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London Atheist Activist Group (informal community) Message Board 1. MAIN FORUM - (non-Islam) › Religious people's Achilles Heel?

Religious people's Achilles Heel?

Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 310
Is there such a thing as an Achilles Heel for religious people in order to plant the seeds of doubt obviously with the objective that they become atheists?

For people like me who grew up atheists it's hard to know what might be worth trying. I was going to ask this question of Dan Barker but someone else asked him a question in which his reply included that he thought it was different for everyone. But there must be some common themes that tend to work more than others, or are at any rate worth a try. Come on ex-believers - throw us a bone here! We need suggestions...
London, GB
Post #: 6
My moment of an enlightenment suddenly realised it didn't make sense. And now I just share the love by pointing out the mass illogicalness of it all. Ie where did Cane and Abel's children come from? Dinosaurs? Earthquakes - are they God's wrath or just poor structural design on his part, and can we claim on the extended warranty?
Guildford, GB
Post #: 370
I can't say that they do have an Achilles heel as such. They use circular reasoning and glib statements like 'Science doesn't know everything' and 'Life is more complex than we can ever know.'

I suggest not getting sucked into discussing the Bible or specific teachings. They'll only bash you over the head with their beliefs - even if you're an expert and you're right, it won't necessarily help. It may help in some circumstances, but not always.

Next time I speak to one I hope to show god as they describe him/it, is an alien being that they're praising (he has to be doesn't he?) and that prayer is an attempt at one-way telepathy. They may not be enough but I'm hoping they'll cause the infected to think just a little more about the subject.
Alex D
London, GB
Post #: 193
I'd have to agree I think it's probably highly personal. For me it was gradual, but I think if someone had pointed out all the contradictions, absurdities, immoralities and logical impossibilities in the book and the lies used by those promoting it this would have likely greatly speeded up the process. But then I seem to care about that sort of thing a lot more than most people; I'm seeking truth, not reassurance.
Alex D
London, GB
Post #: 195
I'm very much in favour of tactics being informed by research rather than by anecdotal evidence, and on that note here's a Scientific American report of a recent study suggesting that we have two thought modes - intuitive versus rational - and that encouraging the former promotes religious belief whereas encouraging the latter discourages it. And that this can be achieved as simply as by getting people to think about thinking (eg. by showing them a picture of Rodin's statue 'the thinker'), or to make people slow down and take more time to think about their decisions (eg. by writing questions in a hard-to-read script to force people to spend more time before answering).

(I was reminded of this study today by a Facebook post of a religious relative warning of 'the cancer risk from WiFi' and pointing to a shoddy documentary as evidence - one relying on a few dozen cherry-picked case studies whilst ignoring the huge amount of peer-reviewed scientific counter-evidence. Aptly demonstrated the intuitive rather than rational thinking style which led to her being converted recently.)

So this research would suggest that comedy sketches, leaflets etc should be written with these lessons in mind - and that quite lateral/subliminal touches can help.
Guildford, GB
Post #: 371
Brilliant! A rational process to handling the problem. I shall read the article.
Guildford, GB
Post #: 372
Did you read the comments at the bottom of the page?
...A God is a God is a God. You don't have to claim a religion to hold faith in one.
...the vast majority of the world's finest critical thinkers were also profoundly religious, or at least deists. I believe I can say that without contradiction about the present as well.
... science isn't the only tool through which to understand reality. to claim it is is the philosophical bias of positivism.
How else does one understand reality - if not through the scientific process? Guesswork?

Oh dear.
Alex D
London, GB
Post #: 196
Deeply depressing comments; I had to stop reading. (And from readers of a science magazine!) Reasoning with such people seems to be a waste of time & effort; need to try to invent some sort of device which can hit people with a stick over the internet.
user 53882812
London, GB
Post #: 86
Wow! This thread is provoking many thought processes in my head. (Well, where else, I guess), and I'm finding them difficult to organize, so I'm just going to spew them out randomly and hope they make some sort of sense. Here goes!

As someone who was doubting by the age of 7, and identifying as an atheist by 10, it's questionable whether I even count as an ex-believer. Richard Dawkins certainly doesn't think so. I can hear his voice telling me off right now: "You weren't a xtian, Rose, you were a child of xtian parents!!! (Well, one xtian parent, anyways.) But I did sincerely believe, so I'm going to share what changed my mind, for whatever it may be worth.

I don't think my xtianity was ever particularly strong - it certainly wasn't "faith". I remember sitting in school (yes, I went to a xtian school), listening to stories about Noah's Ark and The Garden of Eden, and believing them, but also hearing a little tiny voice in the back of my mind saying "Really? Are you sure???" But then again, this may be my 27-year-old self projecting onto my 5-year-old self.

The first seed of doubt that was unmistakably a seed of doubt was planted by my dad when I was 7, when he taught me the Big Bang Theory. At this point, I experienced a primal lurching of my psyche to one side, as if I was on a derailing train. It was a feeling I've experienced several times since - like when I used to believe in the Moon landing conspiracy theory, and then I found out that the flag was fluttering because of the torsion in the flagpole. It was the turning on in my head of a voice that said: "Oh shit - maybe... maybe this idea that I've invested so much in... maybe it's wrong!" And it was at this point that I demonstrated the fundamental difference between myself and a believer: A moderate xtian would have mentally plastered over the obvious contradiction between science and The Bible; A creationist would have used the contradiction as a reason to reject scientific truth and bolster their faith; Not me - I had caught the science bug!

So then I began consuming episodes of Horizon and Equinox with what looked like the intellectual equivalent of an eating disorder. For many years, these shows were the only adult TV I watched. Their explanations of how the scientific method worked and the wonderous truths it had uncovered were spellbinding. Just three years later, my xtianity - such as I ever had any to begin with - had evaporated. Looking back, I think that my deconversion took place so early and with such ease that I must have been mentally primed to be an atheist right from the womb, which brings me to thinking styles 1 and 2.

For many years, I wondered if my autism had something to do with it. Autistic people tend to make better logical / critical thinkers, and tend also to have a more intuitive grasp of physics - both of which help to make atheists - and indeed there is a higher rate of atheism in the autistic community than in the general population. Having hung out in the autistic community a little bit, I have found that many of us are atheists, and those who aren't are usually not allied to an organized religion. Regardless, autistic people are almost always keen to think deeply about stuff, and not use short cuts in thinking (although obviously this is anecdotal.)

However, in my circle of autistic friends, there is one glaring exception to the rule: His name is Ben. Over the four-and-a-half years I've known him, I've heard the greatest hits of sloppy thinking come out of his mouth, including "Science isn't always right, you know.", "If we evolved from apes, why are they still apes?", and "Sometimes, you've just gotta have faith." I'm sure the explanation for why he thinks (or fails to think) like this is complex, but I can't help noticing that he has a highly impulsive personality, is much more interested in talking than listening, and doesn't have much patience when it comes to discussing things. I can't help wondering if there's a connection there.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have me. I once took an IQ test where the score was broken down into 4 areas. My percentile scores for the 4 areas were something like 97, 98, 99, and 20. The 20 was for "mental processing speed". In plain language, I'm very smart, but very slow. I think these are the ideal conditions for promoting thinking style 2: My slow brain forces me to take my time coming up with answers to things, and then my intelligence steps in and helps me come up with good answers (or I like to think it does, anyway.)

Some general points about thinking style 1: There are some really poisonous memes out there that promote it. We are encouraged to feel that it is "rude" to challenge others' opinions, and that all ideas are equally valid. What's more, if you have ideas that you've spent time arriving at, and that are informed by knowledge (especially scientific knowledge), you are snidely branded a "nerd". It hurts to admit it, but we're living in a very anti-intellectual society right now. Possibly the most benevolent meme we can spread to counter this is the idea that opinions are a privilege, not a right. If you are interested in having opinions about stuff, you've got to make the effort to have opinions that are worth listening to, otherwise, we won't.

Barry R.
user 10723166
London, GB
Post #: 474
Very interesting to learn that you are autistic, Rose.

My oldest son (33) has Asperger's syndrome and my youngest (21) has quite severe autism.

My youngest was (finally) diagnosed at the age of ten. He was unable to continue in main-stream school and we had to find a specialist school for him. The National Autistic Society helped us get him into one of the best special need schools for miles. But there was a problem. The school was founded and staffed by deeply committed catholics. There were even priests and nuns teaching there. The whole thing was hugely religious. We had some serious thinking to do. It was a condition of acceptance that my son would be taught the catholic faith!!

My wife and I agonised over what to do. In the end, we decided that my son's autism was so bad that 'religion' would go completely over his head; we reasoned that he'd never come close to 'understanding' wtf they were blabbering about. Fortunately, we were right. He finished there when he was 16 much better educated, better adjusted (as a person) and none the worse for his six years surrounded by crucifixes.

In a nutshell, Rose, I'm inclined to agree with your thoughts on 'types' of mentalities which do and don't succumb to religious ideas.

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