Here’s what we’ve discovered. There is an inverse relationship between critical thinking abilities and the magnitude of extremist religious beliefs. Scary isn’t it. Find out how you can minimize the effects of religious extremism.
What is Basic Cognitive Ability?
Our cognitive ability is the mental capability to engage common sense, reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, complex idea comprehension, and learning from experience.
There are 7 tests online tests you can access to measure your cognitive skills. Mental health professions use similar tools. There are some common factors that affect your ability to apply these cognitive abilities.
Your general mental health is one of the main 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 judgements, bias, and prejudice on our perception.
Inverse Function of Two Variables
This is the relationship between two variables when they respond in opposition to one another. As one variable, the other decreases. As variable A increases, variable B decreases in roughly the same rate in opposite directions. If variable B increases, variable A decreases.
This type of relationship or inverse proportion often exists when the two variables are opposites. Here are some examples to help you understand this principle.
- If there are more people working on the task, it will probably take less time to complete the task. If there are fewer people, the task will take longer.
- Travelling 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 Basic Cognitive Ability
Belief is a requirement for 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 which rely on believing what they say about reality.
The more rigid, and extreme religious beliefs, the less is one’s ability to use basic critical tinking skills. The mind literally 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.
This inverse function of religious belief and basic cognitive ability is a significant finding. It doesn’t matter how healthy your and your mind are. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. The effect of extremist religious beliefs makes mythology superior to reason. The people who fit this definition come from the Semitic religions of Christianity and Islam.
As critical thinking ability decreases, you become more and more susceptible to propaganda and suggestion. 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. Also, 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 effect. 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.
How was this Inversion function of Religion Discovered?
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 are only capable of see what their mind 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. An analysis of the data spanning over 1000 participants showed an inverse function of strongly held religious belief to the person’s readiness to learn. The more extreme their religious views, the less likely they are to consider anything that contradicts their worldview.
Furthermore, those with extremist beliefs show an inability to use common sense reasoning to support their positions. What we find is the memorization of dogma and the misuse of logic.
Of those who considered themselves to have strong beliefs in their faith. Almost all lose emotional equilibrium when the encounter anything that threatens their belief system. This happens when it becomes obvious by the answers use that are contradictory and illogical.
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 leads 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 between increasing levels of strongly held religious belief and the ability to think rationally.
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 personal 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.
- If you attend meetings where religious ideology is a basis for exclusivity of membership, this is a platform that will make you vulnerable. It’s the choosen one syndrome that makes you think you are in a select membership.
- And, if this is the case chances are groupthink manipulation dictates your thoughts, beliefs, and values.
The greater the rigidity and inflexibility in your religious beliefs, the less you will be able to use reason and explore other ideas or process which conflict with your current boundaries. Religions are control mechanisms that program the mind to set up filters that elicit violent reactions to anything that presents ideas or facts that contradict the religion’s boundaries.
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 use reason and common sense. The more fanatical and embedded in a codified belief system the less likely you will be to accepting anything that isn’t a part of the quality check of your perception.
Your ability to perceive the possibilities of reality has an inverse relationship and the level of programmed boundaries you hold. So, the fewer limitations and restrictions you have the greater your ability to reason, to investigate, to expand awareness and transition to other states of consciousness.
So, here’s the antidote to the effects of religion. Study and use of our critical thinking toolkit including logical reasoning, logical axioms, and tools for spotting logical fallacy are the antidotes. 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 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?
“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
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Cognitive ability, Gottfredson, 1997, Wikipedia
7 online tests to measure cognitive abilities, at bigthink.com/matt-davis/7-free-cognitive-tests-to-flex-your-mental-muscle