Cognitive Dissonance and Proof of God

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon

I love this quote by Frantz Fanon. I think at one time or another we’ve probably all experienced some cognitive dissonance in our lives – times when, because of our own world view, background, and experiences we simply can’t accept the evidence set down in front of us.

Now and then I’ve been asked to share evidence and proof of “God.”  Now, for me, “God” is not a supernatural anthropomorphic being who throws thunderbolts from the heavens and sometimes chooses to help us and sometimes chooses to not. For me “God” is supremely natural – simply another name for Love, Truth, and Life – the power of Good.  And I experience healing by bringing myself into harmony with this power – by filling my thoughts up with Love, joy, hope, and courage, and cleansing my thoughts of fear, anger, hatred, and so on. So, when asked to offer evidence and proof of my God, I might say that kindness, honesty, and intelligence are all evidence of God. Or I might share healings I’ve experienced through bringing my thoughts close to God.  I might, for instance, share the following healings as proof of God, Good:

  • I witnessed my little brother healed of doctor-diagnosed mastoiditus when he was 7 – one minute he was screaming in pain, the next he was snoring. Healing confirmed by a medical doctor the next day.
  • A couple years ago my optometrist found a melanoma on my eyelid – he showed me a picture of it and had me set up an appointment with a surgeon right then – two weeks later the eye surgeon could find no trace of the melanoma.
  • After my hand inflated to twice its normal size, I went to a doctor. The doctor told me I probably either had a serious infection or rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor sent me in for blood tests. After the blood tests I went home and called a CS practitioner for prayerful support. By the third morning my hand had completely deflated and I was fine. The blood tests came back. One of the markers indicated rheumatoid arthritis. The nurse was shocked when I told her I was fine. That was several years ago. No return of the condition.
  • I was taken to the OR to have an emergency c-section with my second son. I asked my mom to call a CS practitioner for support. Just before they were going to slice me open, the surgical team got surprised looks on their faces, and starting telling me to push. The baby was  born naturally. One of the OR nurses was crying because it was all so beautiful, and she’d never been able to see a natural delivery before. The midwife told me they don’t know what happened. It was a surprise to all of them.

The response I get from friends after I share these experiences is really fascinating to me. Some friends – those who are open to the evidence I share with them, will celebrate and rejoice with me. But there are others – often friends who were raised as children with a different kind of a “God” than mine and rebelled against that thunderbolt-throwing god (and who can blame them?) – who seem unable to accept what I’m sharing.

I’m told by these friends that I can’t just go around making up my own definition for “God.” I tell them I didn’t come up with this concept of God on my own and that it’s not a new concept – that in the Bible we’re told “God is love” (I John 4) and that as far back as the late 19th century Mary Baker Eddy listed these synonyms for God – “Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love.”

Okay, but these healings are not proofs of a supernatural being, these friends tell me – my body would have healed itself naturally, anyway. I agree with them – as Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Now, as then, these mighty works (healings) are not supernatural, but supremely natural.” Later she writes, “God is natural good… Truth should not seem so surprising and unnatural as error, and error should not seem so real as truth. Sickness should not seem so real as health.”

At this point my friends will often tell me that, although I am, of course, a very nice person, I’m also completely cracked to trust my health to this power of good, rather than depending on the laboratory-tested workings of medical science.

Ahem.  Soooo… do I go there or do I not? If I go there

I might point out that, according to the American Medical Association, medical science is the third-leading cause of death in this country. I might share the countless stories of people who have died from medical treatment, rather than the original malady that brought them to the medical doctors. I might point out that just a few weeks ago Newsweek’s cover story was about the unsafe care Americans receive in our nation’s hospitals. Author Marty Makary writes: “Bad doctors. Prescription errors. Surgical slips. Medical mistakes injure or kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year… When I was a medical student medical science began to seem as dangerous and dishonest as it was miraculous and precise. The defining moment came when I saw a sweet old lady I cared about die after a procedure she didn’t need and didn’t want.” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/16/are-hospitals-less-safe-than-we-think.html)   I might point out all the side effects (nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, depression, thoughts of suicide, weight gain, liver damage, heart attacks, death) listed on those drug commercials we’re all familiar with on television don’t instill in me an urgent desire to race to the nearest pharmacy. And then I might ask them, after all this, if it really seems logical or reasonable to question the sanity of thinking people who choose not to see medical science as the panacea for their health challenges.

But because my world view is so different from theirs, these friends often experience a “cognitive dissonance” – an inability to recognize the healings I’ve experienced through my understanding of the power of God, Good, and the flaws in the system that they’ve come to depend on. The idea of not turning, first, to medical science and, instead, trusting in the power of Love, Truth, and Life, is so foreign and alien that they simply can’t seem to grasp the idea of it, or to acknowledge my healings as proof of God.

I am not averse to visiting optometrists, dentists, and doctors when I feel the need to do so – I have no worries about being ex-communicated from my church or raising the wrath of God or anything – and I’m grateful for my doctors’ training, intelligence, and humor (all my doctors have a sense of humor – it is one of my requirements).  But I have also proven, for myself, the constant, unchanging power of God when I’m able to draw near to Love and Truth – and I have found this power to be a dependable and effective one in my life.

In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as “a very present help in trouble.” – Mary Baker Eddy

Here’s a youtube clip of a healing of scarlet fever – had to share this:

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19 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance and Proof of God

  1. Karen, good points you make here. When we were on a trip to S. Korea, it was so refreshing not to see every other commercial on TV being one for pharmaceuticals. Do you know that the U.S. and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct to consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs? Because of the proliferation of these commercials and advertisements, it is seen as the new normal that disease is inevitable and drugs are the cure. It takes heightened awareness on our part not to be taken in by these suggestions, not to be drawn in to a different world view of health.

    • Oh man, I totally agree, Kathleen. It’s really easy to get pulled in and mesmerized by the onslaught of drug ads, isn’t it? On the flip side – those ads have sure provided a lot of material for laughs with friends (both CSists and non-CSists) who share my sense of humor about the absurd. 🙂

    • I really enjoy conversing with thinking, questioning, intelligent people – and it’s obvious to me that you fit into that category. I don’t think unquestioning blind belief or blind faith are ever helpful to anyone – whether it’s a blind belief in a certain political party, a religion,or members of the medical profession. I don’t know if you’ve read* fathermothergod*, yet – but I think you’d probably be able to relate to some of the experiences Lucia Greenhouse shares in that book. I do not discount her experiences at all – I have fi*ends who have shared similar experiences being raised in Christian Science. And I’m really glad she wrote that book and exposed a type of… well, it’s almost a kind of unquestioning fundamentalism, isn’t it? – that I don’t think Mary Baker Eddy ever meant to be a part of her movement. I don’t think of CS as an alternative health care system – for me it’s a way of looking at the world that has, as a nice side effect, brought a lot of healing to my life. Love is really the key, isn’t it? Whatever path you’re on – if it’s leading you to express love more in your life, then it’s alright by me. “Kindism” sounds like a movement I wanna be a part of! 🙂

      • I get the impression there is a lot of stuff practiced as “Christian Science” that Mary Baker Eddy ever meant to be a part of her movement. I also find it interesting how different groups pull different messages out of MBE’s works. While the churches are theoretically set up from the manual, other groups that are not direct affiliates of TMC but still claim to be CS pull from any number of MBE’s works to back ideas that I find repulsive (Principia’s ban on “homosexual activity” and any number of “care” facilities denying people who have “used medicine” instead of just radically relying on prayer).

        I haven’t read “fathermothergod” but I did read some of Caroline Fraser’s work.

        What always annoyed me is in the very front of S&H MBE states “the time for thinkers has come” which I always meant I should ask questions and try to learn, which never went over well with my Sunday School teachers b/c they didn’t have answers to my questions. In the end one of the many reasons I left CS because I could not, in good conscience, raise my children “in CS” as I understood it and had seen it practiced.

        I’m trying to be kinder and more loving, and I’m still trying to figure out what my beliefs are and how to explain things to my kids. Right now we are starting with what I like to think of as “universal” truths: the golden rule, be kind, use your words.

      • I have always wondered why people are so concerned about other peoples’ sex lives – I do not think it is anyone else’s business what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes. I think we need to work out our own “salvation” and let others have their own life experience. AND – while I’m on my soap box – I think every citizen of this country should have the exact same rights as every other citizen – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or non-religion – and that includes the right to marry the person you love. Nowhere, in any of MBE’s writings, have I ever found her say anything about homosexuality. She says: “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science,—pulseless, cold, inanimate.” I think that pretty much sums up what she felt what is important about her movement.

        I think I was really fortunate in my childhood experience with CS – my dad is non-religious, and my mom found CS on her own in her twenties – she was attracted to the idea that she could use the power of Love to heal, and was able to prove that power in her own life. She was never a bigwig in the church or anything – she was (and still is) a very independent thinker and always followed her own conscience (and common sense). My mom and dad both raised my brothers and me to question stuff, too. I think my perception of CS might be different than other people who were raised by parents who had official positions in the church.

        You write: “I’m trying to be kinder and more loving, and I’m still trying to figure out what my beliefs are and how to explain things to my kids. Right now we are starting with what I like to think of as “universal” truths: the golden rule, be kind, use your words.” And I say BRAVO!!! I think your kids are really blest to have you for a mum. 🙂

      • yep. students are required to “abstain from pre-marital and extramarital sexual relations and from homosexual activity” while enrolled at Prin. https://www.applyweb.com/apply/prin/pdf/former.pdf during my time at the college there were several students who were openly “in the closet” about their sexuality and they all left well before they graduated (most only stayed a year, maybe two if that). It generally translates to DON’T BE GAY at Prin. see also:

        http://books.google.com/books?id=tAQPQAfoGsgC&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=gay+principia+alumni&source=bl&ots=cV_-hI1AgE&sig=ZvS5WhZ9SrtovCR91Xpqg028dJk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=spGEUMC3M4fziQK634HADg&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=gay%20principia%20alumni&f=false

        My dad was the one who found CS in his 30s and it helped him quit smoking/drinking, and my mom converted after she married him because it was “easier to go to one church.” My dad is the one who taught me to question, while my mom is more of a follower (and worryingly drawn to fundamentalist conservative christian propaganda). Both my sister and I have left the church, as has my husband (his grandfather was a CS Teacher & Practitioner and both his parents are/were devout CS). Most of my friends from Sunday School have left CS, as have most of my friends from Prin.

        Have you read “Open the Doors of the Temple: The Survival of Christian Science in the Twenty-first Century” by Nancy Niblack Baxter? It is in my stack of books to re-read, under several books about Buddhism, and one or two trashy novels.

        My kids may disagree with you about how blessed they are, they had to eat their carrots this at dinner and they may not have any more cookies this evening.

      • I did read Open the Doors… and liked it. (And your taste in books sounds really similar to mine. :))

        At the risk of sounding like I’m doing a shameless promotion here, I wrote a book about my experiences with CS, too. Right now I have 22 reviews and 5 stars on Amazon – and some of these people I don’t even know and didn’t pay. 🙂 I could send you a copy (just get ahold of me at my email on my contact page), or you could find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Blessings-Adventures-Madcap-Christian-Scientist/dp/1419612298/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1350867587&sr=8-3&keywords=christian+science

        I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, kindism. You are my kind of people. 🙂

  2. I noticed the books under the “about/contact” info thing, at some point I may check it out. A less negative read on CS might be nice, and from the reviews it doesn’t sound like some of the Sentinel/Journal articles I’ve come across.

    My taste in books runs to the eclectic, the best thing I read last month was “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson. I also loved “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson, and “Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City” by Guy Delisle (Author), Helge Dascher (Translator) was wonderful at explaining the situation in Israel without putting me to sleep. 😀 I haven’t really read anything this month… some months I go through eight books, other months I’m lucky to finish half of one.

  3. Ohmygosh! I just read The 100 Year -Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared! I LOVED it!!! Other recent favorites: Miracle in the Andes, The Life of Bees, The Help, The House in Tyneford, PD James’s The Lighthouse, and Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This… 🙂

  4. I agree with the idea that many people practice CS in a way that is a sort of “religious fundamentalism”. I don’t know if I can explain what I mean, but I have found that it is very helpful to me to practice within myself and not really in the context of a church building and not really discussing it with other people very much (except those very close to me). I find that other people and other peoples practice of CS can sometimes bring more distractions than peace. Thanks for your openness. I look forward to reading more of your blog sometime soon when I have the time.

    • Love. I’ve reached a point where if there’s a decision or choice to make I ask myself: Does this lead towards Love, or does it not? And if it does not – ferggitaboutit! It just doesn’t matter. The older I get the less I’m interested in organized religion, and the more important spirituality becomes to me. I think if those of us who idenitify ourselves as “Christians” would spend less time worrying about what versioin of The Bible should be allowed in church or what color the children’s room should be, and spent more time just practicing love – wow! We would revolutionize the world!

      • The problem I’m having is the more I learn about what other “Christians” believe (and ironically the more I read the Bible) the more I run away screaming from the label. There may have been some good ideas once, but they’ve been so warped by 2000 years of dogmas & personal opinions I can’t bring myself to associate with it (or the offshoots) anymore.

  5. Yeah, I hear you, kindism.

    It’d be easier, probably, to just walk away from the label of “Christian” – but that would mean that a certain hateful, judgmental, elitest segment of “Christians” are being allowed to represent Christianity – and there’s a part of me that just rises up against the idea of that. I think someone has to try to represent the teachings of Jesus (and MBE, too, I guess) in a manner that’s worthy of what he sacrificed. I mean, if I was willing to be crucified to bring teachings of love, peace, and equality to the planet – and then, after my death, some yahoos came around and hijacked my movement and made a religion that supported the exact opposite of my teachings and attributed this religion to me, I would be really can’t-think-of-a-word-that-would-make-it-by-the-censors.

  6. Karen, thank you! I just stumbled on to your blog by “chance” :^) and I feel like I just came home! Everything here that you, kindism & Kristen express – these have been my thoughts as well for so many years! Regarding the book by Lucia Greenhouse you said, “. . . she wrote that book and exposed a type of… well, it’s almost a kind of unquestioning fundamentalism” . . . Amen! I’ve seen that so many times in CS’s and I really have a hard time understanding it. CS is sometimes used as something to hide behind. I’m a thinker and not afraid of having new ideas presented to me. I was introduced to CS at age 11 through my stepmother, but that experience was frought with “shushings” – don’t-think-that, don’t-say-that, and an abundance of what, through over-use, came to be treated in my thought as rather ineffectual platitudes. Well into my adult life it finally came to me that there was a tremendous amount of fear and shame being dished out with those shushings, even as well-intentioned as I know they were. CS expressed is Love, Joy, Peace. I haven’t read Lucia’s book, but I would like to. I think it’s great to question, to wonder, to think – and not be afraid! That’s where we need to understand that spiritual discernment is ours and we need to radically rely on it, and that will eradicate any fear, fearful ideas, or inappropriate avenues of thought that appear. I also related to your comment of October 21st about individual preferences, whether sexual, political, religious. My daughter, who was married and has two awesome children, divorced and recently told me that she is in love with another woman. Friends and co-workers asked me what I was going to do?? . . . It definitely made me go into my own closet – my prayer closet!! – and, as with everything, it’s very simple and came to my thought with such clear definition – my job is to love. Just that. That’s Chrstian Science, but that’s also universal – the “universal solvent of Love”. Thank you again Karen! Your blog is great – I LOVE the banner you chose!! Blessings, -m-

    • Oh wow. You have made my day, Maggie! Thank you! It feels so good to find kindred spirits, doesn’t it? Yes, Christian Science – REAL Christian Science – is all about love and healing. All the other stuff – the judgmentalism, narrow-mindedness, rigidity, unquestioning obedience to human “authority” – I know that’s not what Mary Baker Eddy wanted for her movement.

      I’ve recounted my own experiences with Christian Science in two books – *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist” and *The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book* – my experiences with CS are much different than Lucia Greenhouse’s and so many of my friends – and I am really grateful to my CS mom and non-religious dad for raising me to question, things, and raising me with real love and care.

      I’m so glad you found us, Maggie! 🙂

      Karen

  7. I don’t know anything about Lucia Greenhouse – that particular statement and combination of words “unquestioning fundamentalism” just really struck a chord with me. I’ve found your books on Amazon and will order them shortly – can’t wait to read them! Your exuberance, joy, honesty and spiritual power come through loud and clear just in the small amount that I’ve read here Karen – and your great sense of humor!

    Thanks so much for the wonderful welcome Karen!

    ~Maggie

  8. Reblogged this on Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist and commented:

    Now and then I’ve been asked to share evidence and proof of “God.” Now, for me, “God” is not a supernatural anthropomorphic being who throws thunderbolts from the heavens and sometimes chooses to help us and sometimes chooses to not. For me “God” is supremely natural – simply another name for Love, Truth, and Life – the power of Good. And I experience healing by bringing myself into harmony with this power – by filling my thoughts up with Love, joy, hope, and courage, and cleansing my thoughts of fear, anger, hatred, and so on…

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