|Belief is a Collective Effort
To make sense of a complicated world and our place in it, humans need to construct meaning. We need to know what is expected of us, how to behave and how to function among other people. Otherwise, our sense of self is at risk.
But our protective systems of belief cannot work without the support of others. Regardless of "what religious or belief system you accept, if you have a set of philosophical beliefs that you hold strongly, and you have others who support you in those beliefs, there's less likelihood you'll be unhappy. It's a pretty dramatic effect," said Matthew Brashears, a Cornell assistant professor of sociology and author of a new study published in the journal Social Networks that identifies factors that protect us from unhappiness as well as anomia, the individual experience of anomie -- to be at loose ends.
Brashears, a social network analyst, tested Peter Berger's theories about religion and plausibility structures by analyzing General Social Survey data collected by the National Opinion Research Center. He found that belief paired with support from like-minded others has an effect where belief and support separately do not. "It doesn't look like just having friends, in and of itself, has much of a protective impact," he said. "You also need reinforcement. It's difficult to be an outsider."
"Every now and then something happens that challenges your perception of the world and rocks you to the core," said Brashears. "The Haiti earthquake is a disaster that strikes out of nowhere for no apparent reason. It can create a sense of being lost and adrift, and it challenges the way that you've been legitimating your life and the way you've been living."
Because humans are intelligent, social creatures, and the world is unpredictable and chaotic, we protect ourselves with belief. "We're pattern-making organisms," Brashears said. "We have to create a way of understanding the world in order to act properly in regard to it. We create these understandings of how things work collectively."
He added that the study is "an important validation of a fundamental claim of sociology: We're group creatures, we create social worlds and we need those social worlds to be reinforced to be comfortable. And when those social worlds collapse, we have a difficult time with it."
written by George Lowery, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Matthew Brashears, Cornell University
Thinking after Heidegger
by Gail Stenstad