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Theory X and Theory Y Religion

By       Message Richard Mathis     Permalink
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Back in the 1960s Douglas McGregor at the MIT Sloan School of Management developed a model of human motivation that became known as Theory X and Theory Y. This model has been extensively used in human resource management, and organizational behavior and development. Let 's apply the theory to religion and belief systems such as politics. Certainly, what I am about to present represents idealized positions and, in reality, every belief system can probably be said to contain elements of both Theory X and Theory Y. At the risk of simplification, allow me to apply Theory X and Theory Y to religion and organized belief systems as a whole.

In management, theory X holds that people are basically lazy, self-serving and avoid all work if they can. Hence, management needs to strictly manage to make sure the workers don 't goof-off. A very complex control structure needs to be implemented and closely monitored because at any point, shiftless humans can corrupt the system. The system must remain pure, which requires strict enforcement of the many rules and regulations that must be literally interpreted and vigorously enforced. Legalism is a term often used for this approach, where the literal word is more important than the spirit of the law.

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Theory X religion holds that people are inherently bad and if left to their own consciences will do the wrong thing every time. Theory X holds that no one chooses to do good on their own but must be properly managed to do what is right. People must have a highly structured hierarchy that regulates their every action in order to prevent them from incorrectly acting or thinking. Also needed is an extensive and explicit list of do 's and don 't 's with strict enforcement and punishment to uphold the authority of the organized belief system.

Theory X belief systems promote a culture of purity that prides itself on being superior over the impure, which is often anyone not a part of the organized belief system. Theory X also holds that since humans are basically impure that they cannot have a direct relationship with the Creator. That is why there must be a system of purification which is only obtained by rigorous adherence to the specified system of conceptualization and a well-defined system of practice intended to demonstrate loyalty to the given belief system. Adherents need to talk the official spin and walk the official walk. The role of authority is to control the impure. Impurity includes thoughts, words and deeds that go against the official position.

Again, remembering that I am speaking in idealistic terms, Theory Y has a far more optimistic view of humans. In management, this theory views people as aspiring to responsibility and wanting to achieve high standards. People are held to be basically good, and to have creative and spiritual desires which, when allowed free expression and provided the proper nurturing, lead to personal fulfillment and betterment of the common good. This viewpoint holds that people tend to do bad things out of ignorance, fear or greed. Religious proponents of Theory Y hold that people are basically good and that if given the right opportunities and shown the right understanding, love and guidance that even the worst people can be redeemed if they so desire.

Whereas Theory X extremists insist on man 's basic state of wickedness, Theory Y proponents believe that humanity was created in the Divine image and that our consciences reflect that image. The law is written in our hearts according to this optimistic viewpoint. We seek to do good because that is our basic nature, according to Theory Y.

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Theory Y belief systems hold that a person is capable of bettering his lot. Bad events are temporary setbacks that are limited to circumstances and which can be overcome by persistent and correct effort. One can learn from one 's mistakes, pick oneself up and make the best of the situation. Theory Y holds that the more faith a person is shown, the more faith the person will have in overcoming obstacles. On the other hand, Theory X proposes that the individual is basically helpless and needs extensive intervention to be saved from himself. Theory X views bad events as the personal fault of an individual, and that such events are permanent and pervasive. Bad things happen to people because they are bad, holds this view. Their only hope is for the Theory X management team to take control of their miserable, pathetic lives and tell them what to believe and do. On the other extreme, Theory Y believes that while it is true that something bad might happen to us because we did something badly, that we can overcome our mistakes, learn from them and move on. We humans are capable of ruling ourselves with reason and compassion. To borrow from Thomas Jefferson 's famous admonishment about the government which governs best, Theory Y holds that the religion which tries to govern the least, governs the best.

Extreme Theory Y religion also holds that no one or system of belief has all the answers, even Theory Y. Hence, we need to be tolerant and considerate of other viewpoints. As no belief and opinion is sacrosanct, Theory Y is optimistic that the truth does set us free while ideology merely binds us. Theory Y believes truth is more important than our beliefs, concepts and conditioning and that truth has to be sought objectively and rationally. Thus, Theory Y religion is willing to objectively consider findings of science, even those which lend credence to claims that humans are inherently good.

Theory Y is so optimistic as to believe that in accordance with the freedom God gave us, each individual is free to choose how they conceptualize and believe in a Supreme Being. None of us has a perfect conceptualization of God and Theory Y holds that it is most dangerous to think that one does.

Finally, as I earlier said, these are extreme idealizations and in reality every religion and belief system appears to contain elements of both approaches. As to which Jesus was, what would you say: more an optimistic Theory Y proponent or a negative Theory X advocate?


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B. 1952, GA, USA. D. To Be Determined. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, lover, confidant and friend of many from bikers to Zen masters; American writer and speaker, known for his criticism of Mammon's unholy trinity of big business, big (more...)
 

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