Beware of Groupthink!
Humans as well as other creatures often find feelings of protection, acceptance, and even a lower sense of responsibility when they belong to a group. It is true that if you are a zebra and are in a herd that is being hunted by one lion, your probabilities of being the lion’s dinner go down, the larger the group is. But that is not the kind of groupthink that is going to be addressed here.
American Indians used to direct stampeding buffalo over cliffs. The buffalo would generally stampede together, for protection. But what they did not realize is that they were being led to their deaths!
Humans are emotional creatures and usually have strong desires to be protected, accepted, and to minimize personal responsibility. Sad to say, it is a fact that many humans will defy logic or morals to protect the group that they are in, even if it means their death. We see this in almost all politics, business, and religion.
An amazing animation that has groupthink interwoven throughout the story is Smallfoot (2018). The main character finds himself at odds with strong held beliefs of his group. He decides to side with integrity, but then changes his mind, and then back again. He is banished for his initial decision to believe differently from the group and undergoes pressure to change his mind. This is, in my mind, a very good lesson and story for all ages.
But what does this have to do with religion?
For many, religion provides a sanctuary in which they feel protected and accepted. This is how it should be. But are they really protected? Where are the spiritual shepherds leading their flocks?
Some might argue that all religions are good. However, that is not what Jesus indicated. He told a group of religious leaders, the Pharisees, that their father was the Devil (John 8:13; 8:44). And these were the ones who were supposed to be shepherding the flock of the God of Abraham, Yahweh!
In a discussion with Jesus, the religious leaders said;
13 The Pharisees therefore said to him, “You testify about yourself. Your testimony is not valid.”
44 You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn’t stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father.
Jesus also stated that the spiritual shepherds were keeping themselves and their flock from entering the kingdom of God! (Matthew 23:13)
13 Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and you Pharisees—such frauds and pretenders! You do all you can to keep people from experiencing the reality of heaven’s kingdom realm. Not only do you refuse to enter in, you also forbid anyone else from entering in!
Groupthink can be dangerous because not only do the leaders choose to be blinded from the truth, by their own desires, but their followers are too! This is because they are following their desires, their emotions, their hearts. They put these emotional desires of acceptance, protection, and lack of personal responsibility before seeking the truth of God. They are moving, as a herd, thinking that they are protected, but are blind.
What these unscrupulous groups do not want is for followers to question where they are going. However, if someone decides to seek the truth of God first, what these groups think will not matter!
It can be an emotionally scary thing, to break away from a group that has provided a sense of acceptance and protection, in the past. But can you imagine if you were a buffalo that broke away from the group? It would have been scary, but you would have lived!
If we were among the group that Jesus spoke of as having the Devil as their father, would we have given what Jesus said some thought, and got out? Or would we have exercised groupthink to protect our own emotional needs? It is much easier to go with the group than to challenge it. This is one reason why Jesus stated that the road leading to everlasting life is narrow in comparison to the road leading to death (Matthew 7:13).
13 Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it.
It makes one wonder how could those religious leaders actually put Jesus to death, with all the things that they had seen? Logically, it does not make sense, with the exception of the exercise of groupthink, and that type of ill-founded logic leads to death. That is because, in groupthink, people are thinking with ill-placed emotions rather than logic. They allow emotions to block out logic.
It is mainly because of groupthink, that people refuse to see the simple truth. They are blind. Until they want to break away, they choose to remain blind. That is why someone could be looking at the truth, right in front of them, and they would refuse to acknowledge it as truth. They would have to fight strongly established emotions, which make them feel right. But they do not have the love or desire to hold God above themselves. They hold the group above God. Otherwise, why protect it from scrutiny based upon scriptures?
This is why, when trying to show most people logical reasoning that assaults long held beliefs (doctrines), most will not listen. That is because they are part of groupthink. They allow emotions to overrule common sense.
When thinking about groupthink, it is much easier to understand 2 Corinthians 4:4 (AMP);
4 among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Examples of this would be any strongly held doctrine that is protected from close examination by means of God’s word:
Catholics: Prayers to Mary
Main stream Christianity: Trinity
Mormons: The book of Mormon as being above the Bible
Jehovah’s Witnesses: Doctrine that Jesus began ruling in 1914, over the earth.