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THE ALARMING DECEPTION OF CONFIRMATION BIAS

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        Belief can become so powerful that truth no longer matters. A person with such deep-rooted though inaccurate beliefs will likely never be convinced to change his mind, not even by provable facts.

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       Some people call it manipulation. But it’s much more than that. We all have memories of some off-putting relentless salesman who almost convinces us to do something we don’t want to do. Such people have an incredible ability to make us think we need something we don’t need, want something we don’t want, and that we better do as they say or will miss out on a great opportunity and then feel stupid.

       I think this is part of the reason why people walking the streets in some major metropolis, let’s say, for example, New York City, since it has the best reputation for that, to never, ever make eye contact with anyone else, especially if someone is trying to get their attention. They’ve probably been hit up a million times on such streets and may even have been scammed a time or two. They have learned to keep moving, never say a word, and stay on their way or will end up late for wherever they’re going. They know they cannot trust themselves to not fall for some sales pitch or sob story or whatnot. And even if they believe they could stand their ground it would all be a waste of time and could probably even result in an argument which they obviously do not need. It is part of why many people, if not most, learn to keep their beliefs to themselves. Life is too short for such unnecessary philosophical interruptions.

DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH FACTS

         No one wants their beliefs to be challenged. After a certain age, we decide on what we will believe and stick to it. We build up a superstructure around our chosen beliefs called life, and our lives thus become diffused throughout with a set of convictions and principles that seem to work for us. In reality, though, such beliefs usually have never been challenged fully or even fully thought out. It would be much better if we submitted our beliefs to truth in order to verify their veracity. But that’s a scary proposition.

         It can be confusing. The world is filled with enough superfluous knowledge to keep one reading and learning for probably at least about a million years, give or take a few centuries. There are endless minutiae to be dealt with on a never-ending scale that can be so overwhelming it causes small flames and sparking in tender brains never meant to be subjected to such and may even cause a complete burnout or at least an all-day headache. These are not things most people desire.

         Hence, society sends out semi-caustic and wearified refrains such as, “Don’t mess with my head, man. It’s taken me years to reach this place of oblivion and I’m tired.”

         This is probably why those Krishna guys don’t bother people in airports anymore. It’s probably also why Christian witnessing is largely the work of new recruits. Seasoned followers of the Lord learn to be a tad more careful about who they witness to and how they witness as they gracefully age.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

         But let’s get back on track. When people only want information that supports their beliefs and want nothing to do with data that does not, they are doing the mental equivalent of painting themselves into a corner and then constructing a wall around it. A Big Beautiful Wall. They only want the stuff that confirms what they believe, or actually, what they have chosen to believe (but don’t tell them that. It’s too confusing). We all go through life doing the equivalent of tip-toeing through the proverbial tulips with a don’t bother me with facts attitude because I already have all the facts I need thank you very much now step aside please. And this protects our chosen belief system. And if we’re really good we store our little box of beliefs why up high and far in the back on a hidden cranial shelf where we haphazardly stuck the old duck decoys and other assorted junk we haven’t used in decades and arrange things in a way that no one will ever find them and the last thing we want is to be asked, “Where’s the box and what’s in it?”

         This is the human problem. We somehow semi-surreptitiously acquire beliefs as if by unconscious ongoing osmosis from somewhere or someone without checking on their validity and then guard them like a junkyard dog. Could it be because we can’t explain them? That they cannot stand up to scrutiny? As if we got the answer from the back of a suspect math book and cannot work out the problem properly on a whiteboard in front of the prying eyes of the entire classroom?

         Here’s a question: What Would Jesus Do?

         I think it would be cool to get about fifty Christian men and women of the cloth who are each experts in their own denominations and just start asking questions such as, “Why in the heck do all of you profess to be Christians and yet each of you believes something so different from one another that you can’t get along for long and insist on eternal separation in your ubiquitous little boxes spread out all over the countryside? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

         And this is why I insist on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And for those philosophy students out there, I always make my final and only appeal to authority to the Lord Jesus and His teachings, found only in their purest form in the New Covenant Scriptures.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

         And there it is. That’s what the Lord Jesus would do. He would teach us all His truth, because He is the Truth, if only we would let Him. I say enough with all these millions of different Christian classrooms with different math books and different answers teaching anything and everything but His pure teachings. The cure for hopeless and intractable Confirmation Bias is the Lord Jesus. We must subject all of our beliefs to Him. We must subject them to His light. Then we will see what kind of garbage fish are stuck in our nets and simply remove them and throw them back in the lake while keeping the good fish.

         When we get to heaven we will all believe the fullness of the same truth. We will have all knowledge. There will not be any bad beliefs or false doctrines or misunderstandings or confusion. We will not be unsure of what we believe or have to guard our beliefs from inspection. We will be open books of truth and light shining from proverbial hills filled with facts and the knowledge of the Lord. We will know the truth. But wait. Didn’t He say we could have all this before heaven? At least with regard to His pure teachings? I’m pretty sure He did. And He related it to the means of gaining freedom.

         So rather than insisting on refusing to subject our beliefs to the light of truth, perhaps we should simply vacate our respective mazes, end all the confusion, determine to gain ever more spiritual knowledge, clean out our mental closets, allow the light of the Lord to shine upon and within our hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies all the way to the DNA level, and begin the maturing process toward the wonderful and inevitable byproduct of breaking down the walls of separation and suspicion and achieve being on the same spiritual page with untold numbers of previously unknown spiritual brothers and sisters and thus experience the full joys of real fellowship. Amen?

         While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” [Matthew 12:46-50] [1]

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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STAND With Jesus: Shine Your Light

         The number of unreal Christians in the world dwarfs the number of real Christians.

         There are only a few who, like the original apostles, leave everything to follow and obey the Lord.

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         Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” [Mark 10:28]

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         These men truly did leave everything. They began an entirely new life based on the teachings of their new Rabbi, whom they were just getting to know. It is exactly the same as that which Abraham did, in that he left everything behind, literally, putting Haran in his rearview mirror forever.

         Most people who refer to themselves as Christians never do this. Never. There are honest people among us who don’t follow the Lord at all, but certainly keep their options open rather than claim to follow Him but do not.

         “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went.

         “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go.

         “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” [Matthew 21:28-31]

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         There was once a city. It was inhabited and taken care of by people of honesty and integrity. No one knew exactly how it began or necessarily when, but the gleam began to lose its shine and some tarnish emerged. Somehow or another, someone and probably a few other someones began to compromise ever so slightly and got away with it. Nobody spoke out or stood against the breach of total honesty. Some appreciated the idea that the heat was off a little so they could relax and maybe engage in some very minor not so good behavior.

         The drift continued until one man finally stood against the detour into little white lies and less than the best conduct. No one came to his defense, though some certainly agreed that he was right. Not wanting to leave his home he settled into a lonely existence. Some turned against him for his stand. Some sympathized with him and the stand he made but were too fearful or possessed too little integrity to stand with him. He eventually became ineffective because he raised his voice no more.

         After some time had passed another man stood up. He did the same as the first. He noticed that things were going south and longed for the days when things were honest and better. This man was treated the same as the first but worse. Instead of shrinking back, this man stood all the more. He refused to stop speaking against the lies and hypocrisy that had begun to take hold.

         He was told to leave. He refused. His family was shunned. His wife and kids were talked about behind their backs in the most evil of ways. Everything began to cave in on this man and he found no respite from the ongoing cold shoulder and personal attack.

         For the sake of his wife and children, he left.

         Three more people stood against this blatant injustice and one of them was killed. The other two quickly disappeared.

         Every time someone stood against the sin of the formerly honest and upright community they were forced to leave. Some just left anyway. Eventually, all the good people who stood up for what was right were gone, which left only the people who had compromised and accepted lives of sin in various degrees. The former high moral code was transformed into a far different code which raised freedom to sin to the top tier. But those living there certainly did not see it that way. They thought their new code was much better and fair.

         As the city grew worse, those who had to make a choice whether to grow worse with it or leave made their choices, and most stayed. Of those who stayed, the majority continued to stay even as the code grew worse. Many others, who would never have wanted to live in the city when it was good and honest, moved to the city and felt comfortable there.

         Evil was winning.

         Every now and then someone stood up against the sin and was either forced out or killed under mysterious circumstances. The remaining populace loved the freedom to sin with no consequence or hindering from those in control.

         What was once a righteous city became unrighteous, simply because all the righteous people left or were disposed of, and all those who refused to walk in righteousness 100% were compromised and grew less righteous by the day.

         Then the day came when the most evil people of the evil city were chosen as leaders. This made the city grow much more evil that much faster. There was then no control anymore on righting the ship. The city had reached the point of no return.

         The inhabitants, however, laughed it up and enjoyed all the fun they were having. The city was riddled with all manner of disease, most notably that of the soul, but was wrapped in the outer adornment of beauty, and looked to the naked eye as a great and wonderful place. A great living could be earned there. The place was popular and prosperous.

         Then the inevitable happened. The evil the inhabitants embraced was no longer enough to satisfy in the forms they had engaged in up to that point. They needed something more. They needed greater forms of evil to satisfy their lusts. Because there was no righteous check on behavior, many worse forms of sin were engaged in.

         In not too long a time, the outward result of all the sin became evident. The city had created a sinkhole of human depravity. The evil people there who had long since passed the point of reform turned on one another. The population declined. The city became a haunt of dark shadows and foul spirits. There were other evil cities that suffered the exact fate.

         Later, when someone did an accounting of all the inhabitants of the original city, from the time it was first formed as a righteous place of light until its final end, he found a stunning statistic. The people who had left the city over the years had brought forth generations of righteous people who lived blessed lives, and these people eventually outnumbered the residents who stayed.

         They began as small groups and lone stalwarts, were hated, and run off, but because of their stand for righteousness, God blessed them in new locations. They created many more cities with righteous foundations that remained. Most of this was done in faraway places. The evil people never noticed the small righteous cities in faraway places.

         But the righteous people began to notice one another. Though their cities were not only far away but far away from one another, they had no communication for many years, but that began to change. After a while, the people of these small cities discovered that there were many, many righteous people all over the faraway places! They began to engage in true fellowship with one another. Their love for one another progressed to love for everyone in these faraway righteous places.

         The curious thing about all of that, though, was even as they began coming together they did it in such a way that it was never really noticed by all the evil people in the evil cities. These righteous cities had grown in secret.

         It was then understood that the descendants of the original good guys who stood against evil had grown and spread far and wide because the original righteous seed continued being fruitful. Though those first great righteous ones who took their stand against evil were cast out, their uncompromising righteousness brought forth generations of righteous people. And though the righteous never outnumbered the evil people overall, they possessed much more power to stand against and overcome evil through their love and community.

         And all those who had compromised so long ago, even to very small degrees in the beginning, only produced generations of people who compromised further with eventually no hope for redemption.

         The moral of the story? Take your stand with the Lord Jesus. You will take some hits. You will be persecuted. Many will think you’re a complete idiot. They will think you joined a cult. They will try to do you physical harm. You will be innocent of charges but thrown in jail. Some of you will even give your lives.

         All of these things are mentioned in Scripture. The Lord taught these very truths. He said all these things would happen. He explained it all a long time ago. But He also said that those who take their stand with Him will be the eventual winners. He said, with regard to His people, that the last will be first.

         In time, as long as we continue to stand with him in integrity and righteousness, the community of the Lord will grow. Though it will grow off the radar at first, it will eventually be seen by all, and all will wonder at its great numbers and righteous influence, and how it even came to exist.

         The Light of His community will outshine the false light of this world, and shine ever brighter forever and ever.

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         The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. [Isaiah 9:2]

         Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isaiah 60:1-3]

         “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

         “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” [Matthew 10:27]

         “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.

         “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

         “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,

         ‘To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light

         ‘And from the dominion of satan to God,

         ‘That they may receive forgiveness of sins

         ‘And an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’” [Acts 26:12-18] [1]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.