Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

“We need only in cold blood ACT as if the thing in question were real, and keep acting as if it were real, and it will infallibly end by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real.” - William James

Cognitive dissonance is a weird human phenomena, something that I have been experiencing for a while. I would guess that all humans have some form of paradoxical ideals, but I would bet that all religious people tend to harbor some form of cognitive dissonance in their belief system. Religion is so much about faith, about believing in things inexplainable in human, observable terms. This leads to a unavoidable conflict.

Let's take the belief in god as the prime example. Every religion has long and poetic verses of the greatness, infallibility, omnipotence... about their deity. We wax on about how glorious his name is, and how blessed we are to be created in his image. Then every person experiences and observes the opposite. We see sickness, evil, horror, in everything around us. Now instead of saying that god is cruel, you hear statements like: " we can not understand his ways", or " god works in mysterious ways". You hear that after tsunamis wipe out hundreds of thousands of people and after innocent children  die in horrendous ways. In order for someone to actually continue believing that their god is great there has to be some sort of cognitive disconnect.

When I started doubting the authenticity of my belief system, the biggest question to me was such a paradox. I realized that humans are the only species that have consciously accepted the idea of a creator, of a god. Yet along with that must come the accompanying  belief  that we do not understand his ways. Without the second nobody would believe in the idea of a god. That combination sounds very cruel and malicious. Firstly if god is good as religion wants us to believe, he would have a big problem seeing his creations in pain and suffering to such an extreme extent. But on top of that, to create people that have the ability to recognize a higher power orchestrating all it but  unable to understand why, is sadistic.To continue to believe that a god exists and fits this paradoxical paradigm, is cognitive dissonance at its finest.

Never be told!!

Monday, September 24, 2012


Never forget that it is we New Yorkers and New Englanders who have the monopoly of whatever oxygen there is in the American continent.” – Van Wyck Brooks.

Perhaps the first attitude that gave me a sense of dissonance from my religious upbringing was the elitism very obvious is so much of what I was taught. It wasn’t just the attitudes of the small minded, intolerant among us, the elitism was something expounded by the greatest minds in my religion. Statements like “No other religious person would ever devote so many hours to doing something like ...” is repeated around so many of our ritualistic ceremonies. I remember being a teenager telling my dad, or a teacher, or friends that saying something like that doesn’t make this act more spiritual, or holier. At that point I completely agreed with the ceremony,  I participated with devout allegiance. But I never understood how “We are the ones doing it right, because all the others would never do this” makes us holier or more connected to god.  If being good is dependent on others not being as good, the system will quickly fall apart.

Apart from the elitism of us a religious group versus all other people in the world, even within the religion there is so much of the elitist attitude. The followers are subdivided into group based solely on the family you were born in. In this case, your spirituality is based completely on the luck of the draw. It reminds me of a quote by Samuel Beckett “Guilty of having committed the crime of being born”. The mere idea that just by being born in a certain family will determine how close to god  a person is or can become, is something no educated individual should be satisfied with. 

This of course leads me into the specific form of elitism apparent in my community, also based on the crime of being born. There is so much misogyny in the dictates of my religion and apparent in the attitudes of men and (sadly) women in my community. Separate but Equal is something that most of society has realized is nonexistent. It is obvious that my community has not gotten that memo as of yet. I have been told countless of times that women are absolutely revered in the religion and therefore are being ‘protected’ by its laws. When referring to some of our ancient text it does appear that the writers did think of women differently than most. But it has become clear to me that the difference was just that the scholar understood that you cannot kill, rape and be violent towards women, but it doesn’t stop them from considering them second class, or lower. Laws that state how much monetary value there is in a virgin or that say that a rapist must marry the one he raped and give the father “compensation” for the dowry he lost (!) doesn’t leave much room to say that women are equal to men. There is no amount of ideological rhetoric or mystical explanations that can make certain laws seem like anything other than unscientific observations that led to the degradation of a natural part of female biology. My feelings about misogyny and sexism in my community will definitely come out more in other blog posts.

But it was general elitism, pertaining to all forms of mankind, that was the first unsettling aspect of my religion. I do not know if I was sensitive to this because it is my natural instinct to be a independent thinker, of being a type of person who needs to be led, not told. I couldn't help thinking that the value is measured extraneously, for its own merits. The mere fact of it being something others don't do, doesn't add value at all and its sad to think that some think that it does.

Never be told!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


"I won't be told. I will not be told. I will be shown, I will be inspired, I will be led. But I won't be told." - Stephen Fry

"I Will Not Be Told", the quote I once heard from a personal hero of mine, while he was defining the difference between revealed vs discovered truth.

That short statement became my anthem in my present day attempt to leave the doctrines and dogmas of my childhood extremist upbringing. Today I am still the woman who, although always seems to do her own thing, continues to follow the dictum of my community. 

No one knows of the deep personal struggles I deal with on a daily basis. I have long discredited the authenticity of the life I lead and the life my friends and family leads. I have realized the fallacies in their statements, the elitism in their attitudes and the hypocrisy in their teachings. But I am still stuck living the facade, because frankly I am petrified of what lays past it. I know that leaving will hurt my family, the only part of this life that I truly love and care about. I know that it will mean burning all present bridges. That is a terrifying thought for me.

So I created this blog as temporary respite from definite insanity. I hope to share, vent, cry, and probably yell about all the aspects of "being told" that I can not handle or silently let by me anymore.

I think that you as readers are experiencing the beginning of what will be a journey of my personal Enlightenment, my personal sprouting of the Dark Aged cocoon that I have been inhabiting for the 24 years of my life.Thank you all for listening.

Never Be Told!