There is an inverse relationship between your cognitive abilities and religious beliefs. Scary isn’t it. Find out how you can minimize the effects of this condition.
What is Basic Cognitive Ability?
Cognitive ability (1) is the capacity to engage common sense, reasoning. It involves problem-solving, planning, abstract thinking, complex idea comprehension, and learning from experience.
There are 7 tests online tests (2) you can access to measure your cognitive skills. Mental health professions use similar tools. Some common factors affect your ability to apply these cognitive abilities.
Your general mental health is one of the key factors. Your intelligence is also something that affects this ability. Intelligence is something that we can also measure with some degree of accuracy with the Intelligence Quotient Test. However, even highly intelligent people can have diminished basic cognitive ability.
A factor that overrides everything is our worldview. Our worldview is the filter through which we experience reality. It colors everything placing judgments, bias, and prejudice on our perception.
The Inverse Function of Variables
An inverse function is a relationship between two variables. As one increases, the other decreases. So, they respond in opposition to one another. As variable A increases, variable B decreases in roughly the same rate in opposite directions. If variable B increases, variable A decreases. Here are some examples to help you understand this principle.
- If more people are working on the task, it will probably take less time to complete the task. If there are fewer people, the task will take longer.
- Traveling at a faster rate of speed will decrease the time it will take your destination. At a slower speed, it will take longer to get there.
- In the proper operation of a see-saw, as one side goes up, the other side goes down. Balance scales and elevator counter-weights operate the same way.
Religious Belief and Cognitive Ability
Belief is faith and trust in things where there is no proof. Believing in things for which there is no proof is a slippery slope. The more you believe the more you are susceptible to believing other things. Organized religion is the champion of groupthink manipulation tactics. They program beliefs about reality based on mythology and superstition.
The more rigid, and extreme religious beliefs, the less is one’s ability to use basic critical thinking skills. The mind shuts off the ability to consider ideas beyond the boundaries, restrictions, and programming of the paradigm. So, as the level of extreme religious beliefs increase the ability to think critically decreases.
Religious people claim that it’s just the fundamentalists of each religion that cause problems. But, there’s got to be something wrong the religion itself if those who strictly adhere to its most fundamental principles are violent bigots and sexists.
— David G. Mcafee
This inverse function of religious belief and basic cognitive ability is a significant finding. It doesn’t matter how healthy your mind is. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. The effect of religious beliefs overcomes the ability to reason. This condition is one of the primary functions we find in the most popular religions. Belief in mythology is the basis for the Semitic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Here’s what happens. The more you expose yourself to groupthink manipulation, the more susceptible you become. You buy into the propaganda and so they can promote outlandish ideas or actions. This effectively overcomes critical thinking. This is why religious extremism is the primary tool for propaganda.
When you buy into extremist ideology, you are the most vulnerable. You are open to the power of suggestion and the most susceptible to accepting extreme prejudicial thoughts, ideas, and values. You fail to recognize illogical arguments and so accept illogical conclusions. Thus, you can think and behave in ways you wouldn’t normally contemplate.
Thankfully, this condition is not terminal. We can reduce its effectiveness. The more one can use critical thinking techniques, the less extreme is the individual’s religious beliefs. And conversely, the greater is your ability to consider new ideas and new ways of thinking.
Unmasking the Inversion function of Belief
We discovered the relationship when determining the learning readiness of participants. We use a survey to determine if someone is ready to learn. The survey is a set of questions that explores the boundaries of thinking. We know people can only see what their minds will accept or expect.
This helps us and the participant understand their expectations and boundaries. The survey uses a “Likert” scale. This is the type of scale that is most common for surveys. It has a range of answers which range from “strongly agree, to strongly disagree”.
We have been using and refining this survey since the late 1980s. We analyzed data from over 1000 participants. The data shows an inverse function of religious belief and basic cognitive ability. The greater their religious views, the less likely they are to consider new ideas. They reject anything that doesn’t fit with their current worldview. This greatly affects the ability to learn new processes.
What we find is the memorization of dogma and the misuse of logic deter the ability to learn. Their scores on the 7 basic cognitive abilities were lower than people who had no religious beliefs. And, they had superstitions that prevented them from considering some concepts.
Those with strong beliefs were more likely to lose emotional equilibrium. They had problems considering ideas outside their narrow paradigm. This is a sign of cognitive dissonance. Nearly 20% of those with strongly held beliefs fail to complete the whole survey. This shows their lack of ability to consider ideas that conflict with their beliefs.
It’s not if someone has religious beliefs are the problem. It’s what bias and prejudice are part of the belief system. And, it also depends upon the level of indoctrination one receives. Our data lead to the conclusion that religious extremism prevents people from being able to think and reason for themselves. It sets up boundaries. That’s because thinking rationally would reveal the inconsistencies in thought and values. Without a doubt, the inability to learn has a direct correlation with strongly held religious beliefs.
However, you don’t need a survey to determine the effects of religious extremist thinking. We can see the effects of this type of thinking around the world in almost every culture dominated by Western theology.
Not All Religions Are The Same
Thankfully, not all religions are the same. There is a continuum of religions depending upon the number of and boundaries and restrictions. Not all religions have goals to control your thoughts and values.
For example, Taoism and many forms of Paganism have the fewest constraints over freethinking. You are free to explore and develop your path. Whereas, the extremist sects of Christianity and Islam have a great number of boundaries. Thus, the greatest restrictions and limitations on independent thought. It all depends on how emotionally invested you are in the propositions they sell. It’s difficult to be a Freethinker. This is because these systems have such vast social reach and integration. In some places, it’s impossible not to profess some level of adherence.
How To Test Your Vulnerability
It’s easy to test your vulnerability to an extremist ideology. Your identity and emotions are key. You can tell your level of emotional equilibrium by your reaction to this discussion. You can determine the level to which the inverse function of religion affects your life.
- If you react with anger to this discussion, then that’s a good sign you are susceptible.
- Do ideas that contradict your beliefs, cause you physical discomfort, then that is also a good sign.
- If you’ve been told there are certain ideas, resources (books) that are off-limits, that is a sign.
Frequent exposure to groupthink manipulation makes you vulnerable to the chosen one mentality. Belonging to an exclusive club makes you feel important.
- And, if this is the case chances are groupthink manipulation dictates your thoughts, beliefs, and values.
As religious beliefs become more inflexible your ability to use reason diminishes. You will be less likely to explore other ideas or process which conflict with your current boundaries. Religions are control mechanisms. They program people to reject anything that threatens the boundaries of the religion.
Reversing the Effects of Religion
Thankfully, this condition is reversible. But, it requires some work on your part. The results will be worth it. Think about it. You might even become a “Freethinker.” The first step is acknowledging that an inflexible worldview has an adverse effect on use reason and common sense. The more extreme your beliefs, the less likely you will be to accepting anything that isn’t a part of the quality check of your perception.
You can increase your cognitive ability by confronting the programming of your beliefs. The fewer limitations and restrictions the greater your ability to reason. The more you research and study ideas outside your paradigm, the more you will appreciate the freedom of thought.
So, here’s the antidote to the effects of religion. Begin studying critical thinking. Here are some links to our basic critical thinking toolkit. This series includes, logical reasoning, logical axioms, and spotting logical fallacy. These can reduce or eliminate the negative effects of religious extremism. These tools will direct you to conduct your own research using sources from outside the religious paradigm you hold.
Extremist religious belief and your basic cognitive abilities are at odds with one another. But, are moderates who hold on to their beliefs only encouraging others who may be more susceptible to the darker aspects of the system?
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (3). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
(1) Cognitive ability, Gottfredson, 1997, Wikipedia
(2) 7 online tests to measure cognitive abilities, at bigthink.com/matt-davis/7-free-cognitive-tests-to-flex-your-mental-muscle
(3) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia