Religion is the opium of the people?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes)

No doubt our income has some influence on the way we see ourselves. How much? Do people feel a need to lie to themselves about their income? Do extremes of wealth or poverty promote self deception? Reminds me of the research regarding religion, devotion, education and income.

There are lots of obvious reasons to be against extreme income inequality, but here’s a new one: It encourages self-deception. A team of nineteen psychologists, led by Steve Loughman and Peter Kuppens, have crunched numbers from around the world, and their paper, ” Economic Inequality Is Linked to Biased Self-Perception,” published recently in Psychological Science, suggests that “the extent to which people engage in biased self-perception is influenced by the economic structure of their society, specifically its level of economic inequality.”

In the old days, a lot of that self-deception might have taken religious form: I am important in the eyes of God, therefore I am important in the eyes of humans. In modern times, there are parts of the self-help movement that is secular (though I am often impressed with the quasi-spiritual roots of most self-help books). And of course, there are many forms of self-deception that one invents, without getting it from anywhere. Desperation is a powerful incentive to lie to oneself. If you are 25 and dreaming of joining the upper middle class and, in fact, you have no hope of ever making it into the middle class, then you start to lie to yourself. More so, from what I’ve seen, the more desperate people are, the more wild their dreams become: making it into the upper middle class is actually a sober aspiration, whereas becoming rich and famous is less so. The truly desperate put all their hopes in winning the lottery, an absurd hope that is perhaps sometimes rationally irrational, as it gives some people more support than religion and it is a safer way of dealing with desperation than drinking too much alcohol.