Change and Biases

In your realizing that I am what the Scriptures are all about, you will discover uniquely for yourself, face to face with me, that I am what you are all about and rivers of living waters will gush out of your innermost being!

John 7:38

I would love to tell you the difference between faith and religion as a starting point. I had this phrase come to me a few hours ago:

Religion is like a man who had all his ducks in a row. When there was a famine he had to eat one of them. To have all his ducks in a row again he got in line.

I have been talking about the tension between chaos and order lately. This is not a dichotomy, it is two sides of one coin. What is known territory for one, is frightening and unknown chaos for another, and somehow we are all on this continuum.

Religion craves order. All truths are lined up and neatly numbered. When one breaks down, it has to be defended at all cost, because order is at stake. Thus believers line up in the trenches.

We can see that in the trials of Galileo Galilei. It was common knowledge that the world was flat, and when that was challenged, the church united.

It was not even necessary to look through the telescope that Galileo was using. They only needed to look into the book. Genesis 1 was clear: the world was flat.

This fight cost the lives of many, and it was only in the last century that the catholic church conceded.

It is through dogma and doctrine, hierarchy and submission, as well as the threat of eternal fire and torture that the lines get closed. But also through our very own biases.

There are primarily two biases at play here: the backfire effect and the bandwagon effect.

The backfire effect is our tendency to discard logical arguments and believe even stronger. We usually say that we overcome doubt and exercise faith.

The second, bandwagon effect, is that we tend to believe things that many believe. It is linked to group think and herd behavior.

But why does this happen in the first place?

Wisdom, as I have written about lately, is a stream from the throne of God as source.

Religion is like a man that took a bath in the stream of wisdom that proceeds from the throne of God, only to climb back up the shores. Believing that he now knew how to believe in and what to believe about God, ice cubes fell from his lips that left nothing but small lifeless puddles soon to dry up.

It is not only when we are not connected to the spirit that the letter starts to kill. It is also when we think that we have understanding and now know.

The water freezes, which means that we use the same old same old interpretation of the bible that we always believed. It is written, we say.

What if we misinterpreted? What if our water is frozen all along?

Jesus at the cross had water and blood flowing from his side, his inner most being. Wisdom and life. He had been standing, no, swimming in the river of wisdom his whole life. And rivers of living water came from his inner most being, even in death.

There are two ways though we react to uncertainty, chaos and change. One is going to the trenches, as I have just shown. The other seems to be hunting for new understanding.

In times of uncertainty we see that our explanation of the world is an imperfect fit and flawed at least, if not plain wrong (which would be much easier to see, because nothing fits any more). The left hemisphere of our brain, which contains our worldview, loses control.

This is when the right hemisphere kicks in and generates possible, but usually, due to the nature of the situation, badly informed explanations. Well, yeah, it is the unknown it tries to chart. They are manifold, intuitive and widespread.

The left hemisphere, containing language, gives words to those theories and tries to make sense of them within its own framework. That is, it sees which fits best to what we already know. The better an explanation fits to our preconceived expectations and worldview, the more likely are we to believe something. This is called confirmation bias.

Another bias could also kick in: Illusionary truth effect. This is a tendency to believe that a statement is true if it is easier to process, or if it has been stated multiple times, regardless of its actual veracity.

If we expect the world to go array and an evil leader to arise, with all governments joining forces with him against Christ, we are primed and biased to believe scenarios that fit that mold. If we expect a sign to be put on us without which we cannot buy more sell, the newest technology of the day will be exactly that.

It is only when we dive deep into the unknown that we find new meaning. For that, we have to let go of the old.

Our biases serve us very badly in times of change. To hold fast to our own interpretations even if proven wrong and going to the trenches for them not only makes it harder to admit mistakes as we might lose our face. It also is the seedbed for confirmation bias and bad selection of new explanations of what is happening.

Our interpretation of the biblical narrative makes us susceptible to conspiracy theories.

Reading the apocalypse as a series of catastrophes will have us search for the antichrist and fall for all kinds of stories, ranging from Nero to Bill Gates.

Reading the apocalypse as the unveiling of the Christ within us will have you go from glory to glory.

You chose. But please, be aware of your biases. Sometimes, it is not the voice of the Spirit, but your biases talking. Maybe more often than you think, especially in times of change.