Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
Modern psychology defines cognitive dissonance as holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The idea is that within a rational mind, this state should provide some level of discomfort and thus the person tries to construct a consistent worldview, even if they must jump through mental hoops to do it.
While anecdote may not be data, I have an anecdote that I believe illustrates a form of cognitive dissonance among some of those on the secular left in this country and this week's events brings this condition to the fore.
It all starts with two cups, one red and one blue, filled with coffee.
I was on a business trip this week. On the way to our early meeting, a colleague and I stopped into 7-eleven to get a cup of coffee. At the coffee counter, you can select one of two cups into which you pour your coffee. One is red with the name Romney on the side and the other blue emblazoned with Obama. I selected a red cup while he selected blue.
We have known each other for some time, he is aware of my politics; he is also aware of how important my religion is to me and that it greatly informs my politics.
When we got back in the car, I remarked on his blue cup and said, "So, you are still voting for Obama?"
He told me he was not entirely sure but he probably would. He, like many people, is very dissatisfied with the President's handling of the economy but that because of liberal social issues he still felt compelled to vote for the president. An atheist, he wanted to make sure that his daughter could get an abortion if she needed one. I sat silently and listened.
The next day, while on a break from our meeting, we saw the news that Islamic extremists had attacked embassies and consulates in the Middle East and the poor Ambassador to Libya was murdered. At the time, the news attributed the violence to an anti-Islamic movie and Pastor Terry Jones.
My colleague shook his sensitive head and said, "I don't understand why people go out of their way to insult religion, especially when they know this kind of stuff happens. I think they should arrest him."
"What about his right to free speech?" I asked.
"I know, but he shouldn't be allowed to do that, not when people might die."
He went on for a bit more and I just listened.
The next night, the participants of our meeting went out for dinner. As it turned out, I was the only Christian in a group of atheists at our table. Another colleague at the table loves to query me on religion as religious folk fascinate him in much the same way young children look at zoo animals. As such, my religion became the topic of the evening. After explaining indulgences to him and trying to convince another well informed atheist at the table that the Catholic Church did not behead Copernicus, my blue cup colleague spoke up.
"I think that religion is just a thing made up by man to control people. I think that anyone who believes in religion or God is weak minded!"
"Well," I said. "Don't you think that is a bit rude?"
"Not as rude as your priests having sex with little boys!" he blurted.
"Wow! I guess you are OK with going out of your way to insult religious people after all," I responded.
"I am entitled to my opinion and this is a free country!"