Comfortable Delusions

I’ve been thinking about what it was like to be a comfortable Christian church member; remembering the soothing feelings of belonging to a morally superior movement with a great commission directly from the throne room of Almighty God.

The high I experienced from just mingling with younger generations (as teacher, supervisor, chaperone, worship leader, etc.), reveling in their energy, soaking up their contagious attitudes of earnest, idealistic hopefulness and utter confidence in the Bible and the happy future it promised us– it reinforced the superiority complex and pride because the “high” was “natural,” not from supposedly satanic substances. And it felt good to know we were superior and to be proud of that lofty status.

Thought experiment: If I could confront that past self with my current atheist understanding of the world, say in a dream or time machine, I’m fairly certain that Christian Jim (CJ) could not be convinced to agree with Atheist Jim (AJ). CJ would fear AJ was a Satanic apparition, and CJ’s beliefs about such visitations as predicted by his eschatology would be confirmed.

This confirms the truth of Peter Boghossian’s admonition in his Manual for Creating Atheists. That admonition instructs the counter-apologist (or as he calls it, Street Epistemologist) to stay away from facts and evidence when interacting with believers if you hope to move them closer to questioning their faith. Counter-intuitive as it is to me (AJ), who holds facts and evidence in such high regard, the use of such with the true believers will actually make them double down on their faith, which is counterproductive to the encounter.

It’s true. I see it. I know it from experience interacting with believers. And this thought experiment reinforces the truth of it. Yet I’m finding it terribly challenging to apply this admonition in my interactions.

Why? And what to do about it?

My first desire is for a role-playing opportunity to address this specific admonition, allowing me to practice, practice, practice the mental and social disciplines required. Otherwise, each interaction devolves into that supreme waste of time (for street epistemology purposes) known as a debate.

Debate participants rarely change their mind as a result of a debate. Observers might, and thus debates have good uses. But turning discussions into debates is a great way to prevent any positive changes. And who wants to prevent that?