- Published on Friday, 08 February 2013 07:02
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 707
Many of us would like to think that we change our behaviour and our beliefs because of logic or rational thinking. But is that really true? If someone comes up to me and says point blank - you're wrong - my immediate reaction will be emotional. I'll say "No - I'm right" - then perhaps "What are you talking about? What did I say that you think is wrong?". If I say to a religious person "I'm an atheist" - I'm implying that I think their beliefs are wrong so they will immediately go into defensive mode. Emotionally, people know they are right. Let's not fool ourselves - first reactions are emotional, not rational. There can be exceptions. If we know someone really well, if we have an emotional attachment to them - maybe even love them - and they tell us we are wrong, our emotional reaction is to be hurt, disappointed, concerned or surprised or all of these. But we are more likely to accept what they say.
So communicating starts on an emotional level - not rational. You might ask, why do I bother to even try to convince others they are wrong with their beliefs? I think there is immeasurable good to be found in a world which does not believe in science destroying myths and which is not motivated by beliefs that are simply wrong, so to me, it is self-evident that the goal is noble. But the real question is - if people won't think or won't even really listen because of emotional barriers, why bother to try?
Trying to convince someone of the folly of religion is not much different than trying to convince someone of the error in their political beliefs or their faith in a loser spouse. If beliefs are entrenched, they are hard to change. But if a person is curious or truly interested as to why others think differently, then just maybe they will see a grain of truth in an opposing view. In my case, for many years, if anyone told me my faith was misguided, I would immediately decide that "no, I know I'm right" then look for reasoning to support that thinking. Then one day, prompted by my marriage breakup and the absence of help from my faith, I asked myself some leading questions and stopped assuming I was right. I had been wrong about my choice of first wife, maybe I could be wrong on other things? The whole decision making process was heavily emotional.
Perhaps others have reached a turning point and are looking for rational discussion on various subjects. For them, sites like this can be helpful. Another way to help people change beliefs is to simply be open about being atheist while simultaneously being just like anyone else and not an ogre or evil - you can then convince others - in time - that you don't have to "have a faith" to be a good person. This is an emotional connection - not a rational one although you support your position with rational thinking.
Another factor is our values. What do we think is important? Is emotion (e.g. love) more important than being rational? Is the real truth more important than loyalty to a religion and perhaps loyalty to our parents and friends? How can we find truth - do we value logic over feelings? All these affect what conclusions we come to.
If you value truth and if you value rationality, you will try to put aside emotions to find the truth. You may also need a motivation to bother questioning your current beliefs - the status quo is often more comfortable.
In the end, although people try to be rational and logical, they are heavily affected by their emotions and also how they view the role of emotions (feelings) in their decisions.