How do I know that your god is the One, True God: Q15?

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

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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”.

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 there god is presumably The One, True God.

A final note regards something academics call “Normative Influence”; which refers to the fact that people tend to follow the herd. From total strangers in a riot to the modeling of behavior between lovers or parent and child, normative influence is a hereditary trait that is ubiquitous amongst human beings and varies in intensity in like manner as the emotional bond between the individuals involved increases.

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!

Previously, we asked:

Is it more likely that the authors of the inscriptions in the Pyramid Texts were experiencing a Need for Closure or that King Osiris’ God is The One, True God?

And we agreed that the former was more likely.

Performing the substitution of the YHWH narrative
The New Birth

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.

If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

      “For YHWH so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. [John 3:16]

For YHWH did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of YHWH. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in YHWH.”

Is it more likely that the affirmations of eternal life were based on a Need for Closure or is it more likely the affirmations of eternal life were based on the fact that YHWH is The One, True God?

– kk

Proceed to Question Number 16.

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2 comments
  1. MIa VanHouten said:

    Hey Kir!
    I’ve gotten back with my friends and we’ve discussed this article. Basically, I can see how this is getting harder and harder for the believer to answer but its getting to the point that the obvious answer is just obvious. Yes, it’s more likely that Jesus’ comments about eternal life were said because he was appealing to people’s need for closure. Its not a fact, but it is more likely that this is just one of a gazillion examples of need for closure than evidence of a particular god’s existence. Keep the questions coming. Mia

  2. Hey Mia,
    Okay, thanks. I’ll post Question 16 once people have had a chance to read this and catch up
    – kk

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