Religion is a huge package — it is not just ‘beliefs’, in fact, as I have written in other posts, most believers aren’t ‘belief’ centered. Lots of good stuff can come with a religion, but if you are trying to get a believer to see through their erroneous beliefs, one of the greatest obstacles is the believer’s investments that their confessions.
Often, before engaging in a huge debate over beliefs, it pays to find out what it would cost a person to change their beliefs. Here are some of the common investments:
- Family & Friends
- extended family: coming from a highly religious family — parents, grandparent, aunts, uncles,with all the holidays, get-togethers and such. If they leave that may be highly damaged.
- spouse: if your spouse is a fervent believer, changing beliefs can rock your whole life
- children: if raised you kids religious and you change, you’d have to explain to them that what you programmed them with was mistaken.
- church friends: belonging to a church for years with your deepest longest friendships in the church would mean loss of a network of support, love and meaning.
- work for a religious organization or are a minister and have no other strong job training except in your religion.
- everybody differs on how they build their identity — their anchors into meaning in life. Family and career are big ones, but for many folks even a label can be use to build some sort of security. For me, this is hard to imagine, but over the years, I have found that I am unusual in this regard. Most people clamor for identity.
For me, if I became Christian again, I would benefit: No cost, all gain! I would have a great testimony to tell. My community is largely evangelical Christian so I would greatly expand my circle of friends. My family, like me, is religiously tolerant so I would lose my families love or support, though they may chuckle a bit, we’d remain very close with no conflict.
So compare the Christian with the investments above, and my self discussing the claims of Christianity (or imagine a Muslim or Jew or Hindu with the same situation). How objective can that conversation be? If you think it could be objective, you don’t understand how the human mind works — how your own mind works.
Obvious Caveat: Investment obstacles do not just apply to religion. I have seen it in both medicine (doubting the efficacy of ‘community practice’ in modern medicine) and culture (bicultural marriages), just to name two. But people are invested differently — explore that.