Winning the Battle

I recently received notification of a post by an ex-Christian blogger who goes by the name of Logan. I’ve been following his blog for quite some time and although he writes only sporadically, I always enjoy his posts. (Some of you may recognize him when I tell you his de-conversion was directly related to his oldest son declaring he was an atheist, which he wrote about here).

In Logan’s most recent post, related to the power of persuasion, he suggests that “we as humans are primarily emotional and intuitive thinkers. We want to believe we are primarily logical and rational thinkers … and adds … but we aren’t!” He amplifies this thought by referencing an open letter written by Dennis Augustine (ex-minister who was helped by The Clergy Project).

In the letter, Augustine describes how he left the faith via emotion, not reason. Here are a couple of excerpts from the letter:

I’m sure that I don’t have to remind you that it’s pretty pointless trying to reason with a believer. It is futile to try to reason a man out of a belief that he wasn’t reasoned into.

[…]

I’m convinced that reason … is pretty ineffective against the armour-plated defenses that shield believers from reason: the shame of sin, the terror of isolation and a fear of death (the ultimate isolation).

[…]

I think that it’s easy for people who are so steeped in a scientific environment dominated by the intellect to think that evidence and reason will make the difference; they can but only after one breaks through the walls around someone’s heart.

As I read these statements, I thought about the many times I’ve read arguments against Christianity in which non-believers have done exactly this; that is, used reason and scientific evidence in their attempts to break through the armor of the believer. While there’s no doubt this approach works with some, I tend to agree with the ex-minister that emotion is the predominant factor behind many (most?) deconversions.

Fundamentalists seem to be especially resistant to reasoning. Any kind of cogent argument is immediately dismissed … and their counter-attack usually includes emotional accusations, such as the non-believer/atheist left the faith because they hated god or their feelings were hurt or they are angry at god, etc., etc.

At the close of his post, Logan included a link to a video validating the power of emotion over reason called “Mr. Rogers and and the Power of Persuasion.” Well worth watching.

P.S. If you’re so inclined, I suggest you follow the link in Logan’s post to the actual letter by the ex-minister — and then read Logan’s comments at the end of the letter. He shares a personal story that happens all too frequently behind closed Christian doors.

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25 thoughts on “Winning the Battle

  1. Hello Nan. Ex-believers have an advantage over never-believers like my self as you understand the emotion to having faith. I think I am an emotional person normally but I would have trouble arguing emotion to emotion about religion. That seems to limit my usefulness to any conversation about faith with a believer. Oh well, I never did make much headway with any of them. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I very much agree with the conclusion that we are persuaded by emotion rather than logical argument.

    I read of a study undertaken by a psychologist who looked at conversion to religion, in this case The Moonies in North America. The study was very detailed and at close quarters, it found that it was primarily social relationships that led to conversion, the people tended to convert to the religion when the majority of their close social group were adherents. In most cases the new convert knew little about the doctrine at this point.

    What the study found was that talking to the converts some time later they invariably said they converted due to doctrine. The researcher knew this was not the case, and concluded it was the a sort of posy conversion rationalization.

    As an aside the researcher studied correspondence among the group, (who were perhaps 100 in number [I can’t recall now, but it was small]) and found close similarity to the type of correspondence in the New Testament letter, suggesting that the early church was quite small.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I agree as well, that emotion is what eventually tears down the wall. I would say reason is most effective once the person starts having questions. Their own curiousness can ingest the logic and reason, but if they aren’t curious they aren’t going to be receptive to logic.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I think you are spot in here. In my own case I developed many rationalisations for accepting parts of the Bible that I knew could not be true, mainly using the metaphor excuse.

      It was only when I was prepared to seriously consider that the Bible may not be a divine book that I could open myself to reason. What I found then was that I then was I almost instantaneously concluded the Bible to be a wholly human book. The reason I was so quick to reach my conclusion was that I already knew the major arguments on both sides of the debate,but had only previously been open to accepting one conclusion. It was like the flood gates opened and I could see a thousand reasons why the Bible must be a human book.

      The arguments for a divine source were simply overwhelmed.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I think your experiences are similar to many other deconverts where they look back and think…wow this was so obvious and are amazed they couldn’t see it.

        Although I was never a major believer, it was ultimately emotion to that led me to reject the God hypothesis. Or at least the Christian one. I knew that all this God stuff they were selling wasn’t right, but I wasn’t sure what was. Since then I have become much more educated on the subject as well as learning a lot about cognitive biases and logical fallacies, and it too feels plain as day to me now that the entire religious enterprise is a human enterprise. If there is a God, it certainly isn’t a personal one, interested in the daily happenings of our lives. Only humans could have invented something so narcissistic. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        • Sensory overload and emotional trauma or excitement is a powerful POWERFUL drug Swarn, as you and many of us (like Victoria NeuroNotes) know too well. Dopamine and adrenaline can completely overwhelm logic, reasoning, and equitable critical-analysis and higher objectivity, i.e. peer-review/analysis. 😉

          Liked by 2 people

  4. I suggest that people differ. Some learn through reasoning, others through intuition, still others through, well who really knows. I also think that if you make a reasoned argument that is interpreted as threatening their faith, even though they see the reasoning, they may very well switch to intuitive or emotional learning so they do not have to accept the reasoned argument. I think this is called the Law of Bullshit Protection. Once we have bought a line of bullshit, we protect ourselves from attacks on that bullshit by moving the goal posts of what kind of argument we will accept.

    Liked by 5 people

    • The proponents of the Big Five personality traits theory would agree with you. Also called OCEAN.
      Look it up. It is an interesting theory on behavior, traits and learning.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I just looked up the OCEAN Model and found this under “Openness to Experience” … Openness to experience concerns an individual’s willingness to try to new things, to be vulnerable, and the ability to think outside the box.

        I think any non-believer who has bandied with Christians will agree this is an area where they are greatly lacking.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I spent a few hours last night studying the Biggs Myers theory. Determined I am INFP.
          We don’t ever take anything at face value or believe anything anyone tells us. I have always been called the most stubborn person anyone has ever met. I would have told Me. Rogers he would make a good used car salesman, or insurance or snake oil. He used the same emotional pitch they use.
          I have to listen then do my own research and slowly think through the answer.

          Agree that different people learn by different methods.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I have heard the emotional reasoning for deconverting a few times. It doesn’t ring true for me, I am a little sceptical on how widely true it is, but if someone says it was true for them I have to accept that.

    For me, it really was the scientific and rational evidence that came to the rescue. That’s not to say the journey out wasn’t emotional, it was, but the emotion was first about wanting to stay with what I knew and then about accepting that what I knew was untrue.

    Liked by 4 people

    • As the old saying goes, Different strokes for different folks. 🙂 There’s no doubt that rationality and reason do work for some. However, for me, there’s a lot of truth behind the ex-minister’s comment: “It is futile to try to reason a man out of a belief that he wasn’t reasoned into.”

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, limey!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Another thing religion has done make it an accomplishment to merely believe. The natural man is actually the believer, something we are all cursed with from the time we are small. But the doctrines flip that fact and honor belief as the ultimate accomplishment —it’s not in the least, but everybody gets a trophy for what comes way too naturally.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. We are of course emotional beasts, no getting around that. Guilt is the number one emotion religions take advantage of. They take a perfectly normal human being and guilt them into brain dead zombies impervious to logic and reason.

    Swarn nailed it. It is the believer who has doubts, that is more susceptible to reason. The devout believer has CD’d themselves into a corner, any new evidence or even their own observations, are swept aside to accomodate their indoctrination. For some it becomes too much to bear, the doubt creeps in, reason is allowed to function again, and they find their way out.

    For others, it is a life sentence.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. EMOTIONAL???!!! ME???!!! NO WAY!!!!! I’m rational, baby!!! I use REASON!!! I NEVER GET EMOTIONAL AND OVER-REACT TO ANYTHING!!!!! HA!!! CRAZY!!!! 😀

    “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherein we fly to heaven” William Shakespeare, Henry VI, part 2, act 4, scene 7, 1. 73-74

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Logan’s information, studies, and deconversion testimony is just one more out of thousands/millions of former Christians that are growing in record numbers every year, every decade. It is why Christianity WILL SOON BE overtaken by Islam — which is another interesting trend all together! — by 2060 or sooner. Of course, the #1 reason Islam is on average growing so huge so fast like famished weeds is because it spreads rapidly through all highly impoverished, low-educated, struggling areas, regions, and countries. Period. All the cumulative stats show this.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/why-muslims-are-the-worlds-fastest-growing-religious-group/

    As far as believing or converting to some type of monotheistic belief-system is concerned, further studies done from 2007 through 2011 in 40 countries around the world, including the United States show that the rational choice to adhere to a religion is heavily self-centered, not theological, not necessarily empirical, or not even miraculous, but instead based on the question, what will the decision cost ME? I am happy to provide the links to these studies as well to further support Logan’s point and your’s Nan if need be. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was too old to participate in the Mr. Rogers era, but I still watched this calm, careful man whenever I could, dealing with the hard issues that kids have. He rarely, if ever, faltered, and that Senate hearing had me in tears, at how perfectly he won over Mr. Crusty.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. addendum: I just realized what this encounter resembled: in the movie “Miracle on the Hudson” about Captain Sullenberger and his three point landing on the Hudson River, Tom Hanks portrays him–and is confronted by a board of inquiry who is suspicious and definitely hostile to his actions. But the responses he gives are exactly the same tenor as those of Mr. Rogers: calm, careful, boring straight past the mistrust and snidity of the panel–and in the end, in both instances, the hositility is washed away because of the attitude(s) of the persons being interrogated.

    I’m not sure that can be taught, or learned, it seems to be a part of who you are.

    Liked by 1 person

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