Musings of Daniel Mocsny

Lately Daniel Mocsny wrote a few separate comments for us. Here are some of them. Enjoy!
At risk of committing the No True Scotsman fallacy, I suggest that someone who deconverts from a religion and then easily reconverts probably wasn't entirely deconverted in the first place. And the converse applies as well: a religion may attract new converts who quickly "backslide." Religious hucksters are aware of the backsliding tendency, so they have systems in place to combat it, such as regular church attendance, and creating an entire religious environment for their marks to inhabit. A new convert is like a seedling plant - it has not reached its adult size yet and is much more vulnerable to drought and plant predators. A church may have training courses for new converts, to catch them up on the brainwashing they missed. Atheists tend to have none of that infrastructure, as we don't normally have our own atheist churches or local communities. This may be part of the reason that religion began declining in the USA after the Internet became widely available - now we have online atheist / freethinker communities. Atheism doesn't have to be an entirely do-it-yourself exercise now.

Removing religion from one's brain may be like pulling weeds from your lawn. Failing to dig out every last weed root results in weeds quickly resprouting. It takes multiple sessions of weed-pulling to get all the weeds, and even then new weed seeds are constantly arriving on the wind or in bird poop, so occasional maintenance is an ongoing need.

The falsehoods of religion have been honed by thousands of years of selection - the religions that emerge from cutthroat competition tend to have the "stickiest" lies. Overcoming them, after a lifetime of brainwashing, may require a lot of cognitive work. Reading atheist books such as those written or edited by John Loftus is a big part of this. Unfortunately, many people rarely read books, or when they do, they read useless fiction, or disinformation.

Many religions declare threats for people who doubt them. Often the threats are more immediate, such as angry gods sending plagues, storms, or hostile human enemies unless we placate them with sacrifices. The concept of an eternal afterlife of unending torture at the hands of the loving God is an idea that evolved gradually. See Bart Ehrman's Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (2020) to learn how the concept gradually evolved within the Abrahamic tradition.

The Outsider Test for Faith always applies, of course. Probably no one among the world's two billion Christians has ever lost sleep over the Muslim Hell, and conversely I doubt that any Muslims worry about the Christian hell. I would agree that most of the time you can't argue an incorrect idiot into being correct, and you certainly cannot add a point to anyone's IQ by arguing with them. But (and this is a but big enough to warrant Sir Mixalot's scrutiny) it's hard to win a war without showing up. The disinformation machine doesn't worry about the difficulty of changing people's minds. It understands that repetition is the most potent form of persuasion. Trump for example was able to fool about 30% of Americans into disblieving in our elections. For most of American history, there was no widespread doubt about our elections. People often didn't like the outcome, but they understand that elections really do reflect the will of the people. Trump was able to destroy over 200 years of that belief in a few short years.

Christianity in the USA is losing about 1% of market share per year. So it's clear that somebody is getting through to idiots with the voice of reason. Maybe we can speed that up a little by getting and staying in the game. Fox News doesn't need to be the only voice they hear.

During the... COVID-19 pandemic, religious people complained loudly about the lockdowns that denied them their weekly churchy fix. Religious people have an ongoing need for group reinforcement. In contrast, once you learn some science, you don't have to keep going back to science class every week to keep yourself convinced. Atheists may have griped about lockdowns too, but not because isolation in any way threatened to change their beliefs.

Inside every religious believer is a latent unbeliever waiting to manifest. In the modern environment, any number of potential triggers for change are constantly present. If outside influences like prayer or meddling gods cannot be excluded, then science cannot proceed - it won't work. The same experiment will get different results depending on who was praying somewhere in the world, or on the whim of some god. Science doesn't just assume that we only use natural explanations, it actually requires that only natural phenomena exist. Otherwise you can't reliably replicate a result. Replication is fundamental to science, and even more important for industries built on science, which replicate the same products billions of times.

Thus the very existence of science is strong evidence against the kinds of gods people worship - gods who intervene routinely in the natural order. The burden of proof is therefore on the theist to explain how we can have science and smartphones that undeniably exist, and at the same time we have their God whose existence and behavior would make science impossible. The plain fact that during the past two centuries the intellectual elite (i.e., those who actually have some claim to expertise on matters of religion, philosophy, and science) have indeed become overwhelmingly skeptical in regard to the existence of a "conscious Creator.”

Joshi doesn't present statistics, but it is at least anecdotally obvious that there are numerous fields of science and scholarship that are toxic to faith. The result is that people who acquire expertise in any of these fields, let alone several or all of them, rarely emerge with faith intact. At the barest minimum, the intellectually competent believer has to triangulate their way into some sort of liberal faith stripped of the most blatantly incorrect faith claims (such as Young Earth Creationism). But even the liberal believer must keep their eyes at least half-shut on their residual superstition.

If everybody could know what the intellectual elites know (that is, what the people who actually read a lot of books know), then religion would recede to the status of an oddball hobby like stamp collecting. ---By Daniel Mocsny.
On changing the minds of believers I wrote on that topic, seen here.