Thursday, April 6, 2017


From The Living Church (July 31, 1926), pp. 467-68.

A GOOD behaviorist could work out quite an attractive bit of analysis by comparing the different Christian Churches according to his psychology. For in church, obviously much depends on behavior. There, especially, bodily attitudes and gestures, the forming of words, and the tones with which the words are spoken, are theoretically supposed to be of no great account, but actually express, or affect, or even are, the substance of religious beliefs and spiritual attitudes. A pronounced “ritualist” is thus a religious behaviorist. And public, corporate worship of any sort is about the most behavioristic thing there is.

So far as that goes, we need not be behaviorists at all to perceive that beliefs are highly colored by the ways in which we pronounce the words “I believe,” and by the actions with which we accompany our recitation of the Creed. And a great deal of our belief depends on our taste for this behavior or that. Take the one example of ceremonial bowing. Some like it, like to see it done, and like to do it even lavishly themselves; others invidiously talk of “bowing and scraping” (where “and scraping” is evidently put in for disparaging effect), to show that they detest it. Now while we cannot surrender the truth that we bow because we believe, we must admit that we believe more intensely when we bow; the believing and the bowing reinforce each other, and certainly believing comes much more easily to one who likes to bow than to one who hates it. So some beliefs are in part dependent on our taste or distaste for bowing. Kneeling to receive Holy Communion is another example, with a history of its own; and there are many more.

More here-

No comments: