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Introspection and the Next Step

By Carl S ~

Have you noticed that we take for granted the bad behaviors and excuses of people who should know better? I'm referring to those who say and do ridiculous or hurtful things without being aware of how they look to the average people around them. Sometimes, they make fools of themselves in front of millions of TV viewers. ("Reality" shows are filled with such personalities.) I've watched many a courtroom trial where I wonder, "Aren't they listening to themselves?"

After being aware of so much self-deception going on for so many years, one thing stands out: These people lack introspection; meaning, "Contemplation of one's own thoughts and feelings; self-examination."

Those who are raised in a religious setting are taught to refer any self-examination in reference to a deity. (In Catholicism, "examination of conscience" was another of its recommended spiritual-obsessive-compulsive disorders. To the church, "contemplation" has a different meaning: ruminating on the words and thoughts of God and his will through scriptures and the words of his appointed authorities. (That same methodical practice of "religious contemplation" led me to question those scriptures and authorities, and so it backfired on faith.) In being other- (God)-directed, religion has hijacked normal introspection, the contemplation of one's own true and sincere thoughts and feelings.

Christianity discourages introspection. Introspection about why you believe, about what influenced you to believe without evidence. Religions are threatened by your contemplation of your feelings and thoughts, by your unease with dogmas and irrationality, by your doubts, and by your taking on personal responsibility to find solutions and answers on your own.

Christianity discourages introspection. Don't Christians who commit premeditated crimes lack introspection? They don't consider the long-term consequences of their actions. For example: a spouse in an adulterous relationship, who gets a lover to kill the husband or wife, thinks that this will free them to be together forever. They end up in separate jails, losing everything. They didn't even have enough introspection to think about how their decisions will affect their children's or their own futures. They do not take the next step of thinking about what will be the consequences of their self-deception and instant gratification.

In backward societies, and in ultra-religious societies (often one and the same), revenge is traditional. Some forgivings are not options. Thus there's no breathing room for introspection as long as God or Allah and his representatives maintain a policy of revenge against those who do not agree with their wills. Thousands of years have already been spent in human rights abuses and other revenge against "infidels," and in "killing the man who killed my brother." There is no progress in that tradition. Aren't those societies of non-introspective true believers only cogs in a revenge machine?

Do the obsessively-compulsed religious lack introspection about what it means to live life fully and deeply, and the consequences of denying living so to others, due to their repetitious revenges on those who disagree with them? And surely, they have no contemplation concerning what it is that humans find so ghoulishly attractive about causing and receiving tragedy. Don't religions feed on this, furthering a backwards, fatalistic, sacrificial Bronze Age mentality? These are the kinds of unthinking, "why don't we take the next step?" absences that are major problems with religions. Think about it.