Religion as Whole Package Thinking

Whole Package Thinking“Whole Package Thinking” (WPT) is one of the common notions of “religion”.  WPT is the habit of mind which seeks identity in a community’s shared system of thought, feeling and behavior.  For this benefit of identity and meaning, the mind is readily willing to sacrifice rationality.  The mind is willing to ignore parts of the package that are problematic.  For it is much easier to buy a whole package than to buy individual parts and to try to build your own system.  Besides, when your package is similar to others, you easily gain tribal recognition.

The Atlantic just did a short article on the I-Phone and how Apple can be a religion to people in the WPT sense.  I have seen WPT manifest throughout my own life, not only in my admiration of Apple products but also in styles of medicine (Homeopathy, Oriental Medicine, Modern Medicine), politics (Marxism, Libertarianism), nationalism and even mundane hobbies (Weiqi).  And of course, I have felt WPT in my religious attachments.  But Atheists can also manifest WPT.   For when one gives up religion, one does not necessarily give up all the mental habits that support religion.  Remember, these habit can actually benefit us.  They are double-edged swords of the mind.

WPT gives the purchaser a feeling of being bigger, stronger and more secure than just themselves.  It gives a sense of meaning, belonging and fulfillment.  Surely sacrificing areas of your rationality for these benefits is a rational decision. No?

Question: What Whole Package Thinking have you done so far in your life?

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Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Religion as Whole Package Thinking

  1. Ed

    Hi Sabio… good question. I might fire it back and ask what WPT the Boy Scouts have going… I was a Scout back in Chicago for a few years as a kid and do not really remember.
    I think WPT is pervasive. Ubiquitous. Inescapable.
    Not just in religion but also politics (we could not have a two party system with out WPT), healthcare (as you said), education and visible social lifestyle (VSL). :-} (Here think lawns and perfect looking yards).
    When I was younger, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I was a partial participant of WPT in many areas including the ones I have mentioned above. It is also commonly called “going along to get along” or GAGA. OK, I am teasing a bit… GAGA is just easier. It eliminates the possibility of constant arguing and confrontation and of being ostracized.
    In our education system, especially at the college level, there is a whole lot of overt and covert WPT and GAGA. People want to keep their jobs, so not making waves is an avenue to job security.
    Later in my life I have unconsciously developed a way of actively engaging with groups based around what we share and allowing them to assume the rest. This eliminates having to choke on stuff I do not believe and sacrifice my self respect.
    For example… in politics the Republicans think I am one of them because I support gun ownership. The Democrats think I am one of them because I support some sort of available healthcare. Actually I hate them both. But I can have a conversation because I just do not mention the other issues and they think I am a WP Thinker.
    In healthcare, I believe in so-called modern medicine in certain areas. What I do not mention is that i think there should be a class of Gatekeepers to get in to see an MD. We do not always need drugs or surgery. But in medicine, that is what you almost always get. If you are a hammer, the whole world is a nail. Same goes largely for chiropractic and TCM (traditional Chinese medicine)
    In education, I believe in tenure, but also that most professors with tenure should be immediately fired. (morons and dullards)…
    So, I have conversations with folks, based around commonly held aspects of beliefs and usually do not let them know that I disagree with almost everything else that goes with them… as in WPT. This is just a technique I have developed so that I do not spend the rest of my life totally alone.
    I hereby call it: IAKMMSSYWTHM I AM KEEPING MY MOUTH SHUT SO YOU WONT TOTALLY HATE ME. A defense mechanism… This behavior could occur if you somehow were with a group of Bible believers and you said that you had read the book. What you probably would not say is … well everything else… But they would most likely think you believed just like them. It would be your own choice to open the can of worms or not.
    Hmmm… it is early and this is making my head hurt… :-}
    I wonder if I actually got to your question…

  2. I notice this all the time when discussing certain philosophical challenges. I settle on a few parts of the problem that I think I know to be true, and kind of jam the other parts into line. On the same issue, other people find *different* parts to be non-negotiable, and jam different parts into place.

    It’s like you have this small box and you’re trying to fit a person into it. One guy might put the head in first and have to manhandle the limbs to get them in; another guy might put the feet in first and have to pound on the head.

  3. Kay

    What Whole Package Thinking have you done so far in your life?

    I swallowed the JW [Jehovah Witness] think hook, line and sinker for 10 years.

    Other than that, it’s mostly been my trying to accept the whole package, but without success. (Though sometimes I’ve come pretty close.)

  4. @ Ed :
    Indeed, I think many people hide inside that they don’t buy the whole package.

    @ JS Allen :
    “Jamming into place” <– I like that phrase.

    @ Kay :
    Jehovah Witness or Evangelicals or Hari Krishna groups, their lines and sinkers are tough enough, but those hooks are unbearable!

  5. Christianity in general, evangelicalism specifically, and that whole Apple Macintosh thing, once upon a long time ago. Maybe a particular sports team too, and cycling, less and less over time. I admittedly feel somewhat adrift with no WPT going on in my life at this time. Gotta get me a WPT…

  6. @ ATTR
    Thanks for sharing !
    WPT, like adolescent or young love, can be have blinding wonderfulness that we can’t help but look back at nostalgically.

  7. Andrew

    “What Whole Package Thinking have you done so far in your life?”

    Well, I got my Bachelor of Education. Does that qualify?
    I’m just spoofing a little, but there was a certain “This is the way!” attitude involved and a “Go with the modern pedagogy trends!” evangelism. And it offered a certain kind of insulated ingroup mentality.

    Just an added note: WPT also could stand for World Poker Tour. I misread the last two comments and wondered just how wild and gambly your youths might have been…

  8. @ Andrew
    Indeed, educational systems can definitely be WPT.

  9. Sabio, check out this post by Robin Hanson: It’s very relevant to your ideas about WPT, supported by 4 robust studies.

  10. @ JS
    Thanks. Yes, they seem to support the phenomena.

  11. Tim Smith

    Whole Package Thinking can be a phenomena in areas where we contend that it is non-operative. An example would be the counter-culture of the 1960’s which, while ostensibly not ‘buying into’ the WPT of the military industrial complex, created it’s own Package. Thinking, believing or acting contrary to mainstream standards can become as monolithic as that which it opposes. I often wonder what ‘I’ think, untainted by the trappings of my peers and prejudices. Are my assessments prejudices and vice versa? To be honest it is sometimes hard to tell. It is much easier to accept that what I think as normative for me would be so accepted by others were they ‘reasonable’ people, yet I know this cannot always be the case. To tease out the differences and similarities however is hard work and besides how do we go about this? Does the litmus test have a litmus test?

  12. @ Tim
    Indeed: “Does the litmus test have a litmus test?”
    Thus we Triangulate!

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