I generally use my blog to point out the ridiculous bullshit that people believe in. There is a LOT of material there. But today, I’d like to talk through some reasons why people keep believing, even after being exposed to blatantly obvious evidence otherwise.
One reason is the sunk cost fallacy. Often, people will believe they are too invested in something to change. This is the same reason people stay in jobs they really hate, because they are unsure of being able to obtain other employment, feel loyalty to their team or project, have concerns about their retirement plans or other benefits, and yes, even feel like they owe their time to their boss or company that they dislike.
It’s telling that people have such a hard time quitting their job that searching “how to quit your job” gave me 428,000 hits. And remember, this is not an all-seeing, all-powerful god they are tying to escape. It’s another human or group of humans, and people still feel stuck. They fear for their families if they are unemployed, they fear bill collectors for the things they have bought on credit, they fear the stigma, they fear the project they feel passionate about will fail without them. This is a very real emotion, and people really do feel stuck.
The religious equivalent to quitting your job is The Clergy Project, which literally helps people that feel they have invested too much in their religion to get out. Just like trying to quit a job (which they are also doing), these unbelieving clergy members take to the pulpit and dispense religious dogma they no longer believe. In addition to fearing for their families and bills, they fear the stigma of being labeled a hypocrite or sinner. They know that they will not be able to fill their role in their communities anymore since that role will be completely shattered. People will not trust them.
It was not as difficult for me to let my friends know I’m an atheist, since I came to this community as such, and in this community was never anything different. My professional job has no religious test, nor any religious implications. I was not “sunk”, since I had very little invested. But even then, I don’t discuss religion with my parents and I have never told them I was an atheist. I don’t honestly know if they know or not. But you could, perhaps, say that my relationship with them is good, and I don’t wish to throw dynamite into the middle of it. So I don’t bring it up with them. Plus, they live a few states away so it never comes up.
The sunk cost fallacy does not say that changing course will have zero effect, or that no cost will be lost. It says that the person is biased toward an ongoing commitment. They overstate the costs, while understating the benefits. This is quite obvious when religious people say dumb shit like “I wouldn’t want to live in a world without god.” In their human, biased brains, they build up a picture of how horrible that would be, and compare it to the happy feelings they get while, oh, singing hymns in church. The reality is, atheists are much happier after they leave, and enjoy life even more without the baggage of religion.
But what is the doubter to do when he is stuck feeling lost or hopeless? They are stuck, and they “know” it (it’s a fallacy, remember). How can the doubter ease their mind over the guilt of not believing in all of the bullshit? Well, you do the same thing any religious person does when they doubt their religion. They go and jerk off!
No, I don’t mean actually jerk off, I mean MENTALLY jerk off. You take the myth and rub it in your brain and tell yourself to be happy until you feel happy. Having thus jizzed all over your doubts, you can chill out on the dopamine floating in your grey matter and forget you had doubts in the first place.
In the human brain, coming to an epiphany is just as strong an intoxicant as cuming on Tiffany. (Pardon the vulgarity there, I like the wordplay and I’m leaving in the article, because it’s my damned blog.) Discovering something new and exiting floods the brain with chemicals, which make us happy and satisfied. The brain can’t tell the difference, and the brain user gets to continue mentally masturbating to make themselves happy. Believing that this mental masturbation is something more, like a sign from god or something, allows the believer to feel that rush of excitement. Maybe they didn’t mentally jerk off, maybe Jesus magically jerked them off! Eureka! Halleluiah!
But if the image of Jesus jerking someone off seems creepy, it gets worse. These evangelicals literally believe they have a relationship with Jesus. They say dumb shit about how they talk to Jesus and Jesus tells them what to do. They tell others about the little things that happen that prove Jesus loves them. They find a bible quote that suits their mood and pretend it was divine intervention that made them read that passage that day. And many of them writhe on the floor and spout gibberish because they “feel the holy spirit”.
All you need to do to understand how ridiculous this is is remove the name “Jesus” and insert the name “Jennifer Aniston”. As in: “I love Jennifer Aniston because she loves me.” “I spoke with Jennifer Aniston this morning and she told me she loves me. No I didn’t hear it like a person speaking but she lets me know in little ways.” “I was watching Friends the other day and Jennifer Aniston spoke as if she was speaking just to me, and I knew that was a sign from Jennifer Aniston.” “Before I went to sleep last night, I could feel Jennifer Aniston holding me with her love.”
Creepy stalkers do that. But until you jerk off and tell everyone that you banged Jennifer Aniston, and believe it, you still aren’t as creepy as religious people.
The Spartan Atheist