“In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson
Fear & Bias
Firstly, I’m not a psychologist nor do I know much about psychology, and am probably in desperate need of a psychologist myself. Just wanted to throw that out there.
One of the tools the adversary uses most often to inhibit spiritual progression is fear. I know this all too well from personal experience, and you too no doubt could relate your own experiences where fear subverted your spiritual progress. We fear mostly what we don’t understand. Fear manifests itself in our day-to-day lives in work, educational opportunities, family, personal relationships etc. What we don’t understand causes us anxiety because we don’t know how we’ll handle it. It’s like being hunted in the darkness by an unseen predator. We are unable to prepare, therefore it causes us distress.
Religion is and has always been such a hot-button topic for individuals. When it comes to one’s salvation, you want to get it right! Right!? When a person is confronted with conflicting ideas regarding their own religion, (at least in my experience) the cognitive dissonance alarm is blasting like a mental foghorn warning the person about the dangers of believing in the conflicting idea or information, but ought this be so?
Enter bias. Bias is fear’s 2nd cousin twice removed. Bias is a pre-prepared set of heuristics that can be summoned upon demand when something or someone is inflicting upon an individual the stress of cognitive dissonance. Bias is like eating a meal of your favorite foods while dreaming and then waking up to the reality of hunger pangs. In the moment it tastes good, but in the end it’s only a slippery deceit and will leave you hollow and empty.
Much of the time, fear, cognitive dissonance, and bias will keep us from searching for the truth. Fear also spawns into other emotions like anger because after we’ve demonstrated that we’ve lost control by submitting to fear we must then over-compensate for our loss of control by over-demonstrating that we have regained said control through an extreme display of emotion.
We would do well to ignore fear and bias when it comes to encountering conflicting ideas or information, especially when it comes to spiritual or religious ideas.
Fear of Men
We’ve all experienced this one. We fear what others will think of us. We fear the ramifications of our actions and how they will cause others to think.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
The scriptures above are pretty clear that we shouldn’t fear if the Lord is on our side. Perhaps a more accurate way to describe this is that we’d better make sure we are on the Lord’s side. Undoubtedly, the Lord won’t always come over to our side if we are basking in unrighteousness. Usually that seems like the time we get our asses kicked.
I still don’t fully understand how love casts out all fear, but I do have a few ideas. When filled with the spirit of God to a great degree, I have never been fearful. In fact, I’m usually filled with a profound amount of peace and patience.
Furthermore, when you love a family member to a spectacular degree, you don’t fear their actions. You just love them and their actions are separate and distinct from them. Your love transcends anything they could ever do. My wife and children generally fall into this category, and I’m sure many of you parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about.
Lastly, perfect love is synonymous with Christ. I.e., Christ casteth out all fear, for God is love. To know God is to know love.
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Fear of Failure
Fearing failure for the wrong reasons is where the cognitive dissonance train pulls fully into the station. I believe many are in this boat in various religions throughout the world. Religions are very quick to tell you to beware of other religions, creeds, or beliefs because they will pull you off the true path. Many fear failure merely because a man declared it to them, and not because they checked with God. This has caused much jackassery.
Fear of failure could be one of the more powerful motivations to achieve salvation if you’re connected to God. See a previous post.
Culture of Fear
Many religions indirectly instill a culture of fear into their subjects which is closely related to fear of failure mentioned above. Since I’m most familiar with the LDS tradition I’ll speak to two cultural fear types.
We could argue all day long about how love is actually the opposite of fear, not faith, but for the purposes of this discussion let’s assume that faith and love are both jointly opposite of fear. They are like anti-fear buddies, aight! Conversely, unbelief is also opposite of faith and therefore very good friends with its bromigo fear. Therefore!!, unbelief can be closely linked with fear. What are we taught all day long in Church on Sunday? A whole heap of unbelief! See examples below…
- You can only receive revelation for your own stewardship. This is particularly silly. Why would God not allow you to receive revelation to tell your neighbor something assuming he’s not in your stewardship?
- Those who don’t know talk, and those who know, don’t talk. This is an efficient way to shift the focus away from the severe lack of spiritual experiences in our church. “Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about your spiritual experiences because they are too sacred to share” is practically our mantra. Yes, the scriptures do say that the mysteries are given to the children of men at the strict command of God, but that’s not exactly what we are talking about here. If this were a general rule, you’d find the scriptures to be a tiny fraction of what they are now because they are literally full of people’s direct experiences with God. There’s a difference between sharing contact with God and sharing mysteries. They’re just different okay! It’s really fun to see all the blank stares during a priesthood lesson when you start talking about the Holy Ghost and communicating with God. We are spiritually starving.
- Closely related to #2. Miracles exist, but they too are too sacred to share. This one is interesting, because I’ve seen a few miracles of healing in my time and I’ve never felt like I shouldn’t ever disclose them. I’d be careful about disclosing the experiences to certain individuals because it would be like casting pearls before swine but I haven’t felt like I’d receive a general command to not share. In short the following scripture would accurately describe the feeling of many individuals in the LDS faith.
5 And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;
6 Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.
7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
Pbhfhfhbhbhbhbhfhfhfhfhfhfhfffffffffff (that’s the sound I make when I release a long sigh). This one is probably too big to tackle in a short post, and really deserves it’s own post. So again in short, false traditions are responsible for more spiritual damage and yep you guessed it, jackassery, than almost any other tactic from dark forces. False traditions instill fear of competing ideas because false traditions (being inherently false) are easily harmed by the truth; therefore, fear is the coping mechanism of choice employed to protect false traditions. False traditions will blind you and you’ll have no idea you’ve been blinded.
Even after you wake up to understanding that some traditions are false, there is this willingness to go back to them like a dog to its vomit. “Oh, but it was so comfortable being in my lazy stupor” was what my brain told me one time. Here’s a tip, when it comes to the things of God, being comfortable usually means you’ve got it all wrong.
In general, most worldly institutions will damn you. In almost every institution (I say almost because I don’t believe I know all things) there is a limit you’ll reach that is far short of God if you strictly adhere to the creeds and tenants of said institutions. This where you have to use your heart, mind, and spiritually to discern what is true, and what is error. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people become very uncomfortable, and rightly so.
Fear of God
(Gileadi Translation of Isaiah 8)
11 Jehovah spoke to me, clasping my hand, and admonished me not to follow the ways of these people. For he said,
12 Do not call a conspiracy all that these people call a conspiracy; be not afraid or awed by the thing they fear.
13 But sanctify Jehovah of Hosts, making him your fear, him your awe.
14 And to you he will be a sanctuary, but to the two houses of Israel a stumbling block or obstructing rock, and a snare, catching unawares the inhabitants of Jerusalem.