the map through reality runs through iceland apparently
Reading Time: 7 minutes (Simon Migaj.)
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Yesterday, I showed you the Pre-Trib Research Center. Their three stated reasons for existing all amounted to testable claims, and all three turned out to be true only in the short term and only with adherents who took that game way too seriously. As I wrote about these guys, my mind kept returning to one central idea: how much better and easier my life’s been since I rejected my previous foundation of false beliefs and now fully embrace reality instead. 

the map through reality runs through iceland apparently
(Simon Migaj.)

The Wingnut Psyche.

As previously mentioned, in my younger days I was a wingnut. That means my worldview was based on a bunch of false beliefs that didn’t tether to reality in any way.

The only tool wingnuts possess for evaluating new claims is comparing them with their current beliefs. If the new claim fits, it is accepted; if not, then it’s rejected. Since nothing from objective reality informs wingnut beliefs, nothing from objective reality can ever refute them.

Wingnuts can’t pull back on their wingnut throttle, either. They can only push harder on it. Wingnuts reject a claim that contradicts an existing belief, but they’ll easily accept one that amps up a previous belief. Wingnuts play a 24/7 game of More Hardcore Than Thou anyway, so they’re very vulnerable to such come-ons.

As well, wingnuts choose their leaders based on their demonstrated levels of ideological purity. So winning the extremism game represents their path to leadership. This endless game of one-ups-man-ship was definitely part of my culture and was the main reason why wingnut leaders kept spiraling us all into worse and bigger wackiness.

That Darned Cloud Kept Moving!

In my own wingnut journey, I found myself bouncing from one belief system to another in Christianity. I started out in fervent-but-family-oriented Catholicism (not that ickie traditional/hardline mode gaining so much popularity lately).

Then, I converted to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — only to leave a few months later for Pentecostalism.

I was searching for something meaningful, something powerful, something that delivered on Christianity’s many promises.

It was only when I almost got sucked into a cult in Waco — shortly before David Koresh’s neighboring cult hit the news, no less — that I realized that my quest was going to end disastrously if I didn’t pull back on the wingnut throttle. I didn’t know why I kept spiraling into more and worse trouble, just that I did.

When I deconverted, though, I still clung tightly to spiritual beliefs. I tried on a few different religions for size before eventually migrating into paganism. I’d be there for about the next ten years.

But I Still Hadn’t Found My Foundation.

It felt so refreshing, this new faith, after years of worshiping the Mad Blood God of the Desert (MBGD) — which at its base meant living in fear and suffering from intense cognitive dissonance every single day.

No, here the gods had limits and could be bargained with (and even tricked). They inspired stories, community goodwill, scholarship, and art rather than massacres and cruelties unending. Their afterlife wasn’t a glorious paradise or a gruesome Hell — unless someone really deserved either. Best of all, these gods neither needed my attention nor got angry when I didn’t provide it.

And someone could easily belong to this religion without thinking anything I just described was literally true. The religion as a whole tended to be reality-based, with very few wingnuts (though it did attract some truly spectacular edgelords).

Looking back, I know now that I eventually gravitated into something close to pagan atheism. However, I still labored under a number of false beliefs.

In essence, years after deconversion I still struggled hard with issues like death/mortality, the afterlife, the Just World Fallacy, and much more. My worldview was still rooted in false beliefs even if they weren’t part of any specific religions. And these false beliefs were causing me a lot of stress. 

Reality as My Foundation.

For almost ten years after my deconversion, I challenged my false beliefs and dismantled them. I clung to some of those beliefs a lot longer than others, but eventually they dissolved as well. As they did, I began to appreciate the clarity and sense of meaningfulness that reality-based beliefs brought to my life.

You know that thing in the human eye that scientists call our blind spotIt’s a tiny part of our eyes that lacks photoreceptor cells. Anything that falls on that part of the eyeball doesn’t get detected and registered. The brains of sighted people just fill in that spot automatically all the time, so they have to deliberately try to find their blind spot. (There’s a test in that link. You wouldn’t believe how long I sat there staring at the “R” and watching my brain fill in the “L”!)

The visual term inspired a psychology term: the bias blind spot. And it’s a valuable term to know, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about here. In the bias blind spot, humans tend to perceive other people’s biases way more clearly than their own. I’m talking more about a bias blind spot happening within one person.

While my worldview was based on false beliefs, I tended to evaluate claims related to those beliefs with substandard tools. It’s like I wanted to keep my beliefs safe from the cold, harsh light of reality. I wanted to protect them — and myself — from what reality might reveal about them. So anything at all that touched on those beliefs skated past without much questioning.

And that meant I was way more likely to accept claims that would end up causing me drama and pain in the long run.

Build on a Strong Foundation.

Since then, I’ve learned.

I need my beliefs to have strong foundations, and that means reality-based foundations. Thus, I evaluate my reasons for holding my beliefs — and yes, I test them. I’ve found that when I hold beliefs based on shaky foundations, often I end up steering my ship poorly as a result.

That’s why even liberal Christianity doesn’t appeal to me. Ultimately, Christianity is not real. It’s not trueAnd no religions are. There’s no god making anything happen for anybody. There’s no afterlife, no divine police or judges to make sure the cosmic scales of justice are balanced, no supernatural entities sending me secret coded messages (portents), and no cosmic daddy — or dead parents, damn it– to set a safety net beneath my feet lest I slip and fall.

Losing those beliefs not only healed my spirit, but also helped me achieve balance and strength at last.

When I make decisions now, I do it from a position of strength, not false certainty. I can more easily perceive obstacles to my goals and decide when to pull back if needed. Since my beliefs are based on objective reality, I can defend them more easily — and if I turn out to be wrong, I’m not scared of changing my mind and admitting I was wrong. I recognize the making of errors as a very human thing, not something to fear or to fight against with all my might.

Man alive! I just realized that what I described in this section is exactly and precisely what evangelicals say they’ve got through Jesus Powerbut almost never actually have. Any evangelical would kill for the peace of mind and inner strength that I have now. But I could only cultivate that life after leaving behind false beliefs.

When we ex-Christians talk about following the truth right out of the religion, we are really not kidding around at all! 

One Size Does Not Fit All.

Of course, I know a lot of religious people manage that trick. They try to live a reality-based life while holding foundational beliefs that aren’t based in reality. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. I have no beef with them at all; they’re not the religious people who tend to make problems of themselves or try to force others to play along with them.

That juggling act is just not something I can manage. False beliefs have hurt me a lot more than they’ve ever helped or healed me. Since I don’t need anything religions (or superstitions) provide, and since their false foundations represent a very real risk to me, I would rather reject them entirely than bash my brains out trying to find the magical one that would work out for me. My approach doesn’t make me superior to them any more than theirs makes them more evolved than I am. It’s just how we are. And it’s okay to be different.

For me, life makes a lot more sense and means so much more without subscribing to any supernatural beliefs. A reality-based life is a lot safer emotionally, causes me less drama, and helps me focus on this one life that we know for sure we’ve got.

Not the Argument from Consequences.

Often, believers in something false will tout its benefits in their lives as a reason to continue believing something that’s not true. That’s not what’s going on here. Perception of a claim’s value doesn’t impact the truth of that claim. Indeed, reality would still be reality however I felt about it or what benefits I thought it conferred on me as an embracer of it.

Sometimes I’ve been initially very upset about losing a cherished (but false) belief. In the long run, though, I’d rather work with reality than deny it. Denial just doesn’t work for me.

So yes. I’ll take reality over fantasy as my foundation. Every time.

As for this silly Pre-Trib Research Center, I really hope that their adherents follow the truth right out of that wingnut group’s clutches. More and more people are doing exactly that these days, so I’ve got a lot of hopes there!

NEXT UP: The Southern Baptist Convention is still battling against accusations of racism. The situation is boiling over — very quickly. We’ll check that out tomorrow. See you soon!

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(Last note: I looked, but couldn’t figure out what to call someone who sees as opposed to someone who is blind. If someone knows, please clue me in? ETA: Thanks, “sighted” it is! I fixed it.)

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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