Cognitive Dissonance, the pain that's finally gone

First of all, thank you to those who viewed my first post and especially to those who commented. I feel truly gratified that you found value in reading about my experiences and are willing to share your own.

Cognitive Dissonance, "mental discord or inconsistency", is something I experienced regarding my Roman Catholic instruction since at least 12 years old. I can only verify it goes back that far because the first instance I can recall questioning my religion was at my Confirmation. I remember thinking, 'This is a lot of ritual... is this necessary?' and 'am I old enough to reject Satan? I haven't had a chance to try all the cool stuff that God doesn't like.' Which now I understand is exactly why Confirmation is given to pre-teens.

I don't know if this is every Roman Catholic's experience, but I was taught to believe in the 'God of the Gaps', to borrow a term. God was supposed to exist in the mysteries of the world. Whenever there wasn't a clear explanation, God did it. And to a young child, the world is full of mysteries. Miracles were everywhere, therefore, undeniably God was there, too!

Every time I took a science class, the uncomfortable feeling that the Bible wasn't giving straight answers got a bit stronger. I watched a 'Christian Documentary' once that explained how the Noah's flood was caused by the collapse of enormous underground aquifers.* "That's amazing!" I thought at the time. "God created the world in such a way that he could easily flood it later." Something about that didn't make perfect sense to me, but the animations were cool and I didn't think too much more about it. 

*This is tremendous bullshit, by the way. After several college courses in geology, structural geology and planetary sciences, I can say that with confidence.

A couple years later, I was a little older and saw another Christian documentary about the story of Moses and the Egyptian plagues. This one had a lot of plausible scientific reasons. For example, a volcano despoiled the Nile and darkened the sky. The frogs fled the nasty water, the beasts got sick and died, the fly population exploded, and the sickness spread more easily among the people. Even the Passover killing of the firstborn was said to be geologic outgassing that smothered people quickly in their sleep. It was a really well put together documentary, and I was impressed. 

But by chance, I had also recently heard in my English class of something called Occam's Razor. The documentary was so complete... there really wasn't any 'gap' left to call any of it a 'miracle'. God didn't need an active hand in any of it. So in my perception, God was just walking Moses through a huge Rube Goldberg device he'd been setting up from the dawn of time. 

As my education continued to add more knowledge, the gaps shrunk. It turns out we do have an understanding of how the earth was created, where humans came from, animals with cloven feet really are delicious... I tried to place these things into context with the Bible to make them agree, and struggled and struggled. One time I thought I'd solved it. "God is so great," I said, "He could create the universe in 6 days and make it seem super-old." But my theory still had holes. How could Noah's Ark be real? And, why the dinosaur bones? Why did Old Testament dudes have so many wives and concubines but priests today can't marry?

What finally got me to truly examine my faith were the moral questions that Atheists know very well. Why was god such a bastard in the Old Testament? Why did Jesus bring us eternal damnation? Will I be aware of those suffering in hell while I'm in Heaven? If so, will God take away my empathy? Why did the Church do more about hiding a scandal than protecting children?

And finally, the question that got me off the bandwagon. How is eternal damnation ever justified for finite crimes? Isn't that disproportionate to infinity? I did a lot of introspection on this matter; justice is very important to me. But it wasn't during this introspection that I came to the realization that gods aren't real. It was random, though I credit my introspection for preparing my mind for it. I was doing my normal routine and then I just stopped, physically, where I was standing and really believed, "The Roman Catholic god I've believed in my whole life... isn't real. No gods are real."

And I smiled and felt the incredibly joyful silence. The Cognitive Dissonance was gone. Then I knew peace.

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Comment by tom sarbeck on January 29, 2017 at 11:54pm

California law now requires schools that teach sex education to teach comprehensive sex ed.

The abstinence-only crap is not allowed.

Comment by Chris on January 29, 2017 at 1:37pm

The elementary school I went to in California had a couple hour basic sex education class in the evening for fifth graders in the early 1970's. I don't recall if it was mandatory for a parent to attend, but my dad went with me to it. Thinking back they didn't each much about venerial diseases - it was mostly about puberty and pregnancy. I think they talked about condums and IUD's.

It seems students should be required to take a public health class that includes general hygene, the importance of washing hands to prevent the spread of virus's, first aid, CPR, and  sex education about venerial disease prevention, pregnancy prevention, cancer screening self checks, LGBTQ topics, and more. That may be to liberal for most of the country and world.

Comment by Michael Penn on January 29, 2017 at 9:53am

Oral gonorrhea. To contract this I would assume that a person would have very little sex education and the religious claim they will teach their own, but they never do. My parents hated the fact that I got my education early on from a monthly booklet called "Sexology." It explained everything complete with pictures. They thought the drawings were "pornographic" and my older female friend who passed the book on to me monthly was a monster.

Comment by Chris on January 28, 2017 at 9:54pm

Classic.

Somewhat related: Garfunkel & Oates' song "The Loophole" (NSFW lyrics): 

I wonder how many people know the definition of Sodomy.

There was a small town near where I lived that was teaching abstinence The high school students there had the highest rate of oral ghonorrea per capita than anywhere else in the country.

Don't know what the pregnancy rate was - does it matter?

Cognative dissonance must the the only way religion can propagate.

Religion in some areas must teach that religion and cognative dossonance is  the new 'normal.'

Comment by Grinning Cat on January 9, 2017 at 1:04pm

I'm reminded once again of Carly Dreyfus's article "To Slide or to Slice? Finding a Positive Sexual Metaphor", explaining sex educator Al Vernacchio's inclusive and delicious pizza metaphor to replace the common, limiting, prescriptive "first base", "second base", "scoring", etc. Among other things, our varied appetites and preferences for pizza -- or even if you don't like pizza at all -- aren't judged the same way as our varieties of sexual needs and desires. Nobody consigns you to hell for putting ketchup on pizza, or for liking pineapple, spam, and M&Ms on it. Though finding someone to share that with might be tricky!

Even anchovy-lovers and anchovy-haters know that "No thanks! NOT for me!" doesn't automatically translate into "That's evil; nobody should do that!"

Another good part of the metaphor: guys don't get teased or disrespected for walking past a pizza shop and not having pizza if they're not hungry or not in the mood. (That relates to part of the "man box".)

Comment by Idaho Spud on January 9, 2017 at 11:38am

For folks on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/grngcat/status/819646517388673027 and https://twitter.com/i/moments/819640475862835200 .

"America, meet your new Director of Gaslighting." [i.e. Kellyanne Conway]

Amy Siskind wrote:

I've really come to understand Kellyanne Conway's role as the director of cognitive dissonance. She throws out just enough uncertainty to allow Trump supporters to stay in line, even after things that are unquestionably morally wrong. He wasn't really mocking the disabled reporter, he didn't really mean this or that when he said it - it's telling us not to believe our own eyes, ears and minds: or giving some permission not to. It's an extreme version of gaslighting, but once you get it, you can see how she uses it as a strategy. Sick stuff!

Comment by Grinning Cat on January 9, 2017 at 5:48am

That same, very "logical" god was reputed to have said, "Thou shalt not lie down with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination." (So it's OK for two men to do it standing up? :-)

Speaking of logic, I read a comment someplace that if God so despises sex between men, why did he put the "ticklish prostate" in such a perfect position to be stimulated by anal sex? Similarly, why did he position the clitoris perfectly to be stimulated by another woman, no penis needed?

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on January 7, 2017 at 10:27pm

Grinning Cat, That Loophole video is hilarious. Rock hard contradiction. God's OK with anal sex unless you're gay, yeah logic.

And "Right-ON!" about cliteracy!

Comment by kathy: ky on January 7, 2017 at 6:48pm
Tom, lol.
Comment by Michael Penn on January 7, 2017 at 2:44pm

Men hoping for anal sex with women want to point out that the anus is tighter than the vagina. I always point out that so is your hand. I've never wanted to talk anyone into any sex that they did not want.

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