Only by grasping the full import of the positive and quick propensity of human beings to identify with any group they find themselves in, can one make a firm base from which to search out the origins of hostility.
These experiments of Henry Tajfel are of tremendous import. People love to belong. And when a man like Jesus comes, he uproots you from your group. Jesus comes and he takes you out of your community of Jews. He starts something new, which has no past, no history, no respectability. He simply starts things from ABC.
Now, those few people who followed Jesus must have been of some integrity, otherwise they wouldn’t have followed him. Because following Jesus meant that they would no longer be part of the Jewish community in which they were born and indoctrinated, and to which they had already belonged. And they had always been proud that they were Jews, the chosen people of God. They had always believed they are special people.
Now here comes the son of a carpenter, Jesus, with nothing in his past to support him, a vagabond, and he starts gathering a group of people. This group is so new, it will take time for people to belong to it; it will happen only when Jesus is gone. But when Jesus is gone it is pointless.
After Jesus died, nearabout two hundred, three hundred years afterwards, Christianity itself started becoming a special group. Then people were happy to belong to it. Now millions are happy to belong to Christianity.
People like to belong. Now, if you come to me you will be losing your belonging. You will be becoming alone, and you will be going with somebody who has no past, no traditional support. It will be an absolutely new enterprise, risky. It is a gamble. And people even like to belong to fictitious groups – what to say about religions?
Arthur Koestler says:
“I found these experiments of Henry Tajfel extremely revealing, not only on theoretical grounds but also for personal reasons, related to a childhood episode which has never ceased to puzzle and amuse me.
“On my first day at school, aged five, in Budapest, Hungary, I was asked by my future classmates the crucial question, “Are you an MTK or an FTC? These were the initials of two leading soccer teams, perpetual rivals for the league championship, as every schoolboy knew – except little me, who had never been to a football match. However, to confess such abysmal ignorance was unthinkable, so I replied with haughty assurance, “MTK, of course!”