In his book "A Manual for Creating Atheists," Peter Boghossian has some advice for those who want to helo cure religious addicts: don't focus on weaning them off of religion; rather, remove the foundation of faith that supports their religiosity.
Attacks on religion are often peceived as attacks on friends, families, communities, and relationships. As such, attacking religion may alienate people, making it even more difficult to separate them from their faith.
...Attempting to disabuse people of a belief in their God(s) is the wrong way to conceptualize the problem. God is the conclusion that one arrives at as a result of a faulty reasoning process (and also social and cultural pressures).
The faulty reasoning process -- the problem -- is faith.
Positing make-believe metaphysical entities is a consequence of a deeper epistemological problem. Belief in God(s) is not the problem.
Belief without evidence is the problem. Warrantless, dogged confidence is the problem. Epistemological arrogance masquerading as humility is the problem. Faith is the problem.
...In other words, focus on undermining one's confidence in how one claims to know what one knows (epistemology) as opposed to what one believes exists (metaphysics/God).
Instead of having a discussion about the actual existence of metaphysical entities that can neither be proven nor disproven, direct the discussion to to how one knows that these alleged entities exist. (This may also avoid one of the most common retorts among uneducated, unsophisticated believers, "You can't prove it not to be true."
As noted in this post, Boghossian aptly describes faith as pretending to know things you don't know. Which isn't a virtue. But neither is it a vice. I like how Bogossian says we should divorce belief from morality.
Faith is an epistemological error, a problem in knowing what is true. Thus it stands outside of the realm of morality, notwithstanding the contention of religious people that having faith is a virtue. So, says Boghossian," having faith doesn't make one moral, and lacking faith doesn't make one immoral."
He gives examples of well-known atheists who most would consider moral: "Bill Gates (for donating his vast fortune to charity) and Specialist Pat TIllman (for abandoning an incredibly promising football career to give his life for his country)."
Here's the shortcuts Boghossian says he uses when he doesn't have time for a full Socratic discussion with a faithful religious believer.
First, I'll ask "How could your belief [in X] be wrong? I don't make a statement about a subject's beliefs being incorrect; instead, I ask the subject what conditions would have to be in place for her belief to be false.
...Second, I'll ask, "How would you differentiate your belief from a delusion? We have unshakable testimony of countless people who feel in their heart that the Emperor of Japan is divine, or that Muhammad's revelations in the Koran are true. How do you know you're not delusional?"
...Simply causing one to recognize that their core beliefs could be delusions may help them recognize the delusions.
The faith addict isn't interested in a cure until he or she dares to consider the possibility that they're clinging to nonsense and finding refuge in foolishness. It isn't until then that the edifice of faith is undermined by doubt and begins to collapse. Faith addiction, like drug addiction, is not perceived as a problem by the addict until its solution is already underway.
When wishful, delusional, magical thinking is supported and encouraged by religious and "spiritual" leaders, religous institutions, and other respectable, licensed con-artists who profit from this human tendency, faith addiction flourishes. The only cure for the disease is doubt, and doubt is impermissable until one realizes that we learn from mistakes, not from taking anyone's word for anything.
Posted by: cc | November 16, 2013 at 02:49 PM
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Posted by: June Schlebusch | November 17, 2013 at 02:02 AM
"...remove the foundation of faith that supports their religiosity."
The foundation of faith is the 'meaning' one finds from their very own life experiences. The only way to remove this would be to end their life - something I would be against, because I have no religious faith nor rabid insanity to justify such an action.
What we experience in life is 'meaning'. We experience the meaning of life events, relationships, the physical world. We experience the meaning of the setting sun melting onto the horizon.
This meaning comes from our beliefs and values - not the physical, external world (external to ourselves). And this meaning, thought to be coming from the physical, external world, creates the illusion that our beliefs and values are real, true, and absolute.
A Christian man watches the setting sun melt onto the horizon and he experiences the awesomeness of his Christian Gods' handiwork. A Muslim man watches the same setting sun and he experiences the majesty of Allah. An atheist sees the same setting sun and is awe inspired by the incredible workings of our physical universe and the process of evolution among life forms.
All three men are NOT experiencing the setting sun. They are experiencing the meaning of the setting sun. And that meaning comes from their beliefs and values.
1. This is why religious beliefs can be so contradictory, convoluted, nonsensical, and even absurd.
2. This is why people of religious faith are able to justify, rationalize, minimize, and even deny what to others, who have no similar beliefs, is obvious.
3. And this is why beliefs are real, true, and absolute to the believer. Does God exist? Yes - within the mind of the believer. Does Santa Clause exist? Yes - within the mind of the child who believes in Santa Clause.
Whether it is a religious person, an abject racist, or a child who believes in Santa Clause, our beliefs appear real to us because we experience meaning in our lives that we think comes from the physical, external world (external to ourselves), but is actually coming from our beliefs.
In addition to this illusion that the meaning of life's events comes from the physical, external world, religious believers also find tangible benefits to their religious beliefs, such as a sense of community, belonging, purpose, validity, uniqueness, etc.
How do you cure an addiction to faith?
You can pray for the believer, light a candle, or sprinkle some holy water on your cat? These would be just as ineffective as using logic, reason, or pounding them over the head with facts.
God will cease to exist for a particular person when that person no longer has beliefs that such a god exists - exactly the same way that Santa Clause ceased to exist for many of us.
Help a religious person to see that the meaning they are experiencing in life is coming from their beliefs, and not the physical, external world, and the foundation holding up their god will begin to crumble.
Posted by: Gene | November 17, 2013 at 10:26 AM
Gene, I like your comment. Nicely said. I've come to feel, as you seem to do also, that often (or usually) we humans get things backward.
We take our inherent subjective consciousness as something objectively real, while failing to understand the ways it is possible to objectively understand the outside world.
So we end up with religious people taking their inward beliefs as being objectively true, while denying facts about the external world: global warming, evolution, effectiveness of vaccines, etc.
Posted by: Brian Hines | November 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM
I asked the same questions. I'm a reasonable person and arrived at the same queries myself. In particular - how are you so sure? Especially about Gurinder. He has no credentials whatsoever for his professed specialization. But I must report that the logic of faith is conveniently circular and self-reinforcing.
For example. 1. How would your belief be proved wrong? "If it could be proved wrong it wouldn't be faith, would it?"
2. How would you distinguish belief from delusion? "I don't have to. I have faith in my Guru. And I don't expect anyone else to share my belief. And those who believe in other gods are also welcome in my cult, so, there's no conflict between my belief and theirs".
Attacking doesn't work. But reasoning doesn't work either. Anything you say can be twisted in religious-speak. And when they're caught, they have the "mysterious ways" escape clause. AND If you're questioning you don't have faith, so obviously nothing makes sense to you.
Can't beat this "logic". Those with blind faith have crossed the line of rationality. They have their own rationality. In their head everything makes sense. They don't need to engage with reason, because they have cleverly-worded deflections.
Posted by: z | December 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Those with blind faith have crossed the line of rationality.
Actually, it's nothing so dramatic or daring as crossing a line. The faithful, impatient with rationality and passionate about sanctimony, piety, and grandiosity, have their undeveloped minds arrested by magical thinking for insufficient critical faculty.
Posted by: cc | December 10, 2014 at 04:01 PM
We're agreeing then. I didn't mean it in a heroic sense at any level. But certainly a threshold (a line up until where you can reason with a person) is crossed by these people. Bringing someone back from there would require a full-scale intervention / years of psychotherapy.
I think we should talk about the reasons why people fall for this kind of brainwashing. Are a certain kind of people more vulnerable? It could be something to do with emotional state, life circumstances, family conditioning, parenting, or something else.
Posted by: z | December 11, 2014 at 11:39 AM