Jessica Schab, co-founder of End of Fear Project reflects on her religious and spiritual past and offers insight on why people fall for irrational beliefs.
Jessica, you are the co-Founder of End Of Fear (EOF) Project, along with Diego Fontanive. What is the fear you are referring to, and why must it end?
The fear that EOF project is referring to is irrational fear that people invent and exaggerate over, and then react to as if it is actually happening. Some examples would be fear of not being good enough, or God, forgetting that we invented both concepts. The project is not referring to natural fears — there will always be fears, some of which we need to help keep us safe and to react accordingly. The problem is that people mix their ideas and feeling in with irrational fears to the point where its hard to tell the difference between the two, so we just react and develop and anxiety rather than think rationally and logically about what we can do about them.
We currently witness a world-wide shift away from religions, and in some cases against religions, especially in the Western world. Why do you think this is happening?
I think people are starting to wisen up regarding problems we are having because of our religious beliefs, and how they have allowed the same patterns to play out over and over again. People are starting to realise that we can not solve real problems with irrational beliefs, faiths, and ideologies – nor can we continue protecting these faith systems, especially when they are so easy to corrupt. Addressing our problems with religion not only does not fix them, it makes them worse. I think people are tired of being played with in this way – they can see how they have been manipulated and conditioned by so many irrational fears, especially when they have traumas or when it comes to facing the unknown.
We are taught we have to be kind and tolerant. We hear people say ‘freedom of religion’, but I think people are realising that freedom of religion also means freedom to indoctrinate, and a requirement that we tolerate awful things that come from religion.
An example with some Muslims — we invite them into a western country, the government does its best to support them by helping them to build mosques, but then some start to push their religion on the locals, so women who are not Muslim are suddenly expected to cover up or face harassment by some Muslim men. Then people become too afraid to speak out about this for fear that they are going to be seen as Islamophobic, or condemning all Muslims, including those who do not press their religion on others. This is just one example of many of the problems that come from religion – so many awful things are hidden and protected in the name of religion such as child marriages, abuse, even wars. Religious people are often indoctrinated into thinking that their work is to convert the world to their belief, so it will never be kept private or just something they do their own. It is especially upsetting when it hides in our politics – to govern our world today with beliefs from a book that is 2000 years old that has been shown to be very primitive can not help us today to evolve psychologically. Only by being able to think and question out side of these stories can we do so.
Despite the apparent decrease in religiosity, religions around the world keep influencing society and politics to a great extent, sometimes dictating government policy or taking part in the judiciary. Do you think this is dangerous? If yes, how could it be combated?
I do think this is dangerous, like I said in the previous question. I think religion continues to influence society and politics despite its declining influence for the following reasons – 1) If you have a few backers that have capital and clout, that can be enough to make it look like you have the support of many. We can now buy clicks, likes and followers on social media to make us look more popular than we really are. We can make ourselves look larger than life, and convince others of this even if it’s not true. 2) Religion is very old and familiar, and there are many who want to stick to the old ways. There are also others who would like to do something different, but are unsure what to do. 3) How do we govern people and make decisions without religion? This is difficult question for some, because even if we are not religious many of us still have ingrained religious patterns in us that still somehow manage to have an authority in our life and mind. It is like a virus that has many tentacles, and we have to be attentive to all of them so to not let us be influenced or fall back on old patterns.
As for what we can do? It’s tricky. I think its great that many are pushing towards a separation between church and state, as well as speaking out about faith schools, because what we need is a re-education on how to be less gullible and how to avoid being taken in by faith. In this case it would be a slow way to phase out the old and prepare the youth, but that will take time. In the mean time I think we should continue to root it out in as many places of influence as possible. The more people speaking up and demanding that we are more critical in our thinking, the better.
To quote Einstein, ‘the problems of today cannot be solved with the same thinking of yesterday.’
Tell us a few things about your new documentary “Memoirs of a Former Mystic” in which you talk about your experience as a (now former) New Age speaker, amongst others. What is it about and what should the viewers expect from it?
I am currently working on a documentary on my story with L’Esprit et la Matière productions. The film will be something of a reverse version of Alice in Wonderland – animation and other effects will be used. I want people to realise that this film is not just about my story – we all have a tendency to convince ourselves that we are not privy to such mind traps, but we are. Thus the film will also have a twist on the the Neverending Story approach as well.
I want this film to take the viewers into the mysteries of gullibility, magical thinking and self-deception, and invite them to question why we give these things so much power over our thinking. Through my unusual story, I want the viewers to discover how irrational beliefs so often lead us to surprising and dramatic consequences in our own lives.
I will use self-irony and offbeat humour, to show how important it is to be sceptical and to detect the numerous psychological pitfalls that we think we are not susceptible to.
Lastly, where can people find out about your past and upcoming projects, more information about yourself, and EOF?
Thank you, people can find out more about me, the EOF Project and my up coming project with these links.
Angelos is a Philosophy (MA) student at the University of Durham, UK. He writes on philosophy, religion, politics, and science.