An unbelievably common refrain that I run into debating religious people that are otherwise reasonable, well read and well spoken individuals is the idea they are somehow too dumb to understand God’s reasoning.
I have debated Mormon friends1 on the topic of polyandry and underage marriage. An issue that was recently admitted to by the LDS church itself in an effort to own up to its history. 2 This makes it impossible for the believer to dismiss the topic as ‘anti-mormon’ lies like was done in the past. Most feel their stomach churn at the thought of these issues, much the same way the escapades of Warren Jeffs disgust them. But they deeply believe that old Joe was called of God to do what he did so they have to justify it somehow. That’s when you hear the phrases, ‘I just have faith’ and ‘who am I to question God?’ or the one that inspired this article. ‘God must have a reason that I am not mentally equipped to understand.’
Religious dogma repeatedly teaches the believer this idea they are too stupid to understand the ways of deity. The very act of faith so celebrated in all belief systems requires a suspension of critical thinking. Reason is mocked when it questions the tenets of faith. You are taught to cling to your spiritual evidences no matter what. That is where this I’m too stupid idea comes from. It is an outward expression of the cognitive dissonance that the believer is feeling.
The rational truth seeker will get really frustrated pushing for understanding past this point. That’s because the believer has outwardly renounced reason to keep the faith. This is where you need to remember one simple premise. You can’t reason a person out of an emotional conviction…without using emotion.
Ever try to convince a Chevy advocate that Ford is better? Or an Apple fanboy that a PC is the better deal? It’s pretty hard to do. Because they are emotionally attached to their brand favorite. Often times it is hard for us who have trained ourselves to recognize and ignore the effects of emotional bias to deal with it in others. An example of our own bias about biases :).
So how do you win the war against unreason? Emotion. The secret is to evoke emotion. Only by flooding those cognitive connections in a soup of hormones, do you open up the opportunity for them to change. Use all the emotions at your disposal, humor, love, sincerity, and even anger. You should willingly express these emotions yourself and give your friends mirror neurons a chance to fire and feel the way you feel. If this sounds kind of like a religious meeting where people testify of their faith and others feel spiritually connectedness, it should. That is exactly what you should be going for! Finding common ground, connecting with that other human being emotionally is key before moving on to giving them the alternate more rational explanation you are endeavoring them to learn.
Religions have all stumbled onto this formula of emotional conviction to a cause. They are so good at it that they can convince people they are idiots when compared to the dogma they are preaching. What if we could harness that same sense of conviction to help people realize they are not the idiots their religion would have them be, but instead that they are brilliant and capable free thinkers that can reason and develop moral convictions even to the point they can challenge the scary God of their youth. Most people I know would balk at the despicable acts of deity documented in every tome of scripture dogma from every type of faith. Most people are inherently more MORAL3 beings than the very God they worship. If only they could realize this!
If only the religiously devote could redirect that devotion to the here and now rather than the untestable eternities offered up in exchange for a few $$ and a dream of hope after you die. Imagine for a moment a world where that devotion is directed wholeheartedly to solving the problems of today rather than proving their faith is the right one that every other person should follow.
I think it can be done. I hope it can happen. And I’m pretty sure it will take a little more than just a reasonable argument to make it reality. So next time you are doing your damnedest to extol the virtues of a rational approach in your worldview, make sure you dwell on the positives of it! Take the effort to emotionally convert her to your perspective. You will have much greater success in my opinion. But who knows, I just may be too stupid to understand the ways of the Fridge.
- admittedly I debate them more than any other being a former Mormon myself ↩
- Thanks to the internet bringing historical information right to your fingertips and pretty much pressing the issue. ↩
- How many believers do you know that if they were God would ever ask a father to kill his son as a sign of loyalty? Yet both Muslim and Christian religions believe father Abraham was required to do exactly that! The God of Abraham is a mob boss, not a nice guy! ↩