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…

2 Comments

  1. Good for you Angela.It indeed takes a very brave and courageous person to step away from the familar and safe if you will.A good read thanks.I to like the Profet often make fun of relgion and its leaders ceremonies and belief systems and not just Lds but all religion and belief in a supreme all knowing all caring entity that defies any kind of rational or logical explanation.I mean after all if he,she ,it is indeed all knowing etc then you would suppose that there also was some logic associated with it as well.However on close examination you,and if you can be objective find many traits of mankind and not a supreme being at all.I agree Relgion is emotion mostly,check your brains at the door and follow the leader. How many really good lasting decsions have any of us made based on emotion only without any logic at all or how many times does emotion only play a tragic role in human events and world history.The trick in my mind is learning to balance them both to achieve Harmony or to use a medical term Homeostasis and Relgion does not encourage that(even though they say and think they do).Cheers keep asking questions and looking for truth its often funny and a little shocking where you find them.

  2. There are so many different ways that religion steals your self-worth. Your article focused on those people who derive their self-worth from living the religion. I don’t know your sister but I get the impression that the church works for her. It validates her choices in life such as being a mother and not wanting to pursue a career. It is the same for my mother. At one point many years ago, I basically had to tell my mother that my choices not to be a mother and to have a career were not a statement of disapproval of her choices.
    There is another group of people whose self-worth is more visibly stolen by religion. Those who try as they might can’t live up to the ideal. They don’t fit the mold expected of the religion and every statement from religious leaders feels like a condemnation. Because they doubt they ask “what’s wrong with me” instead of what’s wrong with religion. They are told “if only you had the faith of a mustard seed” and they feel inadequate. Because they have been constantly told they aren’t good enough they believe the statement “I am nothing without God”. This is the group that I fit into.
    Shedding my beliefs first in the church and then in God has dramatically improved my self esteem. I am currently pursuing a great opportunity for my career and I am confidently holding out for what I know is fair. Four years ago when I took my current position, I didn’t do that because I didn’t have the same self-esteem that I do now and in some ways I got taken advantage of.

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