Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
14 May 2022
of Cognitive Dissonance
Alfred North Whitehead said in his 1925 book, Science and the Modern World: “It
is easy enough to find a [self-consistent] theory . . . , provided that you are
content to disregard half your evidence. The moral temper required for the
pursuit of truth, includes an unflinching determination to take the whole
evidence into account.”
comes to those who reject Islam, you will notice that these rejecters show an
unflinching determination to disregard all of the relevant evidence!
example, if you are looking for evidence whether the Quran is truly Allah’s
word, you will find it easily in many of the verses of the Quran. In my
article, t, I have covered a few of them. What
could be more clinching than the evidence that the Quran talks of creation of
the universe in terms discovered by science only in the 20th century?
beyond anyone’s imagination that the Universe at one time was squeezed tightly
together (to a size less than that of an atomic sub-particle) before the
expansion, or the idea that our universe is forever expanding, or of the
property of Time that it is relative to the frame of reference of the observer,
and, therefore, a cosmic day that the Quran talks about, is not our 24 hour
day, but could be one thousand, fifty thousand or even hundreds of thousands of
years, that the predominant component of all living beings is water? These are
the Ayats or the astonishing signs of Allah for the people of today. Such Ayats
are not to be found in any previous scriptures. These Ayats not only provide
evidence that the Quran is the word of Allah but that Muhammad (pbuh) was a
true prophet and not an impostor plagiarising the previous Books as alleged by
the enemies of Islam. Do we need any more evidence than this? Is it not enough?
Can a mountain of lies heaped against it be of any consequence?
Will such Ayats
make all those who read them, accept the Message? The Quran informs us that
while a few may, many of those who are wilful rejecters will not. The Quran
provides several examples, the most graphic being that of the pharaoh of Moses
times, to whom were sent about a dozen signs but remained a rejecter which made
Moses pray for his destruction.
Moses prayed: "Our Lord! Thou hast indeed bestowed on Pharaoh and his
chiefs splendour and wealth in the life of the present, and so, Our Lord, they
mislead (men) from Thy Path. Deface, our Lord, the features of their wealth,
and send hardness to their hearts, so they will not believe until they see the
grievous penalty."(89) Allah said: "Accepted is your prayer (O Moses
and Aaron)! So stand ye straight, and follow not the path of those who know
not."(90) We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his
hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with
the flood, he said: "I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the
Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to Allah in
Islam)."(91) (It was said to him): "Ah now! - But a little while
before, wast thou in rebellion!- and thou didst mischief (and violence)!(92)
"This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to
those who come after thee! but verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our
How do people
manage to reject such clear evidence? In Psychology this is called cognitive
bias where people pay attention only to facts that support their prejudices and
passions. Uncomfortable evidence that contradicts their passionately held
position causes what is called cognitive dissonance. An honest way of dealing
with cognitive dissonance is to revise their opinion/theory taking the full
facts of the case into consideration. Dishonest ways are by way of discounting,
falsifying, or by ignoring altogether the evidence that does not suit their
purpose. When their most passionately held position is challenged, they react
violently and resort to slander and calumny such as the Islamohobes do. The
Islamophobes have a toolkit ready for attack when they stand exposed. They are
determined in their mission.
is common except that for the Islamohobes, the Prophet is their target. They
also have a collection of what they think is indefensible in the Quran such as
the permission to have sex with own slaves without marrying them first. Such,
ayats shake up the believers of our times also, who with their sensibilities of
a world at peace and free of legalised slavery, are unable to accept these as
right. The Quran has enough to test the believers as well as the disbelievers.
However, the promise of Allah, that those who place their trust in Him and seek
His help, will find guidance, is unfailing. There is no arrow that these
wretched Islamophobes can shoot that will ever find its mark. The morality of
the permission to have sex with own slave is covered in my article:
of Cognitive Dissonance
everyone feels cognitive dissonance to the same degree. People with a higher
need for consistency and certainty in their lives usually feel the effects of
cognitive dissonance more than those who have a lesser need for such
consistency. People who have not trained themselves to deal honestly with cognitive
dissonance become habitual liars and feel nothing. It is about these people
that the Quran says:
(2:16) These are they who have bartered
Guidance for error: But their traffic is profitless, and they have lost true
direction,(17) Their similitude is that of a man who kindled a fire; when it
lighted all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in utter
darkness. So they could not see. (18) Deaf, dumb, and blind, they will not
return (to the correct path).
have learnt to suppress cognitive dissonance will rarely change their stand on
any issue no matter even if they are proved wrong. This is so since their
decision in the first place is not based on an objective analysis and the truth
in any case is unimportant to such people. Pride and arrogance prevent such
people from changing their stand even if proved wrong. The Quran says about
(6:109) They swear their strongest oaths by
Allah, that if a (special) sign came to them, by it they would believe. Say:
"Certainly (all) signs are in the power of Allah: but what will make you
(Muslims) realise that (even) if (special) signs came, they will not
(7:101) Such were the towns whose story We
(thus) relate unto thee: There came indeed to them their messengers with clear
(signs): But they would not believe what they had rejected before. Thus doth
Allah seal up the hearts of those who reject faith.
(7:146) Those who behave arrogantly on the
earth in defiance of right - them will I turn away from My signs: Even if they see
all the signs, they will not believe in them; and if they see the way of right
conduct, they will not adopt it as the way; but if they see the way of error,
that is the way they will adopt. For they have rejected our signs, and failed
to take warning from them.
unchecked cognitive bias will take a person down a spiral, is an unchanging law
of human behaviour.
Person Suffering From The Disease Of Suppressing Cognitive Dissonance Change
has to first accept that there is a problem and make a moral choice to change
and seek God’s help for changing.
realize that refusing to learn to deal honestly with cognitive dissonance in
its most basic form, is a lie to oneself and self-deception. Matz and his
colleagues (2008) found that people who were extraverted were less likely to
feel the negative impact of cognitive dissonance and were also less likely to
change their mind. Introverts, on the other hand, deal more honestly with
cognitive dissonance. This is hardly surprising since introverts are concerned
with self-image and telling a lie to one self is more difficult and the
extraverts are more concerned with what others say about them. The cronies,
side-kicks and sycophants of the extraverts are there to heap praise on them whatever
they say or do and join them in their attacks on truth. If there are people who
confront them with their lie and embarrass them, they will respond by
categorizing them with some odious labels and try to cover the truth with more
lies. These people will never change when they have people who support them in
their lie. Politicians therefore are some of the most adept liars and
practitioners of systematic deceit and the most shameless among all the liars.
Self-awareness and a desire to change is the key
to changing oneself. You know when you are disregarding information that
contradicts your stand on any issue. As Socrates said “An unexamined life is
not worth living.” Develop self-awareness which is the first step to change.
If there is
a conflict between what you desire and what you consider right then consciously
choose what is right. Learn to admit past mistakes, repent, apologize for these
and learn to move forward.
talk about morals speak about the ‘conscience’ or the inner voice which is
nothing but the cognitive dissonance that we experience when our action does
not match what we consider to be right.
Prayer is a
form of self-conditioning or priming and is most effective in changing one’s
behaviour. Belief in God helps but it should work even without such belief if
the prayer is changed to a daily resolution or pledge.
(of the Prophet) is my daily morning prayer:
Purge my heart of hypocrisy,
conduct from dissimulation,
tongue from falsehood,
eyes from treachery,
indeed know the treacherous glance of the eyes
which the heart conceals.
notice that the Quran describes the laws of human behaviour but puts the same
across as what God does. This is so since these are nothing but the unchanging
laws of God which work inexorably in the most consistent and unchanging
fashion. If you notice, even the laws of nature are described as if God is
actively doing something for example, holding a bird in flight and preventing
it from falling. People take this literally and say that if God is allowing
people to go astray or sealing up their hearts, or causing them to be “deaf,
dumb and blind”, how can they be blamed? This is again more of self-deception
and inability to take responsibility for the moral choices they themselves make
or for the path that they have chosen even though God constantly reminds them
(4:120) Satan makes them promises, and creates
in them false desires; but Satan’s promises are nothing but deception.
(35:5) O men! Certainly the promise of Allah is
true. Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver
deceive you about Allah. (6) Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as
an enemy. He only invites his adherents that they may become Companions of the
frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering
graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having
served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over
three decades. He has spent years studying Quran in-depth and made seminal
contributions to its interpretation.
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