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.