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According to the dictionary, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. I would argue two points related to cognitive dissonance; first, that most people need to find some way to resolve this dissonance in order to set their minds at ease (not just for spiritual but also physical well-being) and that the leftist ideology demands that its adherents live with tremendous amounts of unresolved cognitive dissonance.

As an example of this, one of my cousins is quite leftist, and before I blocked her from my Facebook, I would occasionally comment on her posts with things to consider. At one point, when she was afraid that the Republicans in the Senate might use the filibuster to block some legislation that she favored, she posted a link to a petition to try to end the filibuster as a Senate tool. In response, I posted quotes from her favorite politicians, President Barack Obama among them, praising the filibuster as a necessary and useful thing. Instead of considering the new information as something to consider in her opinion of the subject, her method of dealing with the cognitive dissonance was to become extremely upset with me.

Cognitive dissonance enters our lives in a variety of ways. First of all, there are the types of people who seem to be duplicitous by nature - many politicians seem to fall into this category by virtue that they can say things that directly contradict each other, and yet not only seem to believe what they themselves say, but hope to get everyone else to believe it too. For example, on election day, I saw a tweet from somebody with "Catholic" as part of their username who said that they had just gotten back from voting for Obama because they were concerned about the number of abortions, and it seemed that only President Obama had any plan for reducing those numbers. Really? Does that make any sense at all considering the man's attitudes and actions on the subject? Yet here was this person who either couldn't or wouldn't compare the words to the actions.

Secondly, guilt is a kind of cognitive dissonance, especially if the action is ongoing. Yes, Mr. TSA agent knew he shouldn't be stealing things out of suitcases, but he continues to do it anyway. As a society, we've decided guilt is bad, and so we must find justification for our actions to relieve this burden. Had Mr. TSA agent been paid more, he contends, or had the working conditions been better, he wouldn't have "had" to resort to stealing things.

Third, there is the cognitive dissonance of disbelief. For example, it's hardly surprising anymore that after some youth gets arrested or killed doing something, all the people around testify that "he was really a good kid" or "he was just about to turn his life around". If the story makes the news, the families sometimes even provide pictures of this "good kid" being involved in questionable activities, all the while blaming others, especially police, of "overreacting". ([Update 30 Nov 2012: A perfect example here as to what I'm talking about. Note that the girl who was killed breaking into someone's house is lauded as a "role model" at school, even though her cousin says she's a) had substance abuse problems b) has been through some sort of rehab program and c) was probably breaking in to service her addiction. How is this girl a role model exactly? ])
Related to this, is the dissonance children experience, for example, when they expect that their mothers, at the very least, love them, but the mothers don't show that love. The children often go out of their way to try to reconcile the fact that they know they are supposed to be loved, but they grow up not experiencing it.

The way liars usually get caught is that they no longer can keep these lies straight. If one has thoughts that cause tension because they are irreconcilable, it goes to reason that at least one contention has to be false. A thinking person, therefore, will consider these ideas and try to find a resolution by figuring out what is true and what is false. Modern liberalism expects that all of us can accept contradicting notions without question. For example, it's highly ironic that one week, Time magazine ran a cover with the story "The Case for Killing Granny" (as a good thing) but soon afterwards, an ad runs depicting Paul Ryan as throwing grandma off a cliff (as a bad thing). Were liberalism consistent or truthful, the latter instance would be held as an example of the first.

I truly believe that this dualism is a leading cause of depression and a greater sense that so many people of my generation have of being lost and without purpose. We are told, for example, that we are random happenstances who live but for a moment, then cease to exist. While we are here, we have no greater objective than to reduce our own suffering to the greatest extent possible. The soul, which was designed for the eternal and longs for it, is but a piece of delusion. If we cannot reach for the objective Truth in this instance alone, how can one keep from going insane?

If there is no Truth, there is no reason to seek it, and we become enslaved to those around us who have managed to amass the most power. Without the power of independent thought, and the ability to exercise our own will to think, we become powerless to resist the tyranny of those whose goal would be to amass power by enslaving others.

The answer here is the paradox that is Christianity. In order to save our lives - to experience the eternal that the soul longs for - we have to be willing to die to this world (the exact opposite of the goal of a secularist). In order to be free, we must live by the rules set forth to us by God. In order to have faith, we must seek out objective Truth. Only as we get closer to these ideals can we shut out the cognitive dissonance around us and that which has entered our minds and souls. The more we do so, the more we are at peace, even though we never give up the fight for what is right.

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September 2013

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