Here’s a good example of the religious brainwashing that I had gone through, and the political brainwashing I believe many Republicans have gone through.
Seen on Facebook:
Atheist: Man wrote the Bible.
Me: Man wrote the theory of evolution. Every book you’ve read that attacks the Bible was written by man. Now listen here, knucklehead. The reason the Holy Spirit used men as a conduit to write the Bible is because God made man in his image, gave him dominion, and appointed him as steward of the earth. Now can you point to anything the god of atheism has written? Without the Bible, the atheist doesn’t even have a discussion.
There was a time in my life when this argument would actually have made sense to me. Even today, there’s a part of me that reacts to it in that way, even though—objectively—there’s nothing legitimate or persuasive about it:
- It relies on what-about-ism.
- It demeans one’s opponents and uses emotional language.
- It actually misrepresents the consensus atheist view.
- It also uses a contorted (though vacuous) argument that can be difficult to get one’s mind around (another cult mind-control tactic).
- It engages in conspiracy thinking (making an unlikely scenario feel more likely by attaching to it an even more unlikely story),
- It ignores the original criticism (that the Bible myths are irretrievably tainted by human storytelling and interpretation rather than being somehow identifiable as the thoughts of a god).
- It repackages a lack of any evidence for any divine influence as evidence somehow in favor of divine influence.
I could continue on. My point is that when you hear this kind of bullshit day in, day out, every weekend from your religious leaders from behind the pulpit, every Wednesday night at Bible study, on TV and on the radio and on YouTube and on Facebook, reading it in almost every book that you read, singing it in almost every lyric, repeatedly assuming and asserting dogma, rather than relying on reliable epistemology… When this sort of cult mindset is drilled into you as part of your social support system, you absolutely believe it. And then is it any mystery that you struggle with the ability to think clearly about reality?
I’m not only talking about religious fundamentalism and about evangelicalism here. I’m also talking about political radicalism, Trumpism, and the current Republican Party.
This quality of discussion was par for the course in the world I lived in. That’s also one of the things that pushed me out. I was being expected to accept nonsensical arguments that I knew were ridiculous about prayer, demons, and the existence of God.
One of the things I remember from a couple of months before I deconverted was a seminar in which the clergy talked about sex demons and how he and his wife said a ritual prayer whenever they stayed in a hotel room because they didn’t know who might’ve stayed there before and what demons they might have left behind. By then, I knew enough about epidemiology to know that if sex demons were a thing, we’d have hard evidence of them, and we don’t, so they aren’t. This was presented in all seriousness. And this kind of thing is not unusual in that world. I mean, how can you have escaped from that world and not want to make fun of it?
My last couple of years also included stories of near-death experiences (which I knew were just brain farts and not reliable indicators of reality), claims that scientific experiments prove that intercessory prayer works (which I was foolish enough to look up—hint: they actually don’t), the idea that certain prayers can address generational mental-health issues (so much for psychotherapy: let’s pray away the elephant in the room), and a profoundly unsatisfying scene in which a visiting clergy was asked how we can convince skeptics that God is real and he replied that they need to see him in their own experiences before they’ll be convinced. (What the… Is that really the best you can do? That’s never going to convince a skeptic.)