Last Sunday a friend gave me his unread copy of Malcolm Gladwell's 2019 book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know.
I hadn't heard of the book before. It seems to be less well known than Gladwell's other books like Blink and The Tipping Point.
I'm enjoying it after reading the first few chapters. This morning I read "The Queen of Cuba."
A primary focus of the chapter is on how Ana Belen Montes, a Cuban expert at the Defense Intelligence Agency, got away with being a double agent for Cuba even though warning signs about her were obvious in retrospect, after it was discovered she was passing American secrets to Cuban officials.
Here's excerpts from the chapter that bear on the question of why people continue to believe the teachings of a religion even though they have doubts about it.
The point of [Tim] Levine's research was to try to answer one of the biggest puzzles in human psychology: why are we so bad at detecting lies? You'd think we'd be good at it. Logic says that it would be very useful for human beings to know when they're being deceived.
Evolution, over many millions of years, should have favored people with the ability to pick up the subtle signs of deception. But it hasn't.
...Tim Levine's answer is called the "Truth-Default Theory," or TDT.
...We have a default to truth: our operating assumption is that the people we are dealing with are honest.
...To snap out of truth-default mode requires what Levine calls a "trigger." A trigger is not the same as a suspicion, or the first sliver of doubt. We fall out of truth-default mode only when the case against our initial assumption becomes definitive.
We do not believe, in other words, like sober-minded scientists, slowly gathering evidence of the truth or falsity of something before reaching a conclusion.
We do the opposite. We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.
...Over 40 percent of the volunteers picked up on something odd -- something that suggested the experiment was not what it seemed. But those doubts just weren't enough to trigger them out of truth-default.
That is Levine's point. You believe someone not because you have no doubts about them. Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don't have enough doubts about them.
I'm going to come back to the distinction between some doubts and enough doubts, because I think it's crucial. Just think about how many times you have criticized someone else, in hindsight, for their failure to spot a liar.
You should have known. There were all kinds of red flags. You had doubts. Levine would say that's the wrong way to think about the problem.
The right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren't, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.
...In the movies, the brilliant detective confronts the subject and catches him, right then and there, in a lie. But in real life, accumulating the amount of evidence necessary to overwhelm our doubts takes time.
...This is the explanation for the first of the puzzles, why the Cubans were able to pull the wool over the CIA's eyes for so long. That story is not an indictment of the agency's competence. It just reflects the fact that CIA officers are -- like the rest of us -- human, equipped with the same set of biases to truth as everyone else.
This fits with my own lengthy process of deconverting from the India-based religious organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), that I was an active member of for 35 years. After I left the group and started writing about my doubts on this blog, some people would leave comments along the line of "How could you have believed in RSSB for so long, then rejected it?"
The obvious answer, which I recognized but couldn't give a name to such as Truth-Default Theory, is that I always had some doubts about RSSB and its teachings. After all, few religious people believe everything about their chosen faith 100%.
My doubts just didn't reach the enough level as mentioned above until I'd had sufficient experiences of RSSB not being what I originally thought it was to warrant cutting my ties with the organization. This is similar to how I felt about my first marriage, which lasted 18 years.
My wife, Sue, and I got along well for much of that time. But not perfectly. No marriage is perfect. Gradually, bit by bit, Sue and I grew farther apart, until one day the strains in our marriage passed the some level and hit the enough level where both of us felt a divorce was the way to go.
So even though someone may leave a religious group unexpectedly to those in the group, usually they've been having doubts about that religion for a long time. It just took a while for those doubts to rise to the level where they felt they needed to leave the group.
Obvious there are all sorts of believes and different ways to handle them.
W. James writes about it in his "Will to believe"
Whatever we do in life is based upon some sort of [subconscious] believe.
We believe that a vehicle will bring us safely from A to B.
In our family, at young age we teach the children, that  if you want something and  you do not know where it is  you can ask a grown up where to get it and  you get up and go and get it.
So if the child wants an chocolate he might ask for it, When told the it is to be found in somewhere in a box, he will find if he gets up, walks to the place where the box is and opens it to see if it is there
Believe that is not controlled, and or controllable verified etc is useless. ... that is what we teach them in a simple way.
If you are not interested in what you believe and you lack the means and opportunity to verify what you believe than do not believe ... it will bring misery
There are many treasure hunters that have spend there whole life without finding it.
There believe that the treasure existed and their desire to have it were that strong that the could sustain their hunt a life long.
The same with archaeologists and others that have HEARD about the existence of something and are so inspired that they want to find out truth about it
Yes ...not all things that we can believe are so easy to verify ... hahaha.
If we do not want to let go of the possibility, we are forced to outsoorce our personal dis-believe and resistance to do the seeking. hahahaha
Posted by: um | March 12, 2023 at 03:03 AM
Well… in the “intelligence gathering field” it gets a little trickier. A large part of the job involves telling lies and pretending to be someone you aren’t in order to get useful information. When you keep telling lies—essentially living a lie—your psyche gets a little warped. You start to believe your own lies. You start to believe other people’s lies. You truth meter gets a little warped. It’s a sad business. Yet, this is the world we live in. The “enemy” isn’t just going to hand over all its state secrets on a silver platter.
We have to be honest with ourselves about every aspect of our lives in order to recognize the truth… and what’s NOT true.
Posted by: 808 | March 12, 2023 at 04:07 AM
Gee, I don't know. Religion or SELF! How do we judge which is more harmful, or more beneficial?
One can look at religions like RSSB and be hard pressed to cite any social disfunction among its members. None whatsoever. And the RSSB dera is a model of civic perfection. Workers in harmony, no crime, no litter, no deviance.
Then you have the voices from the world of SELF!, and behold the crowning pinnacle of their "progress" -- mandating that transgenderism is perfectly normal, when it's the antithesis of reason, decency, and human order.
Contrary to what the SELF! people preach, transgenderism is evil. Not simply wrong, but evil. And the promotion or even the acceptance of transgenderism is likewise evil and a manifold assault on the present and future generations.
If transgenderism is true—if men really can become women—then it is true for everybody of all ages. If transgenderism is false (as it is)—if men really can’t become women (as they cannot)—then it’s false for everybody too. And if it’s false, then we should not indulge it, especially since that indulgence requires taking away the rights and customs of so many people. If it is false, then for the good of society, and especially for the good of the poor people who have fallen prey to this confusion, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely—the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.
Posted by: SantMat64 | March 12, 2023 at 08:02 AM
Transgenerism as you call it is a fact.
The question is how did it came to be and how is it handled.
As I posted a couple of days ago, there seems to be a scientific evidence that hormones to be found primarily in diary products are affecting the sexual hormones.
The future will tell us whether the transgender issue was caused or not by the consumption of these products and why certain people are affected [more] than others.
Apart from that all is the way people deal with it and make it seen.
Personally I tend to stay outside these pro and contra issues until I will have to face them directly, in the encounter with those near and dear
Posted by: um | March 12, 2023 at 08:26 AM
I was checking up recently as to why so many in America believe what Trump says (even though time and time again his outpourings have been shown to be false) and in the UK recently, why so many believed the anti-EU facts and supported Brexit.
Psychology Today offered some reasons: - (Why Do People Believe Things That Aren’t True? May 12, 2017) There is ‘conformation bias’, in that we look for information that con-firms our beliefs and opinions. We also discount messages that disprove our beliefs and often we use ‘emotional reasoning’ rather than factual evidence and reasoning. Likewise, we tend to associate with people who share and support our beliefs – and also our hopes and desires.
Topping all that we all have an ego, a self that has a desperate need to be right, a (quite natural) needs to gather around it a world of meaning and significance in order to maintain its equilibrium. Searching (for truth) and harbouring beliefs is one of the many ways to keep our precarious self-structure secure.
When beliefs are threatened it’s almost as though one’s physical life is threatened, and in-deed, where one’s existence is bound up with mind contents comprised of what one believes to be one’s self, then such a self feels it’s very existence is threatened – as indeed it is.
Posted by: Ron E. | March 12, 2023 at 08:57 AM
Ahh, there it is—the old “need to be right”.
We need to get more comfortable with being wrong if we want to keep our eyes open to what’s true.
It’s not a character flaw to be wrong. We’re human. The mistake is in denying the truth when it’s clearly presented.
Posted by: 808 | March 12, 2023 at 11:20 AM
I can assure you that between Big Brother and China, everyone who needs to know already knows everything that goes on at the Dera. And yes, it is a model community for India in many ways.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call transgenderism “evil”. Historically less than 1 percent of the population identified as trans. Perhaps they spent multiple lives in one gender and then were suddenly born into the opposite gender. IDK. But today in the western world it’s trending among liberals and the trending part is what’s so messed up.
Posted by: 808 | March 12, 2023 at 11:36 AM
to prove how free-thinking and progressive people are, but above all that they are not authoritarian, they must publicly agree with what god and even the devil has forbidden.
It all started in 1968
One can use it to silence a person in an office by publicly state .. I never knew you to be so authoritarian. It need not to be true .. it is just effective and they do use it
So that fear has become terror over the years ... and you hear people stand up in public for things they would never do in private or tolerate it from those near and dear.
That attitude makes things more seen as normal.
Mind you those that smoke, drink and use drugs can be heard saying to others that they are losers if they do not have the guts like they have ..Why do they do so, .. the more people smoke, drink and use drugs around them the more it gets the aura of normality.
This is how it is done by the extremists of all sorts .. make the 80% of the population seen as losers as the extremists and themselves, the minority seen as normal .. what certainly statistically is not
Posted by: um | March 12, 2023 at 11:52 AM
Not just by religion is a man easily deceived.
No THING physical, emotional, psychological, or any combination thereof is as it seems, so self-deception becomes the norm.
If you accept anything you see, hear, or read without testing, challenging, attempting to refute it or establish its factuality, then blaming others for being deceived is unhelpful.
The nature of any believed truth is that it is fixed and unchanging and as that is contrary to actuality then it is no wonder that beliefs or personal truths close the mind and cause conflict.
The most helpful way to avoid deception is to see THINGS as they are and not how you have been told they are.
Within this developmental approach, it is helpful to approach all THINGS as being a transitory, current understanding, based on the plausibility, credibility, and verifiability of the available evidence.
In this approach, the mind remains open to the on-going and ever-changing learning opportunity that life presents without such conflict.
Posted by: Roger | March 12, 2023 at 12:27 PM
I was watching a documentary about Thomas Merton last night and he said the same thing—one has to be completely honest with themselves in all that they do to recognize the truth.
He was pretty cool. (But I don’t think his death was an accident 😬).
Posted by: 808 | March 13, 2023 at 06:12 AM
A couple of people commenting above have praised RSSB dera and its followers as perfect! Nothing can be more false than this image of perfection some followers have for their organisation and themselves. One can always find so many complaints by villagers whose land has been forcibly taken by the dera, although in a supposedly "legal" way due to connivance of concerned state departments and officials.
Posted by: arun marwah | March 15, 2023 at 07:13 PM
RSSB and Gurinder Singh dhillon are living a lie. They portray an image of perfection which they work so hard to maintain. Keeping up appearances and the veil of deception, the spell of trickery, the slight of hand and with no real foundation. As soon as one piece is exposed, rssb will fall like a pack of cards. Gurinder is a cruel , nasty monster, who is hiding behind a mask. A billionaire baba and his sons made from fraudulent and dirty money shamelessly while we have to work hard and honestly to put food on the table. Gurinder needs to be exposed, shamed and made to face his karma. God is not happy with you bent baba of beas.
Posted by: Kranvir | March 24, 2023 at 02:29 PM
Your negative adoration and worship of the man will bring you, every day closer and closer to him.
There is no difference between your negative devotion and the positive devotion of his followers.
Posted by: um | March 24, 2023 at 03:08 PM
>> God is not happy with you bent baba of beas.<<
How do you know Kranvir?
Did God speak to you?
Posted by: um | March 24, 2023 at 03:09 PM