Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The threat of "Atheistic regimes"

People who are wrong like to stick to their clichés when arguing against reason, they attack rational thought with their mis-understanding of how the world works. People who use homoeopathic medicine will attack science for thinking it knows everything and that there are still mysteries to be solved. They don't get that scientists know they don't know everything and do know how test to see if something works. The 'things we don't or can't know' argument comes from other wishful thinking groups like psychics, astrologers, the religious, the anti-vaccination morons and so on. As the religion myth is the one I have the most direct contact with, I tend to explain idiocy in that context. The reasoning methods, however, can be applied to all of these other problems.

 Unfortunately, people are very, very good at ignoring evidence when disagrees with their world view and one of the major side effects of this denial is psychological projection.

Projection is "a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others have those feelings" and it is quite common. It was used as part of the basis for Ludwig Feuerbach's theory that religion was created by humans to cope with their own feelings, an idea which appears to be largely accepted by the sane. Denial (subconscious) occurs in religious debates when the religious person is faced with a fact they can't consciously process without admitting that they were incorrect. This leads to circular reasoning (This is a brief paraphrasing of a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dr. William Lane Craig):

CH: Why do you think the bible is true?
WLC: Because in the bible it says the disciples believed that Jesus was resurrected, so I do too.
CH: But why do you believe that the bible true?
WLC: Because in the bible it says the disciples believed that Jesus was resurrected, so I do too.
CH: *facepalm*

Although that was the main gist of the argument, he also asserted at least twice, that "most historians say that these are first hand accounts". Which is a factual lie.

Once they have delved in to the arena of denial (painful sounding mixed metaphor, eh?), there a few new areas of nuttiness for them to explore. Projection kicks in once they start attacking the opposition's view point. Here is a recent example of a very common attack on atheism. Sometimes they refer to totalitarian regimes which do take an atheistic standpoint and sometimes they pick ones which weren't. I matters little which one they pick from a defensive position, as the slur is easily refuted, however, I do find it more entertaining which they pick nazism as it can be easily turned back on them. It must take a lot of effort to deny the religious influence on the nazi party. It is far to well documented for a denial to be taken seriously. Of course, there is a bad side to be being dragged in to the nazi debate. it detracts from the simple defence that religious tyranny and atheist tyranny are not equal. Religion has text books which order murder, rape and genocide and can be used to justify (to themselves, obviously) the atrocities committed. Atheism, on the other hand, has no such instruction. The atheism which is used in totalitarian regimes is not true atheism, it simply replaces the established religion with a 'human deity', great examples are China and North Korea. As Richard Dawkins has said many times "you can take logical steps from theism to violence, but there are no logical steps from atheism to violence", my lack of belief in a deity no more compels me to commit violence than my lack of belief in unicorns is likely to make me commit violence.

The projection issues cause the paranoia to increase, the internal conflict between the desire to do good (something I truly believe exists in most religious people) and the desire to stop others acting in a way which makes the believer to feel 'uncomfortable' causes them to accuse others of oppression, totalitarianism etc. They don't seem to grasp the idea that stopping others from living freely is precisely what they are doing and not what atheists, the LGBT community and others are doing. In my recent discussions a collection of studies that totalled tens of thousands of participants in peer-reviewed papers was brushed aside with an accusation of fraud and a link to a newspaper article was given as the alternative. My arguments were referred to as 'ideology', with the implication that the evidence was created to fit my ideas, rather than impartial evidence that simply supports my views, because I was right in the first place.

Studies linking religion and psychology are continuing and things like MRI technology are making those studies more comprehensive. Maybe this will help us on the path to ridding the world of superstition.

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