The Backfire Effect

So, how does the brain respond when confronted with new information that is contrary and possibly threatening to firmly established beliefs? It's the psychological equivalent of the "fight or flight" behavior, and it's not always pretty. Rather than examining the information and perhaps opening one's mind to it, one doubles down and grasps even more tightly to the initial belief. That's the backfire effect, and I was guilty.

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Although I'm a little hesitant to share this, for the sake of honesty, I think it's important. I acted so self-righteous during this time towards my husband. I was the morally superior one who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was right and his questioning was wrong. At the risk of being offensive, I feel like Christianity (atleast in the Bible Belt) lends itself quite naturally to this sanctimonious attitude. The comfort level and certainty is such that, "Where do you go to church?" is often a conversation starter. Nevertheless, certainty is not a virtue, and it brings the worst out of people. I'm so fortunate that my husband cared enough about me and our family to endure my childish behavior. Thankfully, his inquisitive mind would allow for nothing less than the pursuit of truth regardless of the consequences.

I had never had anyone confront me regarding my Christian faith. No one had ever asked me, "How do you know that what you believe is true?" When everyone in your family and community, the people you trust the most, hold the same beliefs as you do, what's to question? However, knowing that I might need to defend my faith at some point in the future, I had already purchased William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith. Of course, I had unsuccessfully attempted to get through Craig's word salad once and wasn't really looking forward to a second try. Nevertheless, I would need to get my hands on everything that confirmed everything that I already believed (confirmation bias). So, that's what I did, and it worked for a while. I mean, these Christian apologists were way smarter than me, so they had to be right, right? Wrong.

How in the world did I manage to turn the corner? What arguments did my husband present to me that were so compelling that I finally opened my eyes to a different perspective? Well, I'll just share that the foremost breakthrough began not with outside arguments but within myself. I took a good look in the mirror, and what I saw offended ME. To be continued...

Saying Goodbye (Part One)