Stealing Your Self Worth, The Psychology Of Obedience

So this morning I was talking to my wife about religious beliefs, the conversation started because I asked her if she felt persecuted because I make fun of religion and religious beliefs and even though she realized the Mormon church couldn’t possibly be the only true one, she still believes in God. And when it comes to a divine plan I do tend to make light of it. In case you hadn’t noticed this whole blog is kinda devoted to mocking the idea of a supreme leader.

You see I was debating the existence of God with a family member on FB and she asked me if I similarly mocked my wife’s beliefs in God. The fact is I often point out the illogical baloney that makes belief in an all powerful all loving deity so easy to make fun of.1  I do this in front of my wife, just as much as anyone. Actually I am more restrained with my family that still believes in the LDS faith than I am with her when I think about it. We never discuss the problems with the church in person. With my wife we discuss all this stuff, and much more.

So this morning I asked my wife how she felt when I would make fun of stuff like a father in heaven that prioritizes prayers to find lost keys over the desperate pleadings of starving kids in Africa. She said she really isn’t offended by what anyone else says at all, she realized everyone believes different things. I mentioned that the whole idea that you need to respect beliefs (which was the thrust of the comments my sis was making that instigated this conversation) just because people believe them seems ridiculous to me.

This is when my wife as she so often does, said something cogent and enlightening. She said, “She’s just super defensive. How can she not be. It’s one of the reasons she feels value.”  My wife’s statement was so true I realized, the social order of the LDS religion demands perfection, “be ye therefor perfect” is the end goal. Sure it pretends to cut you some slack with all the forgiveness talk, but in reality it hangs all your personal value on doing exactly what the religion says too.

In short, it steals your self confidence and ransoms it back to you for your obedience. Your worth to God depends primarily on how good you obey the leaders here and now. 2

No wonder people take so much offense when you view their beliefs as silly, especially when you layout the examples of how crazy it all sounds. “Stop saying that!” Is the cry, “you are being mean to me! I get to believe what I want and you shouldn’t ever make it look bad or silly or wrong if you are a nice person.” This leaves me personally flabbergasted because I swear these people don’t even read their own scriptures.

“…the Personage [God the father] who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” JSH 1:19

“Are you telling me that the guy you worship is not a nice person?” I have to ask myself. It just doesn’t make any sense at all. Not logically that is. Emotionally however it is another matter to the person that really believes it. You see a true believer is deeply invested. Just for a moment think about the investment a person that has been LDS for 40 years has made. We are talking about 6 figures in tithing or more. 2000+ days of church attendance, thousands of hours of home teaching, doing callings and all sorts of stuff. This is not a small effort on their part, not in the least. No wonder they want respect, they have put a lot into it. Doesn’t actually matter at all if it is true or not when it comes to this emotional connection.

They were obedient, they did everything they were told to do! They deserve to be happy now and if you point out the bamboozle you are raining on that parade.

 

 

 

The psychology at work here is known as the sunk cost fallacy. It basically states the more you put into something the harder it is to abandon it. Basically the same reason it is hard to stop playing clash of clans.

 

So next time you feel like a believer treated you like this:


Realize that they are not at all thinking logically or rationally. It is emotion that is driving them. And one thing the Fridge teaches us all is that emotion often overpowers reason. In this case the emotion is fear, the believer is afraid of losing that which they have worked so hard for. That doesn’t make emotion in and of itself bad though. Fear is a life saving mechanism that has done a good job of keeping us around for quite a while. Fear is only a problem when it keeps you from engaging in reason. But you can’t appeal to reason when it comes to such a deep emotion. You can however appeal to another emotion that believers are also familiar with. Make sure they know you honestly have their best interests in mind. Offer faith, ask them to have a little faith in you as a friend or a loved one.

You might just help another person open the door and see the light of the Fridge.

  1. Is this why God insists he must not be mocked? Because it is so easy to do?
  2. Don’t believe me? Go look at how many hits you get searching for it here. Obedience is even more important than truth. And they have a rule that is so important that you swear it as an oath in the temple. Never think your leaders are wrong, ok you can think they are wrong but never ever ever talk about it. To be totally open though you also promise to not laugh out loud so maybe that whole not speaking bad about the leaders should not be taken so seriously…

Written In Stone, Why Many Will Still Believe

So the chocolate rock that started the faith I once believed in wholeheartedly finally made the news. Most post-Mormons already knew about it, and even a few devout members do too.

The LDS church, in this Google-enforced wave of openness to get ahead of the average member learning this information for the first time, has released actual pictures of the stone that was used to ‘translate’ most of their founding tome of scripture.

Here is a nice meme’d up picture in case you haven’t seen it yet.

To most of the world the Mormon faith now looks even more silly. They believe in magic rocks after all. But I expect you will also see reactions from your friends and relatives that might just flabbergast you. They will say things like, “This only increases my faith!” Or they might try to compare the stone to an iPad. (For the record, my iPhone has been named ‘Profet’s seer stone‘ since iOS 3.) When critics point out how ridiculous this belief is, the believer will simply declare that their criticism only proves Joe’s prophetic abilities. After all, he said we’d all get a white stone on which any piece of information could be seen. It’s right there in D&C 130:

10 Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known;

11 And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.

Hmmmm… now I wonder if I should have changed my password to Ether….. I never did like the new name I got assigned at the temple. If I’d known it was assigned from a simple rotating list based on the day of the month when I went through, I’d surely have picked a day when something more manly from the Book of Mormon was assigned, like Jared or Mahonri. Yeah I know he is only mentioned in the BOM as Jared’s brother, but I did think it was a cool name! Heck, If the temple really is a place of prophecy you’d think I’d gotten the name Korihor instead, that would have been far more prescient. Knowing how the new-name-magic is done totally steals Oz’s thunder. Can’t have anyone peaking behind the curtain!


Just for fun, a seer stone on a seer stone laying on… you guessed it! Marble stone! All truth will surely be revealed in each our our personal urim and thummims! You can even look up what a urim and thummim is so long as you ask Google with a pure heart and contrite spirit.

Personally I think all this hogwash about earth getting all bright and seerstone-like and the celestial beings living on them is what sent Brigham Young down the path of people living on the sun.

“If [the sun] was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets; and so will this earth when it is celestialized. Every planet in the first rude, organic state receives not the glory of God upon it, but is opaque; but when celstialized, every planet that God brings into existence is a body of light, but not till then.”

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?… When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.” 1

Man I used to love this stuff, seriously, reading these quotes again in a whole new light is a mind-boggling experience because in my former years the idea of people being so advanced that they lived on the sun was pretty cool to me. I was definitely a sci-fi religious nerd.

I still love sci-fi, but I have gotten a lot more science than fiction in my diet these days because this sun-people concept now looks… well kinda silly to me today.

Which brings me to my point. There will be a few people that will leave the church over this latest release of information, but the majority will simply still believe. The reason for this is called cognitive dissonance. For a lesson on this I am going to refer you to FAIR. Here is what I pulled from their site on the topic:

FAIR says:
A Case Study

Consider the payment of tithing to the Church as a case study. If a Church member doesn’t pay tithing but believes he should be paying it, he’s in a state of cognitive dissonance. His beliefs are in conflict with his actions. It’s painful to him. In order to restore inner equilibrium, he can reduce the dissonance, acquire new information, or minimize the importance of the dissonance to a point where it doesn’t bother him anymore. The conflicted non-tithe payer can choose from four different strategies:

  1. Acquiring New Information—He might try to restore his inner harmony by gathering more information. Maybe he’ll comb news items to see how the Church spends money. He might demand an accounting from Church leaders detailing how all his individual donations are spent. He could continue to do this until he either a) decided tithing is well-spent and he should begin paying it or b) decided the Church is wasteful and/or misguided and doesn’t deserve his money until it undergoes a reformation. He might tell himself that he’d like to pay tithing but he can’t do it in good conscience when the Church is undeserving of the money.
  2. Minimizing the Importance of the Inconsistency—He might convince himself that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t pay tithing because his tithing really isn’t important to the Church. After accepting this minimization, he can feel better about not paying it. After all, the Church appears prosperous. Its programs seem well-funded. It can afford to donate to humanitarian efforts. He could even promise himself if it ever looked like the Church was suffering and needed his personal funds, he’d start paying it. 
  3. Reducing the Dissonance by Accepting the Attitude and Changing the Behavior—He might look for and emphasize the benefits of the behavior (paying tithing) and ignore the negative effects of giving up ten percent of one’s income. He pays tithing. He changes his behavior and eliminates the dissonance between his attitudes and actions. This is the process critics point to as acting as a counterfeit for conversion through a spiritual witness.
  4. Reducing the Dissonance by Accepting the Behavior and Changing the Attitude—In this case, the conflicted tithe payer accepts his non-payment of tithing. He brings his attitudes about tithing into harmony with his practice of not paying it. In order to do this, he now claims his former belief about the Church being “true” was wrong. His attitude has changed and he is justified in abandoning tithing and keeping his money.   

Fair does a pretty good job of explaining the effects of cognitive dissonance and exactly how it would apply in a case where a person’s actions belay their beliefs. Cog Dis, is a theory in psychology first postulated by a guy name Flessinger. He basically discovered the fact that we are rationalization machines. We do something, then we justify why we do it. Very much along the lines of what FAIR described in there example. This from a believers point of view is often why they say the apostate stopped believing in the church because it was ‘too hard’ for them to commit to the church they justified their disbelief in hind sight when the liked boating on Sundays too much. FAIR describes it like this in their criticism of the critics bringing up cognitive dissonance.

FAIR says:
The Irony

This is where the irony of cognitive dissonance as a complaint against believers emerges. Of the four possibilities listed above, only one applies to people who persist in their belief in the Church. The other three can lead to a full or partial departure from Church life. Most of the strategies for managing cognitive dissonance don’t lead people to stay in the Church. On the contrary, they lead people out of it. The same kind of analysis could be made with other challenging aspects of Church life such as home teaching, sexual behavior, honesty, Sabbath observance, etc.

 

They point out that only one of the options are productive, while the other three options pretty much just keep you stuck in the mode of thinking where you endeavor to rationalize the behavior rather than deal with the dissonance outright. Guess what. I agree with FAIR: only one course is going to get you out of the circular logic. Let’s look at this from another perspective:

Fridge says:
Cognitive dissonance case study.

A person finds out that the Church has been hiding information and not telling the full truth about the seer stones in its past. This person, who believes in honesty, integrity and full disclosure, on discovering the Church hasn’t been forthright, and that their actions of believing and going to church supporting that institution, are no longer in agreement with their own morals and beliefs. They could deal with that in one of 4 ways

  1. Acquiring New Information—He might try to restore his inner harmony by gathering more information. He might investigate and discover that even in full disclosure the Church still hasn’t revealed all the information for an informed decision, such as the timeline of when the most-used seer stone was found, or that it was part of a fraud case in which the guy that claimed to be a prophet was convicted of conning people out of money. He might then dig deeper into other historical claims and issues that have been on his ‘shelf’ for years, eventually coming to the conclusion that he was defrauded by the institution. When he then leaves a church that repeatedly misleads its members about its history, and how it uses the money given to it, his internal integrity is restored. But it comes at great cost: Loss of social status, friends and even eternal hope that was all part of the belief system he was part of. 
  2. Minimizing the Importance of the Inconsistency—He might convince himself that it doesn’t matter that the leader of the Church used a seer stone and never looked at the plates at all. He will tell himself it’s no big deal that a young man killed a drunk in cold blood just to make sure these plates made it to the future where they weren’t ever really used for translating and never got left for believers to examine bringing billions of people to gods one true church. No, he will tell himself that would be too easy, you must have faith and besides he would say, “I am humble and that means I am too stupid to understand why God did it this way.” 
  3. Reducing the Dissonance by Accepting the Attitude and Changing the Behavior—He might look for and emphasize the benefits of the behavior: Going to church is a good thing, it makes him remember to be a good person. So even if the beginning was fraudulent and nothing more than a con by a man to get money and power and women, hey, it still made a pretty good church that teaches other good stuff. “It’s a good way to live even if the Church isn’t true,” he will tell himself. 
  4. Reducing the Dissonance by Accepting the Behavior and Changing the Attitude—In this case, the conflicted believer accepts the fact that the Church hid information. It’s ok, he tells himself, because the ends justify the means. After all, people have different levels of testimony and only the strongest can handle the deep doctrine of seer stones and divining rods, so God has disseminated information carefully and slowly to not upset those that need to believe. After all Boyd K Paker said: “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”

Fridge says:
And now the irony of the irony:

FAIR leads you to believe that Cognitive Dissonance is a real thing (which it is). But then for some reason says this:

“Critics can dismiss any attitude or conviction using the concept of cognitive dissonance. Conversely, believers can dismiss any argument made by critics using the same concept. The arguments cancel each other, resulting in a nil score.”

Wait a minute. Is it real and relevant or is it totally irrelevant… Because I think we are seeing some standard apologetic bullshit here. You know where the stage is set so that there is no way to negate the outcome. Come on FAIR, the nil score argument means nothing to you! Let’s start with the idea that a spiritual witness is real and repeatable. So why do only Mormon ones count? There are Muslims who have felt the power of Allah tell them their church is true. Same with Born Again Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists. The spiritual witness argument can be used to prove any religion true! This is even in the Book Of Freon so you know this is a strong truthiness!

The Beginning 1:7 
“Remember this, if your proof can be used to prove anything to be true, it is useless as a proof of anything.”

The irony is I agree with FAIR on this point. It is literally Fridge scripture as you can see. Maybe they might one day catch the single biggest misstep in their discussing of cognitive dissonance as a criticism though. It is simply this: The only real way out of the trap of dissonance is number 1 on their list.

Acquire new information...  Do your own research, Do your Fridge damnedest to follow the evidence where it leads and fight the desire to simply justify your position. Don’t automatically believe everything you have been told or taught. That stupor of thought when you try to understand things like:
Why God made Nephi kill a drunk guy for brass plates they didn’t need anyway because the verses in the Book of Mormon came right from the king James Bible with italics included!?
Why commit bloody murder to assure we would get these plates when a rock in a hat was used to read the words line by line (to assure perfect translation) when the plates weren’t even in the room?
Why were there thousands of errors in the Book when this specific process was used to eliminate errors?
Why can’t we find millions of missing artifacts?
Why can’t we find the stone box the book was buried in?
Why isn’t there a single non-Mormon archeologist who thinks this book is anything but 19th century fiction?
Why is the same exact burning-in-the-bosom feeling you use to prove your church true used by Muslims to prove theirs is too?

That stupor of thought you get when trying to make sense of all this stuff that doesn’t make sense, it isn’t of the devil, it isn’t God warning you from asking questions that would upset your testimony. That feeling is cognitive dissonance. You want to know how I know that? Because I put my iPhone in a hat and Googled it 🙂 You can too.

May you one day feel the light spill over you as you open the Fridge door and partake of the knowledge therein. May you combat the evils of cog dis and seek out new information. May you one day get your own Cubem Fridgem2 as you too prove your worth to the Tall Cool One humming in the corner. That is my hope, forever in cool, may you always be chill my brothers and sisters.

May we all remember the Frozen Ice, Amen.

  1.  – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 271
  2. These are cubes of ice, know as peep cubes or seer cubes on which really cool stuff appears when you want it to.