The phenomenon can be explained with two words: habit and fear.
Habits are beneficial for us, for without them even the most simplest things would require an arduous decision making process. But since habits cause us to forgo the thinking process, we end up doing the same things over and over again. Fear, on the other hand, prevents us from challenging our habits; we fear change because of the element of the unknown. It is easier to cling to that which is familiar regardless of how poorly it works rather than risk something far worse. Only when a situation becomes completely untenable do we risk facing our fears and change our habits.
Because habit and fear work together to keep us from changing ourselves, they cause us to react negatively to new ideas. For example, we think men are better decision makers; it is a habit. When the habit is challenged, we react negatively out of fear. Women as leaders? Won't the world stop revolving around the sun? Yet, as women become leaders in increasing numbers despite the opposition, the fear begins to give way to a new way of thinking: decision making ability as an individual qualification. A new habit is being formed and with that habit comes change.
The realization that we operate out of habit and fear brings us to the question whether it is possible to create and re-create habits faster, and at the same time alleviate the fear that is associated with change. The answer is yes, it is possible, simply because of how we form habits in the first place. By encouraging critical thinking and discouraging obedience we can create an atmosphere in which habits become less rigid and the fear of the unknown gives way to an acceptance of that which is different. The key is an active mind that seeks the truth and is not afraid of challenges when they come along.
Because truth is important, and because we must continually be allowed to challenge our assumptions, who teaches us becomes important. The early church was an advocate for change; the modern church, not so much. By refusing to accept challenges to its entrenched dogmas, the church has become the rock in the middle of the road that everyone has to walk around in order to get anywhere. Instead of admitting it has played a part in causing the stagnation of society that exhibits all the societal ills that are associated with injustice, the church points to feminism as the one force that has destroyed society by actively discouraging female obedience to male authority. Yet the irony is that by discouraging obedience feminism encourages change, the kind of change we all need, while encouraging obedience the church prevents it. Unless the church begins to do something about its refusal to be part of the movement that seeks to find new ways to liberate humanity, it risks becoming an irrelevant institution while the real work is done elsewhere.
Habits are a good thing and fear can prevent us from doing foolish things, but habits can also become bad and fear can prevent us from doing good things.
By occasionally taking the time to think why we do what we do are we able to save ourselves from becoming the unintended victims of bad habits that hinder us from creating a just world for ourselves and those around us.