Faith: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

© David Teachout

 

As a human being I’m interested in broadening the understanding of my experiences and increasing my knowledge by identifying what I’m ignorant of and then looking to fill in the gaps. My humanity also determines the limits to fulfilling those desires. I have particular interests by virtue of being me, not every subject draws me the same way. I have time limitations so I have to choose on a daily basis what to read, what to study and plan accordingly for the future. I have career limits, in that my professional obligations concerning psychology direct me to continued education along paths associated with it and not, say, that of electrical engineering. I also, though this is controversial and not without a great number of caveats, have limitations on my intelligence; there are items I study which I struggle to understand while other people have already passed me by. All of these limits are part of being human, but none of them determine prior to the inquiry itself whether I could understand by virtue of that very humanity, they are only particular limits of my own.

 

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As an atheist I am confronted often by the simple declaration from religious adherents of “you have faith too” or in its more arrogantly adolescent form: “it takes more faith to be an atheist.” The confusing nature of this argument becomes immediately obvious when I inquire as to just what is meant, resulting in some example of the form: “you have faith that x will happen” where “x” is filled in by the sun rising tomorrow, the continued love of friends and family, or other such. From the days of my own belief, I can recall the apologetic of referencing wind or air when attempting to describe how the Holy Spirit works. Then, as now, the response to such attempts is to point out that the examples being referenced are not at all comparable.
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“God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.”

My Anti-theist Friend, Marchal: “God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.”

 

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One of my favorite people to converse with about religion is my good buddy, Marchal. I met Marchal in college, and like me, he was getting a bachelors degree in psychology. We lost touch after Heidelberg, but we recently rekindled our friendship. He contacted me after he read a couple blog posts, he was excited to share with me that he too, is an atheist. Marchal has an interesting story as well, and I would like to share with others, some of the conversation that we recently had.

 

After Heidelberg, Marchal went to Ohio State University, where he received a PHD in psychology. Marchal did not spend any time in the field though, because after he graduated he co-founded a start up company and has been traveling the world ever since. He has spent more time in other countries, than he has in his own, over the last couple of years.

 

“What is the most frustrating thing when it comes to dealing with religious people?” Marchal asked me.

 

“Their ego. They are extremely ignorant, yet so arrogant. They believe they are entitled to whatever they want,” I replied.
Continue reading ““God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.””

5 Simple Tips to Overcome Guilt

“Guilt is anger directed at ourselves – at what we did or did not do.”
~Peter McWilliams

 

Guilt is an emotional warning sign that serves to let us know when we’ve done something wrong.

It’s a self-policing mechanism that we all have.

It helps us to improve our behavior, act in the best interest of society, and avoid making the same mistake twice.

But it can also steal our joy, make us feel miserable, and keep us in a negative mindset.

It can undermine our self-esteem and prevent us from having fulfilling relationships.

Most of us do an amazing job every day – either at work or at home – but still feel plagued by guilt.

How can we overcome these feelings?  How can we determine what feelings are important and beneficial to us, and which ones are not?

 

5 Simple Tips to Overcome Guilt

1) Determine if your guilt is healthy

It takes some self-examination to figure out what you’re feeling guilty about.

Healthy guilt is very beneficial to keeping meaningful relationships.  It prevents us from taking action that could hurt others.

It’s completely rational to feel guilty after saying something hurtful to someone or spending too much time at work instead of with your family.

This guilt is healthy and serves to warn you that either your thoughts, behavior, or morals need to change.

On the other hand, feeling guilty over the actions of others, or when there’s nothing to feel guilty about is not healthy.

As an introvert, I used to feel guilty when I needed to spend some time alone.  This wasn’t me being anti-social, I just needed time to relax and recharge a little.
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4 Crucial Steps to Stop Suppressing Your Emotions

“What you resist, persists.”

~C. G. Jung

 

When was the last time something happened that was too painful to deal with?  Do you remember how you tried to get it out of your head?  Were you afraid you’d feel overwhelmed if you thought about it? Did you distract yourself or avoid what was triggering it?

 

This is called emotional suppression.

 

Emotional suppression is the deliberate or conscious avoidance or pushing away of thoughts or feelings to cope with trauma.
Continue reading “4 Crucial Steps to Stop Suppressing Your Emotions”

10 Powerful Steps to Stop Overthinking

Do you…

  • Take an excessive amount of time thinking about decisions?
  • Stay up at night, twisting things around trying to see every possible scenario?
  • Over analyze something positive until it doesn’t appear very positive anymore?
  • Immediately think of all the bad that’s going to happen if you do something?

If you answered yes to any of these, you aren’t alone. Problems making decisions because we fear being wrong or want to mitigate risk happens to us all at some point.

Psychologists call this rumination, or overthinking.

Overthinking is a learned habit; a defensive mechanism to the possibility of failure. Overthinkers are vulnerable to continued sadness, negative thinking, weakened ability to solve problems, and irrational thought patterns.

With our increased capacity to think, this is inevitable. Thinking things through in a logical manner is one thing, but analysis paralysis is another. Focusing on every small detail can make you lose sight of the big picture.
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A Good Reason to be Skeptical Part One: Schizophrenia

“If you think this Universe is bad, you should see some of the others.” –Philip K. Dick

As ever with any posting on any psychological disorder, understand that no blog is going to be an adequate replacement for actual time with a professional psychologist or doctor. If you have reason to suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from schizophrenia or any other psychological disorder, please get help. Here are a few GREAT resources that can get you started and may be able to help point you in the direction of proper diagnosis / professional. Thank you.

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-treatment-and-recovery.htm

http://schizophrenia.com/invol.html

http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/schizophrenia-caregiver-guide/%20help-someone-with-schizophrenia-get-treatment.aspx

How many times has someone told you that they heard or saw something that seems incredible? If you’re like me you’re prone to be skeptical, and there are numerous reasons why this is generally the best approach, but one of the best reasons is the existence of mental processing disorders like schizophrenia.
Continue reading “A Good Reason to be Skeptical Part One: Schizophrenia”

3 Cognitive Biases That Alter Your Thinking

There are far too many layers of cognition (thinking, knowing, remembering) to sum up in a short blog post. I only hope to provide some quick information that is easy to read and digest. I’d like to touch on a few useful examples instead of definitions, statistics, or clinical terminology.

Cognitive Bias is defined as a pattern of deviation in judgement, whereby influences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Cognitive bias is a general term used to describe many observer effects in the human mind, some of which can lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, or illogical interpretation.
In layman’s terms – A gap in between how we should reason and how we do reason.  Thinking irrationally – judging or favoring a person, group, or thing in an unfair way.

As much as you may not notice them, biases are ingrained into our decision making from birth. Biases are one of the more interesting phenomena of evolved mental behavior.  The brain has evolved to make us believe that we’re special, valuable, and capable.  Biases help you to feel unique and overcome the strains, struggles, and challenges of your life.  Biases help you to avoid second guessing yourself or feeling like a fool.  We are biased in a variety of areas: from bias to live in certain climates and temperature ranges, to seeking out certain types of foods and tastes.You can imagine the potential time pressures that our ancestors faced.  The ability to make split second decisions is essential for survival.  The speculation is that biases evolved in part to help us decide quickly and effectively; to quickly sample the information available to us and to focus on the bits relevant to our current task or situation. In short, biases help guide us and keep us safe.

Research into human judgment and decision making over the past 60 years in cognitive science, social psychology, and behavioral economics has established an ever increasing and evolving list of cognitive bias.  There is a non exhaustive list of over 100 cognitive biases on Wikipedia. Although cognitive biases help us to feel amazing about our capabilities and self image, they also have their drawbacks.  They lead to poor choices, bad judgments, and erroneous insights.
Cognitive Biases Effect: 
  • Memory
  • Motivation
  • Decision making
  • Probability judgments
  • Perceived causes of events
  • Group evaluation and selection
  • Having a positive attitude towards oneself

Biases emerge from a diversity of mental processes that can be challenging to pinpoint. These mental processes include heuristics (problem solving mental shortcuts ), framing (presentation), mental noise, moral and emotional motivators, and social influences.

The goal is not to completely remove your biases, but to become aware and adjust for them.  By recognizing that you’re thinking is subject to influence, you can work towards a higher level of control.  You can simultaneously correct and broaden your perspective.  It’s actually quite amusing when you start noticing and challenging your own biases and untwisting your perceptions.  The danger of not becoming aware of your biases is to think that you’re always right.  It is vital to notice that the world looks different for other people.  Dropping our biases enable us to listen and connect to each other much more effectively.


3 Predictable Cognitive Biases:

While this is slightly tongue-in-cheek, these are a few biases that are fairly consistent among people. It doesn’t take long to spot yourself using these and adjust for them.


1) Confirmation Bias 

“The tendency to look for or interpret information that confirms your preconceptions.”You want to be right about how you see the world.  Your opinions are a product of constantly seeking out information that confirms your beliefs, while disregarding contradictory information that does not.  You like to be told what you already know, so you apply a filter called confirmation bias.Your brain is helping you confirm that you’ve made the correct choice. (and you have by reading my blog) Focusing on certain things can help prevent us from being lost. Confirmation bias it is essential to piece together a coherent world.

Visiting political websites that hold the same opinions, watching a news channel that tells you what you want to hear, keeping company with people that hold the same beliefs as you – are all examples of confirmation bias.  These preferential behaviors keep you comfortable and avoid cognitive dissonance.  The internet has increased this behavior.If you’ve ever purchased a car, you may have started to notice the brand you’ve chosen everywhere you looked.  While researching and after purchasing an Infiniti G35, I was seeing them everywhere!


2) Priming

“An implicit memory affect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus.”

Priming is an exposure to something that effects your later behavior in some way, without you being aware of the earlier influence.  Unconscious priming effects can be very noticeable and last long after you’ve consciously forgotten.

Craving Italian food after watching “The Godfather”, walking slower after thinking about the elderly, being more argumentative after seeing “A Few Good Men”, having more patience after reading words that have to do with politeness – are all examples of priming.

Priming can be as simple as you reading the word table in your news feed, and if asked later to complete a word starting with tab, you’re more likely to answer table because you have been primed. This is also why when someone asks you for a word related to blackboard, you’re likely to choose classroom.

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3) Framing Effect 

Reacting to a particular choice in different ways depending on whether it is presented as a loss or a gain.”

You routinely come to different conclusions about the same problem, depending on how it’s presented. Perception of loss or gain drives human decision making in every aspect of our existence. You avoid risk (risk aversion) when a negative frame is presented, but seek risk (risk seeking) when a positive frame is presented.

Language plays a key role in framing and can evoke completely different reactions to something. Responding differently after hearing “Obama Care” as opposed to “The Affordable Care Act” or “Global Warming” as opposed to “Climate Change” – are examples of the framing effect.

I’ll leave you with the following experiment on framing by Amos Tversky:

Participants were offered two alternative solutions for 600 people affected by a hypothetical deadly disease:

  • Option A saves 200 people’s lives
  • Option B has a 1/3 chance of saving all 600 people and a 2/3 possibility of saving no one

72% of participants chose option A

They offered the same scenario to another group of participants, but worded differently:

  • If option C is taken, then 400 people die
  • If option D is taken, then there is a 1/3 chance that no people will die and a 2/3 probability that 600 will die

In this group, 78% of participants chose option D (equivalent to option B)

The above experiment showcases the nature of framing.  The two groups favored different options because of the way the options were presented.  The first set of participants were given a positive frame (emphasis on lives saved), whereas the second set were given a negative frame (emphasis on lives lost).


Why This Matters

It is beneficial to be aware of the processes influencing our judgments. Having background knowledge on how the mind actually works is essential for logic, reasoning, argumentation, and critical thinking.  It also allows us to be aware of manipulation and influence by others on these biases. (marketing firms, political campaigns)

Cognitive biases are also related to the persistence of superstition, to large social issues such as prejudice, and they also work as a hindrance in the acceptance of non-intuitive scientific knowledge by the public.

Reflection:  What cognitive biases have you caught yourself using?  What topic or additional biases would you like to see covered?  

I want to hear from you.  Please leave me any comments/suggestions.  Thanks!

About the Author
Bob Dempsey is a secular personal development writer and blogger.  He’s currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from The University of Central Florida.
You can find his personal blog @

Brainwashing and the Involuntary Suspension of Critical Thinking

John_Broadus_Watson“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select.”

-John Watson (The father of Behavioral Sciences) Behaviorism, 1930

 

 

It would seem to be incumbent on behaviorists to not only employ an active reach into the traumas and stresses of those they are beholden to (the communities of their service) but also to actively offer what tools and powers available to protect the people from becoming victims in the same sense. For this reason I feel the necessity to, in the fair brevity of this blog format, offer what small gems of wisdom I can from my studies into Applied Behavioral Sciences.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  KOREAN WAR/PRISONERS

Firstly it is important to identify the problem at hand, in this case the active shaping of the personality and thinking of others, dubbed brainwashing or thought reform, this concept may once have been seen more science fiction than actual science, but has gained considerable credibility since the Korean War wherein American POW’s reported attempts to reshape their personality and thinking by Chinese and North Korean captors.

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A Critique on Religious Belief and the Common Ways Believers Defend Them-Part 2

In part one of this treatise I opened with a general critique on religious belief and focused on addressing claims of truth posited by believers. I feel it’s unfortunate the discussion needs to continue beyond seeking the truth. If there is no good reason to believe any of it, the conversation should be over, but we still find two more commonly used modes of defense readily employed by believers.

 

I want to provide some context before proceeding to the utility argument. There are rather obvious facts that need to be put on the table before we start talking about god being a source of goodness or morality.

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Before reaching the age of 5, some 21,000 children die every day around the world. That’s 1 child every 4 seconds, 14 children per minute, 875 children per hour, just under 7.6 million children every year. By the time you finish reading this essay, it’s very likely some number of children will have passed away in horror and suffering.

  Continue reading “A Critique on Religious Belief and the Common Ways Believers Defend Them-Part 2”