main research findings on religious
fundamentalists. The first thing I want to emphasize, in light of the rest of this book,is that they are highly likely to be authoritarian followers. They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority, and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason, and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have
thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their
judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites.
But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as closed-minded as they are narrowminded.
They can be woefully uninformed about things they oppose, but they prefer ignorance and want to make others become as ignorant as they. They are also surprisingly uninformed about the things they say they believe in, and deep, deep, deep down inside many of them have secret doubts about their core belief. But they
are very happy, highly giving, and quite zealous. In fact, they are about the only zealous people around nowadays in North America, which explains a lot of their
success in their endless (and necessary) pursuit of converts.
I want to emphasize also that all of the above is based on studies in which, if the opposite were true instead, that would have been shown. This is not just “somebody’s
opinion.” It’s what the fundamentalists themselves said and did. And it adds up to a
truly depressing bottom line.

david ellis said...

The depressing part is that this also shows why no amount of evidence will ever convert the fundamentalists.

Take heart. Fundamentalists can be converted by the evidence....I know because I happen to be an ex-fundamentalism (now atheist and humanist) who was converted by the evidence.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Much thanx. I was going to try and summarize it, but given my usual wordiness, this might not have been helpful. You did a very good job.

David: (I was wondering if you might be my brother-in-law, but this comment proves otherwise, since he was raised in a Jewish atheist family) You bring up the one place where I disagree with Altemeyer. He does cover the question of people being changed by personal experience, but doesn't mention the possibility of people being changed by political or 'intellectual' experience. He does state how high the percentage is of people leaving Fundamentalism is though -- thus the 'endless (and necessary) pursuit of converts' comment.
As I've said, this was not my background, so I can't speak personally on it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Just want to say Chapter 6 is now up. Haven't read it yet, but it is there. And there will be a seventh chapter next week.

Heather said...

You know, as much as fundamentalists might accuse moderate/liberal Christians of being 'cafeteria Chrstians,' aren't they guilty of almost the reverse? Look at how much put much effort they have to put into harmonizing contradictions to the point where it's ridiculous. Even when he had the resurrection stories side by side, fundamentalists were saying he was wrong -- and they could see if for themselves. If the Bible is supposed to be the inerrent, infallible Word of God, you'd think He'd make it a little less contradictory. Or make it easier to harmonize.

I also love the 'copyist error' excuse, especially for the New Testament, since we don't have any of the original documents.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

Now this is a relevant topic, onr that hasnt been gone over a million times.

My High School Anthropology professor called this "Bible Tag," when two or more [Christians] argue over which contradictory point is correct: For instance, last year TIME Magazine had an article called "Does God Want You to be Rich?" and both Joel Osteen (pro-divine wealth) and Rick Warren (anti-divine wealth) were featured, and both had verses from various books supporting their claims. It is an excellent question "Which is Trump?".

I will say that these blatant schizophrenic sheep (Falwell called his followers a "flock" and I deconstructed the term on my blog, check it out) are doing the best they can.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

Oops! This was meant for the "Trump" topic :-S. Just ignore it. I can't edit it.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

Oops! This was meant for the "Trump" topic :-S. Just ignore it. I can't edit it.

Anonymous said...


The fact that there are minor differences shows that they are authentic. If the authors agreed on every little minute detail you would use that as evidence that they were inauthentic. When two newspapr reporters cover the same event they will choose to include different details in their stories. Two independent eyewitnesses rarely see all the same details and will never describe an event in exactly the same words. They will cover the same major event but differ on the details. If a Judge hears the exact word for word testamony he would conclude that they got together beforehand to make their stories agree. The fact that there is agreement on the major events and differences in the minor details shows that they are authentic

Anonymous said...

The writers choose to emphasize some details that the other authors leave out. The four accounts are complementary. Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard law professor, concluded that the four Gospels would have been recieved as evidence in any court of Justice, without the slightest hesitation. Agreement on the major points and divergence on the minor details is the nature of eyewitness testamony, and this is the very nature of the New Testament documents.

Heather said...

**Two independent eyewitnesses rarely see all the same details and will never describe an event in exactly the same words.**

This very point was mentioned in the above article as proving falliblity. In a court of law today, eye-witness accounts aren't the preferred method of proving guilt. The prosecutors and police would much rather have DNA and physical evidence, because that isn't dependent on subjective viewpoints.

And look at all the papers that have been produced pointing out discrepences: if it could be harmonized that easily, if the differences were that 'minor' then there wouldn't be so many arguments about it. The Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels would never be accepted without heistation: in any other book, it would come across as two different people.

Anonymous said...

Well we not only have eye witnesses we also have archeological evidence, manuscript evidence, and other reasons why we know the authors told the truth. The minor discrepences are harmonizable.

The Top Ten Reasons We Know The Bible Writers Told The Truth

1. The New Testament writers include embarrasing details about themselves

2. The New Testament Writers Included Embarrassing Details and difficult sayings of Jesus

3. The New Testament writers left in demanding sayings of Jesus

4. The New Testament Writers carefully distinguished Jesus' words from their own

5. The New Testament writers include events related to the resurrection that they would not have invented

6. The New Testament writers include more than thirty historically confirmed people in their writings

7. The New Testament writers include divergent details

8. The New Testament writers challange readers to check out verifiable facts, even facts about miricles

9. New Testament writers describe miricles like other historical events

10. The New Testament writers abandoned their long-held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones, and did not deny their testamony under persecution or threat of death

59 archeological details have been confirmed is Johns Gospel.

84 archeological details have been confirmed in Acts making Luke an accurate historian.

Heather said...


None of the reasons you listed are concrete proof -- you could say the same about any seriously researched historical fiction. And all points listed have been addressed by many scholars as to why that's not proof. The manuscript evidence doesn't work because there are around 200,000 readings between all of the manuscripts available. Case in point: the ending of Mark isn't on the two oldest manuscripts we have. There is no mention of Herod slaughtering the infancts outside of the gospel of Matthew, and there is no evidence for the magi trek. Even the archaelogical evidence: finding confirmation that a place listed in the Bible is actually where it's supposed to be is only proof that the New Testament writers were familiar with the region.

Anonymous said...

The archeological evidence shows that it was a real place and a real time. What fictional story has that much archeological support and passes those tests that I mentioned? The ending of Mark isn't on the two oldest manuscripts - so what. No evidence for the maji trek - So.
The New Testament passes the historical tests with flying colors. The vast majority of the 200,000 readings are strictly grammatical. Also, theese readings are sread throughout nearly 5,700 manuscripts, so that a varient spelling of one letter of one word in one verse in 2,000 manuscripts is counted as 2000 errors. Only one in 60 of theese varients has significance. This leaves the text 98.33 percent pure. The small percent in question doesn't affect a single doctrine of Christianity.

Anonymous said...

The New Testament documents were written well within two generations of the events by eye witnesses or their contemporaries, and the New Testament storyline is corroborated by non-Christian writers. When the historical testing method is applied the New Testament comes out good. Ultra-Liberals of critical biblical scholarship agree that the following points concerning Jesus and Christianity are actual historical facts.
1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
2. He was bured most likely in a private tomb.
3. Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondant, having lost hope.
4. The desciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearences of the risen Jesus.
5. Due to theese experiences, the desciples lives were transformed. They were even willing to die for their belief.
6. The gospel message centered on the preaching of the death and ressurection of Jesus.
7. Sunday was the primary day for worshipping.
8. James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic before this time, was converted when he believed he also saw the risen Jesus.
9. Just a few years later, Paul became a Christian believer, due to an experience that he also believed was an appearence of the risen Jesus.

yaguei said...

The problem isn't religions but the source of them, and this is the concept of gOD, concept supported by people's gullibility usually called faith. It will be interesting to know where this concept comes from.

To believe in man made, anthropomorphic Gods is natural but believing in unmaterial gODs like Abrahamic one is UNnatural.

The core problem of religions is gOD existence, without gOD there is no support for religions, and the burden of this problem is to prove that gOD exists.

Can or could religious leaders to prove that it really exists? NOT AT ALL.

The ultimate proof is Aristotle's one that states that gOD is a necessary being and so doesn't need a creator. This argument is BS, Camel Crap, there is no reason to say this less one that proves it. So, gOD doesn't exist no mater what.

The Universe doesn't need a creator, if it needs one so gOD too needs one. The simplest way to put it at rest is: There is NO gOD. And so, religions are, strictly, a human affair, a human delusion, an instrument to exploit the weak and gullible, mostly the poor, women and kids.

Humanity is on its way to be free from gOD. Be active part of this wonderfull Epiphany, the greatest ever.