Authorsare often influenced by events in the society that shape the life ofthe people. The events give rise to themes that speak about thesociety and they show what the society stands for. The work ofauthors is to give the story of societies using themes that describethese societies. The books ‘Them: Adventures with extremists’ and‘Salvation’ talk about different societies, but which havesimilar themes. The stories depict different societies according tothemes which characterize the societies in different extents. Thisdiscussion shall focus on similar themes in the stories.
Religionis a common theme that occurs in most of the stories and shapes thesocial lives of most people. In the book “Them: Adventures withextremists” Ronson, follows the stories of extremists and the roleof religion in justifying their actions. The extremists, Ronsonargues are driven by religious idealism, which is twisted so as tojustify extremist’s actions. Ronson argues that the interpretationof religious teachings is the root cause of extremism and the leadersof the groups control the interpretation of religious teachings. Thisnotion is connected to Ericsson’s argument about why people lie in‘The ways we lie’. Ericsson argues that people deflect issuesthat are bound to bring discomfort. This is the ideal behindreligious extremism, where leaders deflect the truth so as to ensurethat they have a solid following.
Religioninfluences society based on how it is interpreted by differentpeople. According to Hughes, his salvation was marked by vividdescriptions of Jesus, hell and heaven and being new to salvation, hewas bound to believe these descriptions. His internal conflictsreveal how religion is often indoctrinated to the society so as tomake people believe in what is preached. The role of religion is tomake people behave in certain ways. That was why religious teachingsincluded hell and heaven so as to create beliefs that would influencepeople’s behavior.
Religionalso was also shown not to be a personal choice and people wereexpected to behave in certain ways. Hughes said that he cried when hewent home because he did not experience the salvation that wasexpected of him. His family members, on the other hand, believed thatthis was because he was experiencing salvation. This shows thatreligion is meant to make people behave in certain ways. Ronsonshared that the extremists were supposed to be aggressive towardspeople who were considered non- believers and that was why mostpeople ended up being violent (Ronson 1). The religious teachingswere designed to influence their behavior and thus, they could notmake independent choices based on the teachings they received.
Religionis also used as a means of gaining power and control by a fewindividuals. The people use religion to influence how people behaveand think so that they can gain control. Omar used religiousteachings to gain followers who would them become his fighters. Hisinterpretation of religious teachings was aimed an indoctrinatingpeople and gaining him followers. The preacher in ‘Salvation’also used the teachings of salvation and Jesus to make people believein what he was teaching. He wanted to have followers and he thus usedthe story of heaven and hell to make people believe in his teachingsand seek guidance from him.
Religionis also a powerful tool used by charismatic people to convince othersto believe in what they teach. Most religious leaders, like thepreacher in ‘Salvation,’ and Omar in ‘Them: adventure withextremists,’ have the ability to use words and ideologies toconvince the masses. The charismatic leaders have charm and they knowhow to use words for their own gain. The leaders often do not giveothers a chance to express their views and they ensure that theyremain in leadership positions. For example, Omar did not let anyoneelse come up with ideas on how the extremists would act. He ensuredthat his leadership was not challenged.
Thetheme of propaganda is also evident in the two stories. Propaganda isthe main tool used by people to influence others and make thembelieve in certain things. Hughes argued that the preacher focused oncertain issues in his preaching so as to convince people to getsaved. The teaching was that Jesus would come to save sinners andsave people from their mistakes. Hughes, however, argued that Jesuswas not going to come and save people. Instead, people had to chooseto do what was required of them. The argument that Jesus was thesavior was thus a propaganda that was meant to make people have falsebelief in a person they did not see.
Theuse of propaganda, according to Ronson was also the main tool used byreligious extremists to find new recruits (Ronson 1). The extremistsused propaganda to make people believe in their ideologies. Theextremists gave false interpretations of religious teachings so thatthey would make people believe in them. Propaganda was used to twiststories and influence people’s way of thinking so that they wouldbe easily recruited into extremism. Extremists often use propagandato give false hope to people who are dissatisfied with their lives.That was why Yacob was easily recruited into extremism, as he wasangry with the fact that he had been bullied.
Thetheme of innocence was also evident in the two stories. Hughes was aninnocent teenager who did not understand salvation. He was not awareof what was expected of him and he used the people around himinfluenced his decision to seek salvation. Hughes was a young boy whowas still discovering himself and the idea of salvation was thus nothis own informed decision. Ronson also showed how Yacob was innocentin that he thought the world was ruled by a few people who controlledany means of emancipation. Yacob thus believed in Omar, who promisedthat his ideologies would emancipate people from the oppression ofthe many. What Yacob did not realize was that Omar was using hisinnocence to push his own agenda of ruling the world.
Thetwo stories also show a belief in powers and people beyondthemselves. The belief in an external strength or power influencespeoples decision and they thus look up to the external power forguidance. Ronson showed how Yacob had faith in Omar to deliver himfrom what he considered oppression from the society (Ronson 1). Yacobbelieved that Omar held the ability to make society a better placeand he thus did not question his authority. In ‘Salvation,’Hughes argued that the people believed that Jesus had the ability tosave them and the preacher carried the message of believing in Jesus.The preacher taught people not to believe in their capabilities tochange their lives, but to believe in Jesus so that he would savethem.
Thetheme of exploitation also features prominently. The exploitation wasmeant to make people do what they were required to do withoutquestioning. Omar exploited the disgruntled youth of Britain so thatthey could help him spread his ideologies (Ronson 2). He gave themfalse hope and made them believe in his ability to offer them abetter life. On the other hand, Hughes saw the use cheers and shoutsof amen as a way of exploiting the youth of the people who weregetting saved. The congregation was exploited by the preacher as heprompted them to cheer so that the newly saved people would feel thejoy of salvation.
Inconclusion, the two stories show different themes that characterizesociety. The main theme is religion and how it is used to createfalsehood and propaganda in society. The two stories also feature therole of religion in creating divisions in society. The religiousleaders also use their positions, propaganda and charisma to gainrecruits and to remain in power. The main idea is to gain power byinfluencing people’s behavior and beliefs. The use of ideologies isimportant as it is the main mode of creating falsehood and makingpeople believe in powers beyond themselves. There is also the issueof using religion to make people feel powerless so that they do nottrust their own abilities to control their lives.
Ronson,Jon. “Them: Adventures with extremists” NewYork Times. NewYork: The New York Times, 2002. Web.