Cognitive Dissonance – A Practical Example

When I woke up this morning and checked my email, I saw that I already had a comment on my latest post. I think it is a great example of cognitive dissonance and I’d like to share it with you, along with my reply and then we will examine this issue a bit more closely.

        Thanks for being generous in your hatred. I was beginning to feel as though you didn’t care that others might employ more than their brain         in this life.

        By His Grace.

        Comment by buttermilk80 | December 27, 2010 | Edit | Reply

        Your reply is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance. You assume that just because I criticize your beliefs that means that I hate you. If         I criticize someone who believes that communism is the best form of government that doesn’t mean that I hate them for believing that, I         just disagree with their belief.

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve written here before about cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a thought or idea conflicts with other thoughts, ideas, or beliefs in our mind. A typical example of cognitive dissonance would be someone who continues to smoke even though they know that it is bad for them. People will often make excuses for their continued smoking in the face to overwhelming evidence that it can kill you. They will either dismiss the evidence as inconclusive (these days this borders on delusional), marginalize it, or ignore it. Even when they try to do this, there is always a part of their mind that knows it is bad and with creates discomfort that they will try to resolve by basically lying to themselves.

The example above is very similar to this, except in this case, the person is in complete denial about the evidence against religion. This leads to their first reaction being one of lashing out and insisting that I hate them, or other believers.

I don’t hate, or even dislike, anyone just because they are religious. I do, however, disagree strongly with their beliefs and say so in no uncertain terms. People at this level of cognitive dissonance can’t even bear the slightest questioning of their beliefs. The dissonance is so strong that they aren’t even able to make rationalizations, but instead can only lash out at the source.

By pointing out cognitive dissonance to buttermilk80, my hope is to prod them into a discussion about their beliefs so that they may move onto the next phase and actually consider why they believe what they do. This is the first step toward the truth. All we can do is to gently encourage discussion and debate so that the facts can come out and they can start to really question if what they believe is true. There is no guarantee that they will give up their belief, but if we can get them to at least think about why they believe what they believe, that is moving them one step closer to the truth.


6 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance – A Practical Example

  1. Well, I will say simply that I smoke because I enjoy smoking. 😉 Yeah, I am fully aware of the risks, and still made the conscious choice to continue. That said, what I do…also consciously…is place myself outside (I do not smoke in the house or in the family car, though I smoke in my own car) – so as to reduce potential risk to others.

    So far as buttermilk80, I applaud you for working to use persuasion toward self-examination…though people who consider themselves devout to the point of willingness to lash out at others for merely disagreeing with their views? *sigh* As with drunks, very small children, and the (extreme) mentally ill, there is often no reasoning with them whatsoever. I’ve had circular “discussions” with my mother, who fits into two categories just noted – and it’s an exercise in futility. If their faith brings them comfort, leave them be (is my position) — and if they start preaching to me, *that* is when I respond…and how forcefully depends on their individual approach with me. *nod* Your response to buttercup80 was kinder than I might have been…but contextual background is required before I say that with any certainty. 🙂

  2. As a Christian, I must evaluate your arguements against religion. Before I ever became a Christian I probably had better arguement against Christianity than any I have ever seen posted yet.
    However, again I fnd myself in agreement with you in concept, not in substance.Many people feel any questioning of their beliefs is a personal attack. I do not.
    True Christianity is not blind faith…it is informed faith.
    Again, although I disagree with your “evidence” I celebrate your right to think. I do not hate you. As well, I am not threatened by a question or challenge to my belief.
    If my blief does not stand up to scrutiny then it MUST be abandoned

  3. Ahh the joys of cognitive dissonance. One of the problems I see is that many people are unable to separate themselves from their beliefs. Some are even unaware that they are not what they believe. It can be a difficult concept to get across.

  4. I had to laugh at your reply “3.Ahh the joys of cognitive dissonance. One of the problems I see is that many people are unable to separate themselves from their beliefs. Some are even unaware that they are not what they believe. It can be a difficult concept to get across.”

    To you, nothing anyone can say regarding God will be acceptable. I do appreciate the chuckle you inspired. But there is a peculiar sadness also. You stand as one entrenched in a mire. And you rail at anyone who is not entrenched with you. For that I pitty you. I know you will not be pittied. For you earnestly believe you are free.

    I’ll not say more. For what I just said will surely rile you again. But I felt compelled to speak of both the humor and sorrow you inspire.

    by His Grace.

  5. I actually found your blog looking up buttermilk80. He came to my blog and although he smashed my premises he couldn’t defend why. Anyway, you are welcome to question my beliefs in Christianity if you do so choose, as if you look at my blog you will see I’m not a tradional believer in Christ. I’m not going to lie and say I have all the answers but neither does anyone else, no matter what they say. We all have to choose to believe what we believe and choose where we believe the safest place to place our faith.

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