A person‟s early social environment from one‟s youngest age, contains factors that determine one‟s original response to the developing knowledge of the distinction between „self‟ and „not- self‟. Society presents the first response to the existential crisis created by this as it imposes a set of moralistic doctrines designed to impel the individual to acquiesce to its own ends.
Its role in this situation is to institute laws and behavioral patterns that are considered to be characteristic and expected of the individual. One‟s adherence to the moral structure is enforced by both brute force; jail, persecution and its religious institutions, giving us classical conditioning and crude forms of behavior, laying solid foundation for governmental and religious legislation. Indeed, the prison system doesn’t rehabilitate, but punishes; and hell exists for the court of God. The idea is to change human behavior without appeal to reason. And in the absence of reason, there is rationalization.
The intellect can provide rational explanations for ideas and convictions that were internalized since childhood. These ideas are perceived so deeply and intensely that they seem as natural law providing strong conviction due to the unconscious or subconscious claims to authority that they hold. Yet our conscious minds provide much more elaborate explanations creating the illusion that one consciously and intelligently arrived at the beliefs one holds. Only a thoroughly deep philosophical introspection can address this issue.
This rationalization is all too common and explains why well-educated people can still accept the ridiculous notions of Christianity. This behavior also extends itself outside of religion; for example, a way to explain why we bought that expensive sports car. An example of this was an experiment where Freud had hypnotized a patient and gave the suggestion to carry an umbrella around on a sunny day. When asked why he was carrying the umbrella he provided a rational explanation and believed it was his ‘choice’. The ideas impressed on our ‘blank slate’ minds from infancy forwards share an operative effect and function as a deep hypnosis that is our innate conditioning; a process not so easy to reverse as is hypnosis. Yet we may begin by questioning our thoughts and checking to see whether or not they are actually our own thoughts; by following knee-jerk reactions to thinking chain of thoughts that brought this automatic response.
Religious preaching, indoctrination, and moralizing serve to shift the direction of the individual‟s behavior away form personal, selfish goals toward those ends that are necessary to perpetuate society. Our religious beliefs and experiences are then initially determined by our social environment, which also continues to nurture, shape these into a system of values. The individual gets his or her religion through a graduated social process of reinforcement by means of reward and punishment. Hence, compliance becomes a means of securing reward and avoiding punishment and religion takes on a righteous moral tone.
– Paul Joseph Rovelli, Religious Experience & the Existential Crisis