How do I know that your god is The One, True God: Q8?

The following is part of a Series called Conversation with a Deconverter.

Tabgha, Primatskapelle

Tabgha, Primatskapelle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most important things a grieving person needs to do is get past the trauma of loss and move on with their lives. This is usually called “closure”. There is a genuine and very real need of human beings for this. There is a “Need for Closure”.

About the Need for Closure

The need for closure is a recognized psychological phenomenon that comes in varying degrees amongst individuals in the general population. Those with a high need for closure tend to be outwardly observed as people with strong opinions, or who are strongly opinionated. You see this in everyday life in heated political debates, blog participants who cannot accept the obvious, religious debates and virtually any discussion involving strong opinions and a participant bearing them. The good thing about this, and the compliment to those like this, is that by reaching a certain conclusion on an issue and sticking to it, one can have emotional closure. And whenever there is a void of fact people will tend to fill it with certainty, regardless of how silly the conclusion may be.

In the seminal study “Primacy Effect in Personality Impression Formation” by Norman H. Anderson and Alfred A. Barrios, something called the Primacy Effect was studied in which the personality traits of individuals were rated by others. Each trait was offered by one of six acquaintances of the subject being observed. In other words, participants were given six choices, no more, no less, of personality traits they could ascribe to a given individual they observed. The participants had no direct personal knowledge of the sujbect being observed. They were asked to rank each one of these traits on an 8-point scale of weakest to strongest.

It was scored thusly:

4 Highly Favorable

3 Considerabley Favorable

2 Moderately Favorable

1 Slightly Favorable

-1 Slightly Unfavorable

-2 Moderately Unfavorable

-3 Considerably Unfavorable

-4 Highly Unfavorable

In addition, the persons asked to do the rankings were a group of six people who were acquaintances of the subject being observed. The six traits were smart, Artistic, Sentimental, Cool, Faultfinding and Awkward”. IN this first trial, because there is an equal number of good and bad traits, one would expect an average ranking of around 1.38, which is what they got.

If we run another trial with another subject to observe and then reverse the word list, like this, “Awkward, Faultfinding, Cool, Sentimental, Artistic and smart” …

In other words, if we just reverse the order in which these adjectives are supplied to the observers (the order in which information is presented), they rank quite differently, yielding an statistically significant lower average ranking (in this trial, -0.72). This is because people tend to base final conclusions on the earliest information, regardless of type or kind.

The difference in these scores, 1.38 – 0.72 = 2.10, is called the Primacy Effect and it is well-studied. These results have been shown to be consistent over numerous studies of varying methodologies, all of them showing that:

When people attempt to render judgments under uncertain conditions a natural tendency is to experience greater influence from the information that comes along earlier rather than later. In other words, if “God” has the answer now and science doesn’t, people tend to accept the “God” answer.

One of the common methodologies was to use the example of running trials with hiring managers at a corporation in which potential candidates for a job were to be ranked by the hiring manager as to their likelihood of success in their role at the company; a scale running from 1 to 10 with 10 being the most likely to succeed. The hiring managers are given tape recordings of the candidate which demonstrate the candidates handling of situations in various business conditions. As in the other studies, though presented to the hiring managers as being in “random” order, in fact the recordings are given to one group in ascending order of favorability and to the other group in descending order of favorability. The results have consistently shown an astonishing psychology around this:

Hiring managers were told this ranking scheme was still in the experimental stage and you weren’t sure how valid their results will turn out to be: uncertainty was added regarding the applicability of their findings.

For reasons of “professional ethics” the hiring manager would not be allowed to find out how accurate their conclusions turned out to be: uncertainty was added regarding the falsifiability of their findings.

These two conditions set up the following overarching condition:

You could make these judgments (predictions of future performance) with little or no accountability because none of the other participants – or anyone else – would know how you ranked candidates. Because of these very liberal conditions one should expect a high Primacy Effect, and that is what they got, getting a Primacy Score of 7.5 on a 1 to 10 scale.

Then in follow-on sessions the opposite tact is taken: the hiring managers are told that their answers will be extremely important to the entire industry and will be believed and taken seriously everywhere. They are also told that they will be held to strict account for their answers and all will know how they responded. Finally, your predictions will be tested against measured results taken over time to see how accurate your prediction was. As expected, this caused the Primacy Effect to drop to 4.9 because now the hiring managers had strong motivation to come up with good predictions.

In a third series of trials the hiring managers are given time limits; that is, time pressure is applied for them to provide their predictions. It was generally set up as considerable pressure. When done the Primacy Effect increased because of the clinical term a “Need for Coginitive Closure”, in this case forced by a time constraint. Psychologists call this seizing and freezing in which a subject will offer up the first prediction or answer that comes mind to avoid the ambiguity and uncertainty other predictions might cause.

There are specific conditions under which the Primacy Effect is more likely to occur; an important observation for religious contexts. If little is known of the object being ranked or valued (death), the Primacy Effect increases. When there is a lack of accountability (life after death is not falsifiable) the Primacy Effect increases. Where there is uncertainty about the applicability of any one theory of death, the Primacy Effect increases. Where one can provide an answer sooner than any other answer, the Primacy Effect increases. In other words, the tendency to grasp for the simplest, “God did it” answer, regardless of its real or believed validity, increases.

The need for closure in making value judgements can be augmented by placing a time pressure on the individual, forcing them to make a decision quickly. Loud noise can also cause this. In these cases people will experience a greater tendency to latch on to the information received first. The tendency to base conclusions on earlier information will be augmented in environments where there is:

• Ambiguity

• Uncertainty

• Time pressure

• Audible Noise

• Peer accountability for the value assigned

Psychologists discovered that the Primacy Effect has a basis in personality: those with a low “Primacy” were virtually immune to the Primacy Effect and those with high “Primacy” were strongly influenced by it.

In other words, there is probably no other condition and topic imaginable that would drive the Primacy Effect more so than would all the issues related to death and mortality. It is best expositor of the Primacy Effect. For death there is great uncertainty, no accountability for claims made about it (cannot be falsified), time pressure and considerable ambiguity (unknowns).

Therefore, human beings are strongly inclined to accept the existence of a god as the quick, first up, single answer that solves all the ambiguity and mystery of death and ensures eternal life in many cases. And if one’s “God” can do this, then their god is presumably The One, True God.

A very long time ago when King Osiris of Egypt died they put him in a sarcophagus and buried him in a tomb that had many hallways and rooms. Before they sealed it up someone engraved writings on the walls of the rooms and hallways and they became known as the “Pyramid Texts”. I’ve copied one below for you to read:

Utterance 219 of the Pyramid Texts, circa 2500 BCE regarding the Egyptian King Osiris and his death

167: To say the words:
“Atum, this your son is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

168: Shu, this your son is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

169: Tefnut, this your son is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

170: Geb, this your son is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

171: Nut, this your son is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

172: Isis, this your brother is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

173: Seth, this your brother is here, Osiris, whom has been preserved alive, and who lives that he may punish you. He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

174: Nephthys, this your brother is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

175: Thoth, this your brother is here, Osiris, whom has been preserved alive, and who lives that he may punish you. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

176: Horus, this your father is here, Osiris, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

177: Great Ennead, this Osiris is here, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

178: Little Ennead, this Osiris is here, whom you have preserved alive. He lives! He lives! This Unas lives! He is not dead, this Unas is not dead! He is not gone down, this Unas is not gone down! He has not been judged, this Unas has not been judged! He judges, this Unas judges!

Is it more likely the engravers of this message were experiencing a need for closure or is it more likley that King Osiris is The One, True God and  yours is not?

Go to Question Number Nine

awkward.....

Mother and son … awkward … The Primacy Effect

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10 comments
  1. MIa VanHouten said:

    Hey Kir, we’re thinking this question really isn’t different than the others. But some things that keep coming up:
    1.) What if many gods were The One, True God? What if all of them were?
    2.) We agreed, right, that each question by itself doesn’t conclude anything, you’re just asking us for the odds of two given things when that’s all we have, right?

  2. Hey Mia,
    Okay, I’ll give you guys til morning to decide for sure. As for your questions.
    1.) Yes, it could be any number of gods. I just used singular for convenience. But it doesn’t change the nature of the question. Here’s why. If you told me all gods were the One, True God (s) then my answer would still be absent. I’m not asking how many, I’m asking which one. So, if you say all, then why not half of that? What not 1/4 of that. Why not just one? How would I know that it is all gods? So, see the question is still there.
    2.) Right, these answers are not intended to prove anything. They’re just to illustrate what happens when you are only given two choices based on the information provided. There is a point to this and that is where we are headed. You’ll see what I’m doing soon.
    – kk

    • MIa VanHouten said:

      Hey Kir, okay, we’re all in agreement here. It is more likely that the engravers were experiencing a need for closure than the fact that King Osiris is The One, True God.
      Mia

  3. Randy said:

    what I’ve noticed here is you have God then you have Jesus, Mohammad, Osiris, Krishna, etc… All are basically prophets correct ? Quite possibly prophets of the same god

    • Hey Randy,
      Well, that’s kinda what Mia was asking. My answer is that you can lump them all into one god if you want, but it still doesn’t answer my question. *Which* “lumping” is the One, True “lumping” of gods?
      – kk

      • Randy said:

        you miss the meaning of a prophet. they are the messengers of God. Its kinda like that story being passed around from one to another and back and the story ends up getting change over time. The mormons have revised their bible I know . And apparently from searches so has every other religions bible.
        I cant say for sure that my God is the one true god. And its doubtful anyone can make the claim with real knowledge of it. We all claim it but to be perfectly honest about it no one can say it with certainty. We are a world of vast cultures and many beliefs. The one thing i hold to is the way a person treats their fellow human beings. Most religions will agree on that one aspect in human nature. That’s Karma I suppose but people need something of substance to grasp onto. We all know several religions have predicted the end of time here on earth. Can they all be mistaken ?

        • “I cant say for sure that my God is the one true god”
          Then we need to keep asking these questions, right? So, that’s why I’m asking these questions.
          – kk

          • Randy said:

            KK. LOL your determined I’ll give you that.
            Look Theres only one true God and I believe it the one my church worships because of what I know is true in my church and how prayers are answered in my church. Every religion has its own interpretation of who their god is. But whos to say its not the same god as mine but presented in different ways but all reaching the same ends ?
            The ten commandments are rules to live by. Quite simple ones in fact.
            Its a matter of faith by you in a superior being who has this world in the palm of their hands.
            My God works for me so I believe my God is the one God. Thats not to say someone else’s God isnt the right one because chances are in my view that he’s just worshiping the same God in a different language and culture.
            Its the results you get through your worship of your God But no one come to God except through Jesus Christ, our savior You cant know any God unless you allow yourself you believe. And not every church will show you the right way if they haven’t learned it to start with. People look to see what goes on in a church and a lot of people dont always care for whats being said because it goes against their beliefs. Theres no two sides of it you are or your not.

  4. Hank said:

    I really conudl’t ask for more from this article.

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