• Rachel Ramer

6 Common Thought Filters in Spiritual Abuse

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

We all have filters created by our experiences, our brand of logic, our education, our emotions, and our beliefs. Filters are what we bring with us to a conversation or a new experience. If I see a snake, for example, I will jump back and avoid it. But a zoologist or a herpetologist (a person who studies reptiles and amphibians) may move closer.

But what if we have developed a filter that sees new information as suspect? What if, for example, we were taught that all snakes are poisonous. No matter what a herpetologist may tell us, depending on how indoctrinated we are against all snakes, we may not accept new information about non-poisonous reptiles.

In fact, now we are not sure about the herpetologist and his or her education. It sounds to us, in fact, like they don't study snakes at all, but probably promote the herpes virus. (From the same root word meaning "a creeping thing.")

Caution is often intrinsic to religion; religious views are suspicious of new information. What happens when overly religious people encounter a new idea? At first, they seem to understand, but they must run the new ideas through their filters. What comes out on the other side might not be recognizable.

1. Religious people are often driven by unseen emotions. First, let me clarify that I believe emotions get a bad rap in religion. That said, religious people often think they are motivated by God, logic, common sense, etc. and those may be a part of the mix. But chronic emotions, often unhealthy siblings of the healthy kind, tend to drive religion.

2. Religious people quickly move to "bad motives" as a way to explain how someone could disagree with them. Once the herpetologist provides counter information, he or she is suspect. It's difficult to prove good motives once you are accused of bad ones. This ad hominem provides a convenient dismissal for the religious among us.

3. Sometimes these suspicions are accompanied by accusation such as "I knew you would say/think that," along with a victim's mentality, "I'm just trying to follow God."

4. Another characteristic of thought filters is insufficient research. They will find someone to agree with them, but how established is the research? Eventually, this devolves into conspiracy theories backed by scanty evidence but a significant amount of fallacious rhetoric.

5. Absolutist black and white thinking becomes the norm, the “go to” approach. The engagement of the false dilemma provides an either/or scenario when often a third option is available. Nuance is ignored or suspect.

6. Words have different meanings, but the overly religious develop hidden meanings. This delivers misunderstandings and double-talk. Ultimately, there is a failure to recognize the hypocrisy in self.

The more aware we are of our filters, the more open we are to new ways of looking at life.

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