Tools for losing your faith

Some great concise principles for challenging religious beliefs and believers. Great post on the "Core model of belief" from Goosing the Antithesis:

Five categories of arguments for religious faith:

  1. moral appeals (beliefs about religion/atheism and morality)
  2. evidential appeals (questions related to order and nature, and doubting science)
  3. purpose-based appeals (beliefs related to purpose, meaning, hope, comfort, and the feeling that something is missing in one’s life)
  4. afterlife appeals (fearing death, desiring Heaven and fearing Hell)
  5. psychological appeals (the believer just can’t deal with reality – can also suffer mild insanity).

Four methods for deconstructing these arguments:

Principle 1 : All theological arguments are rationalizations in the name of faith. Discussing arguments is good for the nonbeliever’s understanding, but serves only a small role in the deconversion process.

Principle 2 : All faith exists because of emotional appeal, and this appeal is based on misconceptions and lies fostered by religion.

Principle 3 : Faith is a mind-killer and an enemy of rational morality, science, and ultimately all cognition.

Principle 4 : By exposing the false emotional appeal of faith and religion, exposing its evil, and promoting the true emotional appeal of nonbelief and reason, we are helping society, and therefore ourselves.

Comments (15 comments)

Francois Tremblay / January 18th, 2006, 2:00 am / #1

Thank you, although these points are not as specific as a person would need to start evangelizing. I would recommend people to listen to my shows on on “Witnessing Nonbelief”, where we go in details and look at specific cases.

Basically, the procedure goes like this :

1. Ascertain if this person can be talked to at all, or if the person is deranged or beyond your help.
2. Get to one of the person’s “core” reasons for belief, bypassing all the arguments that are not of a personal nature (apologetics, rationalizations).
3. Counter the core belief with an opposite emotional argument (depending on its type).

torin / January 18th, 2006, 3:16 pm / #2

Unfortunately, in the war between reason and perception, most often perceptions win. While your arguments are well reason, it will not sway anyone. Most Xains have an emotional attachment to their faith, reason be damned!

Francois Tremblay / January 18th, 2006, 4:53 pm / #3

torin, that’s the whole point. To combat false perception with true perception.

Daniel O'Connell / January 19th, 2006, 3:37 am / #4

What is true perception?

The rods and cones that make up the physiology of our eyes are the reason we even see the way we do. Hindus and Buddhists call this kind of seeing maya or illusion.

Newton proved that light viewed through a prism is seperated into various bands of colors. It is also a scientific truth that a rainbow can be seen when a drop or drops of water are refracted by the light of the sun.

But this rainbow is everywhere present at all times though may be hidden from our physical sight.

It is also scientific fact that there are a great many frequencies of light and sound etc., that have been measured but in our everday senses we are only able to perceive a few.

It is my perception even as I type this that the environment around me is bathed in variegated hues of dazzling light.
Perhaps you think I have torn a retina?

I believe with a belief based in reason and logic that science and religion are one

BlackSun / January 19th, 2006, 10:38 am / #5

Well, Daniel, you really went for it here. I have a question for you: If the rods and cones produce maya and illusion, why is it that two or more people can confirm they are seeing the same image? Furthermore, why is it that the structure of our eye evolved the way it did, and not like the eyes of, say, a common housefly? If I take a hallucinogen, I might see “variegated hues of dazzling light” as you do, but the person next to me would see nothing of the sort.

That is why what you are saying is rooted firmly in the realm of personal subjectivity. There are plenty of well-known optical illusions. These can be used to analyze and break down the functioning of the human visual system. There are reasons having to do with perception for each of these illusions. But evidently, our eyes have been good enough, along with our brains, to put us at the top of the food chain. That’s only because we are really good at seeing things as they are: i.e. that little flash that an inferior being might dismiss as a shadow is actually a panther about to pounce on us.

Evolution is a wonderful thing, and pretty much requires a certain objectivity. We evolved to function in the world that is, hence we are really good at perceiving it.

Unfortunately culture has a ways to go to catch up to our perceptual capabilities. Humans went all but the last 400 years thinking that the earth was the center of the universe. Only strenuous effort to develop objectivity got us away from this belief. And religion played no role except to threaten the objectivists with immolation.

We know about the various frequencies of light because of rigorous objectivism and exploration. We know about the electromagnetic nature of light for the same reason. It’s because we’ve used instruments to extend our eyesight, and to compensate for our eyes’ shortcomings. We will continue to do this, and the mysteries of the universe (which you consider to be illusion) will continue to fall like dominoes.

You have fallen prey to two very common fallacies, which ultimately will prevent you from extending your awareness of the universe. 1. The “nothing can be known” fallacy of relativism. 2. The equation of science with religion, which both elevates religion and debases science.

(Paradoxically, you can hold these beliefs without penalty, because there exists a strong scientific establishment to be objective on your behalf. You can keep learning about your world, while avoiding the pain and rigor of subjugating your subjective beliefs.)

“I believe with a belief based in reason and logic that science and religion are one”

You cannot say that you believe something with reason and logic. That’s a contradiction in terms. Subjective beliefs play a role in mythmaking, storytelling, and entertainment. They are important to the psyche for creativity, but they have no place in science.

Finally, the “science and religion are one” argument you are using is essentially an attack on objectivity. You are using it to avoid seeing the contradictions in your position, and to lower the status of anyone who would take issue with it.

I appreciate you reading, but I hope that you can have the courage to take your beliefs and preferences out of the equation. They may be the center of your universe, but they are not, in fact, the universe.

Francois Tremblay / January 19th, 2006, 1:45 pm / #6

Ayn fucking Rand, Daniel ! I was talking about emotional outlook and you twist the word “perception” into an essay about sense perception ? Talk about missing the point.

“I believe with a belief based in reason and logic that science and religion are one”

You are one sick mama-jama. There is no such thing as a “belief based on reason”, and empirical testing (science) and emotional utilitarianism (religion) are oppposites !

DO / January 19th, 2006, 3:19 pm / #7

Black Sun, Are you a licensed psychiatrist? Then dont think you are qualified to make clinical diagnoses of people on the basis that they have religious ideals.

BlackSun / January 19th, 2006, 3:31 pm / #8

DO, when did I ever make a clinical diagnosis? The only thing I might have said (elsewhere in comments) is that if someone believes in masters or reincarnation, they should see a psychiatrist.

Well, I think that’s a good idea for all of us. I’ve spent fair amount of time on the couch myself, and it’s improved my self-knowledge dramatically. Why would anyone not want that?

morgaine / January 19th, 2006, 3:49 pm / #9

Whats all the hostility about Francois? This guy entered into dialogue. Right or wrong in his views, there was no attack in his statements. What is the need to label someone as ‘sick’ who is trying to share their perspective? I can understand that this is a subject you are passionate about, but I don’t see what good is does to be so ascerbic.

The very fact someone enters into dialogue provides an opening door…potentially…. for you to educate regarding your perspective. Wasn’t that at least part of the reason for the post on tools for losing your faith… To help another see another way, to bring more objectivity into their thinking?

I have no idea who Daniel is (hello Daniel) but, jumping on someone so soon may do more harm than good. You can’t always tell by an initial post if someone is in exploration and and open to edification, or simply interested in staking a position. In the name of reason and if you care at all about helping others to see it, it may help your cause in the long run, as frustrating as it may be , to tone it down a little… You could otherwise alienate someone who really was starting to explore their premises…or not.

I do appreciate your approach, Black Sun . You don’t mince your words, but its done respectfully enough. I would hope that others in these dialogues could maintain more respect in tone…As I said before, its ironic to me that there is such reactivity on a site dedicated to objectivity…especially coming from one of its strongest proponents.

DO / January 19th, 2006, 4:44 pm / #10

I was referring to #5 in your categories, actually, where a reference is made to people being insane. Its just my position that this type of catch all phrase relating to religion cannot be apllied when speaking about individuals and their psychological status. IM coming from a completely clinical point of view here. Yes, ive been to the doc too, and it had nothing to do with cults. Only my personal relationships. Anyone can have Post Traumatic Stress from a divorce or a death in the family.
Also I read some of your postings on a differnet blog issue, and for once I agree more with you, about surveillance. Just thought Id mention it.

DO / January 19th, 2006, 5:33 pm / #11

Daniel refers to a Hindu or Buddhist teaching on Maya/Illusion, but he says that they are referring to seeing of other spectrums of vision as maya. I dont think that’s quite the premise of the teaching on Maya. I think what the Hindus and Buddhists are trying to say is that the illusion that we are all separate is illusion, that everything gets down to an atomic structure, that we are interdependent on an atomic level. For instance, look at dumping of toxic wastes into the ocean. we may think we have gotten rid of the wastes from our immediate environment, but what is going to happen to all the living organisms that are exposed to that waste, and ultimately to the effects that has on the rest of the planet. Just a viewpoint

Daniel O'Connell / January 19th, 2006, 11:00 pm / #12

Blacksun, actually I never stated that the rods and cones produce maya and illusion. I merely stated that hindus and buddhists term this kind of seeing as maya or illusion. I do not accept the notion that this world is not real, but the way the world appears to our five senses is deeply rooted in our physiological makeup.

In answer to your question, the reason that two or more people can confirm that they are seeing the same image is because all people are basically hardwired in the same manner e.g., rods and cones.

Of course with all of this similarity come variations of the same experience: No two people see, hear, taste or respond to tactile stimuli in the same way. Evolution indeed is a wondrous thing. So is Chaos!

As for why our eyes have evolved the way they have and not like that of a common housefly? I don’t recall my past life(s) as a house fly or any other winged creature so I really can’t answer that :o) Seriously, necessity is truly the mother of invention. Maybe the fly needed to have a more spherical awareness in order for the species to survive.

Yes if one takes a hallucinogen such as LSD, I suppose one might see the kind phenomena of which I am speaking. Though I never in my several or so trips ever did.

Yes all experience is subjective. Even the quality of the lens that Galileo used to gaze upon the moon and gauge the size of the mountains on it, was subject to the skill of the craftsmen that made the lens. The outcome of every scientific experiment is subject unto the degree of precision inherent in the means of measurement.

How much of scientific knowledge is periodically swept away by new insights made possible by more advanced technology? Or more apt how much of what we know to be true is even slightly altered in the face of such advancements?

You have assumed much in your reply to me. I am not a relativist. Truth can be known and measured. It is only our acceptance, or non-acceptance of the truth that is ever-changing.

Perhaps I should have said that science ought to be the instrument of religion. The more I learn about “my world” as you put it, the more I am able to define and strengthen my spiritual beliefs. I know of no science, theory or fact, that has proven their is no God or higher force of nature. On the contrary the mysteries which scientific reasoning have unveiled, make plain (at least to me) that there is a Cause to the effect.

How is believing something with reason and logic a contradiction? To believe means to accept something as true or real. If my belief or acceptance that I have truly made contact with my own divinity is based on my own experience (admittedly subjective) over the course of more than 16 years and such experience is repeatable and the results of which do not vary greatly, than how is my acceptance lacking reason or logic? It would be illogical and highly unreasonable not to give credence to my own and many other people’s observation.

Is an individual observation not objective? What if many people have had similar experiences for many hundreds if not thousands of years and these experiences were recorded. Would this body of self-knowledge not qualify as reason for at least some acceptance that such repeatable and controlled phenomena are not the result of near-death, hallucinogenic or neural chemical releases in the brain?

You have used the word psyche to describe the importance of subjective beliefs and their importance in connection with creativity. Interesting choice considering that the word psyche is taken from greek mythology and synonymous with the spirit or soul.

I’m not out to attack anyone or anything, nor do I hope to lower the status of anyone who would take issue with my beliefs (acceptances of the truth). My very reason to come to this site, is to gain awareness of points of views other than mine own, in order to challenge and redefine my own beliefs. Above all I seek to know the “unknowable” and to learn from everyone I meet.

Francois: apparently I have missed your point. But perhaps you have missed mine also. But what have either of us contributed to the enlightenment?

Morgaine: Hello to you and thank you for your reservation of judging my motives and person. I too find the reactionary attitude quite ironic. I was hoping for a more open exchange of ideas. The lack of tolerance for other points of view is much like the fundamentalist Christian ideology that I am sure many of you abhor so much.

The lack of tolerance reminds me very much of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a group in which I spent a great deal of time. Rigidity in all forms must surely be the highest expression of ignorance.

DO: Thank you. Your explanation of maya is more concise. But I did not say that Hindus and Buddhists refer to seeing other spectrums of vision as maya. I was merely trying to make a connection with our physiological dependent seeing, with the concept of Maya or illusion. I apologize for any ambiguities and appreciate you have applied the concept of illusion with the cleaning up of the environment.

morgaine / January 20th, 2006, 10:58 am / #13

Daniel… Although I think I see what you are getting at in places, in others, you are mixing up what is objective vs subjective as well as defintions which muddy your arguments,.: for one, (in paragraph about Galileo )

‘subjective’ refers to a mental act , acting within the mind, …

whereas ‘subject to’ -means dependent upon or contigent.

there are some points I wish to speak to later in which I think you are getting at something important, but we have strayed off subject …and I wonder if BlackSun would prefer this be discussed in a different post or perhaps off site?

morgaine / January 20th, 2006, 11:05 am / #14

oops.. nevermind.I posted before I knew there was your response BlackSun..
I do want to comment on one more thing Daniel said later.. that I find quite important… but no time now.

Daniel O'Connell / January 20th, 2006, 8:53 pm / #15

Morgaine: Agreed I have mixed up the definitions.

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