Sunday, September 22, 2013

Religion and Residual Emotional Memory Distortion.

There are many examples of the way religion influences our thinking in other aspects of our lives. The most important being that we often take many things for granted, which I call Faith Conditioning. Growing up as a Christian I was conditioned to associate feelings of shame with doubting or questioning the Bible. We have all heard of Doubting Thomas, right?

We learned from the Iraq War in 2003 that we are all susceptible to the fact that a lie (Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq) can be eventually accepted as truth if the lie is repeated often enough. This is especially effective just prior to an election, where voting is an annoying, time-consuming task away from work, for which you wait in long lines. By the time you vote, your feet and your head hurt, and you must go to the bathroom. (This is why I love Washington State because we vote through the mail and receive complete information about our candidates.) In Illinois, my polling place was at a Catholic school during a work day.

Memory distortions

There are two parts to our memory, the details of the event, and the emotional context of the event. As time goes on, certain portions of what we remember fade faster than others. (This may not be true for many people, but it is for me) The most important connections between the details and the emotions we remember from an event are 'who' and 'where.' The 'what' portion of the memory for many fades away first.

As a survival mechanism of Natural Selection, we most strongly remember the location of a bad and good experiences, and what or who was the protagonist or antagonist of that experience. We learned to stay out of certain predator territories and go where we found food. Here is a more current example of this conditioning with not-so-good consequences:

In school you might be hanging out in a small group. Let's imagine that you're just one of the members of the group, but not part of the inner circle. Imagine that the leader of the group singled-out another person off in the distance, perhaps on the other side of the cafeteria, and made fun of that person, not openly, but quietly telling only you and your other members jokes so the target person can't hear.

You don't know that person, but you laugh at the jokes because they are genuinely funny. But, laughing at the jokes makes you feel uncomfortable and somewhat guilty. The jokes were a one-time event and they are forgotten by the end of that day.

Now, one or two weeks go by and you don't see the target person, then one day you are partnered up with that person on an assignment. You likely will feel hate toward that person, but if you stop and think about why you hate that person, you may be one of the lucky few who can remember that someone else told a joke, and you felt guilty for laughing at the joke, and every time thereafter you saw that person you felt bad, and because that person made you feel bad every time you saw him or her, you began to inexplicably hate that person for making you feel bad.

This dysfunction of memory is one of the fundamental building blocks of propaganda that keeps groups focusing trust inward, and paranoia outward, resulting in separatism, bloody religious conflicts, a distorted sense of entitlement, irrational self-destructive sacrifices of quality in favor of affiliation, such as cronyism, nepotism, political or religious patronage.

Always take the time to stop and ask yourself why you feel the way you do about things and people, and let Reason be your guide.

Did that person really do something to you personally?
Who exactly is responsible for why you feel they way you do about people you don't really know?
Do you really hate someone, or do you hate the way that person reminds you of your own problems?
Are you really being personally attacked because of your beliefs, or is someone trying to help you escape from an irrational way of thinking?
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