Cognitive Dissonance: What I'd like to say to my friends & family on Facebook and Twitter.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance: a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming and denying.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What I'd like to say to my friends & family on Facebook and Twitter.

It's really quite pathetic that many of my friends and family are utterly unable to engage in polite, fair argumentation when we disagree about something. This has become even more evident during this election season. Being pretty liberal, socially, my ideals clash with those of my religious friends and families on a regular basis. I am not afraid to engage them in discussion about these differences, I usually (not always) do so politely and in the hopes of having a thoughtful, well informed discussion. The problem is however, a great many of them simply cannot do so, they are totally unequipped and unprepared. They have such firm beliefs and they state them so very passionately that it appears they know why they believe what they believe. However, when I challenge them to substantiate or defend their beliefs, the conversation usually implodes. Accusations of "hate speech", ad hominem, red herrings and straw men begin flying about like farm animals in a category 5 tornado. I hear things like "get off your high horse" and other indicators that these people feel like their being talked down to. What this indicates to me is, is that they're not very well informed and their ideas and opinions are not well supported. It indicates fear, insecurity and ignorance regarding their beliefs, opinions and positions.

What follows is what I would like to say to my Facebook friends specifically, and a few of my Twitter followers as well, I would do so, but I'm afraid I'd be left friendless by the end of the day... So here it is for all of you to enjoy! I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences as well, so I hope some of you find this encouraging.

My hero, Christopher Hitchens said this while doing an interview and discussing writing in a journalistic sense, he was speaking to "Bloggers" when he said this: "Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you."

I subscribe to every idea of Mr. Hitchens' stated here. Particularly the portion in the middle which says - "Don't be afraid to thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence."

Hitchens was rarely silent, it's one of the things I admired most about him. He engaged in almost constant debate and discussion with those he disagreed with or that disagreed with him. He refused to let ignorant, evil or vacuous assertions slide when others might have looked the other way for the sake of avoiding conflict. When he said "seek out argument and disputation for their own sake", he was acknowledging that there is inherent value in these things. You can gain a lot of perspective, learn something new, recognize flaws in your own thinking, persuade someone to adopt a better, healthier or more beneficial position, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. However, for whatever reason people seem to conflate disagreement with disrespect, or "hatred" or other negative motivations that they aren't, necessarily. Even if a conversation becomes heated, it doesn't have to digress into something negative or harmful, though it certainly can.

Far too few people these days are brave enough to engage, and far too many people take disagreement personally. Folks, we're all adults here, we should be able to share our ideas and disagree with each other and walk away from it knowing that we're better off for it in most cases. For those that can't engage in a disagreement without resorting to ad hominem (attacking the person making the argument instead of the argument or the facts contained therein) than maybe it's time to grow up a little bit? Read a book on logic and critical thinking, try to avoid emotional, knee jerk responses. THINK before you speak. These are all things adults should be able to do.

Lastly, as a disclaimer and in the interest of holding myself to the same standard, I should acknowledge that I am not perfect at exhibiting all of the traits I've listed as valuable or virtuous when it comes to conversation, arguments and disputation. I have biases, I recognize that fact, and I do everything I can to minimize those in my arguments. I am also rather quick to anger, some people know this about me and they use it against me, which isn't fair. However, in the end the impetus is on me to be able to control that frustration and respond in a fair, polite and even manner. I also tend to get defensive, which is fine when it's applied properly, it's not fine when I do the same thing I'm criticizing other people for and take a comment that isn't meant to be personal, personally. Some of you who engage me more often than others may have noticed a shift in tactics, I have begun to demand that the conversation stay on topic and if at all possible deals in facts. Preferably facts derived empirically and from sources that are as objective as possible and not prone to hyperbole or promoting propaganda. This ensures that an exchange is fair and valuable and allows two (or more) people to flesh out the facts and come to an actual conclusion. At that point, it's the responsibility of the "loser" for the lack of a better term to admit defeat, graciously.

Now having said all that, I'd like to point out that all gods are imaginary, Jesus is the result of a compilation of pagan gods/myths (and did not exist) and the Bible is unreliable and demonstrably false. Discuss.


  1. Well written and very passionate. I concur.

  2. Jay, you seriously are an amazing person. Please never stop writing. You inspire me more than you know.

  3. Regardless what what you may believe in your presentation is the reason you will have no friends or family left. Your allowed to believe whatever you like. That's your choice but the fact you bash Christianity every chance you get just means your sad sad person and I feel sorry for you. As Christians we aren't supposed to judge others but we are all human and we all sin but your post are more about bashing Christians instead of just posting what you believe in. I think this speaks volumes. We all sin jay and your no different so if you've turned your back on God because you can't stop sinning your an idiot. We all sin and your NOT God so your no different. Post what we you believe without bashing others. I pray for you all the time and why I care what you believe is beyond me but I pray for you anyway! :-) why your beliefs bother me so much is another thing I may never understand but I pray you find peace with your beliefs!!!

  4. Folks, I give you exhibit "A", here is a prime example of exactly what I'm talking about. My friend here totally missed the point, defaulted to preaching and judgement, ad hominem and nonsense.

    You go ahead and pray for me and I'll keep thinking for you. Tell your invisible Jewish zombie and his magical sky wizard daddy I said hello!

  5. I didn't judge. I said you could believe what you want. It's your choice. I never said your wrong. I respects people's beliefs even if I don't agree. Maybe you should do the same. Your so content on bashing Christianity which makes me wonder if your conflicted on what you believe. So as you say exhibit A isn't judging you. I do and will keep praying for you Jay. I hate we lost you as a friend. It's not your beliefs that cause you to lose friends it's judging/bashing other people's beliefs that's done that. I wish you well! I've debating for a while on whether to ever comment. I don't regret it but wished you had more respect for people.

  6. Kim: i think he is making a whole new set of friends who are not deluded (or putting on a 'good show' for the neighbours etc) and he will be happier for being true to himself than you ever will be. Hopefully one day you actually just sit down in a quiet place and think about everything very honestly. Most of us atheists were exactly the same as you,completely brainwashed because of our upbringing etc, i thought atheists were people who were 'lost' or looking for attention or trying to be rebels, becuase i never even thought to actually question religion or god, i went to church, prayed, had a great life and upbringing but things just started to not make sense as I got older, why was god letting good people get cancer? why was he letting people i love suffer even though everyone was praying for them? why did he let people in africa starve to death? why would he let little children get raped and murdered!? why wasn't he stepping in and saving these people? how could he make a person into a serial killer and let them loose on the rest of us?! maybe he wasn't so all powerful, or maybe he was a bit sick, or maybe there really wasn't anything up there at all i was praying too? why was 'my god' the 'right one' and every else's wrong? too many things just didn't make sense. hopefully someday you will actually sit and think about things, and also 'wake up and smell the coffee' that the here and now is all we have, live every moment and try to enjoy it because there is nothing else, when you die you will decay like any other animal or bug etc back to dirt, there are no gold streets and floating people in outer space somewhere, when i lose a loved one, they are gone, so enjoy them now. reality is really amazing once you reach it, you might feel a little scared or unsure at first, but the truth is so freeing and calming, its the place to be! and jay is just expressing his freedom and happiness.. good luck Jay!

  7. In the interests of well informed discussion, could you please explain why the Bible is "demonstrably false?"


    1. Talking snakes, men made from dirt, women made from ribs, a 6k-10k yr old planet. A global flood and a 350' long ship that carried millions of animals that walks tens of thousands of miles to get on said ship. A woman turning to salt, talking donkeys, she-bears killing children. Thousands of zombies walking the streets of Jerusalem, a virgin giving birth, and the list goes on and on and on. These things are fantasy, and they're ridiculous. The bible is a collection of myths, mixed with some history, but for anyone to claim it's 100% accurate and true is nonsense.

    2. "a 6-10k yr old planet."

      Where, exactly, does the Bible claim this?

      "Thousands of zombies walking the streets of Jerusalem."


      "a virgin giving birth."

      I assume that you think that this is demonstrably false - i.e. that you are able to demonstrate that it definitely did not happen. The floor is yours...

    3. Matthew 27:52-53

      "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

    4. The bible says graves were open and the dead walked around Jerusalem and appeared to many. I am 100% sure if this had happened, it would have been recorded in many, many places. As it is, the only place we find this fanciful BS is in the bible...

  8. I think the reason people get their backs up is that they don't actually want a debate in the first place.

    Also, their religion isn't just some logical belief to them. It is ingrained and is a part of their person, so when you 'attack' that, from their POV you are attacking them as a person.

    It is much the same as if I were to start a conversation to you about why your mother isn't such a wonderful person at all, and in fact I think she is, if anything, a sub par human. I am not emotionally involved in the subject, so I can put forth my arguments with objectivity. You, however, would not sit back and consider my points calmly; you would no doubt get quite upset that I was being so rude about your mother - someone that you love dearly.

    For a Christian, they may feel that same connection with God.

    I am agnostic myself. I don't profess to know one way or the other. I suspect that there is nothing, but I have no way of knowing, therefore refuse to assert my position with any kind of authority.

    I have a growing disdain of atheists with a rise of 'militant' behaviour with levels of preaching matching those that they mock in Christians and other religions. It was the fact that I felt like I was being preached at with a levle usually reserved for the devout religious that made me give up on The God Delusion after only around a quarter of the book.

    In summary: if someone has a belief that is integral to their core being, it is probably best to stay away from giving a negative opinion on it if you don't want to come across like a douche.

    1. Your logic at the end there doesn't quite make sense. I agree that no one should have another person's beliefs shoved down their throat, but simply having a different opinion on a subject than other people doesn't mean you have a "negative" opinion regarding their belief. Everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want, as well as the right to lack belief in whatever they want. This issue of belief/non-belief should not be taken personally.

  9. In reply to Chris.

    If someone has ingrained in them that 2 + 2 = 5, do we let them just go ahead and believe that?

    No, we fail them in class. We tell them that 2 + 2 = 4.

    You probably get what I mean.

    1. But the existence of God has not (yet) been proven or disproven in such a black and white way.

      When I was at school, I was corrected when I was unquestionably wrong about something so black and white. But there were many cases in which I was (quite rightly) taught to be open-minded and to learn to think for myself.

  10. I know what you mean, but your point misses an important difference. Maths is a man made construct and we know without doubt that 2+2=5, because we made it so. Just like we know what the colour red is because we assigned the word 'red' to it.

    Also, nobody is emotionally attached to the notion that 2+2=5. If someone gets the sum wrong, correcting them won't upset them. 'Correcting' someone in relation to whether there is or is not a god will upset them.

    As non-believers, we all know that the idea of an all-knowing being is an evolutionary mechanism to aid in our survival by creating a moral code; but if someone is really attached to the idea of there being a god, why would someone feel the need to go out of their way to remove that belief? When it is not affecting you, and it is bringing that person comfort.

    By all means fail someone in science class if they write a paper asserting that man was created by a divine being and not through evolution over aeons, but this is not class and you are not the teacher.

    There is one thing that most religious texts have as their main philosophy and that is the idea that we should 'do unto others as you would have them do to you'. I think more people should, whether theist of atheist, try to integrate that more into their own lives.

  11. Chris, I respect and agree with your point that others should be free to believe what they so choose, however, when the supreme being christians are supposed to be worshipping and glofifying has indiscriminately slaughtered millions over the course of history (as documented in their bible,) we should be offended and question why anyone in their right mind would offer their praise and allegiance to such an entity. The fact that he doesn't even follow the "golden rule" which is supposed to be the main idea here, would be a huge red flag, don't you think?

    The other big problem is that we are indeed affected by others' beliefs when those holding them are extremely dogmatic & outspoken, yet simply cannot engage in a rational discussion on the topic - see Kim above. They will not even entertain any opposing point of view or belief system and they also believe it is their mission to share the "good news" and convert as many non-believers to their hateful, fear-mongering & obviously man-made religion. They then travel around the globe spreading their one-sided, judgemental view of things. This is the problem.

  12. This blog is a joke. I'm not trying to convert anybody. I believe what I choose to believe. I could care less what Jay or anyone else believes. I know Jay and apparently the rest of you don't. He's free to choose whatever he likes. The only issue I have with him (not atheist in general) is the fact he bashes Christianity. It's his opinion on what to believe but he doesn't want others to point out how his beliefs are crap. Very contradictory!! I didn't grow up with Christianity shoved down my throat either. As an Adult I chose to believe what I wanted. I don't need a quiet place to sit and think about it. You either believe or you don't. When my time is up on this earth I either die and go to heaven or I don't and turn to dust or reincarnated or whatever you people believe. Either way I'm either right to believe in God or I'm wrong and i lose nothing in the end. Either way I wish you all the best and I'm done with this blog. It depresses me and its too nice of a day to let Jay get me down. THANK GOD for this beautiful day!!! I'm alive and healthy and have 2 beautiful babies to play with.

    1. And for some reason you think atheists don't feel those some emotions of awe and wonder. You confusing life with Religion. You referring to pascal wager. Well belief isn't something you can fake. Believing and devouting your life to some diety in the off chance you happened to pick the right one. Make no sense. Just live life and be happy not greedy for a second. I would think you'd appreciate each moment much more than thinking everyone floats up into the sky if they choose to believe the right sky fairy.

  13. So happy that I came across your blog it's truly amazing. I fear I'm about to have this talk real soon. Just glad I'm free from the awful chains of religion


Thanks for your input, your comment has been submitted to our moderators and will be posted as soon as it can be reviewed and approved.