I'm not sure "brainwashed" is the right word to use. Even a quick glance at dictionary.com reveals that the word refers to forcibly causing someone to change their beliefs. I suppose that could be gerrymandered into saying something about teaching children a particular worldview, but I think that would be more than a little bit of a stretch.
True but uninteresting until you go somewhere with it.In particular, you have to claim that there's some unique thing about your position.I think, there is. For instance, we can combine the brainwashing argument with the outsider test of faith, to say, "Can any theist really trust their specific religious revelations, when we know that so many others are wrong?"Where do you see the brainwashing argument as leading?
Matt, words change to reflect how people use them. This is the best word I know of to describe the phenomena I'm talking about. It describes detrimental mind control. And even if some believers do not think it applies to their own religion they think it does apply to others.
The term brainwashed implies the "cult" connotation. I think many deconverts come to see most or even all religions as being very cult-like, thus maybe the term brainwashing is appropriate. However, I personally would have not identified with the significance of the term when I was a Christian, nor would it have caused me to be more reflective. On the other hand, I understand the use of it now!
Richard, brainwashed people need de-programmed but not in a clinical sense against their own free will, or anything like that. I call it debunking. And yes, the OTF can help to do that, as can the DC Challenge. Think of it this way. We're told that an alcoholic must first recognize that he has a problem, namely, that he's an alcoholic. I want believers to know they have a problem too. It's shocking to hear that they might be one of the brainwashed, but like a good doctor with healing advice they need to consider it. And we need to tell them so they can consider it. If we don't, who will?
Brainwashed people don't realise they're brainwashed? In which case, how do you know that you haven't been brainwashed by atheist propaganda and just don't realise it?However you answer my question, I could just reply “well you’ve been brainwashed into thinking you haven’t been brainwashed.”
Even the Christian God couldn't know for sure He wasn't brainwashed by an even more powerful god who created Him and gave Him the illusion that he is all-powerful, omniscient, etc.
The Christian God is, by definition, all powerful. Therefore it would be logically incoherent for there to be a more powerful being - you can't be more powerful than being all powerful!As soon as you try arguing that we should be sceptical of everything (i.e. who can know if they've been brainwashed) then why shouldn't I be sceptical of everything you say, including your last comment?
I think maybe "programmed" or "influenced" are better words than "brainwashed". Some preachers make use of hypnosis techniques in their sermons. e.g Use of Latin by priests that most people do not understand, use of boring repetitive phrases, cadence and tone. I wonder if that is why so many of the congregation nearly fall asleep?
To the topic of the thread, I would agree completely that brainwashed people don't realize they are brainwashed.I would point out that children raised in a household where they are told to believe in God and say Grace at meals and love Him, etc. are being brainwashed.I would also point out that children in atheist households where they are told to NOT believe in any sort of a god whatsoever are being brainwashed.Neither kid realizes that they're brainwashed.Raising a child to critically question ALL claims, whether it be "Christianity is true" or "Atheism is true" is the antidote to all this brainwashing. Teach children specifically about what it means to be brainwashed so they are armed with the tools to evaluate claims.A book like "Parenting Beyond Belief" would be helpful in this case. The author is an atheist, but in one instance told his daughter to ask her grandma about her belief in Jesus. He taught her to always keep an open mind--maybe she will want to believe in Jesus for her own reasons--but then maybe someday she return to atheism. The key is to keep the open mind and continuously rate the evidence.
Richard, brainwashed people need de-programmed but not in a clinical sense against their own free will, or anything like that. I call it debunking. And yes, the OTF can help to do that, as can the DC Challenge.I agree that people's beliefs are influenced by their cultural context. And, culture is powerful enough that we often can't see the ways in which it has influenced us. So people have blind spots.You're calling this 'brainwashing'. Personally, I see think that's a reach, but you can use special definitions if you like.The problem is when you assume that people 'need' to be de-programmed.You want religious people to de-convert. I want religious people to de-convert. But, the religious people can always respond, "why do I have to do anything?"I think this is where your challenge is becoming problematic. It's clear that you want theists to read those books. But, you haven't established why they should want to spend their time reading those books (as opposed to all the other things they could be doing).I might propose maintaining a list of people who've completed the challenge. Perhaps link to their blogs. That way, they at least gain some bragging rights.I would also suggest that you drop the 'brainwashing' language. You are an educated counter-apologist. So, your audience is agnostics and doubting theists.Using language like this makes you arguments one step further removed from your audience. Now they need to learn your personal definitions and consider whatever argument your presenting. This will lose people.Further, the extreme connotation makes you seem more fringe. When I see someone referring to taxation as 'theft', I start to lose interest and often stop reading. That language is the sign of a branch of thinking that does not interest me.If you were PZ (whose goal seems to be rallying the troops) then my advice might be different. The extreme connotations would bolster his message, even while they would erode yours.
Regardless of what term is used, "brainwashed," "programed," or some other term, the best policy, with respect to teaching children religion, is to ensure that they realize that there is a vast difference between a fact like George Washington was our first President and "facts" like there is a God and he has a son named Jesus. Make sure that they understand that the latter are merely opinions, even though various adult authority figures will usually present them as facts, and that they are free to reach their own conclusions when they are older.
I actually thought this was one of the strongest parts of your introductory remarks. It's at the heart of your OTF. I guess that those who heard the debate didn't like your delivery of the concept, but that's separate from its utility in these discussions. I think it's a position of strength, perhaps the greatest, of the atheist; atheists can, at any time, cheerfully consider that we have been brainwashed, because for most of us there's not much investment in our disbelief. The believer enters this thought aware that if it leads to a reconsideration, she has a lot of explaining to do, to herself, to her family, her friends, etc. Unfortunately, I believe that "deprogramming" has a bad track record, largely because of the excesses and brutality of those who have tried to promote it. Still, I think your OTF, and probably a version that you may further develop, is one of the most exciting avenues in atheism.
John, I think the use of the term "brainwashed" is really counterproductive to a meaningful conversation about this concept. By your usage of the term, all kids everywhere are brainwashed about everything. In fact, they are taught a set of beliefs and behaviors by the adults in their lives. That's not brainwashing, that's parenting. You are redefining the common and historical use of that term to try and prove a point. You are attempting to brainwash your audience relative to the use of the term "brainwashing." :-)
I think a better term would be socialization. Most people who are believers start to believe in something at an early age. Most of the time it is necessary in order to fit in with family and society. For many the term brainwashing just does not apply in context of common perception of the term. When one thinks of brainwashing the reason it is so vile is that it is the forced change of currently held beliefs. Most of the time that is not the case for believers. They are taught at a very early age what it takes to fit in among others and unconsciously apply that.Now I would agree that you could make a case for adults who are "reborn" or whatever you want to call it, but the question of socialization still remains. Is brainwashing made possible because of socialization? I think it could be the case. I do think though that you are taking people's objections out of context. We could argue semantics all day and still not get to the root of most people's objection. You stated in one of your posts that you were not speaking to atheists. You directed your message to believers or those on the fence. However you did not tailor your message to fit them. Your message was(regardless of your intentions) geared toward atheists. You cannot insult an entire group and expect them to respect anything you say. You asked for criticisms and some have given them. I wonder if you are capable of addressing them instead of cherry-picking certain lines. That is all you have done so far. You have not addressed anything.
John, until you demonstrate that you are not victim of this same phenomena you have not shown anything. And you haven't, in fact, demonstrated this anywhere on your blog or in your book. The reason you haven't demonstrated this is because you can't - it's a self-defeating argument.
Incompetent people do not know they are incompetent.Delusional people do not know they are delusional.So why would brainwashed people know that they are brainwashed?
Michael,The Christian God is, by definition, all powerful. Therefore it would be logically incoherent for there to be a more powerful being - you can't be more powerful than being all powerful!If I define myself as all-powerful does that make me all-powerful?How does defining God as all-powerful ACTUALLY make Him all-powerful?Come on, use your head on this one. Your succumbing to lazy Christian thinking on this issue--"That which I define actually exists that way.""God must exist because I define Him with the property of existence. There can't be a more powerful God, because I've defined this other god out of the picture.""Yaaaaaaaay, I win!"You're not brainwashed--are you? ;-)
C.T.,I see your comment as a bit of a hit-and-run. Why is it "self-defeating?"To the best of my knowledge, I believe I am not brainwashed because I CONSTANTLY play devils advocate when I'm discussing politics, environment, government, environment, etc.I'm an atheist because I played devil's advocate for years before settling on my current belief. Brainwashing is being taught a position dogmatically and internalizing that position--to the exclusion of other points of view. John has gone from a very Christian point-of-view and worked himself out of that position to another position.I would argue that is the very defining principle of deprogramming yourself from a brainwashed state. John wasn't "love-bombed" by some atheist cult.
John, you argue for rationality and evidence, but have you done any research into brainwashing? I did a quick Google search and found out a few things which suggest your arguments are not evidence-based.For example, Wikipedia gives some useful background, including the work of Lifton and Schein on prisoners of war subjected to brainwashing (and even then the legal system found them able to withstand the pressures). The experts seem to be saying that there are genuinely coercive mind control techniques used by some cults, but that most religions are no more coercive than other aspects of life (e.g. maybe advertising or peer pressure). Wikipedia says that the experts "have argued and established to the satisfaction of courts, of relevant professional associations and of scientific communities that there exists no scientific theory, generally accepted and based upon methodologically sound research, that supports the brainwashing theories as advanced by the anti-cult movement"As one source summarises: "Lifton and Schein concluded that 'coercive persuasion in a strong and unequivocal sense cannot be distinguished from mainstream religions and other conventional social influences by any criterion other than the presence of incarceration and physical maltreatment' (Amicus Brief 19, 21). In other words, if someone is free to leave a group and is not physically coerced into submission, then the conditions are not distinguishable from mainstream life, and therefore cannot be classed as brainwashing."If you haven't done extensive research (more than my brief foray) then you reveal yourself (yet again in my jaundiced view) to be someone yourself driven more by emotion and wish fulfillment than by evidence.So can you please outline your research so we can judge for ourselves the basis of your claims?
I agree with Wes, I like the term socialization. It is more accurate and not offensive. I also think it better aligns with your OTF. We can all relate to being socialized one way but choosing to reject some small aspect of our upbringing after reflection. Therefore, we can consider the possibility that we need to reject another aspect of socialization. However, not many of us can relate to being brainwashed, we see that connected with malevolent cults. I am a Christian who watched the debate and I have read your book and blog. I immediately resonated with your OTF when I read about it. Because I knew about it, I understood what you meant by using the term "brainwashing" and was not offended. I do see it as one of your strongest arguments. However, I cringed when you used the word because I felt it would turn off the audience. I doubt I would have been so open to your OTF if you had written about it in more provocative language.
How does defining God as all-powerful ACTUALLY make Him all-powerful?Where did I say that defining God as all-powerful makes him all powerful? All I was doing was responding to an argument which you had previously made, I wasn’t offering a proof for God!Anything that isn’t all-powerful is, by definition, not the Christian God. In other words we have two options: an all-powerful God exists (in which case it is logically impossible for God to be brainwashed) or God does not exist. The third option which you suggested in an earlier post (of a brainwashed all-powerful God) is logically incoherent.You're not brainwashed--are you? ;-)So if somebody dares to disagree or respond to an atheist they are, de facto, brainwashed? This is the problem with John’s argument: where’s his evidence that Dinesh d'souza hasn’t thought about these issues as much as he has? Where’s his evidence that Dinesh d'souza hasn’t read books from both sides of the debate? I’ll just turn the tables around and suggest that you must be brainwashed by years of reading this blog. As you can see, acusing each other of being brainwashed proves nothing.
Michael,O.K. I think we have subtle differences in meaning here that are causing the problem. Believe me, I had to think about this for awhile to see where we are talking past each other . . . the difference is "being" and "knowing."My original point was "Even the Christian God couldn't KNOW for sure He wasn't brainwashed by an even more powerful god . . ."Let me replace "Christian God" with your definition of a Christian God:"Even an all-powerful God (the Christian God) couldn't KNOW for sure He wasn't brainwashed by an even more powerful god . . .So, in a sense, I was agreeing with your sense of the Christian God in my original post. That's why your retort of:The Christian God is, by definition, all powerful. Therefore it would be logically incoherent for there to be a more powerful being - you can't be more powerful than being all powerful!made me go, "Huh? What does that have to do with it? Michael must think that by defining the Christian God as all-powerful, that God is ACTUALLY all-powerful, and that, therefore, he would be immune to wondering if there were some even more-powerful god.You stated:we have two options: an all-powerful God exists (in which case it is logically impossible for God to be brainwashed) or God does not exist. The third option which you suggested in an earlier post (of a brainwashed all-powerful God) is logically incoherent.I agree that it is logically impossible for the Christian conception of God to be brainwashed. But I didn't claim otherwise. My claim was that it would be impossible for even the Christian conception of God to KNOW that he is not brainwashed--and defining Him as all-powerful doesn't help in the slightest (in my opinion). Defining the Christian God as All-Knowing doesn't help in the slightest, either (in my opinion).Heck, any actual, all-powerful god wouldn't be able to actually KNOW for sure that he is all-powerful. How does he know that he has not been created "thinking and believing" that he is all-powerful? Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing "thinking and believing" too much, but it's really all we can do.Can the Christian God make a rock so big that he can't lift it? Can he make "A" and "not A" the same thing? As I understand it, even theologians say, "No God can't do logically impossible things." How do we know for sure that there isn't some greater God that CAN do these things, but that the Christian God can't because of his limited nature?Maybe you have some thoughts on this.I think KNOWING everything is logically impossible. Defining God as All-Knowing doesn't even help because it's just a word exercise.So you'll also understand that the third option you mention in the above paragraph doesn't map to my position either, because it regards "actually being brainwashed" as opposed to my point of "knowing that you're not brainwashed."Sorry if I got your dander up--that's why I added the emoticon. This is kind of a complex problem. The philosophy of BEING and the philosophy of KNOWING.Time to hit the gym . . .
Could those who are hopelessly dogmatic be considered brainwashed? I offer a resounding "Absolutely!" as my answer.However, I think the term that perhaps best describes such people is "slave". Just as those who are brainwashed that have no idea they've been brainwashed, the truest example of a slave is one who is imprisoned, yet without bars or chains around their ankles. It wasn't until I shed off the chains of Christian tyranny that I realized I was a slave for 20 years, owned by a god who never existed.
Can one be brainwashed to believe "Brainwashed people do not know they are brainwashed"?If yes, then the statement is self-refuting.If not, then people can know whether they are brainwashed or not!
brainwashing per Merriam-Webster:1 : a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas2 : persuasion by propaganda or salesmanshipTaking a look at these definitions, one is of the specific and common perspective of it being a tool of despotic regimes and such to force their ideology on dissidents. The other is the more broad perspective that could apply to all sorts of things, even Christians accusing atheists of being brainwashed to believe there is no god. This second definition is almost inherently hyperbolic as it alludes to the very negative perspective of the first in describing fairly common persuasion.I think it could be argued that the threat of hell could make an accusation of brainwashing, if explained appropriately, a fairly reasonable debate topic under the first definition. Using it in the second, without appropriate explanation, will come off as hyperbolic. With or without appropriate explanation is a poor tactic in a debate because it could so easily be turned against the person using it.Using the term in either sense to simply attack Christians is ultimately a poor tactic regardless though. In spite of your claims that it will somehow shock a believer into listening and considering your arguments seriously, it puts your audience on the defensive from you. Knocking your debate opponent down a peg is certainly a part of an effective debate strategy, but doing so in a way that insults those you're trying to persuade simultaneously isn't something you'll find suggested in any recommended debate tactics in classes on the subject. You will almost certainly find warnings against insulting your audience's intelligence, however, and that is exactly what you did to those Christians out there in the audience you claim you were trying to reach.The traumatizing methods used to get children to avoid doubt and fear divergence from a religion should certainly be criticized harshly. But one can do this without insulting those who may recognize how messed up their parents doing this to them was. Attack the brainwashing, not the brainwashed (to put a spin on their sin/sinner line).
unkle e said... "but that most religions are no more coercive than other aspects of life (e.g. maybe advertising or peer pressure)." "(Amicus Brief 19, 21). In other words, if someone is free to leave a group and is not physically coerced into submission, then the conditions are not distinguishable from mainstream life, and therefore cannot be classed as brainwashing."Id like to know what could honestly be thought more physically coercive! and demanding of submission!, than suggestions of hell and damanation and a eternity spent in torment,unkle e?Do you really suggest our average advertising or peer pressure etc,actually honestly suggests eternal damnation in hellfire for those who refuse to submit?.Im very sure faithful folks etc, should have jolly good reason to find the word "brainwash" slightly appalling and distasteful ....But in my opinion that dont do anything much to prove its simply completely wrong.Fear of being fat and unacceptable to humanity is the coercive method what often brainwashes peoples minds into feeling a need not to eat,which then causes anorexia.There is a very big difference between being taught something or being suggested to buy something through suggestion,and having something suggested with elements of fear factor in tow with the suggestion, which then is also purposely about forcing submission!.unkle e said... "In other words, if someone is free to leave a group and is not physically coerced into submission"Yeah well (when i choose to be free) to leave faith unkle e,does faith (free me of all threats of hell?)Or is it a matter the idea of hell is actually trying to brainwash me, by being (physically coerced) into submission,just (incase i will end up burning !?)Words used that may sound a little appalling and distasteful ,still can sometimes be quite honest!.Sometimes complete honesty just isnt such a very easy matter for everyone to face.
Gandolf said: "Id like to know what could honestly be thought more physically coercive! and demanding of submission!, than suggestions of hell and damanation and a eternity spent in torment,unkle e?"G'day Gandolf, you are obviously a bit stirred up over this, I'm not sure why. If you are sure christianity is wrong, then the threat of hell is an evil imagining with absolutely no coercive power; and if you are not sure that christianity is wrong, then you have many more motivations to reconsider than this threat.My only other comment is that I don't think the Bible teaches everlasting torment. The main teachings on hell come from Jesus and he said the thing to fear was judgment in the age to come (that is the correct translation of "eternal") and destruction, or loss of life. Pretty much what atheists believe will happen under their view of the world anyway.So I suggest you can breathe easier and worry about the truth, not fear. There are plenty of good reasons to believe, if you are willing to look. Hope that helps. Best wishes.
There are plenty of good reasons to believe, if you are willing to look. Now that is pure condescending garbage.We've all looked, there is no man behind the curtain.I had the Jehovah's Witness neighborhood evangelists stop by today. I invited them in.After about 5 minutes of me destroying their arguments (they weren't even wrong!) Bob decides he's had it and leaves telling me I'm just whitewashing everything. All I did was point out scientific inaccuracies in the Bible quotes they were spouting. They argued like 5th graders and then basically accused me of the same thing you just stated--"I'm not willing to really look." What a joke! I laughed, of course. Not really at them in a mean way--more like "Holy Shit! I can't believe Christians can defend their faith so poorly and then accuse ME of not looking at the evidence."Just . . . wow!
"G'day Gandolf, you are obviously a bit stirred up over this, I'm not sure why. If you are sure christianity is wrong, then the threat of hell is an evil imagining with absolutely no coercive power; and if you are not sure that christianity is wrong, then you have many more motivations to reconsider than this threat."G'day Unkle e,yes i do tend to get a little stirred up over this stuff.Just so long as you know its meant as nothing personal against people such as yourself.You seem to be suggesting here that if something is wrong and only about matters of imagination,that would then suggest we should lack reason for need to be worried and stirred up about it.Its wrong that we should have need of our kids being fearful of being fat with thoughts of that making them feel totally unaceptable to society,which causes a number to take on the desease of anorexia.Should we just forget it? ..Not even give it a thought? ...Not got reason to be stirred up a little about the problem?See you are missing the point.You are not fully understanding or realizing how "brainwashing" actually works.What you said is kinda like saying..Look m8 if you really feel its not such a problem to be fat,then you have absolutely no good reason you should ever be worring about it.Thats not how it works.Brainwashing is known as brainwashing because thats what it actually does.We happen to know its stupid to think we will be unaceptable to the whole of society if your to fat,but yet many people still become brainwashed into believing it.And it happens because these beliefs are promoted by certain groups of people.Unkle e..."My only other comment is that I don't think the Bible teaches everlasting torment. The main teachings on hell come from Jesus"Hey thanks Unkle first id like to say,honestly! thoughts of hell dont worry me personally so much these days.Thats not what concerns me so much at all,what concerns me is in honest keeping with the golden rule,that my concern should also be concerning the considderation of (all other humans being faithfully abused also).Its not right that i should just considder only what effect me!,like you seemed to suggest? when you wonder what reason i have to be a little stirred up.I have felt the detrementle abusive effects of hell threats,so in honest! keeping with the golden rule its only right that im stirred up because i know it also is still detrementally still effecting others also.I do understand there is differing translations,but this doesnt do much fix this problem that still exists.
"My only other comment is that I don't think the Bible teaches everlasting torment."Whatever you don't think is irrelevant. Most of us, if not all, have been threatened with eternal damnation by christians who are quite sure in spite of your view that there is biblical support for the concept in the bible. I, as with most of us, were psychologically abused by relatives who used that threat to keep us scared to death of doubts and divergence. Long after my first doubts on my indoctrinated religion I struggled with that psychological trauma. It took years to get past.Your dismissal of that is neither compelling nor relevant. Just because I don't believe anymore does not undo all those years of suffering nor let the abusers off the hook for their tormenting of children."There are plenty of good reasons to believe, if you are willing to look."[rant]This is utter nonsense and one of the lamest cop outs that anyone can ever pull in an argument. Just because you can't defend your argument doesn't make us blind, intentionally or otherwise.I, as with many atheists, are former believers. This is a blog of a former preacher for crying out loud. Our lack of faith wasn't for a lack of never looking. It's due to the fact that the feelings and emotions and arguments we used to confuse for valid evidence fell apart with more compelling explanations, better arguments, and actual evidence.How dare you presume to tell us we're somehow being lazy or not bothering to look after many of us struggled with your religion's psychological torment and struggling with the ramifications of it being wrong after being indoctrinated in your fairy tales since before we even had a chance to choose for ourselves with more developed minds.If you're ever confused about why atheists can come off so angry, these issues especially are a very good place to start. You make it sound like we just never took the time to notice 'the good news' and dismiss the responsibility of our tormentors. You might as well go around telling rape victims, "It was your own dumb fault!"Shame on you.[/rant]
"Brainwashed people do not know they are brainwashed."I disagree. Everyone knows they are brainwashed. Just until it matters to them or until they find a reason to admit it, they suppress that sneaking suspicion.
uncle e,I think your position on religion having brainwashing tendencies is provisionally O.K. if we are talking about free-thinking adults who have reached some reasonable "age of reason."I think it's different with children who are the main target of religious indoctrination.You mentioned Lifton. I found these criteria (http://health.howstuffworks.com/brainwashing1.htm):Lifton ultimately defined a set of steps involved in the brainwashing cases he studied: 1. Assault on identity 2. Guilt 3. Self-betrayal 4. Breaking point 5. Leniency 6. Compulsion to confess 7. Channeling of guilt 8. Releasing of guilt 9. Progress and harmony 10. Final confession and rebirth Each of these stages takes place in an environment of isolation, meaning all "normal" social reference points are unavailable, and mind-clouding techniques like sleep deprivation and malnutrition are typically part of the process. There is often the presence or constant threat of physical harm, which adds to the target's difficulty in thinking critically and independently. My childhood matches the majority of these criteria and I suspect that children in fundamentalist families match more criteria than me.
Getting back to an earlier comment... John, I think you have a legitimate experience to share that is different in key ways from the "New Atheist" movement. Please take the constructive criticism in the spirit that it's intended. We need people who understand the pain of losing faith and can speak with truly authentic understanding and reassurance to people who are having doubts. Whether or not they wind up leaving their faith or coming to a new understanding of their faith, I think you have a perspective that is worth sharing.The "brainwashed" term needs to go. There are better, gentler ways to describe it. If you haven't picked up Yearley's work on Virtue theory, give it a shot. I think it would really resonate with the angle that I saw you hitting when you were at your strongest this Tuesday... which was when you were obviously drawing from your own experience.I agree that a part of what you are saying hinges on getting people to acknowledge that they are culturally biased, but there are more soundbyte-friendly, less knee-jerk inducing ways to say it. Remember that you're asking your audience to embark on a journey that is time-consuming, emotionally draining, and carries real risks of loss when it comes to family and community. You can't be flippant if you're going to do it and mean it. Try "I felt like..." instead of "You are" statements. They resonate better, because nobody likes to be told what their mental state is. Particularly not if it's a critical assessment.My two cents, for what it's worth.
"Some preachers make use of hypnosis techniques in their sermons. e.g Use of Latin by priests that most people do not understand, use of boring repetitive phrases, cadence and tone. I wonder if that is why so many of the congregation nearly fall asleep?"The music too! Those repetitive brain washing songs every week!"I disagree. Everyone knows they are brainwashed. Just until it matters to them or until they find a reason to admit it, they suppress that sneaking suspicion."When I was religious, I didn't know I was brainwashed; I just suspected it and I indeed suppressed my suspicions. It was easier that way. Once I seriously considered the validity of evolution and Christianity overall, that's when I realized I was brainwashed.
Agree.OT, please tell me there has been an accident and you didn't choose that pukey buff color as your background? :D
IT'S UGLY! CHANGE IT BACK.
@Jim:had to think about this for awhile to see where we are talking past each other . . . the difference is "being" and "knowing."If we can figure out that it’s logically impossible for God to be brainwashed then I’m sure that God can figure this out too. So if God is all-knowing then he would know he isn’t brainwashed. If God isn’t all-knowing the he isn’t, by definition, God. There is no third option.Michael must think that by defining the Christian God as all-powerful, that God is ACTUALLY all-powerfulCan you find me a married bachelor? No – because by defining the word bachelor we’ve automatically made all bachelors single. Similarly, by defining God as being all-powerful we’ve made it so.Heck, any actual, all-powerful god wouldn't be able to actually KNOW for sure that he is all-powerful.Do you know for sure that you haven’t been brainwashed into thinking 1+1=2? God would know that he is the most powerful logically possible entity and thus know he is all-powerful.Can the Christian God make a rock so big that he can't lift it?God is consistent with his character, and his character is to be logically coherent. Something which is logically incoherent (i.e a higher god that can do the illogical) by the rules of logic doesn’t exist. If you want to cast doubt on the claim that things have to be logically valid in order to be true then fine, but then why use logic? Can you know for sure that it’s impossible to know something for sure?
The brainwashing argument is the worst argument for an atheist.First, everyone has a belief in God. It is properly basic as Plantinga says. The opposite appears to be true. It appears that the only people who are atheists are ones who have been indoctrinated at some point. Atheism is not a natural belief.Second, the brainwashing theory is very poor because it is atheists who deny that mankind has an immaterial reality. This means atheists they are trapped in a cause and effect relationship where environment determines their beliefs. Christianity on the other hand argues that mankind has control over nature having been made in the image of God.The brainwashing argument is just a bad one John. It can only be used and directed at an atheist. You can't direct it at a Christian. The only way to assume any validity to your argument is to assume a naturalism; however, this is arguing in a circle.I don't see where you can win with this argument.God Bless...
Justkem said... "Getting back to an earlier comment... John, I think you have a legitimate experience to share that is different in key ways from the "New Atheist" movement.I agree that a part of what you are saying hinges on getting people to acknowledge that they are culturally biased, but there are more soundbyte-friendly, less knee-jerk inducing ways to say it."..............................What you mean dont be at all like Dawkins, and be to straight up by calling psychological abuse as psychological abuse,when abuse is about all the matter he is discussing very often really actually amounts to.More change will happen by mollycoddling and beating around the bush,like history shows us has happened in the last couple of thousand years waiting on christians to sweetly decide all for themselves its about time to change.Maybe we shouldnt call sexually abusive chatholic priests out for being (pigheaded thoughtless uncaring child molestors),who need to hurry up! and pull their head in! and quickly do something to try to put right the hurt they have caused to many.Maybe more and more and more simple sweet talking! will see them get their shit together sometime given enough time, maybe who knows?..by another 20+ years??.And hell while we are at it, lets not class murderers as murderers,how about we call them something more "soundbyte-friendly",it might help them feel slightly better about themselves being a murderer.Lets reclass abuse thats often been about being involved in the (brainwashing of children) through threats!! of damnation in hell,as being "culturally biased" or anything else! that doesnt happen to sound to blatantly shocking for the poor wee abuser .Abusive brainwashers the poor wee things!, just dont deserve to be shocked to much into realizing they are actually involved in any brainwashing of folks.There is no need to shock faithful folks,hell children have been brainwashed and abused by faithful folks for only? a couple of thousand years now....Whats the hurry? ..Lets keep it at least "soundbyte-friendly",plenty of time! plenty of children! more and more are born to be faithfully abused each year
@zdenny re. everyone's belief in God being the natural default position. First, your argument amounts to 'Sweeping statement made. Name drop a well known theist who says it. Decide this must be fact.'As a skeptic, I would have no problem studying this hypothesis, which is what it is -- not fact! On the other hand, even if this is true, I have my wonders on whether if we went back in time, instead of 'God' it would have been more like 'superstition' that was 'properly basic.'Think about it: people started using religion to define the currently unknown phenomena of the time: lightning/thunder, why the sun travels across the sky, who controls the seas and other natural events. We migrate into later religions and we get the creation stories, sin based explanations of why bad things happen, a God obsessed with sacrifice and conquer, etc. Then move on some more and we have a perfectly loving, miracle working, forgiving God. I see a progression.So, your hypothesis doesn't prove God actually exists or that the fact we have the belief even means we should continue in this belief. All it means is that most humans everywhere exhibit some connection to the realm of the supernatural. I would not be surprised if your statement could actually be re-written scientifically at some point to state: 'Our studies show that due to our genetic and evolved tendencies to desire explanations for the unknown, superstitious tendencies to attribute the unknown to a pseudo-human but supernatural agent are everywhere properly basic to the race.'Back to the topic of brainwashing. I see your point, John, but I think it's a tough one if not clarified. To simply say that brainwashed people don't know that they are brainwashed opens up the doors for any person to be brainwashed. Scientists brainwashed to see the evidence how they want, atheists brainwashed to automatically reject any evidence for God that emerges, etc.What about a rewrite akin to (two off the top of my head examples):- 'If you hold your current position without having delved into the task of trying to disprove it, you are not able to discount the possibility of bring brainwashed.'-'If you find yourself unable to provide defined conditions in which you would begin to disbelieve your current position, you probably hold a beief resulting from brainwashing.'The reason your current definition is flaky (as stated above) opens the door to everyone not having any reason to stand objectively for their beliefs because we all might be brainwashed. Dan Dennett fell into this exact trap when trying to teach about the 'meme' -- a theory attempting to describe how ideas are passed on and spread. While he did this somewhat well, Alister McGrath points out the problem in this link. He simply asks whether atheism, itself, could be a meme? Dan responds in the affirmative (not only to atheism, but even says that 'scientific thought is a meme'!), effectively wiping out any reason to trust that atheism is an intellectual position and not an inherited on in which the 'host' is infected with the atheist 'parasite meme.'What about revising your statement to get at the heart of the matter? Namely, you want to distinguish positions held as a result of passed on information that is taken as fact without question (as in a parent informing their children of religion when the child has no reason to question its veracity) and positions held as a result of questioning, forming hypotheses, revising hypotheses, etc. all in light of observable, rational evidence (as in examining answers to prayer, miracles, biblical reliability, etc.) or intellectual analysis (careful study of things philosophical, cultural, moral, incompatible God-attributes, etc.).
I said: "There are plenty of good reasons to believe, if you are willing to look."Jim said: "Now that is pure condescending garbage."Glock21 said: "This is utter nonsense and one of the lamest cop outs that anyone can ever pull in an argument. Just because you can't defend your argument doesn't make us blind, intentionally or otherwise."I'm sorry you guys were upset by this, but I believe you are mistaken. Glock, you accuse me of using a "lame cop out" in an "argument" but if you look back at what I wrote you'll find I didn't actually make an argument.There are two aspects to this discussion: (1) factual: whether christian teaching is actually brainwashing, and (2) personal: how people have been hurt by christian teaching. I addressed the first in my first comment, by indicating that John had offered no evidence for his claim, and that my brief look at evidence suggested he was quite wrong.But I felt Gandolf's response had not raised arguments so much as express a personal emotion, so I responded to him not with argument but personally. I suggested he had no need to feel some of the things he was feeling, and reassured him that, in my view, what he had experienced need not stand in the way of considering what I regard as good evidence.There was no implication that he had never looked at the evidence, not was there any general statement that might apply to you two. I certainly didn't say or intend anything that would justify your accusation that I would "presume to tell us we're somehow being lazy or not bothering to look" - I was not addressing anybody but Gandolf. I hope therefore that we can be friends and leave the matter there. Best wishes.
Gandolf said: "G'day Unkle e,yes i do tend to get a little stirred up over this stuff.Just so long as you know its meant as nothing personal against people such as yourself."I didn't think it was intended personally and I wasn't offended. But thanks."You seem to be suggesting here that if something is wrong and only about matters of imagination,that would then suggest we should lack reason for need to be worried and stirred up about it."No, I recognise people can be hurt by all sorts of things, some real and some imagined, and those hurts matter. But we can all hope and try to move on from them. I was simply trying to assist with that. I think if we want to address the substance of a problem, we need a little emotional detachment from it (though, of course, we cannot achieve total detachment).I still suggest, on a factual level, these matters shouldn't be a barrier to thinking constructively about God, though I can understand they may have been in the past. Best wishes.
Glock21 said: "Most of us, if not all, have been threatened with eternal damnation by christians who are quite sure in spite of your view that there is biblical support for the concept in the bible. I, as with most of us, were psychologically abused by relatives who used that threat to keep us scared to death of doubts and divergence. Long after my first doubts on my indoctrinated religion I struggled with that psychological trauma. It took years to get past."Firstly, I'm sorry that you have been hurt by what people have said. I don't believe in the everlasting torment teaching, and I don't believe christians should try to scare people into the faith. But more needs to be said ....1. Different things scare different people. As a young teen, I wasn't scared by hell but I was scared by the thought of annihilation after I died. If an atheist had told me then that after death, nothing, that may have tormented me as much as hell tormented you. I recall reading of a christian teen who suicided after being convinced there was no God after all - he felt that led to a nihilism he couldn't face.2. Some times the truth is scary. Those who believe a truth have a responsibility to present it, but they need to be careful they do not manipulate. I think atheists can emotionally manipulate just as much as theists (via the deliberately chosen route of scorn, ridicule, etc) though I agree that the effects are not likely to be as severe.So again, I'm sorry for the hurts you have suffered. I (as much as I can) have turned my back on emotional manipulation in argument. I wonder whether you and your fellows might resolve to do the same?Thanks for raising these issues, and best wishes to you.
Jim said: "I think your position on religion having brainwashing tendencies is provisionally O.K. if we are talking about free-thinking adults who have reached some reasonable "age of reason."Thanks. It is nice to be able to provisionally agree on something. I hope I can come part way towards you also."My childhood matches the majority of these criteria and I suspect that children in fundamentalist families match more criteria than me."Firstly, I will again say I am sorry for any hurt you suffered, and can sympathise with you. I wouldn't want to contest anything about your early life, but I would be surprised if you experienced those things in quite the way Lifton observed them. And if you did, I would be surprised if they were only related to the doctrine of hell. Parents and society generally used to be less sensitive to children than we now tend to be, and all sorts of pain was inflicted. While I never threatened my kids with hell, I sometimes disciplined them in ways I now regret. And it is surely true that not all families have moved forward in this regard.I would guess that fundamentalist christian families may be one subgroup that has made less progress than most, but I can think of other subgroups too.I think therefore to use your experience as an argument against christianity is quite unreasonable, but to use it as a suggestion for improved behaviour is very reasonable. But to achieve that, you may need to present the argument to different people and in a different manner.Best wishes.
unkle e said... "No, I recognise people can be hurt by all sorts of things, some real and some imagined, and those hurts matter. But we can all hope and try to move on from them. I was simply trying to assist with that. I think if we want to address the substance of a problem, we need a little emotional detachment from it (though, of course, we cannot achieve total detachment)."Hi Unkle e,i still remind you its not in keeping with any golden rule to simple move on when things no longer happen to be effecting each of us personally.This thoughtless thinking i notice is how it seems (many faithful) people seem to be thinking,which tells me salvation for the faithful is quite a very selfish selfcentred line of thought.And seems you would like non believers to follow this selfish faithful way of thinking,that seems to be happy to choose to forget about other people.It seems to be the case their is many what we call more liberal faithful,who likely dont often spare another thought for those suffering from faith,within less liberal faiths.Once again if the liberal faithful is fine,seems they dont think there is much of a need to be thinking of anyone else.I also did find your line of thought kind of condescending.But coming from faithful folk,over the years ive become kinda use to it.You do an injustice to try to suggest my argument is based on emotion,because you need to be faithfully blind to not see i ALSO have plenty of good (reason) also.You need to be faithfully blind to not know this is much more than a matter of emotion,because this faith brainwashing abuse is still being used on many children.Whether you wish to face up to the fact or not,suggestions of hell has been an abusive manipulative type of forceful brainwashing used on many children from many differing faiths from both liberal and the fundamentle. In all honesty it is little more than some ancient barbaric gang type bully tactic mentality.
unkle e said..."to Glock211. Different things scare different people. As a young teen, I wasn't scared by hell but I was scared by the thought of annihilation after I died. If an atheist had told me then that after death, nothing, that may have tormented me as much as hell tormented you. I recall reading of a christian teen who suicided after being convinced there was no God after all - he felt that led to a nihilism he couldn't face."Unkle e it dont do any justice to any golden rule to try to manipulate matters to escape the abuse of faith brainwashing.What you are doing here is simply trying to discard the fact nobody uses manipulative brainwashing tactics of fear doctrine,to coerce people to be fearful of the simple normal matters of death.You do a very thoughtless uncaring injustice to try to suggest natural fear of death as being comparable to the (manipulative coercive tactic of brainwashing) folks of faith use about the doctrine of hell.You know you will not likely find some athiest suggesting death could involve some never ending torment!.Why then your need to still keep trying to manipulate matters?Unkle e ..."2. Some times the truth is scary. Those who believe a truth have a responsibility to present it, but they need to be careful they do not manipulate. I think atheists can emotionally manipulate just as much as theists (via the deliberately chosen route of scorn, ridicule, etc) though I agree that the effects are not likely to be as severe."There is no proof of hell,the doctrined has not been proved to really be anything more than ancient barbaric thoughts of harsh ignorant goat herders lacking in knowledge.How can you suggest this ignorant thought as being a "truth"?,what factual evidence do you suggest you use whenever you would be making these unfounded nasty suggestions?.Unless the idea of hell can be verified,surely responsibility should be about keeping to the truth.The responsibility should not be to use or even promote, manipulative nasty scare tatics that hold no evidence to prove its any factual truth.
Michael,Can you know for sure that it’s impossible to know something for sure?No I can't know it, but I can claim it (as provisional). The actual philosophical musings to get to any kind of proof of it would probably take awhile. Perhaps there is already some philosophy on this topic . . .
I am a Christian and I agree that brainwashed people do not know that they are brainwashed. You,Mr. Losftus, are brain washed.
arm18,That would not be likely since John's journey away from Christianity doesn't share any elements from the Lifton Brainwashing criteria outlined several posts ago.I can tell you my journey from natural born atheist (as we all are) INTO Christianity as a child comprised MANY of the Brainwashing Elements.
Gandolf:"What you mean dont be at all like Dawkins, and be to straight up by calling psychological abuse as psychological abuse,when abuse is about all the matter he is discussing very often really actually amounts to."Ahem. No. What I mean is, find your authentic voice, and stick to it. If you watched the debate Tuesday night (and, for the record John, I'm not a "young skeptic"-- I deconverted from a very long and intense spiritual journey when my views when my daughter was still in diapers, and she's almost as tall as I am now), I think you would agree he was struggling to find it. Mild abrasion and caustic wit in writing are *fundamentally different* from delivering that tone in interviews or debates. In one, your audience has time to digest and re-read. In the other, you need to parse it more carefully. I watched everything up until the very end of the Q & A, when the bad audio finally got to me and I spent that time discussing what we had just seen with my (not-so-"young") atheist partner, who is certainly acerbic and doesn't pull any punches in these debates... hell, I turned him on to Hitchens years ago. I recognize the value of brutal honesty. It's necessary. But if it's not delivered well, it just fails."More change will happen by mollycoddling and beating around the bush,like history shows us has happened in the last couple of thousand years waiting on christians to sweetly decide all for themselves its about time to change."I have to wonder how much of a background you actually have in the religious thought of the 20th century. There has, actually, been quite a lot of change in the whole development of a Judeo-Christian concept, which didn't really exist until the 40's and the writings of Protestant theologians like Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. Direct action campaigns are wars. They involve a clear strategy and careful execution of the delivery of your message. If you're uncomfortable using a specific rhetorical method, you need to find the one you're *good* at. To pull a Civil War analogy here, the debate struck me as one in which Dinesh was carrying a bayonet, and John was attempting to use the same approach. Maybe it's the years of being a pastor (when you do say hard things to your community, but you do it carefully, so they still put money in the plate), but if you can't effectively defend yourself against that kind of attack by using the same weapon, regroup and find a freaking cannon. Something they may not necessarily see as "in their face", but effective at breaking down walls when the shot finally does go off.I see John as most convincing when he argues for a default agnosticism. It was some of his most persuasive and passionate speech, and I wish he had held that same compassionate conviction for the whole debate. It resonates with me especially because it's closest to my own typical approach when I get into debates about religion. I like seeing other people play that same theme well. It just doesn't impress when the rest of it is not as well rehearsed."Maybe we shouldnt call sexually abusive chatholic priests out for being (pigheaded thoughtless uncaring child molestors),who need to hurry up! and pull their head in!"Nice red herring, but no, that has pretty much nothing to do with what I'm saying here." and quickly do something to try to put right the hurt they have caused to many.Maybe more and more and more simple sweet talking! will see them get their shit together sometime given enough time, maybe who knows?..by another 20+ years??."Or, maybe, we find what we're good at and pursue that? Maybe we leave the things we're not good at to others, or spend some time really studying the way that others set that up before we try to use those tactics? If you pull a knife in a fight, and you don't know how to use it, you give your opponent a weapon. It really is that simple.
@Amy B"... I cringed when you used the word [brainwashing]... I doubt I would have been so open to your OTF if you had written about it in more provocative language."Thank you, that's pretty much exactly what I was trying to say.Excellent post, and thank you for sharing your perspective.@JohnPlease consider Amy's post carefully if you do decide to go up against the apologists again, and please take the constructive criticism here exactly as it is intended-- to help you refine your approach to these topics. I'd love to see your arguments honed to speak to her and the large number of moderate believers like her directly.
@Michael (from 2/12/10),ALL humans are born a-theist. If no-one in the world instructed them to believe in a make-believe fairy then no-one would be religious/christian.Your comment is like saying that we 'brainwash' our children by telling them to eat, drink and sleep on a daily basis.Recent former christian
@HeyThere: I hypothesized the same thing... but I think it's actually false. I was in a discussion with my brother who is relatively versed in the information available and I asked him if cultures isolated from religion develop it on their own. He stated fairly confidently that studies have shown that religion (or call it superstition, believe in the supernatural... whatever) is a human characteristic that is well documented. Granted, I can understand if you expect sources which I can work to get. For now, though, at least take this as one person's caution that you (me too) may be wrong about what might seem intuitive: that without being trained to believe, we would not.On the other hand, we're not in isolated, unadvanced cultures on an island trying to superstitiously explain lightning or the sun traveling across the sky so would a child or group raised in a building deprived of communication with the outside world and raised only by teaching them math, science, language (no history, for they would hear about religion and want to know what the deal was), etc. invent a religion? Who knows...In the end, I still think this whole question comes down to how we define being brainwashed. I think all we're really getting at is that one can't consider their position valid simply because they were raised in it. This raises other issues, though, since children are so receptive. Being a doubter now, married to a believer, and raising a daughter... what should I do? While I don't see overt 'harm' in allowing her to be raised Christian (this could be debated), now that I doubt I absolutely want her to be free to make choices when she's older. My wife has suggested we raise her Catholic and then let her choose when she's older.I don't think this is fair as one can't expect someone to be able to 'erase' what they learned as a child growing up to completely question it at a later date. This is the heart of brainwashing -- the one brainwashed doesn't even want to leave. This is like people that get kidnapped and are literally blocks from their house but won't run away. They objectively should challenge the fact that they are in a house they objectively should not want to be in but they have been convinced they actually want to stay. This is the tricky part about kids. I find this brainwashing topic most impacting when discussing the implications of giving growing children the best chance of becoming critical thinkers when older.
Gandolf: Thanks for your further comments on child "brainwashing". I don't think I'll comment further. We both believe fear-inducement is not good, and I cannot really comment on your experiences any more.But let us note that the topic of this discussion isn't child brainwashing per se but "people brainwashing". On that matter, John has failed to provide any evidence, and I and some others agree that the evidence does not support his claim. Whether children are brainwashed is doubtful, although we both agree they may be treated badly, but the real point of John's post (I believe), and a point he apparently made in the recent debate, is that adult christians remain brainwashed, and that, it is clear, he has failed to demonstrate. Best wishes.Justkem: In case you missed me elsewhere, I am no longer able to post on the thread we were discussing on (I don't know why, but I have tried about a dozen times), so I apologise for not continuing that discussion.
I don't know that "brainwashed," is the best term. Have some background in anthropology. We are all conditioned to think in certain ways by our culture, (ethnocentricism.) And, often people really are not aware of this, why they accept certain things as truth.But, you see, it's also possible for people to be culturally conditioned toward philosophical naturalism, and be closed to spirituality, to the possibility of God. It's not always just about objective evidence. There are deeper factors at work, either way.
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