How to Strengthen Your Faith: A Letter to a Religious Young Person

51

Quite recently I received a letter from a very religious and clearly very intelligent and well-educated young person from Pakistan asking about my personal religious views. This was my reply:


Dear X,

I am not going to speak here about my own religious views but about yours. It seems from what you have written that you are somewhat troubled that I might not share your own beliefs. What I want to do is recommend to you a reasonable, scientific, logical, and quite surefire method by which you may strengthen your own faith. 

It doesn't really matter which sect of which religion you belong to, this is what you need to do: pick two or three well-known religions with large numbers of adherents which are as different as possible from your own. From your perspective, the people who believe in these religions are quite wrong about a great number of things, even though you may agree with them about some aspects of their faith. Forget about the things you agree on. Focus instead on their wrong beliefs. The more ridiculous they seem to you, the better. And now ask yourself why such a large number of people find these beliefs to be not only reasonable but often quite self-evident. You must make finding the answer to this question your project for some time. You will essentially be compiling a list of bad reasons for holding a religious belief.

If you think about it (and look into the matter) you will find that there is generally no great difference in the average intelligence of those people who believe in religions very different from yours and the people of your own religion. After all, one can find accomplished and very smart artists, scientists, musicians, mathematicians, writers, philosophers, and so on, from all major religions. (One can, of course, also find imbeciles in every religion, but that is neither here nor there.) Similarly, one can find morally decent people as well as cheats and liars and evil psychopaths from all sorts of religious backgrounds.

When people of very different religions are put in similar circumstances, they tend to succeed in intellectual and other ways quite equally. I first happened to notice this when I went to university in America and saw that there were students from all over the world, belonging to all kinds of faiths: Mormons, Buddhist, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Atheists, etc., but in classes I was taking, like Partial Differential Equations, for example, there was no difference in their performance as groups. Of course I didn't do a statistical study to confirm this, but others actually have. So it can't just be that the people who hold ridiculously wrong beliefs by your lights are all just very stupid. They are only stupid about religion; otherwise, they are just as good as anyone else. So what is it, then? Why do they believe such clearly false things?

One glaring fact will no doubt leap out at you immediately at this point: most of these deluded people (almost all of them, in fact) believe in the same religion as their parents, so that probably has something to do with it. Children trust their parents, after all, and seek their approval and look to them for guidance. And most of the time what parents tell their children turns out to be true. But not always. Once a ridiculously false belief takes hold (for some reason or other), it is quite easy to imagine how it could get transmitted down generation after generation. Maybe this is why they believe in what seems quite silly to you. Then there is also the fear of abandoning a belief out of concern that it may hurt one's parents' feelings and also there is often fear of ostracism from the family and even the larger community to which one belongs. This, then, is our first very good example of a very bad reason for holding a religious belief: because your parents hold it. At least if you care about having true beliefs. So, go ahead, start your list of bad reasons for having religious beliefs now and add this as your first item. Note that I am not saying that if you believe in the same religion as your parents you are necessarily wrong, I am just saying that you must be careful that your parents' belief in a given religion is not one of your reasons for also believing in that religion. You must decide whether your parents' religion is true on independent grounds.

But not all people believe in the religion of their parents. Some people convert into a religion. Sometimes they are forced to do this by circumstances. For example, in some countries, it is not easy belonging to a religion different from that which the majority of people hold to be true. I am sure you can think of many examples of such places for yourself. The people who are coerced in such circumstances to convert to a religion to escape persecution or oppression are not doing it for a good reason. That belonging to a given religion might make your life easier doesn't make that religion true, obviously. So that's another bad reason for your list. By the way, historically speaking, such conversions are not uncommon and have happened on a large scale in the past.

Another reason people hold certain beliefs might be that holding those beliefs makes them feel better about something or other. For example, it might make them anxious to think that they will be permanently separated from their parents or other loved ones by death and so if their religion offers them a belief in an eternal afterlife, as many religions do, where they will be reunited with friends and family, it may make them feel calmer. Or belonging to a religious faith might provide some people with a feeling of solidarity and community and a pleasurable method of occasional social interaction with others. But just because something makes you feel good is not a good reason to believe it is true. It would make me feel very good to believe that I am about to inherit a large sum of money from an unknown relative in the near future but that doesn't make it true and it would be quite foolish of me to have such a belief without strong evidence that it actually is true.

Your job is to keep thinking about those people who hold obviously wrong, even ridiculous beliefs by your lights and compiling your list of the reasons why they do so. You can teach yourself much more about this by reading books about the origins of religious beliefs and what weakness there are in human psychology and emotional makeup that allow such wrong notions to be held true by so many otherwise intelligent people. You might be surprised to know how many of the religious ideas which seem crazy to you take advantage of well-known problems in human cognition to perpetuate themselves from one generation to the next. Humans everywhere seem to share the same mental flaws, just as they do physical ones, like having a useless appendix, and psychologists have made a lot of progress studying these phenomena. I have appended a very short list of books to this note to get you started.

And now we come to the last and very easy step. Once you feel that you have a fairly solid understanding of the many reasons why those people in other religions manage to believe such wrong things, and you are no longer puzzled by the strangeness of their convictions, all you have to do to strengthen your own faith is to just make sure that none of those bad reasons overlap with your reasons for holding your religious faith. That's it. After you have completed this exercise, your faith in your own religion will be stronger than ever because you will know that you believe what you believe for good reasons.

Best wishes,

Abbas

 

Some books to read:

Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought by Pascal Boyer

In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion by Scott Atran

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

 

S. Abbas Raza is the founding editor of 3QuarksDaily.com

Written By: S. Abbas Raza

51 COMMENTS

  1. Great letter but I suspect the recipients eyes and mind glazed over as soon as he twigged to the pending trap.
    Is one of the known human biases that Rhyming statements are perceived as more truthful and so I think following Tim Minchin story is probably one of the most persuasive arguments for critical thinking I have ever seen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U
    But either way, as Tim Minchin says at the end of his youtube, “We’d as likely go backwards 10 minutes in time as change anybody’s mind”

  2. Thanks for the appreciative responses. X never responded to my reply, which makes me think that he (yes, it was a young man) must have found it offensive. I can only hope that out of curiosity he may one day read one or more of the books I recommended. :-)

    • In reply to #6 by AbbasRaza:

      Thanks for the appreciative responses. X never responded to my reply, which makes me think that he (yes, it was a young man) must have found it offensive. I can only hope that out of curiosity he may one day read one or more of the books I recommended. :-)

      An amazing letter, but I am sure you would not have expected a response. I think most religious persons refuse to dissect their beliefs in any direct or indirect way, simply because they fear that they will just lose their faith. And that can lead to too many complications. The indoctrination is very deep, the escape velocity is just too great. That is why, I guess people who manage to break these bonds feel liberated, “enlightened” :) free. Yes, I too hope that he reads those books…..

      • In reply to #9 by Darth Vader:

        I think most religious persons refuse to dissect their beliefs in any direct or indirect way, simply because they fear that they will just lose their faith.

        I agree. Also, I think there is a perception that subjecting their faith to critical analysis devalues it in some way.

  3. S. Abbas Raza banned me from his blog 3 Quarks Daily for disagreeing with him.
    [Here is my post](a href=“http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/3-quarks-daily-bans-sabio-lantz/”) documenting the exchange.
    Raza shuts down dialogue on his blog which questions his writers.
    Though his post here offers a reasonable methodology for helping folks to see through their own religious self-deceit and I agree with the method, Raza likes to be heard, but not questioned — a quality contrary to his writing.
    He needs to stop banning objections on his blog in order to show respect for free thinking.

  4. I don’t particularly like the tone of this article, it seems very condescending, I’m all for the main idea of it, and I agree with every point you made, but it still doesn’t feel right. The religions are the ones that use polite talk to mask their real intentions, I’ve always appreciated straight talk. Like I said, I love the point, and I think every religious person should hear it, but it seems deceptive, or as hitchens might say “unctuous, and ingratiating”.

  5. How to Strengthen Your Faith: A Letter to a Religious Young Person

    While I think the letter is excellent, I think the title is misleading.

    I would have put, “How to gain a deeper understanding of faith”!

  6. This letter would be a complete waste of time if written to a Christian fundamentalist. The fundy would just open his Bible and read: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

    • Yeah, pretty much.

      Just a different way of saying the wise man says in his brain, “There is God” (thought by Ralph (http://ralphscherer.com)

      :-)

      In reply to #15 by Bob Springsteen:

      This letter would be a complete waste of time if written to a Christian fundamentalist. The fundy would just open his Bible and read: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

  7. It doesn’t really matter which sect of which religion you belong to, …: pick two or three well-known religions …are as different as possible from your own. …. Forget about the things you agree on. Focus instead on their wrong beliefs.

    I must say that this “letter” seems rather surrealistic. Who would write to a “very religious” young man person in Pakistan not knowing what religion he belongs to? Who would possibly expect such a person- already very busy learning the Koran and reconciling it with the hadiths – understanding the sunni/ shia difference, and the amhadhist heresy, etc… to “pick up two or three other religions” for study , etc..?

    But I suppose this post will bring some comfort ( “converted preaching to the converted” ) to some readers here-and whom few will be unaware of the substantive points not- so-subtly made here

    • In reply to #16 by catphil:

      I must say that this “letter” seems rather surrealistic…

      Not at all. It’s an exercise in reverse psychology, and it’s very neatly done. It doesn’t really matter whether the letter was really sent to anyone, nor does it make any difference what the religion of the recipient – real or imaginary – happens to be. That whole point is clearly made in the piece: it doesn’t matter what your religion is, let’s assume it to be correct. Now how can we figure out where all those other religions are going wrong?

  8. I think this is an excellent letter, but I think it may only have an effect on the mildly religious, non literalists, perhaps a Unitarian Universalist or a mild Ammadiy or a Sufi who would even consider it.

    I think the VERY religious man this was sent to in Pakistan is too far gone to be pulled back by this. Likewise the Ray Comforts, Eric Hovinds and Ken Hams of this world. Please prove me wrong.

    The lure of heaven and the threat of hell is very strong for believers. Pascal’s Wager is a ridiculous argument, but it has a strong pull.

    • In reply to #19 by adey5:

      I think the VERY religious man this was sent to in Pakistan is too far gone to be pulled bac…

      Agreed. For him to acknowledge Atheism, his entire past, and who he is as a person would be invalidated. That’s just not going to happen.

  9. I would have included Andy Thomson’s brief and very readable “Why we believe in gods: a concise guide to the science of faith”.

    Not that the recipient would read it or any of the other listed works.

    Steve

  10. I admire and consistently agree with Atheists but there is definitely potential for error in a sweeping generalization and presupposition that I see particularly illustrated here. If one is fastidiously objective, one should be able to see, e.g., that Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents; that a properly inclusive assessment of belief systems counts Atheism among its subjects and considers whether those who have opted otherwise did so because they found parts of Atheism to have insufficient explanatory power — that they found weaknesses in Atheism. It was so with me.

    • In reply to #25 by noel.singleton.3:

      admire and consistently agree with Atheists but there is definitely potential for error in a sweeping generalization and presupposition that I see particularly illustrated here. If one is fastidiously objective, one should be able to see, e.g., that Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents; that a properly inclusive assessment of belief systems counts Atheism among its subjects and considers whether those who have opted otherwise did so because they found parts of Atheism to have insufficient explanatory power — that they found weaknesses in Atheism. It was so with me.

      I agree with you that atheists sometimes claim too much in the sense that all atheist ideas are inherently rational and all religious ideas are inherently irrational. I think any such black and white distinction, “these people good, those people bad” is too simplistic to explain human behavior and in fact I think that kind of binary thinking, that an idea or group can be all good or bad, is actually one of the worst things about many (but not all) religions and it’s disheartening to see some atheists adopt the very worst aspects of the thing they are supposed to be against.

      But I would like to know more about how you found atheism “to have insufficient explanatory power”. I’ve heard religious people say that in the past but when they explain it always comes down to the following: if you want real explanations you have to first admit that you don’t know things. So of course any approach based on science and reason will start out by admitting there are a lot of questions we can’t answer completely or even at all. But the religious “answers” for such questions, from everything that I’ve seen, always turn out to be non-answers, just claims that God did it but God is by definition un-knowable in any meaningful sense so it comes down to the same explanatory power of the atheist answer.

      But there is a crucial difference. With the atheist, scientific approach at least by admitting we don’t know things we start down the road to perhaps understanding them. With the “God did it” approach we settle for some ancient superstitious non-answer and pretend we have understanding when we really have ignorance dressed up with ritual and social approval.

    • In reply to #25 by noel.singleton.3:

      … that Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents; …

      Not believing in any supernatural entities, which is atheism, does not preclude believing all sorts of other things. There are some pretty dotty atheists around, thanks to the variety of humanity and the freedom of thought characteristic of atheists, but those beliefs, unless they pertain to supernatural entities, have nothing to do with atheism. Dottiness is of course something one may dispute, and it is one of the glories of humanity that we can and do dispute such things.

      Elsewhere I have defended the sometimes handy usage of describing the children of religious people by the name of their religion, on the grounds that socialization of children begins from birth; but I agree with the point that Professor Dawkins has on occasions made that children are born atheists, as indeed they are. It therefore seems particularly odd that you should think that some children have acquired their atheism from their parents. I would suggest instead that in the case of a child growing up as an atheist the parents have merely respected the natural mental development of their child and not poisoned its mind with any superstitious lies.

      • Agreed. This about ‘atheist ideas’ is nonsense. Atheists have one idea and that is being without a god(s).

        If I was an atheist because my parents never taught me to believe in god, I see no difference between this and not being raised to believe in faeries.

        In reply to #27 by Cairsley:

        In reply to #25 by noel.singleton.3:

        … that Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents; …

        Not believing in any supernatural entities, which is atheism, does not preclude believing all sorts of other things. There are some pretty dotty atheists around, thanks to the…

        • In reply to #33 by toxicguppy:

          Agreed. This about ‘atheist ideas’ is nonsense. Atheists have one idea and that is being without a god(s).

          What is nonsense is the idea that the only “atheist idea” is not believing in God(s). There is a long and proud tradition of atheist intellectuals that goes back at least to David Hume. When Dawkins wrote The God Delusion he wasn’t starting from scratch, he was building on ideas from many other western intellectuals such as Hume and Bertrand Russell. Other people I would classify as atheist intellectuals include Nietzsche, Sartre, John Stuart Mill, not to mention more modern people such as Harris and Hitechens.

          This is something that gets said here all the time and I think it’s just clearly wrong. I also think saying that reveals a lack of appreciation for people who came before Dawkins such as Hume, someone I think doesn’t get nearly enough credit. He was brilliant enough to see through the “Argument from design” for God’s existence even before anyone had a clue about natural selection. He deserves more credit for that.

          Of course there are significant differences in the thinking of all these different people. In that sense you can say there is no one official atheist point of view on say politics or morality and I would agree. But I don’t think that means much, you could say the same for all kinds of schools of thought.

          Marxism for example, if you can find any left get a Trotskyite and a Stalinist in the same room and watch them go at. They often hate each other far more than they hate the capitalists. Or consider the ideas of free market capitalism, I’m a believer in the free market and in a lot of aspects of capitalism but I disagree very strongly with those who advocate the free market as a solution for every problem.

          • In reply to #34 by Red Dog:

            I think they’re better called secular intellectuals. If you’re going to insist on atheist thinkers, you might as well include Buddha and Confucious in that list, as well as some forms of Hinduism and Jainism. Or, more broadly, you could conceive of them as pro-rationalist, anti-fidelist intellectuals. Also, some deists like the Founding Fathers (possibly) and Spinoza deserve recognition for their contributions, as do the religious scientists who contributed to our understanding of the universe and its inhabitants. You could also argue that civil rights movements and others of its ilk laid the groundwork for the current moral zeitgeist that enables atheism to become more acceptable, as it is in Europe.

    • In reply to #25 by noel.singleton.3:

      This mistake-

      a properly inclusive assessment of belief systems counts Atheism among its subjects

      is the natural result of this almost correct statement-

      Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents

      which would have been better as-

      Atheism is sometimes part of a belief set that was received from one’s parents

      Atheism is the feeling, acceptance, conviction or conclusion that God couldn’t do it as God isn’t. The simplicity of the thing, a single idea, arrived at by three or four routes, defeats it being a belief set and often for it being a belief, at all. An unexamined mode of thinking acquired from a parent is just a habit, and atheism as a rational (unhappy?) conclusion of available evidence is no conviction. The emotional investment of a belief may not be there. (Such emotional investments are often there to create an intellectual stability. Some of us, though, like to stir it up. Scepticism and anarchism are bedfellows and crop up a fair bit here.)

      The only reason for Atheists to appear to agree on some other matters is their tendency to go adopt the best performing processes to understand things given the common loss of society’s first stab at explanations. Scanning the pages here, the levels of disagreement are a sign that the above is true and that we stand a good chance of not being fooled again…quite so much.

    • In reply to #25 by noel.singleton.3:

      I admire and consistently agree with Atheists but there is definitely potential for error in a sweeping generalization and presupposition that I see particularly illustrated here. If one is fastidiously objective, one should be able to see, e.g., that Atheism is sometimes a belief set that was received from one’s parents;

      Atheism is not a world view. It is the absence of a world-view based on supernatural gods. We are all born atheists without beliefs in gods. An “absence of contamination” is not “a substance”!

      that a properly inclusive assessment of belief systems counts Atheism among its subjects and considers whether those who have opted otherwise did so because they found parts of Atheism to have insufficient explanatory power

      Atheism is a lack of beliefs in gods – A philosophy and objectively explained world view is a separate issue – sometimes described as “Humanism” or simply as “science”.

      – that they found weaknesses in Atheism. It was so with me.

      Weaknesses??? in a lack of supernatural god beliefs??

      While many atheists would take an objective scientific view of life and the Universe – free of supernatural contamination, you seem to be confusing atheism with some sort of philosophy. Atheists – as free thinkers, have a huge diversity of philosophies and political views – some better informed than others, but there is no dogmatic “atheist philosophy”.

      Atheist Buddhists who believe in no gods, even believe in supernatural reincarnation!

  11. Interesting. I assume your last statement is supposed to be tongue in cheek. Because if he does all the recommended exercises to the letter, there would be no more reason for him to have his belief.

  12. While there are clearly very many religious people who have never considered how ridiculous their faith is, (most likely due to poor education about the reality of the world) the fact that there are also very many who continue to have faith despite knowing that it is all nonsense, tells me that those people have a real need for something else to take it’s place. Unfortunately for many people the only community / social interaction they have is inextricably connected with their religion. The solution I believe is to provide “community” that is based on real-world activities. Everyone to some extent is irrational so I think we can all to some degree understand why people can become stuck in the dark (faith) despite all of the logic in the world that points them to the truth (reality).

  13. Red Dog:

    Marxism for example, if you can find any left get a Trotskyite and a Stalinist in the same room and watch them go at. They often hate each other far more than they hate the capitalists.

    Since when did either Trotsky or Stalin represent Marx’s ideas ? They were both whole hearted supporters of the USSR’s state capitalism. Workers still worked for wages, there was still a privileged class, and when it came to war the Russian workers lost more lives than all the others put together. As Marx is quoted as saying of a French political group, “If those people are Marxists, then I am not a Marxist”.Marx died in 1883, some 34 years before Lenin and the Bolsheviks grabbed political power in Russia.

    Anyone who has spent 10 minutes reading the Communist Manifesto (1848), will realise that Marx would never have been in favour of what happened in Russia in 1917.

    Fast forward to the 21st century and George Bush, Hank Paulsen, and Barack Obama are all apparently “Marxists” ! Since when did government interference in the economy equal “Marxism” ? Governments can’t help themselves, they have to act in the best interests of the property owning class, the capitalists.

    • In reply to #37 by Mr DArcy:

      Since when did either Trotsky or Stalin represent Marx’s ideas ? They were both whole hearted supporters of the USSR’s state capitalism….Anyone who has spent 10 minutes reading the Communist Manifesto (1848), will realise that Marx would never have been in favour of what happened in Russia in 1917.

      I don’t know Marx well enough to really comment with any certainty but from what I know you are probably right. It’s irrelevant to the point I was making. Both Trotskyites and Stalinists considered themselves to be Marxists which was my point: that in any system of thought such as atheism or my example Marxism you will have people who violently disagree with each other but still are considered to be part of that group. You may be right that Marx would have disowned Stalin and Trotsky, I think you are right about Stalin not as sure about Trotsky but in any case both their followers and most of the political science community considered them to be Marxists.

  14. Red Dog:

    Or consider the ideas of free market capitalism, I’m a believer in the free market and in a lot of aspects of capitalism but I disagree very strongly with those who advocate the free market as a solution for every problem.

    Markets are where stuff is bought and sold. Before anything can be bought and sold, it first has to be produced. Unless you enter into the world of high finance where fictional capital is wagered on ! Betting on possible future profits is a subsidiary activity of capitalism. First of all it needs to make profits, – at the expense of the workers who have to work for a wage or a salary. A nut has to be placed on a bolt at some point in production. Indeed the biggest market in the world is the labour market. At times, as in Australia currently, the workers can do a little bit better than before, because their bosses are making higher than usual profits. Such is the “freedom” of the worker, to roam the world in search of higher wages ! No doubt the likes of Gina Rinehart will be delighted at the influx of returning Aussies in search of bigger bucks.

    Ah that wonderful “free market” ! The “freedom” to be exploited and to have to look after yourself !

    • In reply to #39 by Mr DArcy:

      Markets are where stuff is bought and sold. Before anything can be bought and sold, it first has to be produced. Unless you enter into the world of high finance where fictional capital is wagered on ! Betting on possible future profits is a subsidiary activity of capitalism. First of all it needs to make profits, – at the expense of the workers who have to work for a wage or a salary.

      I think it’s an interesting question, the problems with capitalism and what the alternatives are. You should create a discussion thread. However, it’s way off this topic so I’m not going to comment after this one.

      I think you and I probably mostly agree on the problems but we probably disagree on the solutions. I think capitalism is like democracy, it’s a terrible economic system except compared to the alternatives.

  15. ok!
    Here is what we are really dealing with:

    I spent three weeks on a conservative forum, trying to help any and all to improve their thinking, logic and debating skills. As you can see from this brief exerpt, there’s still a lot of work to do……………………….

    ME: ATHEISM is a religion, like bald is a hair color!
    ……………….

    CHORUS: Okay, ummm, Let’s see…
    Monkeys are like religions.
    Monkeys are mammals.
    Monkeys have hair.
    Bald monkey’s have no hair.
    Bald monkeys are not mammals!

    QED!

    Now can you argue with that? …………………………………………

    You haven’t responded to my argument! Read it again!
    ……………………………………

    Hey! Sorry I had a nightmare about this. In it, Jesus said he would give all the poor bald atheist monkeys new hair! But turned out it was a rainbow clown wig!
    ………………………….

    ME: Sigh, maybe we can start a support group for the poor gay atheist bald monkeys on a new thread!
    ……………………

    Awesome!
    ………………

    all suscribers look as though the Ant-Christ has taken over this form
    …………………….

    Yeah? what he look like?
    …………………….

    There is a body as described body, soul and spirit so maybe it’s one soul and spirit that’s in the physical body?
    ……………………..

    Sheesh! Ants are believers too?
    …………………….

    ME: OK. Summarizing for this thread, “Off the wall accusations and insults: How to handle them.”

    And so it went…

    • In reply to #42 by Terra:

      ok!
      Here is what we are really dealing with:

      I spent three weeks on a conservative forum, trying to help any and all to improve their thinking, logic and debating skills. As you can see from this brief exerpt, there’s still a lot of work to do……………………….

      You need a “fundamentalist dictionary” to reinterpret words into “fundamentish”!

      “Logic/reason” to a fundamentalist, is an argument which uses circular thinking to arrive back at their preconceived conclusions!

      “Evidence” is consistency or implication, that matches A story in THE bible or their favourite preacher’s version of it!

  16. Going through the posts and comments on this topic, It does seem that the number of guests ‘liking’ these comments are much higher than what we usually see here. I could be wrong, maybe the web master could do an actual study, but if this is so, would it be an indication that there really are a lot of people coming in here who are just sort of waiting to “come out”? That there are more atheists, agnostics, rationalist and secularists than we actually think there are?

    • In reply to #44 by Darth Vader:

      Going through the posts and comments on this topic, It does seem that the number of guests ‘liking’ these comments are much higher than what we usually see here. I could be wrong, maybe the web master could do an actual study, but if this is so, would it be an indication that there really are a lot…

      If you are a member, but not signed in you will count as a guest when you “like” a post. I confess I do that at times because I don’t comment often.

  17. I’m running a preliminary experiment! Many of my friends on the conservative forum were concerned that I might sneak up and educate them against their will! I cleverly agreed to post any such ungodly or scientific abominations in red ink so they could know to skip reading dangerous words and thus avoid worldly contamination. If my theory is correct, their previous conditioning via the Holy Bible, King James Version, (red letter edition), will cause them to not only read but uncritically accept any assertion that I print in the red ink. I will report my results if any at the next Athiest Indoctrination Convention annual conference…

  18. Red Dog:

    I think it’s an interesting question, the problems with capitalism and what the alternatives are. You should create a discussion thread. However, it’s way off this topic so I’m not going to comment after this one.

    Of course you are quite right on that. Whether RDFRS would accept such a topic for discussion is another matter, but it was you who first mentioned the name of Marx.. Just briefly as to whether Trotsky was a “Marxist” or not, I refer you to the slaughter of the mutinous Kronstadt sailors, ordered by Trotsky. Hardly the action of a person who believes in “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain !.” ?

    • In reply to #48 by Mr DArcy:

      Whether RDFRS would accept such a topic for discussion is another matter,

      I think they would. I think the moderation here is as even handed as any site that I’ve seen. Hopefully a little brown nosing will get me a pass for one more OT comment… just kidding I sincerely think the mods do a good job and I would be very surprised if they would censor a topic because it was too anti-capitalist. I would propose the topic myself but my interests these days are more along philosophy and psychology and what biology can tell us about them.

      but it was you who first mentioned the name of Marx

      I was bringing up Marxism just as an example of another set of ideas that has inspired intellectuals to support my point that there are atheist thinkers. I was anticipating someone who might reply that say Nietzsche and Mill didn’t agree on anything so how could they both be atheist thinkers and using the case of Marxists who disagree as an example that people can be considered part of the same intellectual movement even if they violently disagree.

      Just briefly as to whether Trotsky was a “Marxist” or not, I refer you to the slaughter of the mutinous Kronstadt sailors, ordered by Trotsky. Hardly the action of a person who believes in “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain !.” ?

      Sounds like the No True Scotsman defense. It’s a complicated subject and I’m not a Trotskyist but I think it’s wrong to pick out one action that someone took in a war as an indictment of that entire person. George Washington did things that were very similar to Trotsky’s actions in response to mutinous soldiers during and right after the US revolution (Shay’s Rebellion). Wars are brutal and revolutionary and civil wars even more so. I’m not saying what Trotsky did in that example was moral I’m just saying it’s not black and white either and I promise mods this is really the last thing I’ll say on the topic.

  19. One glaring fact will no doubt leap out at you immediately at this point: most of these deluded people (almost all of them, in fact) believe in the same religion as their parents, so that probably has something to do with it.
    One hopes, but what glares for one may be dark for another. Taking this observation anywhere near a train of thought that sees through the religious trick requires more than pattern-spotting abilitites. It requires the willingness to apply the patterns or look for them in the first place.

    Look at the video debates. Defenders of faith have invented thousands of cunning verbal ways to clap their hands over their ears and go La la laaa.

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