Shaking off the woo after you've been brainwashed: arguments about tithing

I need some assistance in holding onto rationality here. This is more of an internal debate, but sometimes I feel like I have a theist and an atheist inside my brain warring it out. I feel as if I'm arguing with a believer in my own head right now.

As someone who was raised as a Christian, being taught that many coincidences were "signs" from God, or communications from him, sometimes I find it difficult to think reasonably about certain coincidences, especially if they are repeated. Rationally, I know that things like a church sign that says, "Looking for a sign from God? This is it!" were put there by people because they intended to elicit a certain reaction. But some things are more difficult to figure out, and since I was trained from birth to view them as divine intervention, that's where my mind sometimes tries to go.

I work with my mom in the hair salon that she owns. Today, I didn't have any appointments and she only had a few, spread throughout the day. Someone called to ask for an appointment in the afternoon and when she got off the phone, she said, "Thank ya Lord! May I have another one? May my daughter have one?" She knows that I think such statements are ridiculous and I think she was halfway kidding around with me when she said that. But later on, when her 1:00 appointment came in to get her nails done, she asked if she could get her hair done too. Mom didn't have time, so she let me do it. She picked at me afterwards, reminding me of what she'd said this morning. She knew I'd dismiss it and I did. But that irrational, brainwashed part of me kept going, "Well... what if she was right?"

Then I get on Facebook and the flashbacks get worse. A Baptist friend of mine has posted this status and a long chain of comments from other Baptists follows.

When I fell in with a Southern Baptist fundie group in high school, they brainwashed me pretty hard. One of the things I remember them going on about during that time was tithing. They all insisted that their families tithed all the time and that even when there shouldn't have been enough money to go around, there always ended up being enough to get by. This seems to be a theme with Baptists, and I've not really known Christians of other denominations to report similar experiences to the same degree.

Normally I'd just ignore it and move on, but today I'm having trouble being realistic. As humans, we always look for patterns and categories and explanations and I'm having trouble recognising that even if something happens more than once, it can still be a coincidence. In my experience, financial matters usually seem to work themselves out somehow and I know that there are any number of explanations for this. It could be purely coincidental that of the people I know, this seems to happen most to tithing Baptists. It could be that they're stretching the truth, outright lying, or only noticing what they want to notice about their tithing as it relates to their financial stability. It could be that these "shouldn't have worked but did" moments are really rare for them and they want to make it sound like they happen more often because they want to convince people that God did it. Hell, I don't know.

Usually I am able to keep my wits about me, but 20 years of being taught to believe something can be hard to shake, and it's getting pretty convoluted up in my head right now. Two parts of my mind are at war and the brainwashed part is playing dirty (it's even telling me that in the same way I think Christians essentially hang around other Christians every week in order to rebrainwash themselves, that I'm trying to brainwash myself by asking for opinions from all of you). I'm trying to be intellectually honest with myself and not dismiss anything that might be true... but I also don't want to let myself believe something (in this case, that a supernatural entity helped someone's bank account) when emotions are the only evidence I have telling me that it might be true.

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I don't want to respond to them personally; I want to respond to the irrational part of my brain that's trying to go along with them. Sometimes I get stuck in this endless argument with myself and both sides refuse to give up. It's very tiresome and sometimes it helps to hear some perspective from others who may be thinking more clearly, without the emotional side fighting to gain control. Also, it can be helpful to hear an idea that I've already had, but phrased differently so that it makes me think about it in a new way.


Interesting statistics - thanks for pointing those out!


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