Morality is a Team Sport: To Join or Not To Join
Hi Everyone! My name is Rachel Kulick and I am a professor in sociology at UMass Dartmouth. This is my first year participating in the summer reading blog and it has been fascinating to read your insights and inquiries about the Righteous Mind. As incoming first year students, you are about to embark on an adventure, university life, a new experience with a wide range of potential opportunities to become a part of a larger social fabric. It is often through new experiences, new communities that we are poised to explore and challenge our existing ideas and values, and perhaps develop a few new ones.
In sociology, we talk a great deal about socialization – how we influence and how we are influenced by our social worlds. How do we learn how to interact in our social worlds? To a large extent, we look to social norms within our everyday lives to shape our identities and actions. We learn about norms and social conventions in many different arenas of our lives including family, school, peer relations, media, and the list goes on. These norms vary depending on whether we are alone or in a group; online or offline; at home, at work, in school, or hanging out with friends; and so forth. Our social location including social forces such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social class, education, religion, nationality, age, etc. also influence how our identities form and evolve. I believe that this socialization process of defining and redefining our identities is an ongoing project throughout life. Our identities begin to develop in childhood but it is never a completed project. It could be said that entering university is a pivotal point in this socialization process.
Haidt provides us with some interesting insights about this socialization process in chapter 11, “Religion is a Team Sport.” Haidt uses the example of religion, to explore how religion provides individuals with a sense of community: “If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal compass, read by the rider.” (313). In other words, religious life contributes to our elephant mentality – our sense of trust and cohesion while atheist life contributes to our rider – our reliance on reasoning and rationalism.
While religion is one example of community, there are many different communities that can contribute to how we make sense of our worlds. As you reflect on your generation and your experiences of childhood and adolescence, how have differing communities (school, family, religion, media, peer relations, etc.) or social forces (gender, race, sexuality, social class, etc.) influenced you and your generation? Which experiences stand out as ones that have significantly contributed to your identity? What kinds of communities do you hope to join or perhaps create at UMass Dartmouth?