Reasons People Might Not Believe What You Say on Threads

Ever wonder why people often never seem to believe what gets said when discussing religion on this site? Is it that you do not possess the ability to express yourself well enough to make an effective argument? Is it that other people are just being hard-headed on purpose?

While you definitely should not try to stop appeals to others to consider the truth of our faith, there are things to consider why at times it seems as if nothing we do seems to get through.

There are actually powerful psychological factors at play in all of us that, under normal circumstances, are always with us for a reason. You see, we are what we believe we are. What we do in life and how we do it has a lot to do with who we believe we are in life and what we believe in. Our personal convictions define us.

Outside influence that tries to cast doubt on the healthy amount of self-confidence we should have is normally rejected almost instinctively by us. We generally don’t have to think about it. But sometimes these instincts can get out of whack, and then we can find ourselves in trouble without realizing it. It can lead to self-denial which in turn can cause us to think we cannot possibly make a mistake in what we believe or cherish.

When not working right, our instincts can create steps or facets of disbelief that make it almost impossible for us to be reasoned with. Some of the facets of disbelief are:

**FEAR…**Generally speaking all religious people fear being unfaithful to God. It’s not a morbid fear in and of itself, but it can be for some people. The scrupulous Catholic, for example, can develop more than a healthy fear of displeasing God and worry that each and every passing bad thought may land them into hell. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have mentioned the fear of displeasing Jehovah and not having enough time to repent. With Armageddon being imminent in their minds, the time needed to repent may not be enough and they could lose out on life as a result, according to their doctrine. In both instances the subjects might see any doubt-inducing source as demonic even though this may not be true.

**COGNITIVE DISSONANCE…**Theoretically speaking, most religious people seek to have consistency between their convictions and the world around them. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable emotions that arise when a conflict arises between what one believes to be true and the evidence to the contrary. While some might next seek to examine the evidence to come to a new conclusion, it appears that most deal with the discrepancy by seeking to eliminate the dissonance, most often by dismissing the evidence or even seeking to discredit or destroy it.

**NORMALCY BIAS…**This is most often the state of shock people express when facing a disaster. Most people never believe that certain disastrous things will ever take place. Then when an emergency strikes a person may become immobile or at least showcase an inability to react as needed to the dangerous situation. The same situation can occur when one’s religious organization or church members make a serious error or a cult fails in an end-of-the-world prophecy calculation. Out of holding to the belief that such events are impossible (i.e., the impossibility that you are in the wrong religion or understand it incorrectly), subjects in this situation just do nothing or at least perform inadequately in response. This explains the actions of religious leaders who fail to respond to accusations of alleged sexual child abuse in their ranks and when people don’t leave religious groups that constantly fail at their predictions.

**MYSIDE BIAS & BELIEF PERSERVERANCE…**Myside (or “confirmation”) bias is a form of inductive reasoning in which a person seeks out information to support a conclusion that they already hold or wish to be true, despite there being evidence to the contrary. Sometimes when normalcy bias causes limited response in a subject, the same person, in an attempt to relieve the distress caused by cognitive dissonance, seeks out “evidence” to support their belief. Because some opinions favor the convictions of the subject, these are labeled as proof and true while other data that does not favor their convictions is rejected, even demonized. Myside bias is a sign of belief perseverance, the tendency to hold on to a belief system or set of convictions in the face of evidence that disproves it.

This is why you might never be as successful as you think you can be in a debate or apologetic defense of your belief system. The steps of disbelief are powerful psychological phenomenon that can actually prevent people from losing their interpretation of the universe and their place in it. It can be a defense mechanism that is telling the world: “This is the way it has to be in order for me to believe who I think I am and for the world to be accepted by and make sense to me.” Removing or proving the set of convictions as false can be so emotionally disturbing that normalcy bias can render the person incapable of dealing with life without their misconceptions, at least for a time. So it is important to be careful how we do this.

Do not think you have to give up when in a healthy debate about a subject. Just realize that you can fool yourself and the other person can be doing the same thing at the same time during such a situation. In a debate there might be a time to ask for a disinterested party to get involved to help make sure critical thinking and logical reasoning are not falling to the wayside. Understanding that we can all be thick-headed due to these internal mechanisms should make us all a little more humble and open to correction next time we get involved in a heavy discussion.

Delson,

Thanks for this. I have just been contemplating this over the past couple of days. I’m grateful for you articulating what I have been thinking.

God Bless!

You are welcome.

Of course I learned a lot of this information after I needed it.

I got my experience dealing with Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses when I lived in and around Denton and Dallas, Texas some years ago. My neighbors were very religious and very anti-Catholic. I even lived around the corner from a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I remember several times discussing the New Heavens and New Earth with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I often would hear them say things like, “The belief that God will restore the earth to a paradise is unique to our religion. That’s why I know only we have the truth!”

But then I would show them the eschatology section of the Catechism on “The Last Things,” as well as the creeds from the Mass which show we believe in the resurrection of the body and life of the world to come.

The blank responses from them after this were so ghostly silent. They would either ignore what I showed them and continue taking as if I had said nothing or they next stated that they were not sure if what I was showing them accurately represented the truth about Catholicism, excusing themselves with a promise that they would return to discuss this further (a promise they would not keep). Now I know that this a truth that most of them cannot process for some of these very reasons I mention above.

So sometimes when we talk to others about our faith and the other person doesn’t get it, we can actually say that it isn’t us. Sometimes it is actually them!

As an agnostic who is comfortable with uncertainty, I tend not to give much credence to those who present their beliefs as items of fact.

That’s the problem for some people, too. They treat what should be articles of faith as if they are declarations of fact based on empirical evidence. I’ve heard some people even define faith as something they accept due to demonstrable empirical evidence. This is common to religious movements that believe in a “proof text” type of theology.

This is contrary to Scripture which, in Hebrews chapter 11 discusses faith as an exercise of trust in the absence of some, most or all the evidence. Faith is not required where the subject of one’s faith is fully realized.

So unlike most of us who embrace that life has its mysteries and ambiguities, others adopt a set of convictions that work as a form of self-justification. Myside bias is a mainstay of Jehovah’s Witness literature for example. Until recently it was also heavily found in the publications of the LDS and SDA movements, but currently these two groups have adopted critical and analytic approaches to their theology (losing some members in the process).

Brings into sharper focus for me that when one discovers, and accepts, that their belief system is not true or is based on lies and is fraudulent, they not only experience a crisis of faith. They can experience a crisis of actual personal identity.

I think there are uncertainties that Christians can live with, too (problem of evil and suffering immediately comes to mind.)

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