Different Rituals Provoke Mockery and Mistrust in Aberdeen

NPR’s social science feature on today’s Morning Edition discussed research showing that people who practice a ritual, even newly learned, seemingly meaningless ritual, show more trust for people who perform the same ritual and less trust for people who don’t practice the ritual.

I guess that explains this childish post from Aberdeen’s local xenophobe club:

"Americans First, Task Force", public Facebook post, 2017.04.02.
“Americans First, Task Force”, public Facebook post, 2017.04.02.

Mocking individuals engaged in public prayer—yes, how neighborly.

Funny: I don’t mock the Hutterites for wearing clothes and speaking a language that clearly mark their religiously driven separation from mainstream culture. I don’t immediately mistrust people whom I hear inserting “under God” into their Pledges of Allegiance. I’m suspicious of the theology of pro running backs who incorporate kneels and gestures toward the sky in their endzone celebrations, simply because I doubt any worship-worthy deity would invest heavily in who scores more points in a professional entertainment event. But I don’t marginalize pro running backs, under-Godders, and Hutterites for worshipping differently from my traditions.

Social science may identify a tendency to feel uncomfortable with people who behave differently from one’s own customary practices. But such a tendency does not justify posting photos making fun of others’ rituals to sow and reinforce distrust and hatred.

39 Responses to Different Rituals Provoke Mockery and Mistrust in Aberdeen

  1. “Under God” is in the pledge of allegiance, Cory. “Inserting under God” into the pledge is the norm. If you mistrusted people who don’t omit “under God” from the pledge you wouldn’t find a whole lot of people to trust.

  2. It’s part of human nature that our attention is drawn to people doing things out of the ordinary – like the men in the photos. That’s how the Honey Boo Boo show gained a following.

  3. People fear things they don’t understand. Unfortunately, there is a LOT of fear in SD! :-(

  4. mike from iowa

    I get delicious irony knowing that fauxknee kristian wingnuts in congress start the day with a prayer and look sorta solemn-like before they get down to taking food, education, healthcare, etc from the least among us so their lord and saviour’s favored wealthy can have more taxpayer dollars. Maybe it is just me.

  5. My vast experience in these matters has shown it is not the under-godders you need to worry about, it’s the over-godders.

  6. Don Coyote

    It seems rather odd that salaah is being performed in a gas station lot considering that a Muslim should not offer prayers in dirty premises. Cleanliness of mind, body and premises are of paramount importance in the offering of daily prayers. Also in the spirit of salaah in a public place, one should not inconvenience or hold up others ie blocking the pump creating an inconvenience to the business and other customers.

  7. Robin Friday

    “Under God” wasn’t in the Pledge until the 1950s, and was inserted to “protect” us by evangelicals intent upon supporting Christianity above all other religions (unconstitutional) and separating us from the “godless communists”. It should not be there and should disappear, but there are always bigger fish to fry.

  8. Robin Friday

    I wonder why the America Firsters have assumed the men are praying. I’m not sure there’s any “ritual” going on except maybe a problem with the machine or trying to get the credit card out.

  9. Next time I see a group of openly “born again” (how can that be possible with out a midwife?) praying at Perkins over some hot cakes, I will video them. Then mock them for letting their hot cakes turn into cold pancakes while whispering over them. I will video the secret handshake that Mormon’s do (already done, shucks). Regarding Mormon’s, anyone who is reading this and also their parents, grandparents, aunts uncles etc., you all have been baptized into the Mormon religion. How about that? Yup, even those Muslims, even though they don’t even know it or the 6 million dead Jewish folks from WWII. Don’t get me started on the Mason’s or the Knights of Columbus. Good grief, is this what we are becoming?

  10. The original pledge had no “under God.” As Robin notes, Congress officially inserted it in 1954. People around me continue to insert it. I choose not to make that insertion.

  11. The out-of-the-ordinary does draw our attention. Taking the extra step to mock the out-of-the-ordinary to foment fear and loathing remains unacceptable.

  12. It’s looks like they’re kneeling on a mat though, Coyote. I suppose they couldn’t find anywhere else to pray and practicing Muslims are supposed to pray at exact times each day.

  13. Per Don Coyote’s comment, I am unclear on the requirements (and the universality thereof) of Muslim prayer. Are Muslims expected to drop and give Allah 20 wherever they are at the appointed times? Is there any grace period on those times, Jenny? Must Muslims, like responsible cell-phone users, pull over while driving and do their thing?

    I will take an equal opportunity position: if anyone engages in a religious ritual in a public place in such a manner that obstructs the normal course of traffic, business, etc., I will ask the obstructor to move along.

    But you know what really gets in the way of pumping gas? Those shouting gas pump TVs. I’m trying to conduct a transaction—picking fuel, declining car wash, selecting ‘Print Receipt”—I don’t need any distraction. Get those TVs off the pumps!

  14. Now, Jerry, let’s be nicer to our neighbors than our neighbors. But the thought experiment is worth considering: our Americans First, Task Force neighbors would never stand for being treated the way they treat other members of the community.

  15. Donald Pay

    Obviously, they are Republicans. Bowing down to the fossil fuel industry is what Republicans do.

  16. Yes Cory, strict practicing Muslims are supposed to pray several times per day, though I don’t know the exact number of times. They’ve probably been told that as long as they have a clean prayer mat than that is good enough if they can’t find the best place to do it.

  17. happy camper

    But why should the reverence you ask be given to believers of any kind? I understand these are probably Christian believers mocking a different faith, but it’s all hocus pocus, the respect we must give to free speech is way more important. In fact their ridicule opens them up more easily to ridicule.

    You might be thinking we need to be kind to one another regardless of the belief system, but too many people are dying over adherence to their religion, their god which doesn’t even exist, so ludicrous, and worse by Muslims who blow themselves up while chanting god is great. In those highly-Muslim countries the ritual of praying in public multiple times a day also has a strong social reinforcement that one must adhere, and makes those with other beliefs easily recognizable.

    I’m left thinking that Freedom of Speech is the most important thing we have to combat ignorance and one day rise above superstition of all kind.

  18. As far as the pictures go. They are not causing any damage, there are other pumps that can be used, the prayer session only takes five to ten minutes. I say, Let them be and go about your business. Look at all the crazy traditions we Americans have.

    and Cory I share your distaste for the gas pump tv. I would be okay with it if they had useful information like local weather reports or road conditions or even a heads up on local traffic patterns. But the word of the day? Do I really care about the score of the first Superbowl? Just flip the switch and turn them off.

  19. You are correct Cory, I have begun the self flagellation of my body with great handfuls of wet noodles and even sent myself a memo to be more tolerant than my neighbor, whoever that shall be.

  20. Wade Brandis

    I recall seeing some of these gas pump TVs at the Common Cents station in Wall. Luckily, it only started playing after the fuel started pumping, and it was inane pop culture videos. Oh, and there was college basketball stuff too, just when I want to get away from all that.

    I can see where such gas pump TVs could be useful, as MC noted. Beyond weather forecasts, at least include videos that aren’t tasteless or celebrity gossip. Perhaps show cool science videos or “On This Day in History”. Word of the day could also be included if done right.

  21. mike from iowa

    Donald Pay wins the internet today. :)

  22. mike from iowa

    Those tvs could document a Drumpf lie per day and fill out the entire year of lies only 2 months into this reign of terror.

  23. Maybe our Muslim neighbors should ask Shell and other gas vendors to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer five times a day from their gas pumps.

    5–10 minutes? MC, you’re a bit too generous. If it’s busy, prayer or Buddhist meditation or picking your nose or any other non-pumping activity had better not take longer than it takes to fill the tank and, if necessary, run in and pay.

    Hap, at no point do I ask for reverence. Tolerance will suffice—i.e., not holding them up for unnecessary mockery. You and I know the Americans First, Task Force didn’t post these photos as a simple free-speech exercise. They posted these photos to mock not only the subjects but anyone who shares their looks and religion, in an attempt to keep those folks marginalized and reinforce the racist, xenophobic attitudes of the AF,TF followers. I’m not calling for a ban on the AF,TF speech, but I am calling for clear condemnation of their unhealthy attitude.

  24. I thought something was off about those pictures.

    At prayer time Muslims are to face toward Mecca specifically to Kaaba. From the pictures these two are facing north, not East by Southeast.

  25. Perhaps they are fake Muslims, doing this to interfere with the gas station’s legal business of selling petroleum products. Sort of a protest, if you will, blocking legal activities and interfering with the rights of others. The Governor, Mr. Daugaaard, could invoke his new law on them.

    I jest, of course. They are orienteeringly challenged Muslims.

    I’m with Mr. H on this issue. Let the record show grudznick and Mr. H are in lockstep again.

  26. Don Coyote

    @MC: “I thought something was off about those pictures. At prayer time Muslims are to face toward Mecca specifically to Kaaba. From the pictures these two are facing north, not East by Southeast.”

    I did too but a qibla compass shows that the correction direction to face is 39.5 deg from the N facing E.


    It must be using the great circle method (orthodromic) of calculating distance between two points on a sphere. The orthodromic distance is the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere. On a sphere you will always be facing Mecca no matter your POV so distance becomes the determining factor. Muslims in Australia face NW. The men in the photos appear to be facing NE according to Google maps, hence in accordance with Muslim prayer.

  27. grudznick may stand corrected, based on Mr. Coyote’s findings. They may be orienteeringly informed Muslims, who are also promptly ritualistic.

  28. Bob Newland

    I am for making fun of anybody doing stupid crap anytime. I am a big fan of “people of Walmart” photos.

    I am especially fond of anything that makes fun of others’ devotion to imaginary friends.

    I am, in short, a jerk. But sometimes I come up with something that makes people chuckle. It’s all worth it.

    Until I stab myself in the eye because I was running with scissors.

  29. Bob, at peril of sounding like I will excuse my friends but condemn my enemies for identical actions, I would contend that when you make fun of people, you’re just being, in your word, a jerk… but an equal-opportunity jerk. When the anonymous poster of the pix on the AF,TF page make fun of the men in the picture above, they are promoting an agenda of racism and xenophobia.

  30. happy camper

    I don’t know Cory, it strikes me that the tolerance you ask, beyond this case, is also an act of complicity by atheists to sit by and watch believers harm themselves and others. Why, because it seems noble to let everyone believe what they want? Not when it crosses that line.

    I get you don’t like the mockery which is absurd simply coming from a different set of believers, but when do atheists begin to challenge and call for more reform and advancement, rather than continue to say “let’s all be tolerant of one another.” It doesn’t work when some religions as practiced today are very intolerant.

  31. You know, besides the shoes off part of the picture, I’ve actually seen my good friend Bob do the exact same thing at convenience stores all over the Rapid City area. When Bob goes to Big Bats, that is exactly what he does. How do we know these people are real Muslims and aren’t just corporate narcs out doing a job for The Man?

    It is possible that these convenience stores have picked up on my friend’s signature hat and the corporate narc squads are diversifying. “kneel, pray, check that pump”

    I bet you they cost a bit more than Bob, but hey, it’s about getting the job done right.

  32. Joe Nelson

    Meh. Cory, you mock individuals as well as Christians on this blog; maybe not fomenting fear, but certainly fomenting loathing.

    As for Pledge of Allegiance purists, the current version is the official Pledge per Congress. I reckon you don’t do the original salute, which was abolished in WWII by Congress, nor refuse to include the language “of the United State of America” which were also inserted ’cause of all the immigrants. Or maybe you do, I guess I have never seen you recite the Pledge.

    Everything gets updated, even the Constitution.

  33. Darin Larson

    The hypocrisy of the situation for me is that many of these Americans First types are outraged by restrictions on public prayer in schools or in places of government, but here they are mocking people engaged in public prayer. They are all for religious freedom as long as it is only their religion that has the freedom.

  34. Hap, what harm do believers do to themselves or others by praying? It what harm am I complicit by saying, “Don’t post mocking photos of people praying in an effort to marginalize an entire group?”

    Joe, I place my hand on my heart during the Pledge. I’m inclined to leave out the “to the flag” part and skip right to the “Republic”, since I serve no piece of fabric, only the nation for which it stands.

    And Joe, you know the big difference between my mockery and AF,TF’s is that my mockery is right. :-D

    But seriously, Joe, show me an example of mockery I have issued that you deem comparable to the vile abuse offered by AF,TF.

    Darin, I would like to hear whether our local xenophobes feels that prayer in school and other Christian hot-button issues are important parts of their campaign to Keep South Dakota Safe.

  35. happy camper

    Not you personally Cory, but atheists are complicit, maybe passive is a better word, to look away when reason tells us god is a human fabrication while religious fanatics kill each other over it or blow themselves up.

    Less serious is this case of pointing fingers and laughing. Darin is right they are hypocrites, but still, religion in America is much more rational than fundamentalist Islam. We aren’t stoning people and the rest I don’t care to describe.

    For goodness sakes, Muslims are mandated to kneel down 4 times a day to talk to the boogeyman in the sky and in this fabricated honor fanatics commit atrocity. It’s too crazy to watch, isn’t it?

  36. If god is not a human fabrication like the bunny of Easter, then he is dead, for he drowned in a bowl of cereal many years ago. This is why the over-godders are so dangerous, folks, and those of you libbies with some sense of rational thought are insaner than most to attack every conservative you perceived. Can you not see where the real dangers are? So sayeth grudznick, and when I am gone you will mostly have to reap my warnings.

  37. Hap, I can’t take my atheism down the road of having to tell every Christian I see that they are wrong. My critique of religion is sufficiently public that I don’t have to fight that battle every day. I may not believe that religion is right, and harm certainly comes from some believers’ misapplication of their purported principles, but I also know enough Christians who get things mostly right to believe that we can achieve at least as much good (and probably more) by appealing to believers with universal reason and evidence as we can by waging war on their worldviews and demanding their conversion to atheism. My hope is that such an approach will earn a similar magnanimity from those believers toward us, a peaceful coexistence.

    Remember, Hap—if we atheists wage total war on Christians, we will lose. We are outnumbered. :-)

  38. Don Coyote

    I just noticed that our Muslim neighbors were in such a hurry to prostrate themselves in the dirty gas station lot that they forgot to close the passenger door on their car further obstructing access to the pumps, inconveniencing customers and disrupting business for the owners. Such good neighbors.