Four Step Guide for Journalists Interviewing Religionists:
1. Religionists’ faith comes from their personal experience they call “revelation”.
2. Explore their revelation experience.
3. Ask them why a physiological/psychological explanation isn’t better or why they interpret the experience in terms of their particular religion rather than another religion.
4. Ask them why they shouldn’t be treated with the same humanity we treat other psychiatric patients with imaginary friends.
I was raised by religionists, but then got a proper education. Unfortunately religionists never reach intellectual maturity. Why? Because their religious emotion overpowers the joy of exploring the real world. I know because that’s what happened to me. Religionists don’t want to explore why they are religious. They have been brainwashed. They are often afraid of going to hell. It is extremely difficult to extract yourself from brainwashing, especially if it gives you comfort.
Frantz Fanon put it well in discussing Cognitive Dissonance (my emphasis):
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
The structure of the human brain and the link between emotion and intellect is shown by the Capgras Delusion. This provides an excellent explanation for why some apparently rational people, including scientists, believe in their favourite religion, health fad or scientific mumbo jumbo usually outside their area of expertise. Capgras found that the emotional and rational functions of the brain are inseparable unless severed by a brain lesion. There is no such thing as pure rationality in the human brain. In other words when humans, including scientists are convinced about something there must be an emotional element, no matter how hard we imagine ourselves to be being purely rational at the time (think of the joy of Eureka moments). We can avoid error via the science community and checking our conclusions against evidence.
The Santa Claus Defence
So why am I bold enough to say religionists never reach intellectual maturity? Some people defend religionists with the excuse that faith brings them comfort. The tweet below to me when I said religion was a human tragedy sums it up.
My response? Children believe in Santa Claus, not adults of intellectual maturity.
The belief that science is just another religion
Science corrects its errors based on evidence, religion doesn’t. Naomi Oreskes shows how in this youtube video. Religion usually changes its doctrines a few steps behind the rest of the society. It does this in an effort to keep its numbers up.
Ricky Gervais nicely destroys Stephen Colbert’s idea that science is just another faith in this short video. To his credit, the religionist Colbert agrees. Ricky says that if all religious books and science books were destroyed, the science books could be rewritten based on evidence and science experiments because they are true. But the religious books could not be rewritten.
A large part of the problem is also the postmodernist rubbish that there can be different truths. The postmodernist doctrine (now dying off I think) was a horrible part of academic belief for many years because in many universities you couldn’t get a degree if you didn’t spout this nonsense. Many young people had no idea how they were being indoctrinated. And like it or not much of this woolly thinking then pervaded society and was picked up by religionists attempting to defend their beliefs.
To crib from Sam Harris in his book, The Moral Landscape: As it turns out, dopamine receptor genes may play a role in religious belief. People who have inherited the most active form of the D4 receptor are more likely to believe in miracles and to be skeptical of science; the least active forms correlate with rational materialism. Skeptics given the drug L-dopa, which increases dopamine levels, show an increased propensity to accept mystical explanations for novel phenomena. The fact that religious belief is both a cultural universal and appears to be tethered to the genome has lead some scientists to conclude that there is simply no getting rid of faith-based thinking.