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“It matters not how much truth you speak. If the listener is not ready or capable at that time to apply it, truth is irrelevant. A person has to be able to comprehend said truth in order for it to become evident to them.” ~Stena

Imagine if you will: You’ve been studying a new subject for 3 years. You find many primary sources of information during your research that dispels most of the “common knowledge” surrounding your topic of choice. You consult experts on this topic as you seriously examine all possible explanations before finally coming to a conclusion. After you reach your conclusion, you begin to share it with close associates, then the community at large. Surprisingly, you find some who flippantly dismiss your new findings, saying they cannot be correct no matter how many man-hours of work you put into finding non-biased information. There are some who go so far as to insult your intelligence in their repudiation of your assertions.

This is a major challenge for new nonbelievers. We have come into this awakening to the realities of life and many times find those around us unwilling to even discuss the possibilities, let alone step into the light with us. We, especially those of us who are black nonbelievers, desperately want to help our brothers and sisters break the chains that Christianity has used to bound and weigh us down since chattel slavery, but this feat turns out to be much more difficult than we had ever imagined. Our family and friends simply reject our newfound ideas outright, and then insult us for having the gall to believe it ourselves.

The reasons for this are many, ranging from simple indoctrination to cognitive dissonance once reason and logic have been introduced and rejected. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve asked the simplest of questions, such as “Do you really believe there was a talking snake in a garden? Do you honestly believe that?” just to be given a non-answer or an honest answer with the caveat of “but that doesn’t mean it’s all crazy talk.”

Yes, actually, it does. But I digress.

As quoted above, people cannot and will not be able to digest new information until they are ready. It has been said, especially by preachers who focus on Proverbs as opposed to Job, that you cannot give infants meat because it won’t be digested properly.  The same concept is at work here.  If a person is heavily indoctrinated, there is nothing you can tell them to make them doubt the god they have created in their minds. This god may have little resemblance to the god of the bible (think prosperity gospel church members) but to them, he is as real as their hands in front of their faces.

Similarly, those who experience cognitive dissonance will react in the same manner. Cognitive dissonance is simply when one’s beliefs and realities don’t match, so the person adjusts one or the other in an attempt to restore emotional harmony and balance. A person can be skilled in math, science, logic and reason, but fiercely believe in a god. They have only known belief. Not believing doesn’t make sense to them; therefore, they are not able to comprehend not believing.  To further illustrate, I once had to “connect” the bible’s assertion that earth was flat and my science teacher’s proof that earth is round. I did this by imagining God as a master scientist who slowly allowed mankind to figure out the truth.  So in order to assimilate the knowledge of the world being round with believing in an infallible god/bible, I had to create a connection where there was none.

This is one of the main reasons I typically do not debate theists. I prefer to ask what I call “good” questions, such as “How can an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent god honestly give people free will?” Of course, asking clear, non-combative questions will not deconvert anyone immediately; we can only hope it will get them to think. This is the first step towards opening one’s mind enough to accept new information. Having an honest, non-threatening conversation will go a long way towards creating mutual trust and respect, as well. If someone thinks you’re just a mean, old atheist despite evidence to the contrary, you may as well just leave the conversation where it stands.

To be clear, just leaving is always an option, as well. For most, changing anyone’s mind is just not something that’s high on the to-do list. I personally wouldn’t mind religion if it weren’t used to harm or used to legislate harm. Since it is used in both of those ways, my primary focus is to speak out against the harm itself, while gently asking believers to really think about the beliefs they hold.  I refuse to waste my breath unnecessarily.

As a wise person once said, “If the listener is not ready or capable at that time to apply it, truth is irrelevant.”