So I have been kindly given this Twitter response from @Selfexaminelife for some of my currently being put together research project on brainwashing views in regard to religion and religious brainwashing.

He was kind enough to take the time and the trouble to do so, while many others would prefer to just stick to repeatedly asking for definitions over and over and tell me I don’t understand things, while not completely grasping what I’m trying to say themselves.

I make some responses below to Alex’s response a section at a time if you just keep scrolling down.

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So “Alex” writes via Twitlonger:

Apologies for this taking as long as it has (I’m preparing to leave the country for five weeks).

“U failed to mention how a belief in a specific religion that has no evidence & makes no sense could be believed rationally.

There’s a bit to unpack here so let’s take it one bit at a time. I imagine we’re going to disagree on a few things, so I’d like to begin with how I conceive of what ‘evidence’ for something is.

For something to count as evidence for X, it has to make it more likely that X is true. This is called the ‘positive account of evidence’. Where a lot of people get tripped up is in the idea that there can’t be evidences for things which aren’t true.

Suppose you and I are standing in a desert 5,000 years ago. As far as the eye can see, the Earth is flat. I climb the highest sand dune I can find, and the Earth still looks flat in every direction either of us looks. You and I have never been more than say, 100km from the spot that we were born. A rational inference we can draw from these experiences is that the Earth is flat. Our observations of the Earth are our evidence, and our evidence indicates that the Earth is flat. We’re wrong – clearly – but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be justified in believing that we’re correct. In fact, we’d be completely unjustified to believe that the Earth wasn’t flat, given how it obviously looks flat and we have no reason to conclude otherwise. If we lived near an ocean and had a tall-masted sailboat, or could climb a tall mountain, then the curvature of the Earth would become obvious and our new evidence would make our belief in a flat Earth unjustified.

So, given this account of evidence, it seems false to me to say that there is “no evidence” for the truth of any particular religion. There’s plenty of evidence. If someone has a personal experience of God, or the stars align and holy scripture makes a claim about the world that turns out to be true, that’s evidence for the truth of that religion. But these evidences have to be weighed not just in favour of the God hypothesis, but in favour of any and every other hypothesis too. And unfortunately for the religious believer it’s pretty crap evidence – but even crap evidence is evidence.

And I’d like to flag that I don’t consider the only possible kind of evidence to be empirical evidence (that which comes from science). Evidence from the logical sphere is just as relevant to whether something exists, given a particular definition of that thing.

“U failed to mention how a [it] could be believed rationally”

I’d like the flag the word ‘rationally’ here. To believe something rationally is just to believe it for a good reason. That is, your belief in X is in some way justified, and not just picked out of thin air, a product of wishful thinking, or based on any other bad reason. But this means that people on opposite sides of an issue can in principle *both be rationally justified in holding contrary beliefs*.
Example: Suppose I’m on a flight that crashes in a dense jungle. As the plane is going down, I am blown out door and by some miracle manage to fall through the canopy and land without a scratch. Meanwhile, the plane crashes 10km away, killing everyone else left on board. Our plane contained no parachutes. Surveyors of the crash would have every reason to believe that I was dead. Yet I – running from jungle cats and swatting giant mosquitos all day long – would have every reason to believe I was still alive. We’re both rationally justified in believing the opposite of one another.

Now you might object here, and say that both parties in the last example don’t have access to the same evidence. That’s true, but it doesn’t undermine the illustrated point. Suppose both parties have access to the same evidence: would they then have to have the same opinion in order to be rationally justified by the evidence? Not necessarily. And the reason why is because of our differing background knowledge (also called our ‘prior assessment’).

Let’s take the mind-body problem as an example. Most naturalists agree that the mind is not a thing in and of itself, but it’s something that a working brain ‘does’. Kind of like how a working GI tract ‘does’ digestion. We’re currently unable to give a naturalistic account of how exactly a brain generates experiences that are perceived ‘from the inside’ by an observer, but we’re confident (well, some are) that there will be an explanation for this in the future.

Notice I said ‘most’ naturalists, and not all. There are some naturalists (people who think the universe is all that there is, and that the supernatural doesn’t exist) who think that an entirely physical account of the mind is impossible. These people go by the name of ‘pan-psychists’. It’s their view that all matter in the universe has two kinds of properties: physical properties (like charge, spin, mass, etc) and mental properties (content, ‘aboutness’, and consciousness). When a sufficiently complex information processing machine evolves, higher level physical phenomena (tissues, organs, and organisms) are created, so too are higher level mental phenomena, like minds. On their view, minds are built out of little atomic ‘mind properties’ of particles in the same way that physical objects are built out of atomic physical properties of particles.

I assume that you are a physicalist – as most atheists are – meaning you think the universe is entirely physical, and there is no ‘mental stuff’ that can’t be reduced to the physical in some way, and certainly no supernatural stuff.

Now here’s the crucial point: pan-psychists and physicalists both have the exact same evidence at their disposal for coming to their conclusions, and both have (what each considers) good arguments in favour of their position being the right one. The only difference between the two is that pan-psychists think it is more reasonable to account for minds by appealing to a new kind of natural property – an atomic mental property – and physicalists think it’s reasonable that we don’t need to appeal to such a thing to explain minds. Now I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of each position and the various arguments for them (look up Frank Jackson’s ‘Mary’s Room’ argument or Chalmers’ ‘philosophical zombie’ argument for the pan-psychists), but neither side of clearly and obviously wrong here. Pan-psychists have just one more entity in their final list of ‘things that exist fundamentally’. Someone might say we should use Occam’s Razor and cut it away, but Occam’s razor doesn’t necessarily apply. It only says to ‘not multiply entities beyond necessity’. But what determines what is necessary here? Maybe mental properties are necessary for explaining minds. I don’t know that they aren’t. We can’t decide that they aren’t ahead of time without begging the question in favour of physicalism. So both sides are seemingly rationally justified in believing that they are correct, on the same evidence. Only the introduction of new evidence has the potential to decide who is right.

So now we can turn to belief in a god. I’m willing to grant you that most religious believers are products of social influence and ‘it’s what my parents taught me was true’. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it brainwashing though, as that term has a lot of emotive baggage attached to it. Furthermore, it’s actually really hard to indoctrinate a child into a belief system that they will be unlikely to leave in the future. To do it properly you have to completely surround them with the same narrative, and keep any alternative narratives away from them for at least their first ten years of life. That’s exceedingly difficult to do without home schooling, and without heavily restricting kids’ access to the Internet. It’s clearly not the case that the majority of religious believers are the product of this kind of upbringing, so it seems to me that ‘brainwashing’ is not just overly emotive, but factually inaccurate.

What about those religious believers who believe they have analysed the arguments for and against the existence of God, and they believe they’ve chosen correctly? As you’ve correctly stated with reference to some popular apologists, often their reasoning is poor, but packaged so well that the average believer (or even an above-average seeker) won’t notice the logical flaws or hidden assumptions. Other times their reasoning can be perfect but start from false or circular premises. Hell, most (atheistic) skeptics aren’t even capable of recognising a valid argument, let alone a sound one, and they’re – allegedly – meant to be the more rational population. Arguments like the Kalam require a lot of knowledge of cutting edge physics to accurately explain why they are wrong, probably too much for the average person to possess unless they go out of their way to learn it.

But that’s the average believer. Let’s take the best case: a university educated believer. Preferably one well versed in philosophy and formal logic. Can this person, let’s call him Dave, rationally believe in a creator god? For my own money, I think the answer is … maybe. Deism is more likely than theism, but even deism is less likely than naturalism purely because naturalism supposes that fewer entities exist (like physicalism against pan-psychism).

Every explanation ends in one of three places: 1) infinite regress, 2) circularity, or 3) brute fact. They’re all shitty places to end up, but they’re all we have. And as far as the creation of the universe goes, I don’t see why a brute fact (god, or Nature) is any more preferable than an infinite regress of causes forever and ever into the infinite past. Without decisive or even suggestive evidence to lean in one of the three directions, which explanation people prefer is going to be a matter of personal preference, and their own psychological history (yes, that includes non-believers too). Personally I think deism is unreasonable because the supernatural seems incoherent to me, and a naturalistic creator doesn’t fit the definition of any god I’d recognise.

To me, the stories of the world religions are too full of inconsistencies and incoherence to stand up on their own. But suppose Dave *did* believe that Christianity spread faster than any other religion in history. And suppose he *did* believe that they had had a personal experience with a divine presence. And suppose he *did* believe he’d found wisdom in holy scripture (while ignoring all the ugly parts). Dave would have prima facie (plausible) reasons to believe Christianity was true (*IF* we supposed all the above was true, or at least ambiguous). Even a well-educated Christian theist like Dave can be completely rational, and yet still be wrong because his premises are false.

But then, so can a well-educated atheist. So we shouldn’t feel too superior.”

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Now I’m not looking to debate Alex here and am without any hostile intent (since he’s one of the few twitter “philosophers” I havent butted heads with and has always been somewhat courteous to me) and am going to show an attempt at showing respect and being nice here.

I will however comment on some of the things he said.

Now I will go over the questions that I posted that Alex was addressing and responding to from my blog here:

https://thebuybulljournal.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/questions/

These questions were:

1) Is religion just brainwashing

2) Why/why not?

3) How can someone become religious other than brainwashing?

4) Explain?
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So let’s just comment on a few points:

1)
Apologies for this taking as long as it has (I’m preparing to leave the country for five weeks).
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– I can relate and am very busy myself and appreciate the fact that he did at least do as he said he would do.
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2)
“U failed to mention how a belief in a specific religion that has no evidence & makes no sense could be believed rationally”

There’s a bit to unpack here so let’s take it one bit at a time. I imagine we’re going to disagree on a few things, so I’d like to begin with how I conceive of what ‘evidence’ for something is.
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I seem to get this a lot from people about “definitions” of terms and though people on twitter keep asking for these definitions they really don’t change what it is that I’m asking for. I’m still asking for the same things.
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3)
For something to count as evidence for X, it has to make it more likely that X is true. This is called the ‘positive account of evidence’. Where a lot of people get tripped up is in the idea that there can’t be evidences for things which aren’t true.
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– Alex has a realy great point here that people generally have the interpretation that things can’t be evidence for things that aren’t true.

– As an Atheist myself I have no belief in gods, but have a firm understanding that no religion is true based on the EVIDENCE against religions.

> Though I’ve studied christianity thoroughly and what I have discovered about islam, there are religions like hindu and various Aboriginal religions I have not, but just seemed to not be taken seriously due to their obvious absurdity.

> I suppose a genuine study of others, besides the ones I’m familiar with are in due time to be studied.
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4)
Suppose you and I are standing in a desert 5,000 years ago. As far as the eye can see, the Earth is flat. I climb the highest sand dune I can find, and the Earth still looks flat in every direction either of us looks. You and I have never been more than say, 100km from the spot that we were born. A rational inference we can draw from these experiences is that the Earth is flat. Our observations of the Earth are our evidence, and our evidence indicates that the Earth is flat. We’re wrong – clearly – but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be justified in believing that we’re correct. In fact, we’d be completely unjustified to believe that the Earth wasn’t flat, given how it obviously looks flat and we have no reason to conclude otherwise. If we lived near an ocean and had a tall-masted sailboat, or could climb a tall mountain, then the curvature of the Earth would become obvious and our new evidence would make our belief in a flat Earth unjustified.
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So let’s examine this for a minute.

a) Having limited knowledge of something is not brainwashing if it’s based on known scientific facts.

b) Being shown evidence the Earth is round is another thing, especially if the person has full access to the information and is not restricted to the access of how that information was aquired.

c) If someone is forcefed something about nature they are NOT mentally restricted to refuse to listen to new evidence, especially if they can find it for themselves.

d) If the people refuse to accept a scientific fact that disproves something else that is science or nature related, that actually could be interpretted as brainwashing.

– Such as the Flat Earth Society.

d) If information is available however, but people refuse to listen, or examine true evidence because they are set in their ways of thinking then you actually could call that “brainwashing”.

– They have been mentally conditioned to think something and the conditioning has gone so deep that their acceptance cannot be changed.

– Would this apply to everyone? No, of course, some people would be able to grasp the truth and accept evidence.

– Those who wouldn’t accept the evidence would be considered “brainwashed” to their old ways.
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5)
So, given this account of evidence, it seems false to me to say that there is “no evidence” for the truth of any particular religion. There’s plenty of evidence. If someone has a personal experience of God, or the stars align and holy scripture makes a claim about the world that turns out to be true, that’s evidence for the truth of that religion. But these evidences have to be weighed not just in favour of the God hypothesis, but in favour of any and every other hypothesis too. And unfortunately for the religious believer it’s pretty crap evidence – but even crap evidence is evidence.
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a) A misinterpretation of science, or nature is not the same as having a delusional belief of a religion that makes no sense and has no evidence.

b) A personal experience of god is not evidence of any kind.

– Especially if they never reveal it to us.

– Especially if it can be simply attributed to chance.

– Especially if there is no way to even prove a personal experience even happened.

– Especially if the individual is in a vulnerable state where anything and everything could be interpretted as a “sign” or personal experience.

c) A belief in “God” is not brainwashing, but a simple opinion and nothing more.

– A specific belief in a religion is brainwashing due to the fact that there is no evidence to religions having any truth.

– A specific belief in a religion is brainwashing because it takes mental conditioning from child indoctrination to force a belief, or to exploit emotionally vulnerable people.

d) To believe crap evidence is “actually evidence” relies on brainwashing too.

– Being brainwashed is what causes the religious victim to think that the crap evidence IS evidence.

– If someone isn’t brainwashed then they will be able to see the rational view that the crap evidence really isn’t evidence of anything.

– Believing crap evidence of a religion, is brainwashing if someone has been conditioned and misled to believe the crap evidence is actually evidence.

e) A celebrity stalker can genuinely believe that the celebrity is telepathically communicating with them.

– This is not evidence that the celebrity was doing so, especially if the celebrity claims to have no knowledge of their stalkers existence and is seriously grossed out and disgusted by the person.
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6)
And I’d like to flag that I don’t consider the only possible kind of evidence to be empirical evidence (that which comes from science). Evidence from the logical sphere is just as relevant to whether something exists, given a particular definition of that thing.
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a) Again if someone simply believes in a god’s existence is not brainwashing, or relevant.

b) There are genuine reasons why to not believe a religion.

c) There is nothing about any religion that has any truth, or makes any sense.

d) To believe the “crap evidence” that really isn’t evidence of anything, takes brainwashing.
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7)
“U failed to mention how a [it] could be believed rationally”

I’d like the flag the word ‘rationally’ here. To believe something rationally is just to believe it for a good reason. That is, your belief in X is in some way justified, and not just picked out of thin air, a product of wishful thinking, or based on any other bad reason. But this means that people on opposite sides of an issue can in principle *both be rationally justified in holding contrary beliefs*.
Example: Suppose I’m on a flight that crashes in a dense jungle. As the plane is going down, I am blown out door and by some miracle manage to fall through the canopy and land without a scratch. Meanwhile, the plane crashes 10km away, killing everyone else left on board. Our plane contained no parachutes. Surveyors of the crash would have every reason to believe that I was dead. Yet I – running from jungle cats and swatting giant mosquitos all day long – would have every reason to believe I was still alive. We’re both rationally justified in believing the opposite of one another.

Now you might object here, and say that both parties in the last example don’t have access to the same evidence. That’s true, but it doesn’t undermine the illustrated point. Suppose both parties have access to the same evidence: would they then have to have the same opinion in order to be rationally justified by the evidence? Not necessarily. And the reason why is because of our differing background knowledge (also called our ‘prior assessment’).
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Right, however there is a big reason why this is not brainwashing as compared to religion.

a) There is nothing unrealistic, or implausible that either side is experiencing.

b) Neither view from either perspective needs faith from a lack of evidence to believe their interpretation of what has happened.

– The evidence of your being alive is real for you.

– Everyone else is aware that the evidence of you being alive is highly unlikely to impossible.

– If they notice your body missing eventually at some point, then they would weigh different possibilities of what happened to it.

– Some of those possibilities would be that you were somehow alive.

c) If the belief was that demons from hell destroyed the plane and took your body to hell, then that would be evidence of brainwashing.

– No evidence of demons from hell attacking planes, taking people to hell, or even existing.

– It would be a belief that was believed by brainwashing from a mental conditioning.
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8)
Let’s take the mind-body problem as an example. Most naturalists agree that the mind is not a thing in and of itself, but it’s something that a working brain ‘does’. Kind of like how a working GI tract ‘does’ digestion. We’re currently unable to give a naturalistic account of how exactly a brain generates experiences that are perceived ‘from the inside’ by an observer, but we’re confident (well, some are) that there will be an explanation for this in the future.

Notice I said ‘most’ naturalists, and not all. There are some naturalists (people who think the universe is all that there is, and that the supernatural doesn’t exist) who think that an entirely physical account of the mind is impossible. These people go by the name of ‘pan-psychists’. It’s their view that all matter in the universe has two kinds of properties: physical properties (like charge, spin, mass, etc) and mental properties (content, ‘aboutness’, and consciousness). When a sufficiently complex information processing machine evolves, higher level physical phenomena (tissues, organs, and organisms) are created, so too are higher level mental phenomena, like minds. On their view, minds are built out of little atomic ‘mind properties’ of particles in the same way that physical objects are built out of atomic physical properties of particles.

I assume that you are a physicalist – as most atheists are – meaning you think the universe is entirely physical, and there is no ‘mental stuff’ that can’t be reduced to the physical in some way, and certainly no supernatural stuff.
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Hmmm Well that isn’t entirely true, but let’s explain my take on things.

a) I have experienced things I cannot explain, but that does not mean that they cannot be explained.

– Giant black snakes in the middle of nowhere (3 times).

– A life after death experience.

– A dream I had where something was predicted and it happened a few days later.

b) I simply see that the universe does not need a god to exist, or have created it, or that there is no evidence for a god and that all evidence points to a god not existing.

c) I was an agnostic for many years simply because I did not know things about the universe.

– I was agnostic because I just knew that all religions were lies because of evidence I seen and the fact that no religion made any sense.

d) There are things I can’t explain, but I at least can give rational possibilities for them.

– The chances of the explanations being right are high, but at least they are plausible.

e) To believe religions that do not involve the plausible or explainable and have no evidence is absolutely brainwashing.

– To reject plausible explanations and substitute them for religious supernatural and implausible ones without evidence is evidence of being brainwashed and nothing else.
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9)
Now here’s the crucial point: pan-psychists and physicalists both have the exact same evidence at their disposal for coming to their conclusions, and both have (what each considers) good arguments in favour of their position being the right one. The only difference between the two is that pan-psychists think it is more reasonable to account for minds by appealing to a new kind of natural property – an atomic mental property – and physicalists think it’s reasonable that we don’t need to appeal to such a thing to explain minds. Now I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of each position and the various arguments for them (look up Frank Jackson’s ‘Mary’s Room’ argument or Chalmers’ ‘philosophical zombie’ argument for the pan-psychists), but neither side of clearly and obviously wrong here. Pan-psychists have just one more entity in their final list of ‘things that exist fundamentally’. Someone might say we should use Occam’s Razor and cut it away, but Occam’s razor doesn’t necessarily apply. It only says to ‘not multiply entities beyond necessity’. But what determines what is necessary here? Maybe mental properties are necessary for explaining minds. I don’t know that they aren’t. We can’t decide that they aren’t ahead of time without begging the question in favour of physicalism. So both sides are seemingly rationally justified in believing that they are correct, on the same evidence. Only the introduction of new evidence has the potential to decide who is right.
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What both pan-phychists and physicalists have in common is that they are giving an opinion on something that can’t be proven, but both have rational reasons to have their opinions.

a) Neither one is brainwashed because there is nothing to disprove what they have interpretted as untrue and they both have rational reasons to believe what they have assessed to be true.

b) A belief in a god ISN’T even irrational, or brainwashing if the person feels that that is the rational reason for creating a universe based on the information they have, which would imply that they do not have all the information.

– A belief in a god is just an opinion and rather harmless, unless it involves a religion, which is brainwashing and harmful in general.

– Religion attempts to piggy-back deism.

c) If a hypothetical god did exist and created the universe there is nothing to suggest it would care about anyone.

– Nothing to suggest that a hypothetical god is truly even omnipotent.

– Nothing to suggest that a hypothetical god even would be aware of our existence.

– Nothing to suggest a hypothetical god would even be immortal, or exist anymore.

– There is evidence that all religions are lies and that the gods mentioned in them would not be the one and only “god” that I am hypothetically referring.
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10)
So now we can turn to belief in a god. I’m willing to grant you that most religious believers are products of social influence and ‘it’s what my parents taught me was true’. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it brainwashing though, as that term has a lot of emotive baggage attached to it. Furthermore, it’s actually really hard to indoctrinate a child into a belief system that they will be unlikely to leave in the future. To do it properly you have to completely surround them with the same narrative, and keep any alternative narratives away from them for at least their first ten years of life. That’s exceedingly difficult to do without home schooling, and without heavily restricting kids’ access to the Internet. It’s clearly not the case that the majority of religious believers are the product of this kind of upbringing, so it seems to me that ‘brainwashing’ is not just overly emotive, but factually inaccurate.
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Ok this is where things got a little way off here and why I felt a response on this blog was definitely necessary.

a) Social influence is brainwashing.

– It’s what brainwashes people to become bigots and homophobes.

– If many people that are socialized with have the same view as each other and the view is false, but strongly believed, then that is definitely brainwashing if those false beliefs are passed on, or enforced in the individuals mind.

b) When Alex says “emotive baggage” is another way of saying my term “brainwashed through being exploited while being in an emotionally vulnerable state”.

c) It isn’t hard to keep someone indoctrinated in system where it is unlikely to leave in the future.

– I really have no idea what justification Alex has in saying this.

– No disrespect Alex but have you seen Islamic countries, or is the media and internet feeding me false information?

– Again, no disrespect but has anyone heard of the biblebelt? (pretty isolated from secular views wouldn’t you say?)

d) Those first ten years of life to mentally enslave them to religion and to teach them to reject conflicting evidence are a piece of cake.

– Why wouldn’t they be?

– Especially easy if they don’t know a single Atheist and don’t hear anything that isn’t media brainwashing from sources like FOX News.

e) The internet is meaningless if they are mentally conditioned to disregard and ignore everything that disproves their religion.

– Also meaningless if they can’t distinguish simple opinion in a god existing, from a religion that has no evidence.

– If they have been mentally conditioned to be psychologically addicted to religions and psychologically incapable of dealing with the truth, then the internet is not going to change their mind.

– If anything the internet will only strengthen their religion by giving them lots of misleading religious websites that they can visit that they will get biased and truth discouraging information from.

f) Again not being disrespectful here but the thought that:

“It’s clearly not the case that the majority of religious believers are the product of this kind of upbringing, so it seems to me that ‘brainwashing’ is not just overly emotive, but factually inaccurate”

…..was a little surprising to read that.

– I can vouch that that is how I was brought up and all my religious friends growing up.

– I did not know a single non-religious person until when I turned 14 and became agnostic and even then that is not until I did research.

– Brainwashing exists Alex and if you don’t believe me then why don’t you do as I have and do some research and see for yourself.

– See what the experts say and then maybe look a little further.

Maybe this might help you get stated:

https://thebuybulljournal.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/brainwashing-and-the-experts/

I put several references in there.

And should you think that religious brainwashing doesn’t exist:

https://thebuybulljournal.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/its-no-conspiracy-theory-religion-is-brainwashing-its-fact/
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11)
What about those religious believers who believe they have analysed the arguments for and against the existence of God, and they believe they’ve chosen correctly? As you’ve correctly stated with reference to some popular apologists, often their reasoning is poor, but packaged so well that the average believer (or even an above-average seeker) won’t notice the logical flaws or hidden assumptions. Other times their reasoning can be perfect but start from false or circular premises. Hell, most (atheistic) skeptics aren’t even capable of recognising a valid argument, let alone a sound one, and they’re – allegedly – meant to be the more rational population. Arguments like the Kalam require a lot of knowledge of cutting edge physics to accurately explain why they are wrong, probably too much for the average person to possess unless they go out of their way to learn it.
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There is much we agree on here:

a) Apologists (like ElijiahT and WLC) really aren’t saying anything.

– They are superimposing an unprovable belief in a god with a religion and nothing else.

– They are lying.

– They are misleading.

– They are telling people what they want to hear and nothing else.

– They are preying (not praying) on people who are emotionally and mentally vulnerable.

b) I agree with what was said about Atheists not knowing arguments.

– I had no idea I was going to be a counter apologist when I came on Twitter.

– I just knew there was no truth to the bible or any religion and that people are brainwashed and were ignoring sound science.

– I didn’t even know what philosophy was and was in disbelief of how religious people use it to deflect, lie, mislead and timewaste.

– It’s a learning experience.

c) It took a while to figure out that deism and religious belief are 2 seperate things and that believers super imposing the 2 in arguments is silly and that they need to prove their religion and why they believe it alone.

d) Religious believers have their whole life to collect arguments to deflect, mislead and lie about.

– Atheists like me who decide to take up counter apologetics way late in life can be completely mind-blown about the ridiculous things that are said by believers and really not prepared.
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12)
But that’s the average believer. Let’s take the best case: a university educated believer. Preferably one well versed in philosophy and formal logic. Can this person, let’s call him Dave, rationally believe in a creator god? For my own money, I think the answer is … maybe. Deism is more likely than theism, but even deism is less likely than naturalism purely because naturalism supposes that fewer entities exist (like physicalism against pan-psychism).
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Well there are several who went to school and became Atheists.

– Bart Ehrman
– Matt Dilahunty
– Hector Avalos

While people like Wiliiam Lane Craig and Gary Habermas who just learned how to deceive people and nothing else.

Since there is no evidence of Jesus and it is taught by the majority of scholars that the gospels really do have no backing of evidence, that lying and misleading people really is all they can learn to do.
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13)
Every explanation ends in one of three places: 1) infinite regress, 2) circularity, or 3) brute fact. They’re all shitty places to end up, but they’re all we have. And as far as the creation of the universe goes, I don’t see why a brute fact (god, or Nature) is any more preferable than an infinite regress of causes forever and ever into the infinite past. Without decisive or even suggestive evidence to lean in one of the three directions, which explanation people prefer is going to be a matter of personal preference, and their own psychological history (yes, that includes non-believers too). Personally I think deism is unreasonable because the supernatural seems incoherent to me, and a naturalistic creator doesn’t fit the definition of any god I’d recognise.
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I don’t particularly care if someone is just a deist, though I completely don’t agree with it.

– Religion takes mental conditioning from child indoctrination, or being caught in an emotionally vulnerable state.

– Religion is brainwashing due to a belief in non-existent and false facts that take mental manipulation to be believed.
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14)
To me, the stories of the world religions are too full of inconsistencies and incoherence to stand up on their own. But suppose Dave *did* believe that Christianity spread faster than any other religion in history. And suppose he *did* believe that they had had a personal experience with a divine presence. And suppose he *did* believe he’d found wisdom in holy scripture (while ignoring all the ugly parts). Dave would have prima facie (plausible) reasons to believe Christianity was true (*IF* we supposed all the above was true, or at least ambiguous). Even a well-educated Christian theist like Dave can be completely rational, and yet still be wrong because his premises are false.
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What exactly would be rational?

a) His brainwashing is what would cause Dave to ignore the explanations and counters to everything.

– Constantine and Eusebius are responsible for the spread of christianity so fast.

b) His brainwashing would be what deluded him to believe he had a personal experience.

– Aswell as what would cause him to reject plausible explanations.

– Aswell as what would cause him to interpret anything and everything as “a personal experience”.

c) His brainwashing would cause him to tell people things are evidence that he knows non-believers would not count as evidence but he will tell them it is anyway.

d) If he was unable to see the bad parts in the bible and only seen the good then that actually is evidence of brainwashing.

– Similar to how the Manson family only seen the good in murdering the 2 families and not the bad.

e) There’s nothing rational about being brainwashed to religion.

– You need to be brainwashed to justify any factor in believing.

– People can not be religious unless they have been brainwashed to religion.

– If religious people weren’t brainwashed then religion would not exist.

f) To think that someone wasn’t brainwashed because they came to a rationalization and became an Atheist is ridiculous.

– They were once brainwashed to religion but were one of the lucky ones to escape it.
.
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15)
But then, so can a well-educated atheist. So we shouldn’t feel too superior.
——————

Maybe not superior, but we can feel lucky.

I’m lucky to not be the slave of a lie anymore and lucky to not be the slave of a lie for over 30 years.

I’m lucky to not be infecting others and lucky to not be destroying the world and not realizing it.

I’m lucky to not be in a country where I am put to death for being an Atheist.
———————-

Anyways Alex, I wanted to thank you for your words, they were really appreciated and you spoke exactly what was on your mind and I found the feedback valuable for my project.

You have been more helpful than anyone thus far with getting simple little answers and you didn’t constantly waste my time with asking me for painfully obvious definitions over and over.

Please feel free to do a follow up to this. I would like that a lot and it has been a refreshing pleasure dealing with someone who wasn’t condescending and for once was just straight forward.

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