They “make love,” generate heat. The ordeal is hot and they are sweaty. Ultimately, they decide to shower together. Upon cleaning their bodies, the duo realizes they feel relieved. All their perspiration and transgressions were washed away.
Studies conclude; the sense of cleanliness after committing adultery or sex that is not ordained by a moral authority appeases guilt. The sensation, that all is “right with the world” if I wash after violating a value or ethical principle, is called the “Macbeth Effect.”
This marvel of “washing away my sins” is operating in the minds of many. Researchers, Chen-Bo Zhong from the University of Toronto, and Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University, establish there is a “psychological association between bodily purity and moral purity.”
They surmise it is no wonder. Religious rituals have focused on physical cleansing since the beginning of time. Initially, many of these rituals were in fact practical ways for controlling the transmission of diseases. Ultimately, the obsession to be clean or perhaps, guilt free led to an antibacterial trend. Numerous products touted they would prevent the spread of germs. After years of this campaign, scientist stepped in to remind the public, some bacteria is essential for good health. Society was shaken; people want to be cleansed, totally [inside and out.]
Even those that consider themselves non-religious are affected by societal mores. Traditions are learned and passed on from generation to generation. Whether we ourselves believe in Christ, Allah, Jehovah, Mohammed, or the Lord, it is likely that we were raised in a family where these deities were cherished. Our parents may have been Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or agnostic, or atheist, still they too were likely observant of societal standards. Please consider.
Christians baptize their young; they sprinkle or immerse the progeny into water. This act symbolizes that the young person has been accepted into the faith.
In the earliest Christian times, water was used for expiatory and purificatory purposes. As early as the fourth century various writings, the authenticity of which is free from suspicion, mention the use of water sanctified either by the liturgical blessing, or by the individual blessing of some holy person.For the devout Muslim cleanliness is a requirement.
Islam requires physical and spiritual cleanliness. On the physical side, Islam requires Muslims to clean their bodies, clothes, houses, and community.In Islam, God will reward those of faith for their cleanliness. People throughout the world may consider cleanliness desirable; however, those practicing Islam think purity is essential; it is a vital part of their religious life. In books discussing the philosophy, there is often an entire chapter devoted to this very requirement.
The Jewish people also honor cleanliness and absolution. Kosher laws are essentially a means to create and maintain healthy practices. They have since ancient times.
The passage, Ps. xxvi. 6, "I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord," also warrants the inference that Ablution of the hands is requisite before performing any holy act. This particular form of Ablution is the one which has survived most completely and is most practiced by Jews.Indeed, most religions equate cleanliness with holiness. If we wash our bodies, then our souls will be purified, or so we are taught.
In the minds of numerous persons, ethically corrupt acts can be and often are associated with physical filthiness. The act of washing one's hands seems to free individuals of their guilt, their sin, their indulgence, or even their crime. In three distinct experiments people acted as though they were able to "wash away moral feelings," said Chen-Bo Zhong, coauthor of the three studies on the Macbeth effect.
As I ponder the results of this research, many thoughts occurred to me. There are those that clean when they are upset, frustrated, or feeling overwhelmed. What might that be called, avoidance? Perchance it is meditative. I know that for me, a good vacuuming or shower can fill my mind with reflections and resolutions.
Apparently, a shower first stimulated this study.
"One day when I came back from the gym, had a shower, and had this fresh feeling, colleagues and I started talking whether there's something more that you're washing away while you wash your hands," [Zhong] said.
Zhong, found himself reflecting on the thought long after the conversation concluded. He mentioned the dialogue and his theories to a fellow post-graduate student, Katie Liljenquist. Together they hypothesized; might washing be more than a physical act. Might it involve the psyche in ways not typically considered? Are physical and moral purity connected in the mind. Then the two decided to test the possibilities.
During the study, about 170 undergraduate students were asked to focus on ethical or unethical deeds while taking part in several exercises such as word completion.Just as was true in the Shakespearian play persons participating in depraved, degenerate, lewd, or lascivious behavior become obsessed with cleansing their souls. Indeed, “the subconscious [was] manifesting itself through its choices.”
The researchers found that volunteers who had recalled a misdeed were more likely than those choosing a good deed to make choices associated with being unclean, says Zhong. These included interpreting the word fragment "W--H" as "wash" and picking an antiseptic wipe instead of a pencil as a gift. Researchers Zhong and Liljenquist labeled this act of absolution “the Macbeth effect.”
According to Dr. Zhong, "We found that after engaging in unethical behaviors such as lying or cheating, which leads you to question your moral self-perception, whether you're a good person, whether you're a moral person after all, this induces an urge to engage in physical cleansing, you want to wash your hands. You feel that literally that you're dirty.”
Zhong went on to state there are ”limits to the absolution afforded by a bar of soap." While it is true, 41 percent of the subjects who cleansed their hands chose to engage in volunteer work, one never knows whether the same subject would have responded as well were they given the opportunity to help the person that they wronged hours earlier. One never knows. In truth, much remains mysterious.
I personally am fascinated. Why do pious persons accept and acknowledge one aspect of religious dictums while ignoring many others. It might be said that America is becoming more secular; if that is truth we might understand why we are such a combative society, engaging in crime and combative worldwide.
the unaffiliated are currently at 10.8% of the population, as opposed to the 14% percent claimed by other surveys. This three to four percent difference is significant. Based on the current population, it means that researchers have previously over-counted the religiously unaffiliated by 10 million Americans, and may have overlooked as many or more Americans who are actually affiliated with Evangelical congregations and denominations.Worldwide the non-religious, which may are not necessarily non-believers, comprise about 14.7 percent of the population. Self-proclaimed atheists are only 3.8 percent of the global populace.
Barely one in ten Americans (10.8%) is NOT affiliated with a congregation, denomination, or other religious group.
Fewer than five percent of the U.S. population claims a faith outside of the Judeo- Christian mainstream.
Fully a third of Americans (33.6%), roughly 100 million people, are Evangelical Protestant by affiliation.
Yet, as we observe the nature of man worldwide, one has to wonder. Considering the number of wars here on earth, the abundance of adultery, the litany of larcenies, countless examples of coveting, the lack of honor bestowed upon parents, elders, humanity, and animals are we the cleanest creatures in the universe? I suspect we are.
Now, I need to shower. Feel free to contemplate. What might the reasons be; I wish to wash.
Wash your sins away. Worry no more. Bathe in resources . . .
• Lady Macbeth Not Alone in Her Quest for Spotlessness, By Benedict Carey. The New York Times. September 12, 2006
• Washing Away Your Sins: Threatened Morality and Physical Cleansing, By Chen-Bo Zhong and Katie Liljenquist. Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. September 8, 2006. Vol. 313. no. 5792, pp. 1451 - 1452
• People Really Do Wash Away Sins, By Charles Q. Choi. LiveScience. September 7, 2006
• Washing away your sins: the Macbeth effect, Erica Harrison. Cosmos Online. Friday, 8 September 2006
• Washing Our Sins Away -- Literally? By Siri Nilsson. ABC News. September 7, 2006
• Holy Water. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. 2006
• A Muslim's Daily Life - Tahara (Cleanliness or Purification), By Dislam. Discover Islam. Sunday, February 5, 2006
• Judaism. Wikipedia®
• Ablution, By Bernard Drachman and Kaufmann Kohler. JewishEncyclopedia.com.
• Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents. Adherents.com.
• Hand-washing may help cleanse conscience as well. Boston Globe. September 11, 2006
• Washing our hands of guilt, There's more to cleansing ourselves than good hygiene, study suggests, By Eric Shackleton. The Canadian Press. Friday, September 08, 2006
• How religion defines America, By Dr Richard Land. BBC News. Wednesday, February 25, 2004
• Majority in U.S. believes in God, By Jennifer Harper. The Washington Times. December 25, 2005
• Losing My Religion? No, Says Baylor Religion Survey, Baylor University. September 11, 2006
• Why people lie — and how to tell if they are, Dr. Gail Saltz. MSNBC News. January 31, 2004
• Infidelity, Adultery, Cheating, ... Divorce Peers.
• Summary of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, Department of Justice — Federal Bureau of Investigation.
• War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide, and Terrorism. Human Rights Library.
• Crimes Against Persons Age 65 or Older, 1992-97 U.S. Department of Justice · Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
• Animal Abuse. Pet-Abuse.Com.