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Adaptive Humans and cognitive dissonance

Humans are pretty adaptive and can thrive in slavery circumstances – as long as there is no social cognitive dissonance telling them that they are not slaves. Being forced to pretend your condition is something other than the condition makes existing in the condition worse.

Sort of like how people can live for decades under extreme dictators as long as they aren’t forced to vote and pretend the country is a democracy – after a while, people end up ousting the dictator and becoming a democracy or living under another dictator who doesn’t pretend it’s anything other than.

Religion is not only the opiate of the masses, it is the social mechanism of cognitive dissonance to assert humanity’s specialness – well some of humanity, the ones lucky enough to be born at a time and place where the one true religion just happens to being practiced and they get born into a family who observes it or at least into a society that doesn’t persecute it, anyway –  in a vast and indifferent universe that wholly exceeds human scalability.

No matter how big and huge the universe is, the whole kit and caboodle is there for humans, no matter that we can’t see or hear or smell or taste or touch most of it, to the farthest point on the universe’s rim or down to the tiniest sub atomic particle.

Which is why, given the vast scale – both to the edge of the universe down to the smallest atom – of the universe and everything in it, that any god(s) is/are patently ridiculous.

Particularly a god(s) that has the capacity to poof or wish or sneeze or fart the whole scalable and fractalish universe into existence and who would then be at all concerned with what people did or didn’t do – and to who – with their genitals.

The universe is exactly what we could expect of a natural universe without any need for supernatural fiddling to make things appear as a natural universe.

Which is why religious people work so hard to gain numbers on their side – as if by having enough people beleive in a particular god and practice a mode of worship the natural universe will somehow conform to these specifications.

That the universe doesn’t and that believers continue to try to make it appear as if there’s a god is a bafflement, given how intolerable it is to have an unresolvable understanding of the universe and a wish for how we would like it to be.

Humans can exist very well without gods – but gods are nothing without humans to worship them – which has always made me wonder why a being or beings with capabilities beyond human capacity would need mere humans to worship them.

A personality failing that makes deities rather less than divinities. Insecurity and vanity – especially on the order of worship me or suffer eternal punishment – aren’t attractive qualities in anyone.

I am inclined to think that religious believers are entirely tortured, caught between rationality and supernatural fears, playing Pascal’s Wager as if their lives depended upon it, because they want to believe it does and unable to accept that other people are simply not compelled to act as themselves – out of fear of non-conformity, fear of supernatural agents and their threats – living as if religion could be true – when living as if it’s not wouldn’t make much of a difference in their lives – except to reduce the fear and anxiety, the righteousness, the constant striving to meet a standard of conduct that is unclear and unforgiving. To live a life that is not entirely your own.

It’s exhausting just thinking about it, the burden that can be put down by letting go of gods and living with yourself and other humans, human scale, human time.

Trauma recovery

Cognitive dissonance is holding two beliefs that are in opposition to each other, as if there is no conflict or disparity between them.

Trauma is often a sudden or even brutal resolution of that disparity in a way that results in your belief of how the world works and how we should behave in the world is disproved or so undermined that you cannot sustain the belief anymore.

The concept of post traumatic stress disorder took shape with the American soldiers returning from Vietnam – earlier veterans who experienced battle related traumas were deem shell shocked – they were distressed at what they say, but the world wars did not shake people in the same way, because they were fighting for a cause they believed to be right and war was the mechanism of re-affirming that rightness in the world. People managed their trauma with an ends justified the means mentality.

With Vietnam, the goals and purpose of the war were not as pure as with previous wars, and as a result, many soldiers experienced trauma for having to behave in a manner – shooting people – which was not morally just or defensible and it shook their identity as good and moral people to act in a way that was not moral and for a cause that was not just. Neither the means nor end were just, thus, cognitive dissonance resolved in a traumatic way, the realization that there was nothing good, moral or just.

Post traumatic stress disorder is not just for soldiers anymore.

People experience trauma of varying degrees as part of everyday life – certainly, being exposed to news – being sensationalized and focused on the sordid and morbid – results in a sense of the world being more dangerous and less kind than it actually is – and over time, people develop emotional calluses to cope or they become very nervous – either way, functioning in the world is impaired and disordered by the perceptions of a limited data set – if it bleeds it leads – and then through the filter of being indifferent, excited or anxious by the information.

But when trauma is personal – something happens to you that pulls the rug from under you, knocks you down or off your axis, when your sense of self and your place in the world in relationship to other people is not in harmony with your belief about how the world operates and you have to deal with a situation where the world is no longer safe or familiar, or no longer operating along the rules you have come to rely on – you are traumatized.

Your ability to recover, to find a new level or harmony is dependent on how far off your beliefs about reality and the reality you are confronted with and what kind of support system you have to access.

Because part of the rules of how the world is supposed to operate is your expectations of how you interact with other people – when they act in unexpected ways – such as being a bully or being an authority figure allowing the bullying – you are further traumatized and knocked off your axis and functioning, the world becomes smaller and scarier – and your ability to cope and bounce back is reduced and eroded.

The longer conflict is unresolved or the conflict escalates and more people either bully or condone bullying, the more traumatized you are and the more sensitized to repeated and lesser traumas you become.

Instinctively, we can only turn to ourselves, we can only know our own intention and motivation and soon trust is eroded to the point where you can’t tell who can be trusted – the idea of being utterly alone is unpalatable and likely why many people cling to religion, to feel as if they are a person of consequence, not alone, and they resolve the cognitive dissonance of being alone and not wanting to be, as that there’s a deity with a plan that we can’t know but includes this being alone, so it’s okay because there’s a plan that we’re not worthy enough to be in on but worthy enough to be included in the plan, so you just have to trust in the deity because people aren’t trustworthy.

Except the next cognitive dissonance that if being alone and outcast is part of the deity’s plan then other people are just carrying out their end of the deal to make sure the plan is carried out.

So in a way, religion can helps people deal with trauma or justify causing trauma, because people can connect their sense of the world and safety/purpose by their sense of being connected to something larger than themselves, because they cannot trust themselves or others. Religion is a worldview in which humans are not deserving, not trustworthy, thus, all things must occur for other and larger purpose, which we are not privy to know.

But religion is itself a cognitively dissonant belief – since there is no evidence or logic to religion being real. Other than religion exists and reflects and defines cultural boundaries between groups of people, sometimes like people and sometimes very opposite people.

Religion is a preference for a worldview that is not supported by reality – and this idea of the religion being untrue, results in anger and defensiveness – and this is why atheists  especially and gay people generally are so hated in American society – because being atheist forces religionists to resolve their cognitive dissonance and gay people force them to deal with their inclination to conformity.

Atheists and/or gay/lesbian are outside of the norms, we do not conform therefore, we must be defective or demonized.

This is where sacred and secular come into conflict – because secular ideas and law allow for diversity, allow individuals to make choices and act on them – sacred ideas demand conformity and obedience.

Secular is respect for all people and sacred is worship of the divine – which is why religionists demand special consideration of their sacred sensibilities – why cartoons, images, artworks, commentary, disagreement and questions are offensive, censored, and violently responded to – sacred does not brook disbelief – which spills over to the political sphere as “my country, right or wrong.”

This is why it’s dangerous that Americans believe their country is a Christian nation when America was a founded as a secular nation where individuals were and are the unit of consequence – that the ability to criticize the government and express disagreement was the basis of America being founded – no more rule by kings – rule by the mob, er… democracy, er… well, a representative republic, anyway.

In theory, that’s how it’s supposed to work, and understand how it works and how it’s supposed to – woulda coulda shoulda – gets you back on an even keel and into recovery – by drawing on your support network of family and friends – and supporting them in turn and asserting yourself in conflict before people can knock you off your axis and traumatized you, and if they do, to have that network in place, to help you get up, dust yourself off and understand this new place in the world.

Which, if it doesn’t kill you, it does make you stronger, because you will go through an existential process to determine what has meaning and purpose and the understanding you develop of the world will be closer to the world as it is, and not how you would like it to be.

If you don’t experience an existential crisis, the trauma won’t kill you or make you stronger, it will just leave you walking wounded.

That’s a big part of understanding the difference between what is good and what is evil and not being concerned with the plans of others, especially plans that you cannot know you were considered in or had any part in forming – because that’s the first step that many plan makers miss – engaging others in the plan and connecting them to the goals and outcomes – sharing in the plan making commits people to the success of the plan.

So make your own plan for your life, engage your support network, family, friends, coworkers, people you meet – and engage them, engage the world. Be the best you that you can be in the moment and with the information and resources on hand, because in the big picture, that’s the best that any of us can do – and we have to accept that we and others will more often than not, won’t be capable of being our best at any given moment.

We have to cut each other slack, but not enough to hang ourselves or slip through the cracks. We are all what we each have to work and play with.

Blind Patriotism and Religionism

Religionist Americans, because not all who are Americans are religionists, do not like atheist Americans because the fact of there being atheist Americans is an unequivocally statement that religionists will die and cease to exist, just like everyone else; that being a member of a religion doesn’t make you special, especially not special enough to thwart death. But everything dies in order for other things to live, in no small part owing to that life is sustained by consuming other life, be it plant or animal.

Atheist Americans also clash with the Patriotic American who also tend to be religionist Americans, who like to define “real” Americans as only religionist Americans, need for Americans to be special among all other nationalities. Religion and Patriotism operate in the same manner to define a group and confer specialness on all group members, simply for being part of the group. People who do not conform to the rigid group rules are then sanctioned for exclusion by the no true Scotsman fallacy.

To reject religion is to say we are all equal, regardless of where we are born, live, and die – and when we die, we make way for other people to live, and we live no more, except in memory. But only while there is living memory; unless you do something with your life that makes you uniquely special to be remembered by the masses.

This is why religionists actively engage in confirmation bias and why religionists mischaracterize and demonize naturalism (science) and create sciency justification for their religious beliefs. Confirmation bias is basically intellectual masturbation and it makes one blind to any data or rational that doesn’t serve the biased idea and framework.

Intelligent Design is creationism tarted up in science sounding language, but Intelligent Design isn’t science. It studies nothing, predicts nothing and is not testable or peer reviewable or repeatable. “Goddidit” is the sum total of the idea, but to make it seem sciency, god becomes a vague and ill-defined creator and to make it seem like plausible science, a concession that the creators could be aliens is offered. Because while aliens seeding our planet to bring forth life is more plausible than a deity, it continues to beg the question of where the aliens came from, in the same way that goddidit begs the question of where god came from then.

ID is to science as atheism is to religion – ID has no claims and is rejection of the scientific process and the theory of evolution. Atheism is the rejection of religion, and like ID, uses religion itself as the reason for the reject, and does not have claims of it’s own. Where they differ, is that atheism is rejecting unsound premises that are based on claims that are not internally consistent – whereas, ID is rejecting the scientific method and the internally consistent theory of evolution in favour of the unsound claims, and thus, rejects theory of evolution and science based on mischaraterizations and outright falsehoods, to maintain their religious ideas.

Basically, atheism is a sound rejection of an unsound premise and ID is an unsound rejection of a sound premise. They are both a rejection, but the basis for rejection are the polar opposites.

Science, currently is working to confirm the Big Bang Theory before tackling the question of what existed before the Big Bang and what caused the Big Bang – and this is acceptable, since science is a process by which to ask questions and arrive at answers, not start with answers and then fiddle the data to fit the preferred answer, as religion does.

Aside: I am inclined to think that the big bang was a universal resolution of the cognitive dissonance of existence and non-existence and this is where philosophy carries on where/when physics leaves off.

The reason why religionists demonize naturalists is because the fact of there being naturalists means that people can and do accept that this life is all we get – the moment of resolution for the naturalist is the atheist moment of accepting life on its face because there is no plausible evidence to the contrary, not in the whole of recorded history as there been any proof of anything beyond our existence.

What particularly bothers believers is that non-believers are not non-believers because of lack of exposure or even understanding of religion or a particular religion – more often than not, people reject religion because of their experience within and understanding of religion. We know what we are rejecting, and we are rejecting it because we understand it is wishful and magical thinking driven largely by a terror of dying and a need for conformity and inclusion.

To reject religion, is to reject religious people. This is why religionists – by this I mean true religionists commonly referred to as fundamentalists – react with violence and demonizing anyone who is not a true believer. Moderates, apologists, reformers if they are milder, are actually not true believers, their belief and dedication is less than the fundamentalist believer’s belief and dedication. The only true believer is a fanatical and literalist believer – anyone less has modified belief and gone off cannon, have tempered religious belief and practice with other beliefs and concerns.

This is why American patriotic religionists exclude people who are not blindly religionist and patriotic from being deems “real” Americans. Yet, these so called true Americans are the anti-Americans. America was not founded on religious ideas, let alone Christian ones. America was not founded on blind worship of authority, if America was about blind worship of authority, they would still be a British Colony and they would never have tossed King George’s tea into the harbour.

Okay, that’s too simplified, the reality is, that America was founded on the idea that individuals matter and that they have inalienable rights that are not based in anything as tenuous as a king or specific deity’s whim. But rather, that individual rights exist because individuals exist.

Individuals have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – follow your bliss, not your religious bling.

Live your life – the life that you know you have – to the fullest, most meaningful and most purposeful – as long as you live your life for your afterlife – you aren’t living at all and you are wasting the life that you can know that you have.

If there is anything after, then it’s a natural process and part of existence and it won’t depend on what or who you did or didn’t do with your genitals, or what kind of person you were or weren’t. Better to do good for the sake of good, rather than being good to be rewarded or avoid punishment in the afterlife.

And, when we die, and there is anything that does decide, then a person who was good, rather than one who acted good by complying with rules they had nothing to do with developing or understanding or deciding without any thought to whether those rules actually were good or caused good to result, will surely be the one with the reward in this and any other life.

Be good for goodness sake, and for goodness sake, think about what makes anything good.