Question from Rohit:
I think atheism is just a consequence of being rational. Logic, good judgement and common sensical thinking will lead one to atheism in my opinion. And I think that theism is an infantile habit that one clings on to – out of a sense of nostalgia, insecurity/fear , doubt or even just plain superstition.
Obviously a lot of people do not like this about me – they call it being ‘opinionated’, ‘not listening to the other side’ etc.
As far as religion and spirituality are concerned I’m sort of a been there, done that, found nothing type. I’ve read the bible, the bhagvatgita, qoran, granth sahib etc etc – I admire pieces of them as works of art (or philosophy). But no more than that. There are verses in each of these that are poetic, sublime. But I cannot for the life of me believe them to be fact. My brain just does not allow it (the curse of being trained as an engineer perhaps).
Someone very very close to me is a theist. I believe she is a borderline theist (bordering on agnosticism) but she is extremely particular about rituals, about me not cussing whenever the god word is raised etc.
She won’t listen to reason, or logic or anything. She’s fine in all other senses, much more practical than me in worldly matters, infact.
How does one push a borderline agnostic into the light of atheism?
What worries me most, the reason I want her to ‘convert’, is that the amount of time one wastes in superstitions and the amount of damage bad beliefs can do is tremendous – I’ve seen it happen in my own life.
Since she just won’t talk to me on this matter, I’ve been thinking of buying some good books on atheism and leaving them around casually – but I don’t know if that will work. Its pretty childish and frustrating – she has a pretty ok IQ (125) … but she just clings on. Maybe I should enroll her into an engineering/ physical science course 🙂
Answer by SmartLX:
That’s not just a toughie, it’s the toughie. If there were a reliable method of genuinely dispelling people’s theism, there wouldn’t be many theists left.
The main problem from your point of view is that losing one’s religion is largely an internal process. You can inspire it or set it off, but you can’t do it all for your friend. She has to realise things for herself.
The question I try to ask believers is why they believe. This bit of information above all will help you with your friend, whether she tells you outright or you find out another way. Once you know what’s supporting her belief, you’ll know what you actually need to address in order to bring her around. Keep in mind that the reason she believes will almost certainly be a combination of intellectual and emotional factors, so you probably won’t come up with an instant pill.
Educating the religious can sometimes have the opposite effect of what you’re expecting and entrench their beliefs further. Many champions of the intelligent design movement are engineers or computer programmers, and they claim to know design when they see it. Generally speaking, if one’s beliefs survive one’s education, one’s education then serves one’s beliefs.
I do agree with your reason for wanting to deconvert your friend. Religion tends to benefit itself far more than its hosts.
“That’s not just a toughie, it’s the toughie. If there were a reliable method of genuinely dispelling people’s theism, there wouldn’t be many theists left.”
Question from Rohit: