Video: Why do intelligent people believe weird things?

Do you ever find yourself thinking "How did I ever believe that stuff?" or "How can my perfectly intelligent Christadelphian friend/family member believe that stuff?" In this conversation with Seth Andrews, Michael Shermer explains why even intelligent people sometimes believe things that reason suggests they probably shouldn't.


  1. This is the one thing that I find equally fascinating and baffling. Otherwise intelligent and educated members of my family believe in the supernatural, throw away hours of their lives and take part in weird rituals, all because of an ancient storybook. Surely this shows the power of confirmation bias when you WANT to believe something?
    I just wish they could take off their christadelphian tinted glasses for a while, step outside the bubble and look at their strange behaviour without the constant group normalisation from their peers.
    Unfortunately for the majority, this will never happen.

  2. Mark, I feel exactly as you do, except my bafflement is towards friends, as family who were CD`s, are now long gone from (or to, actually), this earth.
    I just hope my CD friends get some satisfaction and happiness from it, but I do feel concerned if they take part in indoctrinating the young, who are not yet able to think things out for themselves.

  3. If grown adults are happy to live in a blissful fantasy world, where they are superior to unbelievers, then sadly they are only wasting their lives away.
    However if they force their daft views onto young children, surely this is tantamount to child abuse. I was indoctrinated via Sunday school, youth groups, the occasional bit of emotional blackmail etc. but fortunately I was strong minded enough to see through the nonsense and decide for myself. Many of my peers were not so fortunate though, and plod through their lives believing they are all going to live as one big happy family when Jesus returns.

  4. Mark. Yes, it's child abuse. It's calculated psychological abuse. Very few outsiders join the cult, so for its survival these people psychologically and emotionally damage and abuse their own children (in a continuing cycle of abuse). Psychological abuse is more harmful in the long term than sexual abuse.

  5. The insidious thing about denial is that you deny being in denial!

    I was brought up in a scientific (but Christadelphian) family and understand the scientific model well. But I went around preaching that the Bible was scientifically accurate, when it isn't. But in general, my evening lectures were appealing and not challenged because it re-enforced the confirmation bias of the Christadelphians. So I got psychologically rewarded for strengthening their (& my) confirmation bias - people saying how much they enjoyed the evening lecture.

    But when, I pointed out that the scientific evidence for the Earth being billions of years old is overwhelming - I was all but hounded out of Town by some! I could feel their fear - that their certain World-view may not be so certain. I could feel their fear of ... chaos.

    But because prejudices tend to be primarily subconscious and supported by huge denial - no rational discussion takes place.

    I think George Orwell's "doublethink" in 1984 put it well. Believing two contradictory things but denying the contradiction. On the one hand Christadelphians (some of whom are scientists) believe in the scientific model of cause and effect. But on the other hand deny this, when their Christadelphian World view is challenged.

    The reason people believe this stuff is that intelligent people don't live in a vacuum. They are just as prone to being brainwashed at Sunday school as I was. And one of the most difficult things to change in human beings is long-standing attitudes and prejudices - it's scary. This is why some return to the Christos - the alternative takes courage, as I have found out.

  6. Following on from Mad Max' last paragraph. Is it "believing" at all? A production line CD has suffered childhood emotional neglect, has sociopathic parents, has been psychologically abused, manipulated and indoctrinated and faces isolation/the unknown unless he/she signs up. So it's not "believing", it's self preservation. It's conforming. It's taking the only option that's available. If this CD then spends most of his/her time solely with others from the same production line, then he/she will never be able to stand far enough back to have the faintest idea of what he/she actually "believes".

    1. Excellent comment David.
      Children are having nonsense drummed into them almost from birth, surrounded by adults who constantly reinforce the indoctrination, then when they are old enough (late teens/early twenties usually) they have a stark choice. Get baptised or get out! Conform or turn your back on all the people you have known since you could crawl. No wonder so many feel there is only one course of action to take.

    2. Mark, by their late teens/early twenties, after 16/19 years of indoctrination, are they capable of choice? Sadly for them, I would not think so.
      If I think back to when I was that age, I was well under the influence of Christadelphian indoctrination. Choice did not feature. Of course, young people do have greater access to knowledge today, but they also have various deluded brethren speaking at youth gatherings, telling them that scientists, archaeologists, and other scholarly researchers, are in error.
      I like David`s (March 26 10.59am) description of a CD child as "Production line CD". Very apt.

    3. Mancott, I was subjected to the same relentless indoctrination from an early age, but for some reason I knew all along it was nonsense. However, I was still obliged to attend Sunday school, meetings, youth club etc by my parents, even though I found it a mind numbing waste of time and hated it.
      How was I different to my peers, many of whom were baptised at an early age? Did some of them feel the same way as me, but buckled under the guilt of letting their family down?
      I'm just grateful that I escaped from the drudgery and struck out on my own, away from the stifling influence of the meeting room.

    4. Mark, you were fortunate to have the maturity to feel the need to get away before the tide washed over you.
      I think, as you pondered, some were just unable to stand up to their family. Others, may be, were baptised just to enable them to marry the one they wanted, even though they, like you, were stifled by the meeting room. Not a good decision.

    5. A very interesting comment David. Particularly the "has sociopathic parents" line. I've often wondered if Christadelphianism attracts sociopaths or produces them? I wonder what you and the others think?

  7. Not something (sociopaths) I recognise from my time there, it also seems to me that the facts do not show that CD children are unable to make a choice, were that the case the numbers and demographic would be stable, but on other posts here people are saying the numbers are reducing fast as the average age is increasing.

  8. Hi Joseph. You pose an interesting question. To try to answer briefly. Firstly, I'd say that I have no idea about it attracting them (but hardly anybody joins from outside anyway) but it very definitely produces them. Social workers find that learnt behaviour in families is a chain that is incredibly difficult to break. As one random example, the percentage of male domestic abusers that come from a family where male domestic abuse was witnessed through childhood is extremely high. CD parental sociopathic behaviour will breed the next generation of sociopathic behaviour, which will breed the next and so on. Anybody who comprehensively reads this website, or others, will find numerous examples of it recounted. The cult relies on it for its survival. CD-ism was started by a slave-owning slavery defender. Hardly the type of person to have empathy for others or a conscience about the harm he inflicted on them. I'll be interested to read what conclusions you've reached.

  9. I`m not really surprised, Jacobus, that you didn`t recognise the sociopathic signs from your "time there", as neither did I. Being in a bubble with the like-minded doesn`t allow comparisons. But I think they clearly are. "Making things seem believable." "Brainwash you into doing exactly what they say and want you to do." "Loss of insight." "Influence and deception." "Failure to learn by experience." How many more do you want?
    The evidence for children of Christadelphians not being able to make choice? I would have thought a short trawl through the experiences of Ex-CD`s related on this blog, should provide ample evidence that most of those children who were subject to CD indoctrination from a very early age, were eventually unable to use the reasoning area of their brains to enable them to exercise choice. Just as they knew that day would follow night, they fully expected at some point to be baptised.
    Joseph, I believe a sense of perceived exclusiveness by those who believe they are in THE Truth, does produce sociopaths. From the memory I have, and it`s a long time ago now, my memory of the people who "came in" from "outside" (Oh, those Christadelphianisms!),I didn`t know them well enough beforehand to think that they were other than ordinary folk. But thinking back now, they soon exhibited absorbed sociopathic tendencies, once they had changed from being visiting "strangers", to becoming baptised members.

    1. I was 5th generation CD, my leaving was especially difficult for my father, I dont however consider him personally a sociopath, I do characterise the CDs as a cult in that institutionally they do as you say, they exercise way too much control over the lives of their members, which took me some while to shake off. I have not quite worked out why they do that, other than they are themselves victims of the cult. In my family my fathers generation was 100% into the 'Truth', my generation is ~70%, my children' generation is < 10% (none of my children of course).

  10. Surely sociopathic parents would tend to produce sociopathic offspring?
    The addition of forced indoctrination and the gradually shrinking gene pool will surely only add to the problem.

  11. Hypothetical scenario. If I tell my friends, in 2018, that I have now decided to base all of my decisions, including life-changing ones for me and my family, on what a slavery defending, slave owner said/wrote in the mid nineteenth century (one who abandoned his tuberculotic wife), will they assume, quite reasonably, that I've lost my mind? Or what?

    1. I believe they would David. The white coats would be coming.

      Just have a look at Societies general reaction to new religions that pop up.

      The ones steeped in history and tradition are embedded and tolerated. Mainly because they are useful politically for controlling large populations, and let’s face it, cash cows. Without the aforementioned I think the reaction would be the same and the loony bins would, or should I say, ought to be full.

      I don’t know if you’ve ever looked into Scientology, but geeeze…Makes Christadelphians and the rest look sane. How anyone ever fell for that I’ll never know.

      The only way Christadelphia can survive moving forward is how they’ve survived so far, by burying its head in the sand. And that will made increasingly more difficult by the internet and the more discoveries that are made showing them facts they can’t ignore forever.

      Sites like the little heard of Gobekli Tepi in Turkey, which has already pushed back earliest known dates of civilisation by thousands of years, dating back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE, but it is believed the location may have functioned as a spiritual centre by 11,000 BCE or even earlier. It’s another site that defies our current narrative, and less than 5% has been excavated.

      To quote Wikipedia, Ian Hodder of Stanford University said, "Göbekli Tepe changes everything"

      There goes the earth is 6000yrs old debate….

    2. Scientology is fascinating, and L Ron Hubbard's life perhaps even more so (I enjoyed reading "Bare Faced Messiah"). Before his Dianetics and Scientology he was also a decent (though not brilliant) pulp Sci-Fi writer.

      I was also interested to find that Scientology was banned in various states of Australia for many years:

      Take for example this comment from the Victorian Supreme Court:
      "Introduction of a service, ceremonies and other external indicia of a religion is no more than a cynical desire to present Scientology as what it is not for such mundane purposes as acquiring the protection of constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion or obtaining exemption from the burden of taxing laws... The creed and services described in a 1959 booklet called Ceremonies of The Founding Church of Scientology which had been published in America played absolutely no part in the teaching or practice of Scientology until the late nineteen sixties; These so-called ceremonies were devised and published as a device to enable, with such attendant advantages as would thereby accrue, Scientology to be paraded as a church in the United States and should properly be described as a masquerade and a charade."

    3. That it is Jon. The whole belief system smacks like a bad Sci-Fi novel, like the Star Trek creators starting a religion. Insane.

      Interesting that the Supreme Court declared it “no more than a sham” yet the High Court restored Its tax status….Wonder how they would view traditional religions today if they were put under the same scrutiny.

      There is even a TV series into its second season now by an American celeb who got trapped; she’s exposing Scientology for what it is week in week out along with other high profile members that have left, its called Leah Remini Scientology and the Aftermath. It’s an interesting watch if you can find it.

    4. David,
      From a population of about 66 million, somewhere between 10 and 25 people will indeed do that this year. Thankfully, when you do lose your mind in this way, with a bit of searching, it can be found again!

    5. Joseph, I`m assuming the "between 10 and 25 people" are those choosing to be baptised CD`s?
      I believe that the JW`s baptised over 2000 in 2016, which figure I suppose is a world-wide one.
      Another fact about them is that they are reigning back somewhat on door-to-door knocking and finding a much greater take up of their literature in places such as bus and railway stations.


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