The Dallas-Plano Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › Unconvinced significant others

Unconvinced significant others

A former member
Post #: 2
Rationally, I've given up on my wife....she believes in prophetic dreams (only in the personal way), astrology, and all manner of superstition. She holds a friggin' degree in Engineering! What am I to do? I've tried with all of my capacity to immune our kids to myths & superstition, but what am I to do in the future?
Richard A.
Washington, DC
Post #: 107
Some fairly random thoughts:

You may too close to the issue to affect it. I have a brother (who lives in your neck of the woods) who cites "Jesus is No. 1" and I've had to cease discussing the matter with him but I am coming to some decisions about possible approaches. 1) He has an authoritarian psychological set which dictates that once his opinions have become belief, and thence faith, he is bound to defend them against all contrary evidence. What I am dealing with is a mindset, not so much superstition (religion) - more on my posts on the message board). 2) If I make his superstition a point of his defending himself against rationality in my presence, he will ascribe his uneasiness to me and my presence and avoid me. 3) My chosen course of action is to pick a topic for discussion which does not directly offend his superstitious mindset but that leads to his irrational or misinformed opinion on other topics for which there is irrefutable proof. E.g. separation of religion from governance - his anticipated reaction is that the US was founded on xtian principles and is a xtian nation. 4) Pay close attention to framing the argument and establishing the word definition which lends itself to sticking to the question at hand. E.g. How much choice should a woman have in control of her body - how much do you want? 5) Asking more questions than responding or reacting to questions. E.g. "Why do you think that?", "Why do you have that opinion?" (With the thought he will think I am sensitive or susceptible to his irrational/unfounded argument.)

We have long understood that rational argument will not overcome emotional response, but I think the issue goes beyond that simplistic axiom. Daniel Dennet has a possible approach in his latest book - it is "Let us subject religion to the same methodology we subject scientific inquiry." (words to that effect.) I have gotten professional astrologers to admit in public theirs is an art rather than a science because of my studies of Astrology. Perhaps your wife is not so much superstitious as she is searching for certainty; perhaps she feels somewhat incompetent and seeks something extra to help her; perhaps she fears for her immortality and knows no way to deal with it; perhaps she is over-reacting to your control in her life; perhaps she feels trapped by her circumstances and is seeking something more or out; my point is that until we understand why someone is so inclined, we cannot hope to influence their superstition. - My opinion: I wouldn't worry too much about the kids, they'll observe which life-style they want to emulate and do it (they won't lend much credence to what you say, but how you interact with them.) Feel free to contact me directly if you care to. - Richard
Elder N.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 26
I liked the way Richard worded his response. I know relatives that think highly of me but will fight aganist anything that I say on some topics and totally believe me on others. ???????

So maybe they need to read and talk to others / proffessionals to distance you from the discussion.

Just a thought.

And then, hey if she loves you and this is your only issue, BOY are you lucky. LOL :-)

Elder Norm
A former member
Post #: 1
My wife is a lost cause as well. She somehow manages to believe in Baptist brainwashing and Catholic Marrian worship as well. i almost want to congratulate her on her ability to believe irrationally contradictory nonsense, but i lover her. So what can I do. sigh.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 10
I've had some luck in the past -- mostly with stubborn teenagers, by the way -- by asking a lot of Socratic questions.

Choose your moment carefully, when the other person is relaxed and doesn't feel defensive (easier said than done with many people). Then begin asking questions about something specific they believe, as if you are really interested in learning why they believe what they do. Let them do most of the talking. Just keep asking questions, so they have to find ways to explain and defend their beliefs. Let them find any gaps in logic on their own in the process.

And I'm sure you realize this, but it needs to be said: Don't expect to change any major opinions in one conversation. The best to hope for is to create a crack in the dam, hoping it to break open eventually.

I find most people are more open to changing deeply help beliefs if they think it is their own idea.
A former member
Post #: 7
My wife believes in all sorts of superstitions as well. I find it amusing. So long as it doesn't cost me too much money or too much time.

I think that there is some value to the beliefs that people hold in that they create a plecibo effect for well being. Simply believing makes them feel better. The body follows the mind so they gain value. Just because I myself am not capable of garnering this value does not mean I should deny it to others that can. I envy their ability, and the comfort they gain through self deception. I can't do it, but I wish I could.
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