Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Another effect of this style of upraising is that I have undergone a long, painful, arduous journey escaping what I now think of as the brainwashing that I was subjected to for more than half of my life. To this day, I still have not escaped all of the effects of this time in my life. After all, it was perpetrated at the most developmentally important part of my growth. My natural bend to intellectualism was discouraged and stunted, because it does not fit with the practice of blind faith. My kneejerk sense of morality, which has both negative and positive aspects, does not always correspond with a realistic purview of ethical behavior. Depite my initial liberation from irrational beliefs, I still pay a penalty for the brainwashing I endured in these, and many other different ways. I am progressing daily. But, it seems such an unnecessary struggle should have been avoided.
The steps of Brainwashing according to:
1.Assault on identity
6.Compulsion to confess
7.Channeling of guilt
8.Releasing of guilt
9.Progress and harmony
10.Final confession and rebirth
Why do I think of this as brainwashing? Let's consider the definition of brainwashing (according to Oxford American Dictionary): make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.
1. The first step to brainwashing is to attack the subject's sense of self, or identity. Since a child is developing his/her sense of self within the context of the religious teachings, this step is fulfilled by default, as there is no prior sense of self to overcome.
2. Christianity is built upon the concept of guilt. We sinful creatures must be redeemed from the sinful nature we inherited, that was passed down through the generations from Adam and Eve. So, the second step, which is guilt is obviously fulfilled.
3. Attending church, listening to the songs, the sermon, and just the casual conversation of the congregation, constantly reinforces to the child how guilty everyone including the child him/her self are. This fulfills the step of self betrayal by convincing the child of his/her own lack of intrinsic worth. The child is forced to admit this, at least inside, if not to others. Ultimately, this step is about internalizing the guilt that is hammered down in step 2.
4. This leads to the point where the child wonders what he/she, the wretched sinful creature can possibly do about his/her dismal state. Obviously, there is nothing that he/she as an inherently evil creature can do. This is the point where God and Jesus come in. They are willing to forgive you, and give you a new life, one without the sinful nature that makes you so evil. The child is worn down to the point of relinquishing his/her control of self, the breaking point. I clearly remember spending many sleepless nights at the tender age of 8 crying out to God to save me. I was terrified of going to hell. It was much worse than any horror movie, or any other source of fear that I had felt before or since that time. It is a very powerful motivator to embrace the teachings of Christianity. To this day, I still have a deep fear of going to hell, even though I no longer even believe in such a place.
5. The step of leniency is fulfilled by the grace and mercy that God exhibits by giving the child a chance at salvation, simply by believing that Jesus died as a sacrifice to redeem him/her from his/her wretched sinful nature. He/She can now go to heaven, because she/he believes. Isn't God good to help that child. Isn't He showing leniency to such an unworthy creature.
6-10. To save time and space, I won't belabor the obvious. I think that you get the gist of what I am saying here. For these reasons, I will summarize the rest of the steps in one short paragraph. The child is encouraged to confess his/her sins often, at various times, in various ways. The pain that is associated with the guilt is attributed to the "world" as opposed to the "things of God" or the "Kingdom of Heaven". This encourages the child to avoid the "evil" things of the "world". After the conversion experience, it is the world that is blamed for the evil that may occasionally overtake the child. To remedy this, the child is encouraged to avoid the world. It is by renewing his/her mind in the Word of God that he/she insulates him/her self from the world, and the attendant guilt. This renewing and dedication to the things of God are put forth as providing the peace and harmony that has been denied the child through the aforementioned mechanisms. This, in turn, provides a sense of comfort and a cessation of a sense of responsibility within the child, as long as he/she continues to live in the prescribed way.
Considering that nearly every one of these steps can take place in a single church service, and that many children go through thousands of these services in their lifetimes, one can easily see the erosive power of such a mechanism on a person's will, especially as the personality, will, emotions, virtually every aspect that we think of as representing the very humanness of humanity, is yet to be formed. I have often thought that continuing to teach something that has already been learned ad nauseam must be a form or step of brainwashing. In what other aspect of life is this sort of instruction used, and considered normal?
The alert reader may wonder how the definition's statement of adopting radically differentbeliefs is fulfilled. Well, I'm glad you asked. Part of what led to my eventual deconversion was my noticing the fact that many of the most important claims made in the Bible are of a supernatural nature. Though I have spoken with a few people who claim direct exposure to what they consider to be supernatural events, I have not witnessed nor heard of any experience or phenomena that could not either be explained using natural means, or reasonably doubted (most often because of humanity's notoriously untrustworthy mechansisms of perception). This has lead me to ask the question, both of myself and others: What in our daily experiences supports the idea of the supernatural phenomena reported in the bible? Is there any reason or evidence that shows that such claims are truly possible/probable. These beliefs that we are expected to hold in Christianity really are radically different from our personal experiences of the natural world. What reason, other than the teaching (brainwashing), and widespread acceptance of such beliefs, do we have to believe these truly incredible claims?
Friday, July 5, 2013
The Coarse-Tuning Argument
The most basic assumption involved in FTA, and what the WAP addresses most directly, is that the appearance of fine tuning necessarily means that it is fine tuned. It boils down to this question, which is closely related to the first assumption: if the universe were not fine-tuned to produce life, and yet we were here to observe it, how would it look different? In other words, the universe could very well be required to be as it is to produce us, though that is not a certainty (as I will discuss). But if that’s the case, then we should not be surprised to see that it is as it is, considering we are the ones observing it.
Second, our universe began about 13.8 billion years ago. From this beginning, it took about 9 billion years for our solar system to form. It took about 10 billion years for life to begin on our planet. It took about 13.5 billion years for humans to evolve. This incredibly long period of time for the supposed goal of creation to appear doesn’t seem to support the importance of our species to this designer.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I get the impression that my writings, my methods, and my motivations are misunderstood. So, as briefly as I can, I will attempt to explain how I moved from belief to skepticism. In the process, I hope to also clarify my motivations for writing about the subject matter I write about. I hope to show that my message is not one of offense, but one of necessity. Most of the material I will cover here has been covered in some of my other notes and articles. But, this is the first time that I have presented it together with the purpose of defending my actions and words.
Most people know that I spent my youth in the Protestant Christian Church. My father was a deacon when I was born, and a preacher by the time I was about 10 years old. We had nightly bible study every weekday, and church on Wed. and Sun., plus vacation bible schools, revivals, singings, dinners, etc. I spent much of my first two decades of life in one church or another. Toward the end of my time living with my parents, we began to get into the Charismatic Christian movement. Basically, this is all about accepting the promises of the bible in this life, as opposed to focusing on the after life. This includes healing of diseases, the gifts of the spirit, the five-fold ministry, praise and worship as power to defeat the forces of the devil, intercessory prayer warfare, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Baptism by Fire, etc.
Shortly after I graduated from high school, my oldest brother bought me a plane ticket to stay with him and his family in southwestern Germany. He was in the Army at the time. And, he had fallen in with a really zealous set of Baptists. I had to defend my beliefs from him and the church he was attending. Understand, I wasn't very actively religious at the time. But, I was constantly bombarded with the views of he and his church, often they would gang up against me. As a result of this, I got into the bible even more than I ever had before. It was at this time that the seeds of doubt first began to bloom inside me, not only in my view of Christianity, but in the religion itself. I began to doubt because I had begun to notice not only discrepancies in the bible, but also that those who professed to believe were not necessarily the most moral. I continued to self identify as a Christian for several more years after that, though. I even actively witnessed and went to church during that time. It was all I knew in terms of world view.
In 2000, I had really made a mess of my life in various ways by various choices. I ended up moving back in with my parents for a few months. I have noticed that one of the great patterns of life is that often when someone who was a Christian has a really hard time they fall back on the religion and the god of their youth. I was no exception to this pattern at that time. I went whole hog into Christianity, my doubt from my time in Germany forgotten. I grew a long bushy beard. I wore buttons that said things like "too blessed to be stressed". I did my absolute best to take the bible literally, and to live as it said. I fasted constantly. I prayed and sang, sometimes in english, other times in tongues. I mean I was hard-core. Jesus had said that his yoke was light. But, I didn't find that to be the case. The bible said that if I sought God with all of my strength, and all of my heart, that I would find him. I renewed my mind in the word of God daily. I tried to taste God to see if he was good. You would think, based on all these promises, that I would have been experiencing the Joy of the Lord, and the other fruits of the Spirit. Not only did I not have these experiences, but I didn't even have a basic happiness. I took quite some time, several days, where I did nothing but wait on the Lord. I needed him. And, he never showed. I was crushed. Here I was giving my all, and he didn't even give me a crumb from the table. Confused and hurt, I moved on. I began to get back into society as a "normal" person, and the whole experience faded. I was still a self identifying Christian if you asked me, but you had to ask me. I didn't talk about God or my religion any more.
My main turning point that I would point to as ending my identification as a Christian was time that I spent in an internet chat room in 2003-2004 talking to people about the bible. Once again, I was trying to defend it. But, this one person got me to get my bible out, and follow along with him. He proceeded to show me, step by step, many contradictions in the text of the bible, as well as example after example of God behaving in ways that were immoral. I had read the bible extensively. Why hadn't I noticed that before? Because I was reading it with a religious slant, a bias that it was the perfect word of God. Well, after that night, seeing that the bible is demonstrably fallible, I couldn't defend being a Christian to myself anymore. I still couldn't admit to myself that I wasn't a Christian, either. That's a scary proposition for anyone who was raised to believe that this was an express one way ticket straight to hell. But, whether I could admit it to myself or not, I was no longer a Christian at that point.
It was about this time that my wife and I decided that I should quit my management job and go back to school. I took several courses in psychology, sociology, and especially philosophy that further opened my eyes. My first philosophy class was the single most enlightening, empowering, and refreshing experience of my life. It helped me to make sense of my emerging doubts. It was in my first philosophy class that I publicly identified myself as an agnostic. Subsequent classes in Comparative Religion and Elementary Logic further elucidated and progressed the conversion process that I was experiencing. I began to examine every aspect of my life and my environment with reason and logic as the basis for understanding. I began to see the importance of thinking clearly and critically. It was not a quick process. It was a long arduous journey, a journey that I am still in the process of making.
I spent a lot of time debating people at school, people on the internet, debating with myself. My usual subject matter was god, religion, science, etc. More or less what I still bring up most today. But, I started off a lot more extreme than I am now. I used to try to convince people that god didn't exist, because I was convinced that it was always best to let go of religion. I didn't have contact with most of my friends at that point. I wasn't yet on facebook. Slowly, I began to see that the question of the existence of god isn't as clear cut as I wanted it to be, as it seemed to me at that time. I won some debates, and lost others. But, I found that losing, while difficult to swallow sometimes, is also the best way to learn. Now, normally, if I make a claim, it is because I have researched it and argued it, and it has withstood the test of argument, often more than once. I try not to write posts and make claims that I can't back with a strong argument. I get caught up in arguments and claims others have posted that I'm not quite as prepared to defend my view point. But, my own are carefully considered and researched.
I learned during this time of intense debating one of the most important things I have ever learned, that is the difference between subjective beliefs and objective knowledge. If you are reading this, and aren't familiar with those terms, it would be a great idea to look them up. I learned that the only way to hope to achieve objective knowledge is by following evidence and reason to their conclusions. If there is no evidence or reason to support a claim, then it is not objective. Subjective claims cannot be argued to any satisfactory conclusion. This is the basis of my message, why I post what I post most of the time. I want to show that even though subjective belief is fine for individual persons, it is damaging and divisive to try to apply it to groups of people. I hope that you understand and believe me when I say that I am not attacking anyone's personal belief when I post about god or anything else. I am challenging subjective belief, and it's right to be in the public sphere. I don't condone or recommend belief without evidence. But, I don't condemn it either. I am showing that it is indeed subjective, and being subjective, or lacking evidence, it should not be considered any sort of universally applicable knowledge. There is no way to work out agreement among people concerning non-evidential claims.
My main motivation for seeking to get this message out is the state of the US political system, and the great divide in our nation. So many people seem to be making decisions and taking sides on public matters based on their own subjective beliefs. For example, the abortion debate, stem cell controversy, teaching creationism in science class, separation of church and state, foreign policy, civil rights for gays, and many more very important issues are being fought by opposing sides using subjective beliefs. There are evidential points to consider in each one of these issues that are being largely ignored because of these subjective beliefs. That is another reason that I am so quick to challenge beliefs. When a person is absolutely certain that they know the truth, they are closed to other possibilities. I am hoping to shake up that certainty, to encourage people to look, to pay attention. To try to figure it out in an unbiased manner. That is why I am so insistent that a person be on topic, challenge the points of the argument itself. I am hoping that we can find truth together. But, that can only happen when we are both sincerely looking. The way things are going now, tensions are escalating, people are yelling at each other. And, we can expect this to become an ever widening divide if we don't make changes to the way we talk to each other.
That is the most driving and most important motivation for my words and my actions. But, there are other motivations as well. It's not easy breaking free from two decades of what I now consider to be a form of brainwashing (see my post on this in my notes- note that I didn't accuse anyone of being brainwashed either, as I have been accused of doing). I am still open to the possibility that someone may make a point, concerning the existence of god or any other topic about which I post, that I have never considered before. I don't think I know it all. I know I don't. If I am wrong about the existence of god, I want to know. I want to know because I want to know the truth. But, honestly, I also want to know because of the potential finality of getting it wrong. Now, while I respect and appreciate another person's faith (I am not a stranger to the concept or the experience), that faith is not going to change my mind in any way. This is a secondary motivation to be sure, but it is a motivation all the same.
I've been told by more than one person that my style of writing may be a hindrance to those reading it. As one person told me, I am saying a lot in relatively few words, so it is a bit of a dense read. So, I will briefly address that in this posting as well. Everyone has different types of intelligences, according to a wonderful theory by Howard Gardener. I highly recommend reading about this theory. It really opened my eyes to the nature of intelligence. Not everyone is equally adept at all types of intelligences. We have individual strengths and weaknesses. One of my main strengths involves words, vocabulary, grammar, denotations, connotations, etc. I have been accused of reading a dictionary for fun. I love words. I love the nuance of meanings and implied meanings between similar words. I love using concise and careful language that gets across exactly what I'm trying to say. I don't like the easy misunderstandings that imprecise language produces. Also, I am already talking about controversial subjects, I don't want to use language that may offend more than the subject matter itself. I don't sit and look up words to use to try to impress or confuse people. I try to take care to write coherently and grammatically correct. But, that's as far as the planning goes. It comes out naturally the way I write it. I am trying to be a bit more conversational in this piece. Looking back I can see places where that hasn't happened. But, I am trying.
To conclude, let me reiterate that I know my subject matter is controversial. But, for the reasons given above, I feel that it is necessary to have these conversations. Because I am aware of the controversial nature of these topics, I do my best to be neutral with my tone, and to avoid accusations or recriminations. I don't think that I have made any patently offensive statements on here. You are welcome to look back through my writings to see. If you find one that you think is overtly offensive, bring it to my attention, and I will either try to explain it more thoroughly if I don't agree that it's offensive, or I will issue an apology if it is. But, it is my opinion that it is the subject matter itself that offends most. If that's the case, then I can't really say that I am sorry for that. I hope that by explaining things here, I may take away some of that offense, anyway. If there is a point that I should have covered that I haven't, let me know. I'll try to cover it. Thanks for caring and reading.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Note that our founders wrote “promote” the general welfare, not “provide”. This seems similar to the pursuit of happiness being an unalienable right, not simply happiness. Government should set the rules of the game (regulation) and enforce them, but step back and let the players play. Be a protector, not a provider. John Locke wrote, “The care therefore of every man's soul belongs unto himself, and is to be left unto himself. But what if he neglect the care of his soul? I answer, what if he neglects the care of his health, or of his estate, which things are nearer related to the government of the magistrate than the other? Will the magistrate provide by an express law, that such one shall not become poor or sick? Laws provide, as much as is possible, that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud and violence of others; they do not guard them from the negligence or Ill-husbandry of the possessors themselves."
It seems like limited government would be an easy sell. Examples of government programs, grants, and departments that are inefficient and waste money are not hard to find. It seems common for them to extend beyond their intended life (how many toll roads are still toll roads after they’ve paid for themselves), expand beyond their initial size (the income tax), or simply be excessive (insert your own example here).
Why is this so common? Simply because the most powerful incentives—competition and profit/loss—don’t exist in the public sector. Who do Amtrak and the Postal Service compete against? When a public entity is losing money, its typical reaction is to ask for more money. When a private entity is losing money, it must improve somehow, whether that be a better product, better service, a more efficient operation, or innovation.
Too often we focus on the intent of government action and not the results (e.g. The War on Poverty). If the intent is noble then the action is presumed to be noble. Put emotion aside and examine each action: is it achieving its intended purpose? How effectively was this issue dealt with prior to government action?
The blessing of liberty is the freedom to plot our own course. It is not a guarantee that we will be successful, however we define success. Government should give us a chance to reach our dreams, not ensure that we do. In trying to ensure that we do, the dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
This is an email that was forwarded to me a few days ago. I often receive emails like this. Usually a trip to snopes, factcheck or politifact is sufficient for a rebuttal. But, snopes had not yet addressed this one. So, here's my rebuttal. I have numbered each claim 1-20, and my rebuttal with the corresponding number below the text of the email.
1. If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?
2. If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?
3. If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan’s holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?
4. If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?
5. If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?
6. If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?
7. If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, would you have approved?
8. If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent “Austrian language,” would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?
9. If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?
10. If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to “Cinco de Cuatro” in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?
11. If George W. Bush had miss-spelled the word “advice” would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?
12. If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he’s a hypocrite?
13. If George W. Bush’s administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?
14. If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans, would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?
15. If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved?
16. If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?
17. If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?
18. If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?
19. If George W. Bush had proposed the biggest power grab by the executive branch EVER and upsetting the balance of powers in the guise of “Health Care Reform,” would you have approved?
20. So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can’t think of anything? Don’t worry. He’s done all this in just under a year — so you’ll have three more to come up with an answer.