As you can imagine, when I turned from my roots in Christianity the members of my church and family that were devout believers didn’t judge me at all and completely supported my decision. Ha, I wish that’s how it happened. When I first came to my Christian friends admitting to be questioning my faith, the responses I received only pushed me away further. One of my closest friends was the senior pastor’s son and when I expressed these feelings to him I got a lecture that left me in tears and the silent treatment for four months. Others resorted to talking about me behind my back until it got to the point where attending church was more hurtful than helpful.
After reading the Social Cognition chapter of our book, I have found many psychological terms and theories that are relevant to my experience. My initial doubts came to mind one day in my Humanities class as the teacher lectured about Socrates and his belief that one should question everything. I realized that my whole belief system was based on conformity ("a change in a person's behavior to coincide more closely with a group standard" (437)). I conformed to what my parents wanted me to be, to how a good Christian person should act, and to what my "church friends" expected of me without taking the time to understand why I believed in Christianity to begin with.
The informational social influence is the influence other people have on us because we want to be right; it can also be when new information is presented to us that allows us to see things in a way we never had before, in my case this was Socrates' "question everything" theory(438). The book tells us that, "how confident we are in our independent judgment and how well informed we perceive the group to be," determines our ability to make decisions under informational social influence. I believe that both of these factors were met in my experience, because I am very self-confident and hold Socrates and my humanities professor at a very high esteem.
I also experienced the contrasting normative social influence, which is the influence others have on us because we want them to like us (438). This is what I had been doing in the church and why I was hesitant to break from them. In my hesitation I experienced cognitive dissonance (an individual's psychological discomforts caused my two inconsistent thoughts (426)). I had a few sets of contradictory thoughts that made me feel hypocritical during this time: first I wanted to believe in the Christian God, but at the same time I had come to believe it is impossible to say who/what God is; then I wanted to attend church to be accepted and loved, but no longer believed in the God of its teachings; and later I wanted to be open with my conversion, but I did not want to face the hatred of my peers.
The main reason I was afraid to disclose my new Agnostic beliefs was that Atheists and Agnostics have a very negative stereotype (the generalization about a group's characteristics that does not consider any variations from one individual to another (420)) and I did not want to be seen as a "bad person." But I was not going to lie to be accepted, so I have become very open about my beliefs, mainly because I want to change the stereotypical idea of people of my religion. I want to show people that we are not all-black wearing devil-worshipers, but free thinkers. Despite everything, I have still found