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Confused


darwinfish
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I grew up with a steady diet of indoctrination. My family was Catholic, with Jewish ancestry. Although, there was some respect for Jewish traditions, Catholicism was our religion. At least, that’s what I thought. My mom had other plans. I can’t possible explain what my mom was thinking, but she seemed to have wanted to leave the Catholic church for years, but was reluctant because she didn’t want to face her parents. She waited until I finished my 1st communion. And, then very shortly after that we began to attend a Baptist Church. There was no explanation for me. My mom was never one to talk about things like that. One day I was Catholic, the next I’m Baptist. And, I never really felt comfortable with my Jewish background either. I never even knew other Jews. As I had been told about being “Jewish”, you’re considered to be a Jew if your mom is a Jew, not your dad. It follows the maternal linage. But, that’s not necessarily true, either. It’s not like genes or DNA. Whoever came up with these rules, wouldn’t have known about DNA. So, you can also be considered a Jew if you convert. And, if your mom converted before you were born, then you are a Jew. So, how far back in my ancestry is it before I find the woman that converted to Judaism? So, if it’s not DNA, then it’s nothing more than an identity. An identity that someone else chose for me. I didn’t choose it. And, I don’t associate with it. So, am I really a Jew? Perhaps, not. But, my mom still considers me one.

 

I suppose, I never really understood what made me a Catholic or Baptist, either. I didn’t choose to be Catholic or Baptist. Those were my families religions. At 13 I prayed the sinners prayer, like a good little Baptist. And, if you asked me what I thought I was at the time, I would call myself Christian. That is what Baptists and Catholics call themselves. And, that, to me, seemed the best description. I was never “anti-Catholic”, but many Baptists are. And, I suppose that works the other way around. But, I was just trying to understand what religion was all about. And, I never really doubted it, I just didn’t understand it.

 

I think my first real effort to understand it was just after I was married. I read apologetic books, I read through the Bible cover to cover. I listened to sermons on the radio. I did everything I could to make sense of all of this. But, in the end, I only had more doubts. In fact, it was the only time that I began to truly doubt it. I read atheist books, to understand what others had to say about religion. And, after several years of this, I had to admit to myself that I no longer believed any of it.

 

My beliefs are based on what evidence I have available to me. The fact that I never really investigated religion growing up, meant that I never really had evidence for it, but I accepted it. Mainly, because I was indoctrinated into it. But, that wasn’t enough as an adult. I had to have real reasons why we would think these things are true. And, the more I read, and the more I researched, I realized the evidence that exists, personal stories, isn’t enough to support these kinds of claims. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe. It’s that I couldn’t believe, not without evidence.

 

So, I’ve explained this as best as I can to my wife, my former pastor, my Christian friends. And, to this date, not one of them sees this problem that I have been seeing. Beliefs without evidence, or weak evidence at best, is non-nonsensical. That’s essentially how I see it.

 

The responses I get confuse me, “I don’t care about evidence.” “The evidence comes only after you believe.” “I prayed something happened. It’s a miracle.” “I prayed something didn’t happen. It’s a God telling me something.” I would try to explain that these sorts of things would never convince these same people to believe in some other religion, or anything else for that matter. So, why are these the reasons they give for believing in their religion?

 

I believe these people are influenced by culture and family, just as I was, and, perhaps indoctrination as well. But, what’s unsatisfying with those sorts of answers. Is that it wasn’t enough for me. So, why is it for them? It just leaves me confused.

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You're right. They are influenced by culture, family and indoctrination. 

 

It takes a certain amount of courage and an intellectually honest desire to obtain truth. That doesn't gel with these people. They prefer to think that what ever they're told is true. The pastors must know best, right? The apologists must be on top things, right? The problem is that so many people lack the intellectual interests that are required for sifting through all of these claims of truth for what is actually true and what simply isn't. 

 

I'd suggest that you stay active here on ex-C. Read as much as you can stand. Gather up the right amount of knowledge that's required for facing off with these pastors and apologists. 

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You don't seem confused at all and appear quite rational, mature and intellectually honest.  I wouldn't worry too much about what some others say about your statement, "My beliefs are based on what evidence I have available to me".  They are just throwing more religious indoctrination and apologetics at you.  They are infected with the Christian virus.  You're not.

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Hi Darwinfish 

 

Regarding your last post, the answer tends to lie in psychology and behavior, both personal and at a societal level. People like Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett speak about this and their explanations are quite good. Essentially people seem to be able to compartmentalize their brains so that when it comes to dearly held beliefs, all normal rational thought is subservient to protecting the belief. This might explain why people de-converting so often get a very negative, even hostile reaction from the faithful. The wayward questioner threatens the belief and the shared bonds that hold the group together.

 

I think a study has shown that atheists tend to have less of a social need to conform to the group, and thus are able to go against intense pressure to conform to the status quo.

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A psychologist posted an article on the main page years back about something called an "introject", where a child will build in his or her mind a virtual parent to remind the child of things that the parent said, using the parent's voice. This is seen as a survival mechanism, something to replay important information as though the parent were actually standing there saying "Don't go into the forest alone, you'll be killed by a tiger." The warnings become almost alive in the mind of the child/teen/adult, and are very difficult to override because they deal with survival.

 

This same mechanism comes into play when people are told that they will be burned alive by a just and angry god because of their sin. For those that really believe this mythological threat, it becomes very important for survival and thus difficult to override with new information. Fear is a typically a more powerful motivator than information. Particularly so when believers are taught that there is an enemy trying to trick them into damnation. Belief becomes a sort of self-protecting mind virus. This is made far stronger when people gather in groups, sing and behave as though the myth were all true.

 

Only those who are able to gather enough data points that show the first warning was false are able to find their way out. For me, it was first a shock that a trusted pastor was lying about miracles he'd claimed to have seen. It still took a year or so of rumination over the facts and all of the "well if that is true, then this must also be true" conclusions to find my way out. This website was invaluable in finding others who asked similar questions and had wonderful information.

 

Most who are entrenched in the church have a very hard time splitting away from the perceived emotional support and lifestyle of being hooked into that system.

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Thanks, guys. I guess for me, the hardest thing to understand is why evidence means so little to so many.

There is no logical way to explain it because it is not logical behavior. To the True Believer, in politics and other religions, evidence and facts are irrelevant to the articles of faith that have been adopted. I guess we must chalk it up to human frailty. We simply believe that which we want to believe.

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Thanks, guys. I guess for me, the hardest thing to understand is why evidence means so little to so many.

 

I think people chase after a good feeling.

 

Christians value faith and in order to value faith you have to de-emphasize evidence and reason in certain areas of your life.

 

I think religion vs reason is an internal balancing act. Maybe it's left vs right brain. When religion is making your life great you naturally want more of it so you put less emphasis on reason. When Christian guilt, fear, and shame or other religious negativity rears its ugly head then some people avoid it by moving more towards logical pursuits. (Yes, that's an oversimplification of the complex functioning of mind)

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MidNiteRider wrote: " I think people chase after a good feeling."

 

I recall, a few years ago, Mrs. MOHO referencing a CD of fundamentalist xtian sermons and exclaiming "Doesn't listening to these sermons just give you a good feeling about the world and make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside?"

 

               That 'chasing' you mention, Midnite, frequently results in addiction.

 

 

JoshPantera wrote: "It takes a certain amount of courage and an intellectually honest desire to obtain truth."

         

               Yeppers! Now, if I could only find a way to motivate said courage in those in my inner circle.

 

Fuego wrote "Belief becomes a sort of self-protecting mind virus. This is made far stronger when people gather in groups, sing and behave as though the myth were all true."

 

              I remember a scene from Midnight Express were the inmates of the psych ward spent their days walking clock-wise around some object in the middle of the room. When our hero felt it necessary to walk in the opposite direction around said object the other inmates tried to force him to walk in the "popper" direction and were, quite obviously, motivate by fear of some deity they had conjured up.

 

This reminds me of the folks in the pews at Mrs. MOHO's church. I frequently replay that scene in my head and find a part of me feeling sorry for the sheeple. Wendycrazy.gif Wendycrazy.gif 

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Yeah, my experience with the devote follows the pattern. Them:"I think X is true. If X is true, that leads to a conclusion Y." Me: "Well, there seems to be no evidence that X is true, and there seems to be a lot of evidence that X is most likely not true." Them: "I'll pray for you."

 

I read S. Pinkers book, The Better Angels of our Nature. I really enjoyed it. I haven't read D. Dennett. But, I probably should. I've heard good things about him. I suppose I've always been an outsider, even within my own family. So, that may play a part in my lack of a strong tribal nature. I've never really understood tribalism in others. But, I can see how that would be a survival instinct.

 

I appreciate everyone's input. Its given me a lot to think about.

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Thanks, guys. I guess for me, the hardest thing to understand is why evidence means so little to so many.

 

I don't think many people would say they don't value evidence, on the contrary, I think everyone values evidence. You see it everywhere in most people's lives.

 

What they don't value, especially when it comes to magical thinking, is the strict level of objective evidence. Feelings count as evidence. Dreams, illusions, and misattributed cause-effect (cognitive biases) all count as "evidence".

 

If people held evidence to a higher standard, well, we wouldn't have the problems we have in the world.

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