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Show Notes - Episode 97

January 23, 2022

 

 

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-cult-5078234

https://blogs.cornell.edu/info2040/2019/11/24/reasons-behind-why-people-follow-the-crowd/

https://www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/what-to-know-about-the-psychology-of-cults

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/after-service/201705/the-science-behind-why-people-follow-the-crowd

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-cult-5078234

https://effectiviology.com/bandwagon/

 

A hundred and fifteen years later and Charles Parham and William Seymour and all the lunatics who blazed this trail we call pentecostal evangelicalism are still influencing people, still drawing enough attention to fill pews (albeit fewer pews every year). We know what happened at Azusa Street and all the circumstances that led up to it, but why did so many people buy into this in such short form? How did William Seymour manage to even convince one person that this craziness was real? That's where we are picking up the conversation this week. I'm Spider...

 

...and tonight, we are going to take a closer look at what happened at Azusa street and why it's still happening now. Last week, we laid out the history, this week, we're going to lay out the psychology and give you the tools you need to resist things that have more potential to harm you than help you. But before we get into that...

 

The Satanic Temple demands equal time, I pledge allegiance under extreme duress, and an act of true brotherly love from pastor Mike Todd. It's Christians behaving badly: school spirit and snot edition!

 

CBB

CBB 97

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/christians-protested-a-harmless-meeting-of-an-after-school-satan-club/

 

Satan makes Christians Freak Out—because of course it does. The first meeting of The Satanic Temple's After School Satan Club at the Jane Addams Elementary School in Illinois was protested by a group of christians including a pastor because they just couldn't stand the idea that there was competition to the schools “Evangelism Club”.

 

This is a direct result of the Equal Access Act of 1984, which allowed the formation of Bible clubs after school in public schools, as well as the Supreme Court decision of 2001 that stated that public schools with limited public forums could not discriminate on the basis of religion. This has led to 5% of public schools having formed “Good News Clubs.”

 

Enter The Satanic Temple and their After School Satan Clubs. These are clubs that have nothing to do with indoctrination and everything to do with teaching children to think for themselves and learn science.

 

Cue the Christian outrage! They must have gotten a ton of complaints, because:

 

“Superintendent Dr. Rachel Savage also said in a letter to parents this week that the group formed at the request of a local parent — in case anyone was wondering who was behind all this. “A parent from within our district reached out to the national after-school satan club, informing them that Jane Addams Elementary School, in Moline, offers a child evangelism fellowship club and asked that they bring their program to that school as well, to offer parents a choice of different viewpoints.”

Patti Garibay, founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls, a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts, told Fox News Digital in an email, “At a time when youth are experiencing a mental health pandemic, it is outrageous that a school district would allow a club based on the master of confusion.” That's not how mental illness starts!

And no one is trying to 'convert' children. As stated in the flyer: “After School Satan Club does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology. Instead, The Satanic Temple supports children to think for themselves.”

I guess that's what they can't handle. They don't want to support their children learning...science. In a school. Go figure.

 

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/pledge-of-allegiance-proposed-iowa-law-teachers-stand-or-be-fired/

 

Stand and salute the decorated fabric or else! A proposed Iowa law says that teachers must stand and recite the pledge of allegiance with their students and not say anything “unpatriotic” about the Pledge. It was only this school year that Iowa first began requiring the recitation of the Pledge in public schools. Students who don’t want to say it don’t have to; the law gives them that right. But teachers? State Sen. Adrian Dickey doesn’t want to give them the same opportunity to opt out.

 

“His Senate File 2043, filed on Thursday, would change the law in three ways:

1. It would require all K-12 teachers to say the Pledge of Allegiance (unless they have a disability that prevents that).

2. It would require all K-12 teachers to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance (unless they have a disability that prevents that).

3. It would ban all K-12 teachers from saying anything about the Pledge of Allegiance that students could interpret as “unpatriotic” or politically influential.

If a teacher violates those rules, a first offense would lead to a written warning, a letter sent home to parents, and a notice to the board of education.

A second offense? All of the above (again) and a one-week suspension without pay.

A third offense? All of the above (again) and the teacher would be fired.

 

Hemant Mehta has done a whole podcast series about problems with the Pledge of Allegiance, such as:

 

The phrase “under God” pushes religion onto people who may not be religious. The Pledge suggests, falsely, that we really have “liberty and justice for all.” It was originally written to promote anti-immigrant sentiment. And frankly, our country isn’t always one that deserves admiration — why would we want to “pledge allegiance” to a nation that is so often a global embarrassment?

To put it another way, teachers in Iowa could lose their jobs simply by teaching students about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance because its history is un-American at its core.

 

This law is many things, but patriotic it ain't.

 

https://onlysky.media/hemant-mehta/pastor-mike-todd-smeared-spit-on-his-brothers-face-because-jesus/

 

Not only ignorant, but disgusting: Pastor Mike Todd, the idiot that also doesn't believe that domestic abuse is enough to end a marriage over, performed the grossest 'sermon illustration' ever...and it doesn't even make sense!

 

Let me set you up for this: Mike Todd wanted to tell his congregation that they might be going through a rough patch right now and questioning God. But you should never question God, he wanted to teach them. God might degrade you. God might spit on you. But God always had your best interests at heart no matter how things appear on the outside.

To illustrate that point, he brought his brother Brentom Todd on stage. Michael Todd then proceeded to spit giant wads of saliva into his own palm three separate times… before smearing it all on his brother’s face.”

 

I can only imagine that his brother is never going to assist him in a sermon illustration EVER again. I certainly wouldn't.

 

The congregation? Definitely grossed out. But Pastor Todd just said “And do you — do you hear and see the responses of the people? What I’m telling you is how you just reacted, is how the people in your life will react when God is doing what it takes for the miracle.”

 

Hemant Mehta's commentary: “The spitting doesn’t even make sense here. Michael Todd justified it all by saying this is what Jesus did to heal a blind man. But that’s not even what the Bible says! In John 9, Jesus spits on the ground in order to create mud — and he puts that mud on the man’s eyes. Michael Todd, who apparently hasn’t read that chapter, skipped the most important step…”

 

Of course, Michael Todd isn't Jesus. He doesn't have magical healing powers.

 

Also, WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC, YOU DOPE!

 

Let's hope Pastor Todd is remembered forever as the guy who wiped spit on someone's face. Because eww.

 

 

PATREON
PROMO (Jan. 30 – Life of Pi, February 6 – Snake Handlers)

 

 

It's funny where my research for this show takes me at times. Once I got done with last week I literally sat there saying to myself, “So, we told people we were going to take them from the what last week to the why this week.” And I had a few specific things in my mind... all except for the obvious. My first thought was that these things skyrocket because they start with influencers who have cult-leader kinds of personae, but that's not entirely accurate. I don't think William Seymour had what could be accurately described as cult leader qualities. I just think he was enthusiastic about his subject. He managed to get his message in front of the right people and shit just exploded out of what was largely fortunate happenstance.

 

But aren't most evangelical churches cults? Especially things like pentecostalism and other branches that rely heavily on weird beliefs, practices and mysticism? Well, no. And here's why...

 

Let me just start out saying that I think that all churches and religions are dangerous organizations, but there are distinct differences between evangelical religions and cults.

 

Some evangelical religions do tread close to the line. The Mormons (or LDS church) comes close, but still misses the mark on a number of points, ditto the Jehovah's Witnesses. There are cultlike qualities to these religions but they still aren't, by definition, cults.

 

To make my point a little clearer, I'm going to do a little compare and contrast on the Cult Education Institute's list of warning signs that an organization might be a cult:

 

  • Absolute authoritarianism without accountability – most evangelical denominations have central governing bodies. They often have democratically installed leadership, and the leadership shifts and changes over time. AG churches are all considered sovereign but they still have to adhere to the doctrines found in the fundamental flaws to be considered an AG church. In other words, the average evangelical pastor is, in fact, accountable to a larger governing body.

     

  • No tolerance for criticism or questions – most evangelical religions are happy to explain what they believe to outsiders and I was always taught to be “instant in season” and ready to defend the things I believed. We were super tolerant of criticism. It opened doors to witnessing.

     

  • No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget – A lot of evangelical organizations are guilty of this (christian charities, televangelists, etc.)

     

  • Unreasonable fears about the outside world that often involve evil conspiracies and persecutions – While we were propagandized a lot about the “persecuted church” throughout the world and the end times was always in the forefront of sermons, books and teen movie nights, as evangelicals, this is more a White Evangelical thing. And while White Evangelicalism isn't in and of itself a cult, those who identify as such do display distinct cult member traits. When I think about this one, though, my mind goes directly to the Branch Davidians and the doomsday messaging of Jim Jones.

     

  • Former followers are always wrong for leaving and there is never a legitimate reason for anyone else to leave – The AG didn't stalk me when I left, even my old senior pastor when I wrote and asked for my membership to be dissolved took it in stride. All he had to say is that he knew I felt they'd done me wrong and that they would be praying that I decide to once again use my talents and abilities to glorify god in full-time ministry.

     

  • Former members often report being abused – well, there's plenty of this in evangelical circles but it is largely unintentional – people passing down stupidity they learned in church, from parents, etc. Not exactly NEXIVM or Scientology-level abuse. And don't even get me started on David Koresh about this one... and yes, evangelical leaders are guilty of sexual abuse in alarming numbers, too. It just has different motivations than those of cult leaders. And yes, both are equally disturbing and wrong.

     

  • There are records, books, articles or programs that document the abuses of the leader or group – not a thing you see often in Evangelicalism, not that abuse doesn't exist...

     

  • Followers feel they are never “good enough” - we get this, too, but evangelical churches typically deal with this by having more altar calls. They don't extort money or encourage members to self-harm as a means of self-betterment

     

  • The leader is considered right at all times – Nah, I never heard anyone cite the Superintendent of the AG as a final authority on anything

     

  • The leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or giving validation – they claim the religion offers this, but no single person in any evangelical church typically makes such claims

 

So as we go through this conversation, please understand that I'm not calling any evangelical church out as a cult. But when it comes to getting people to do things (like making multiple trips to the altar, like tithing, like giving “free-will offerings,” like spending disproportionate amounts of time in church), their standard MO works for a lot of the same reasons cult-like tactics work on people.

 

Eventually we will do an entire episode on cults and explore this concept further, but I felt it was important to separate cult practices from what happened at Azusa Street. The former starts out with much less innocent intent than the latter. The latter is just more of that awesome influence of ideas that are already many, many, many generations old and will continue infecting people until enough of them wise up and get themselves unbound.

 

So if what happened at Azusa Street wasn't cultish, what was it? Let's have a closer look at the whys right now.

 

It starts with understanding that eople are typically followers by nature. This is why you have more employees than business owners and why there will always be more people in the pews than behind pulpits, more worshippers than worship leaders, you get the idea. Most people out there just want some kind of routine to follow and other people to emulate.

 

Now, there are some ways where evangelical religion and the psychology of cult mentalities mesh really well together. I would go as far as to say that these four things in particular applied to many of the people who got caught up in Azusa street and how many evangelicals today still approach their religion:

 

The desire for self-improvement – HSB was considered a huge step in a person's spiritual journey. It was a gateway to receiving more of the Gifts of the Spirit and many evangelicals, particularly pentecostals, are taught that seeking the gifts of the spirit was the single most important avenue to self-improvement and spiritual maturity.

 

The need for a greater sense of community – still the #1 reason why people join and stay in religions. We are social creatures with a need to interact with each-other and have shared experiences. At Azusa street, the concept of community was a huge motivator. It seemed to break down racial, social, and economic barriers. HSB was there for everyone – for all races and ethnicities, for the rich as well as the poor... and this appealed to A LOT of people there. The concept of family and community is driven pretty hard in evangelical circles and always has been.

 

The need for peer acceptance – Seeking things like HSB leads to greater levels of acceptance among peers who are also seeking the same things or have “achieved” them by way of prayer or supplication. Now it's time to match them spiritually so they continue to like me and want me around. In the case of Julia Hutchins, it was a matter of not losing everything and everyone in her life. There may have been an element of opportunism in her involvement with Azusa street, but I also think there was a heavy social (and subsequent emotional) element to it, too. Everyone she knew was adopting Seymour's message and she didn't want to be left out in the cold.

 

Being in a place of vulnerability – People are way more prone to agree to things when they are vulnerable to them. I was in a place where I had an overwhelming need for acceptance and when I thought I'd found it, I went all in with the people who were giving it to me. The same holds true for a lot of people. It's why some people go running to a religion when they experience personal loss or tragedy. The solace found in the religion gives them the opportunity to give themselves a break from the negative emotions and focus on something that provides comfort.

 

So that kind of gives a context to the rest of the conversation for tonight, but as I dug a little deeper on this subject, I came to a few interesting conclusions about why people are so happy to just follow the leader or hop on the bandwagon, as it were. Psychologists actually use the term “bandwagon effect” to describe what happens when large groups of people suddenly ascribe as one to a central belief, concept, or idea.

 

So what is this “bandwagon effect?” Simply put, it's what happens [when] a new concept gains a small following, which grows until it reaches a critical mass, for instance until it starts being covered by mainstream media, at which point a large-scale bandwagon effect begins, which causes more people to support this concept, in increasingly large numbers. (effectiveology.com)

 

People - even the ones who typically rely on other people to do their thinking for them think that they are making their own choices and decisions a vast majority of the time (and there are A LOT of those kinds of people out there and you don't have to be evangelical to be like this). The truth of the matter is that most of us, at least in certain situations, DO let other people do our thinking for us whether we realize it or not.

 

We, as humans, are social beings, we are naturally influenced by other people's thoughts and behaviors. If that wasn't true, advertising wouldn't work. A study conducted by psychologist Robert Cialdini involved examining the placement of signage in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. He focused his research on two specific paths in the park. On one path, there was a sign saying, “Your heritage is being vandalized every day by theft losses of petrified wood of 14 tons a year, mostly a small piece at a time.” The other had no such sign. He was able to demonstrate that the path that did not have the sign had one-third less theft compared to the path that did. The reason for this was that visitors interpreted the sign to be telling them that it was OK to take small pieces as souvenirs since they are stolen nearly every day by other people. Fewer people thought it was OK when they weren't told that basically everybody does it or that it happens every day. “This is just something that people do and this piece probably weighs a gram. I'm good...”

 

There are many reasons why we, as human beings, tend to follow the crowd, but these are the most prevalent: First, we zero in on the popularity of something. If that thing attracts a lot of people and there is a positive vibe that it gives off, we automatically assume that the thing is worthy of our attention. Second, since we as humans are social creatures, our nature tells us that the chances of surviving increase when we copy the behaviors of others.

 

Of course this isn't always true. I have to police students trying to gun yellow lights or emulating other drivers' bad behaviors all the time. I don't think that the people who were involved with Azusa street adhered to Seymour's teaching because they thought their lives depended on it, but I do think they followed the crowd for these two distinct reasons primarily. They caught the vibe and they saw that perceptibly good things were happening to the people already involved, so they left their intellect at the door and rolled around in sawdust yammering baby babble.

 

The bandwagon effect has strong influences in these and other areas:

 

Political opinions

Buying habits

Behavior (eg. Littering)

Adopting new technologies

Adopting new trends (music, food, fashion, movies, etc.)

Adopting religious views

 

[The Elevator experiment – Candid Camera]

 

Azusa Street was a classic example of the Bandwagon Effect. William Seymour's claims about HSB found a small initial following. It was actually met with more resistance than acceptance in the beginning. But slowly, the numbers of people buying into the messaging grew a little and as the movement got more attention, it attracted more people until it grew into a legit juggernaut that even managed to win over people who had originally rejected it. It also won over people whom others considered to be spiritual leaders which is another key element to this phenomenon. Put a little authority and a bit of attention behind an idea and people... pardon the term... flock to it.

 

How does this work? What makes people so enthusiastically hop on the bandwagon and let it take them places they quite possibly wouldn't otherwise go?

 

Well... it starts with a shared experience or idea which leads to specific behaviors that spread throughout the group and make it gather momentum. Almost without exception, every trend and fad that come and go enjoy at least momentary popularity because of this. Just ask anyone who ever spent disproportionate amounts of time feeding tamagotchis, got into fights over beanie babies or actually bought a brand new pair of bell-bottoms around 1994.

 

All of these things had a few things in common as they related to psychology, but the biggest two were that they were status symbols – they made the people who had them look superior to people who didn't – and the people who consumed these products saw some level of personal benefit in being part of a popular trend. Well... as I've said many times on this show: people don't change much over time and whether it's 1994 or 1906, human psychology is what it is and it was psychology – not spirituality – that allowed all those people to lose their inhibitions and do everything from scream and cry loudly, to writhe and convulse on the floor, to passing out “slain in the spirit” and, oh yeah, make baby babble and call it language.

 

The next piece to this puzzle is that most people are, in fact, conformists. This can work in our favor, especially during a pandemic. At the height of COVID 19 when we were supposed to be staying home for anything except shopping for essentials and going to work when applicable, the vast majority of people did at least the minimums that were asked of them. Most wore masks. Most did at least a half-assed job of social distancing in public, etc. Most people with half a brain still do. We get accused of being sheep by those who don't but that's another interesting point – the anti-mask, anti-vax crowd have also hopped on their own bandwagon. They have a lot of support for their position and that level of support empowers them to keep poisoning the information pool, detracting sound information and pushing their own nonsensical agendas. So, really, the ones who call themselves non-conformists for continuing to resist masking and refusing vaccines are really just conforming to a different idea. No points for originality, folks. Sorry....

 

But the direction we take with conformity has everything to do with what we determine best for us as individuals. If we take a specific side on the mask and vax issue, just for example, it's an example of normative social influence. We do what we can to fit in and gain acceptance from the group of people that best represents our personal values and offers validity to our opinions on certain issues. In the case of religion, it's a validation of belief.

 

The whole anti-vax thing is an example of informational social influence. In this case, it's a bunch of people deciding to adopt a lot of bad information without proof. And that's what the people who followed William Seymour were doing: they adopted his message absent of proof. He had never spoken in tongues but he did everything in his power to convince people that anyone could. The fact that he couldn't was irrelevant. The perceived value of the messaging and the thoughts of personal reward were enough to at least give his movement a little forward momentum.

 

But the fact that Seymour had never spoken in tongues was enough for some people to believe in it for themselves. “What if I actually can do this? People would be impressed!” Remember what happened when just one person spoke in tongues in one of these meetings? Six more quickly followed. Then more, then more still. Why? Because even today, most spiritual influencers (and I see it play out prominently in pentecostalism) use a specific mental trick to get that momentum started. They form what is called a heuristic inside people's heads.

 

It starts with an idea, usually one that involves a tangible reward or outcome. The desire for that thing then creates a mental shortcut to agreement. People start very quickly forming judgments and making decisions, especially in certain situations like large group meetings and church services. Sometimes if there is uncertainty about something in a person's mind, they will make a snap decision about the thing at hand right then and there. This satisfies the need for closure within the thought process. A decision has been made. This brings with it a sense of relief. People feel better once they make the decision and it empowers them to keep moving forward with the decision.

 

This is why when one person responds to an altar call, it's not long before many more follow. When one person starts speaking in tongues, others quickly follow. They make the snap decision to do what is socially acceptable and relieve the conflict in their minds about the concept they are being asked to embrace whether it's accepting Christ, speaking in tongues, or the countless trips an evangelical takes to the altar to “rededicate” over time.

 

Effectiveology.com says it really well:

 

...when people encounter bandwagon cues (sometimes also referred to as popularity cues), which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, they use those cues to guide their own actions, under the assumption that it’s beneficial to act the same way as others or that other people’s judgment is worth relying on...”

 

The bandwagon effect often employs heuristics as a means of pushing the agenda forward and making people adopt certain beliefs and behaviors either consciously or unconsciously. I don't think many of the people who descended on Azusa street did so with the intention of lurching around in the sawdust. That was, for many, an unconscious response to the environment. They stopped just being themselves in that setting and literally started doing and saying whatever it popped into their heads to do or say. They teach us to just let our prayer language flow. Separate yourself from the equation and let God speak through you. All right, then, so why not just totally disconnect from reality, ditch the concept of decorum and just scream at the top of my lungs? Because THAT is what's in my head to do right now.

 

Once Azusa street exploded there were people that became so uninhibited that they were perceived as lunatics. But many of those people also had jobs and social lives outside that setting where they never behaved that way. I never attempted to give a message in tongues in the middle of regents biology, for example, but boy did I “use my gift” whenever I was inside the walls of that church... The point is this: we are always in control. It just depends how much self-control we choose to exercise at a given moment. We can insist on maintaining decorum or we can hurl ourselves on the church floor and convulse. In a setting where the latter is not only acceptable but also happening all around us, the tendency will always be to do whatever the crowd is doing.

 

Some people engage in bandwagon behaviors over a concept that may not be new, but the presentation of it certainly is. I'm going to hop on the modern slang bandwagon here and just say that a lot of times, behaviors manifest and people make decisions to do something because of a little thing called FOMO (or 'fear of missing out') . They look out at that altar and there's a sea of happy people, completely enthralled with their god, purportedly speaking in a divine language that HE has given them and, all of a sudden, seeking HSB is a HUGE priority. They even use this in more macabre ways when trying to pitch the salvation message, don't they? “Don't miss out on heaven. Don't miss out on an eternity with Jesus. One day, you'll find yourself being glad you made your way to this altar tonight or anguished over your decision not to...”

 

How the bandwagon effect spreads

 

The bandwagon effect can spread quickly through what effectiveology calls a “positive feedback loop.” The more people become affected by something, the more likely it is to affect more people quickly. In Azusa Street terms, it was the energy and excitement that rose throughout the area that started quickly attracting people from all walks of life and all manner of religious influence.

 

But it began even before that. When Seymour only had a couple devout and fervent believers behind him, it was the excitement of the few that fueled the hysteria that erupted later. A small group of people formed this bandwagon absent of any kind of proof or supporting evidence, not even from the guy postulating the theory. Don't forget, Seymour was not the first to speak in tongues in that group but he managed to convince a small quorum of people that what he was saying was true and that small quorum quickly silenced the detractors around them.

 

A tiny positive feedback loop in the form of ONE person (Edward S. Lee) speaking in tongues quickly resulted in six more and so on and so on and so on, clean into the 21st century. Bonnie Brae street was just one stop away from Azusa and it literally took off because ONE person in the group managed to lend a TINY molecule of perceived validity to the concept. This resulted in enough people hopping on the bandwagon to collapse someone's porch under their combined weight... and it wasn't even all of them.

 

So there, I think is a really good answer to the question of why Azusa Street took off. It's very basic human psychology. We do this shit all the time and it takes on a lot of forms. This is just one of them and it's comparatively tame when you consider that things like rioting and looting also fall under this same cover. That doesn't mean it isn't harmful or even dangerous.

 

Belief in and of itself is a dangerous concept. Shared delusions that culminate in things like Azusa street are particularly dangerous when one examines what they do to individuals. They can leave aftershocks and even fuel concepts like HSB over the course of decades or more. So how can we guard ourselves agains the Bandwagon Effect? Here is effectivology's list spun to align with the subject at hand...

 

Create distance from bandwagon cues – Basically, don't go to church. And don't look to church for entertainment.

 

Create optimal conditions for judgment and decision-making – like not going to church. Also, making sure you apply a healthy degree of critical thinking to any and all situations that involve following the crowd into anything. What is the actual personal benefit to babbling like a toddler in the middle of a revival meeting? Think about it. It really proves nothing and how does something that you can only do fashionably in church equate to personal growth and empowerment?

 

Slow down your reasoning process – In other words: THINK. Think BEFORE you act or before you make decisions about ANYTHING that affects your life and your perception of it. Like going to church.

 

Weigh the pros and cons – Always look at both sides of an issue or idea. What are the benefits and what are the disadvantages? That'll get you out of church...

 

Hold yourself accountable – You are responsible for how you use your intellect. You are responsible for whether or not you insist on proof when you're told to just believe something. You owe it to yourself to make certain demands of yourself when it comes to how you're going to think about anything. Like church.

 

Take a good, long, hard look at the bandwagon and who is on it - ...and ask yourself just how much like this particular crowd you really want to be. Then stop going to church.

 

Consider the options – give your emotions and intellect equal time inside your head but let your intellect do the explaining and decision-making. Do I really want to be accepted by these people so bad that I would compromise my common sense about what they want me to believe, or should I just stop putting myself in front of influences I know to be toxic, dangerous, or just plain wrong? And when you figure out the answer, stop going to church.

 

Consider the outcomes/consequences – Look critically at the way older pentecostal evangelicals behave, how their beliefs manifest, how the religion has influenced the way they think, and so on. Note how the religion has influenced them over time. This is you when you are their age... if you keep going to church.

 

Of course I'm inserting a little bit of humor into the situation with all the church talk, but it's one of those funny-but-serious sorts of things, too, isn't it? Because where does a lot of this begin? It begins with either making the decision to go (or being in the habit of going) to church or church functions. When you walk right into a situation expecting a positive experience, it leaves you wide open to all kinds of suggestions and influences. So the whole “don't go to church” thing might seem tongue-in-cheek, but please don't lose the seriousness of it in the humor. Lead yourself not into temptation and all that...

 

So that's the simple solution – if you don't want to be indoctrinated, do go where you're going to be indoctrinated. It's quite elementary, but when weighed against the reasons why people succumb to the bandwagon effect, the scales are pretty much equal. All the same things that motivate us to hop on the bandwagon are the very things that keep us going back to church or motivate us to spend disproportionate amounts of time in church environments. And that means that all of us have a degree of vulnerability even after we start catching wind that all the bullshit is absurd.

 

If you go way back to episode 3 of this show, you'll hear the story of how I first came to “speak in tongues” and how I eventually managed to dissect what was really going on with it. It's a good companion piece to these last two episodes so if you haven't heard it, I suggest giving it a go, especially if this is an issue that keeps you on the fence about your faith. You'll learn all the psychology behind it and how the things we talked about tonight play in to the individual experience of glossolalia.

 

And since I give a pretty good talk at the end of that episode about not getting down on yourself for believing it, I'll save the time here doing so here. The fact that you've listened this far tells me that you already have at least enough healthy doubt about this part of your faith to hear and listen to reason.

 

So in the context of this conversation, I'll just say it again: steer clear of influences you know to be unhealthy. Use your intellect to guide your emotions. Just because something seems exciting and stimulating and even self-empowering, that doesn't make it a good idea. And while there are plenty of free-thinkers out there who also take on a follower role in most areas of life, those people understand the importance of weighing the decisions about what we do and what we think against logic and reason.

 

It isn't reasonable to accept something as true without proof, and certainly not without proof from the person making the claim. There are good paths and good crowds to follow. Know the difference. Because having the ability to tell the good from the bad is a sign that you are at least on the way to getting and staying Unbound.