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Friday, July 06, 2012

More Cognitive Dissonance

If you think about the concept of cognitive dissonance -- holding two contradictory ideas at the same time -- and then look around you, I would suspect that you might begin to think that we are living in a world defined by the concept. We seem to live there rather than touch on it from time to time.

Take, for instance, those spiritual folks who say, "I'm spiritual; I just don't believe in organized religion." What are the options? They don't believe in organized religion, so they are in favor of disorganized religion? It's like the teenagers these days who rebel to be "individuals" ... just like all their other friends. Religion to these people (and there seems to be a lot of them) is only good if it is "individual", not "organized". That, of course, would make it contradictory in itself, but, look, we're preferring cognitive dissonance here, so be quiet about that, okay?

There is this whole problem of having a view on a particular moral question. In today's society, it is considered evil to point to the danger of evil. Really? Isn't considering it evil a moral question? And aren't they, then, doing that which they consider evil? On the other hand, if something is evil, wouldn't it be good to hold the view that it is and warn people from the consequences? "Watch out! There's a snake here!" "Why don't you just keep your evil views to yourself??!!" Cognitive dissonance.

Indeed, in today's moral climate, it would appear that it's worse to judge sin than to commit it. Sure, sure, you may think that homosexual behaviors (or adultery or fornication or a host of other "acceptable sins") are sinful, but it's far worse for you to point it out than it is for them to commit them. And pointing out that violating God's commands is a dangerous proposition won't make it any better. "Yes, I know you think I'm drinking poison here; but you're definitely bad for suggesting it." Cognitive dissonance.

Quite closely related, then, is the position that judgment is evil and intolerant and I will judge you and be intolerant of you doing it. Why is it that this doesn't collide with the thinking processes? I remember doing it once myself and hearing myself say (fortunately only to myself), "If there's one thing I can't tolerate it's intolerance." Hey! That's crazy! Wake up! Cognitive dissonance.

Then there's the whole problem of absolutes. So many will hold that morality is relative, not absolute, but will insist that their morality is correct and yours is not. Like Pilate, they will scorn the idea of truth and make such a position a truth statement. "Absolutes? They don't exist! Absolutely!" Cognitive dissonance.

We seem to get more and more comfortable with holding contradictory beliefs in opposite hands and fighting valiantly for both. Even Christians. "I believe that the Bible is the Word of God ... but I'll gladly take on the world's contradictory viewpoint as my own when I am so inclined." (Just an example.) It is indeed crazy, but we do it. And as I mentioned before, it clearly seems to be a symptom of the mind tainted by sin. You see, sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28) and we humans just seem to keep stepping up to prove it.


Malcolm Foley said...

Haha amen to that... the huge backlash "against organized religion and for Jesus" is what baffles me, as though people believe that Jesus came to abolish organized religion in favor of some individualistic, "do whatever you think Jesus says" kind of faith, when in fact He came to reform, reshape, extend and fulfill the Jewish faith that he was raised in.

Stan said...

Hey, Malcom, welcome!

I've never quite figured out why "organized religion" is a bad thing but disorganized or, more likely, individual religion is inherently good. From a biblical standpoint, as you point it, it's plainly wrong. But even from a logical standpoint, if your religion is x and her religion is y and his religion is w, someone is right and everyone else is wrong ... at best. How is that better?

Malcolm Foley said...

Yuuup...its interesting because this frame of mind led to the fragmentation of Christianity in the Reformation. Obviously, being a Protestant myself, I see the benefits of that movement. But when people begin to forsake theological engagement and worship with a Christ-centered community and instead branch off to "live faith on their own", the Enemy is crouching at the door.