Brainwashing To Believe

Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Featured, Thoughts | 18 comments

On Friday 13 January this year, The Telegraph reported that Islamic terrorist have been brainwashing children into believing that if they strapped a bomb to their chest and detonated it in a public place, that the bomb would only kill Americans. The story said this:

“The largely illiterate boys are fed a diet of anti-Western and anti-Afghan government propaganda until they are prepared to kill, he said. But the boys are also assured that they will miraculously survive the devastation they cause.”

While this is horrifying, and any person in their right mind would see it this way, my mind immediately turns to why this is happening; what makes people behave in this way, and what factors influence these decisions? It seems to me that people are taking advantage of the poor, the orphaned and the undereducated children from a less than sufficient public school system, ones who have little in their lives, and ones who are easily influenced by the compelling nature of religious promises of redemption.

So the question is this. Do the people who send these children to blow themselves and many others up, who claim that Allah will spare the lives of the children, do they truly believe what they are telling these kids? In short, I really doubt it very much. Any person calling themselves a Muslim that reads that article must surely know that when a bomb taped to your chest explodes, Allah will not raise a hand to stop it.

Given that, it means that the people telling these children that they will survive the blast are lying. Not in the normal story-telling mode of religion, but in an outright lie that costs the lives of many including the child carrying the bomb. These people justify their war on “infidels”, and the lies they are telling to themselves and the children, based on the words of the religion that they apparently hold so dear, and will follow with so much fervour and fanaticism, to then use it as a tool to kill as many people as possible. I’m shocked, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

Again and again I see religion used as an excuse to do evil to other humans. It can be as horrible as this case where the lives of innocent children are taken “to further the cause”, or as seemingly harmless as promoting abstinence-only sex education. The fact that that some people use their religion as the reason for their actions, and can either gain from it by gloating over dead infidels, or by thinking they are gaining God’s favour by doing so, makes me feel quite ill. The contradictory teachings of religious texts claim to be peaceful, where one does unto others as they wish to be done unto, and yet we see so often this key edict left behind when one uses their religion as a reason or excuse to injure others or distort these teachings to get their own way.

It’s not okay to say “it’s God’s will”, for who is anyone to claim that God’s will is unknowable, and then turn around and tell us that you do in fact know the mind of God? In this case it’s not so much the belief system that is the problem, but the individuals who act as advocates for God or Allah’s will, who distort religious writings to suit their own wants and and desired outcomes. This is bad enough in and of itself, but to then brainwash kids with the utter insanity that this story illustrates is unconscionable.

I understand of course that these people are at war, and people are forced to do some unpleasant and sometimes despicable acts, and war is invariably a horrible state to find yourself in. But I think we can all agree that this kind of use of religion is one of the most disgusting acts I have ever heard of.

Before you get on your high-horse and tell me either that that is an extreme example, and that these people aren’t the true religious people of the world, please tell me, who in fact are the “real religious”? No true Muslims? No true Christians? Not the act of a true religious person? You tell me.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi post Martin. I’m afraid that Islam is the most dangerous of all religions with Christianity a close second, when it comes to doing evil things to other humans. And the thing is even a moderate Muslim also is blind to the evils of someone who does anything in the name of Islam.
    I’ll give you an example. Muslim friends of mine here in India, very well read & educated, working in MNCs & IT sectors, enjoying English films (heck one of the women is a huge admirer of Brendan Fraser & Peirce Brosnan), cafes, western food etc etc – in all ways no different from the average Indian in a middle class family and living comfortable lives. These are their opinions:
    Saddam Hussain did nothing wrong, he was an honest man and a people’s man – only because he was an Arab Muslim who was killed by the western forces. Al Qaeda wasn’t really wrong, just misunderstood and so was Osama.
    But on the other hand, when I told them about a friend of my uncle, social worker, never hurt a soul, engineer by profession, who always helps the poor & homeless and is an atheist Muslim who admitted to eating & liking pork – their reaction was that he wasn’t fit to continue living!! Because he rejected Islam and ate pork!

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  2. While this is horrifying, and any person in their right mind would see it this way…

    That’s very humane and compassionate of you, but can you back up this claim with science? It sounds like pure emotionalism as it stands.

    Before you get on your high-horse and tell me either that that is an extreme example…

    Yeah… well… high horse or not, there’s little question that it’s an extreme example, in the sense of being extremely emotional. The callous slaughter of innocent children is a highly emotive topic, after all.

    …and that these people aren’t the true religious people of the world…

    Truly religious? Maybe. It’s a bit hard to say whether these people believe any of their religious proclamations, sometimes, as you have observed. Can you distinguish between a genuine religious loon and someone who’s just using it as a tool to manipulate others for personal power? I’m not sure I can.

    On the other hand, if you want examples of religions which routinely practised infant sacrifice, they aren’t hard to find in the history books. That will suffice as an existence proof of “genuinely evil religion” (so long as you’re willing to grant that killing babies is evil — not much to ask).

    But where were you going with this? Some religion is evil, therefore religion is evil? Some religion is evil, so we should be opposed to religion in general? What association between religion and evil are you implying, exactly? You say, “again and again I see religion used as an excuse to do evil to other humans.” No kidding: people are always wrapping their evil deeds in respectable garb, like religion, or nationalism, or the Greater Good, or wealth creation, or self defence, or freedom of choice, or the good of the children, or the good of the planet. Evil does not like to stand naked, and will wrap itself in whatever clothing is socially convenient.

    I think you’re singling out religion unfairly. Even if you’re not, is it fair to vilify religion as a whole either because there are evil examples of it, or because people sometimes use it to justify evil (whether they believe it or not)?

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    • tl;dr

      [insert standard vitriol and accusations of trolling here]

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    • Once again, this goes to show that you aren’t coming to Martin’s blog for anything but trolling. Can you honestly state that you come to Martin’s blog for anything but wanting to be argumentative? If you liked Martin’s writing that’s fine and no you don’t have to agree on everything, let alone anything, but your purpose seems to be only trolling.

      If Martin were to post pictures of his new cute kitty, I’m fully convinced that you would show up in the comments and accuse Martin of dishonesty, for clearly that is a puppy.

      PLZ TO BE POSTING OF THE KITTEN NOW MARTIN!

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    • That’s very humane and compassionate of you, but can you back up this claim with science? It sounds like pure emotionalism as it stands.

      Actually I would see it as horrifying because it goes against everything that I see as precious to humanity; compassion, understanding and mostly not harming others for your own gain. Going against this is harmful to not only individuals, but to society. Don’t need science to tell us that not harming or taking needless advantage of others is the proper way to conduct yourself IF your intended outcome is harmonious with existence of society. We speak here about benefits to societies, or at a minimum, doing no harm intentionally. I’m sure you would agree to that statement right? If not, give me a good reason why not.

      The callous slaughter of innocent children is a highly emotive topic, after all.

      Of course, refer to my previous point.

      But where were you going with this? Some religion is evil, therefore religion is evil? Some religion is evil, so we should be opposed to religion in general? What association between religion and evil are you implying, exactly? You say, “again and again I see religion used as an excuse to do evil to other humans.” No kidding: people are always wrapping their evil deeds in respectable garb, like religion, or nationalism, or the Greater Good, or wealth creation, or self defence, or freedom of choice, or the good of the children, or the good of the planet. Evil does not like to stand naked, and will wrap itself in whatever clothing is socially convenient.

      I think you’re singling out religion unfairly. Even if you’re not, is it fair to vilify religion as a whole either because there are evil examples of it, or because people sometimes use it to justify evil (whether they believe it or not)?

      But religion is used to indoctrinate children, helpless and unable to make decisions requiring wisdom, or at very least some knowledge. You make a list here of other thing people do, well some people are pretty much going to take advantage of others when the chance arises. But religion professes to be the ultimate good, the ultimate proof, and the only way for you to be truly saved. This is lacking in any of the other “garbs” you mention. Religion is to be singled out because the divisiveness is not just one of physical consequence, it professes to be beyond this, to be beyond understanding, to be the only way. It is used to scare people into submission, and to lull them into a false sense of security. I single out religion because it teaches people to be satisfied with what’s not true.

      Gotta go but I may continue this later.

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    • Don’t need science to tell us that not harming or taking needless advantage of others is the proper way to conduct yourself IF your intended outcome is harmonious with existence of society. We speak here about benefits to societies, or at a minimum, doing no harm intentionally. I’m sure you would agree to that statement right?

      I might agree, but it would only be an agreement in the sense that I share similar tastes — in the same way that I might agree that ice cream is nice. It’s an expression of preference for a particular kind of society, but you seem to be framing it as “this is society; anything else would be anti-society”. If that’s the gist of your statement, then I disagree. The Roman Empire achieved an impressive society through the violence of Pax Romana — peace through total conquest. I’m sure that some Muslim extremists think that the ideal society is a 100% Islamic one, and that any means — any amount of intentional “harm” which builds towards the goal — will justify that end. After all, is it really harm if it brings about a greater good? Cue the metaphors about amputating a gangrenous limb, and so on.

      You and I might agree that such inhumane activity can not bring about a greater good, but this does not make it true, or even self-evident. I’m afraid all we’ve established is a similarity in taste. What we need is some way to show that people in general ought to share these tastes in society, or a coherent argument that elevates the issue above a matter of taste. Personally, I have no idea how one might go about that — I only mentioned science as a means to that sort of end in my previous post because I’m of the understanding that “science has the answer to all questions” is part of the underlying philosophy here. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      But religion professes to be the ultimate good, the ultimate proof, and the only way for you to be truly saved. This is lacking in any of the other “garbs” you mention.

      Richard Dawkins professes science to be the only kind of knowledge worthy of being so called, and thus the authority to which all inferior modes of truth-seeking must defer. If there is any “salvation” to be had from anything, then it is science which will lead us to it. Any particular theory of science might be open to doubt, but is only to be displaced by a better scientific theory, so the supremacy of science itself is not negotiable: it is the only way.

      Claims to be the highest authority in any given sphere of knowledge (or knowledge as a whole) are not limited to religions: Richard Dawkins’ claim regarding the supremacy of science is merely the first non-religious example that springs to mind. As to the other nasty things people do in the name of religion, we already discussed that, and I already agreed that it happens. But what of the good things done in the name of religion? Must I ignore those as purely coincidental? You’re still doing your darndest to vilify religion, but you haven’t made it any clearer what you’re trying to prove. My earlier questions still stand.

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  3. Again and again I see religion used as an excuse to do evil to other humans

    Yes of course, me too, but let’s be skeptical and listen to what the social sciences are saying about terrorists and their motivation:

    http://www.pointofinquiry.org/scott_atran_violent_extremism_and_sacred_values/

    Clue: beliefs about earthly matters, more so than beliefs about the divine…?

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    • I have no time to listen to that right now, care to summarise it for us?

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    • I’ve got that page cued up to listen to later tonight.

      Your first sentence hits a key point, I think: motivation. The knee-jerk reactions of the far right in the US when it comes to Islam seem to say that they think Islam itself is motivation enough for terrorists. The same can also be said of some people in their reaction to Christian extremism.

      The basic religious tenets of any of these groups doesn’t seem, to me, to be the driving force behind the extremism that we see. Certainly, some are genuinely zealous enough to need nothing more, but I don’t think those are the majority. If those religious tenets were all it took, wouldn’t the majority be extreme (is that even possible)?

      The earthly matters that push the extremists are often the same matters driving change throughout the world. The religious extremists use their totalitarian control of their followers, which I see as a function of more religious groups than just those in the extremes, to foster these earthly goals.

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  4. TFBW wrote:

    Claims to be the highest authority in any given sphere of knowledge (or knowledge as a whole) are not limited to religions: Richard Dawkins’ claim regarding the supremacy of science is merely the first non-religious example that springs to mind.

    I think you’re being more than a bit misleading with this comparison. Some religions (notably the Abrahamic traditions) traditionally make claims of ultimate knowledge, denouncing any who dare question their dogma. In the sphere of dogmatic religion, the knowledge is already fixed in place. Any evidence in any field which contradicts religious scripture is automatically discounted. (See §4, № 6 in the Statement of Faith at Answers in Genesis.)

    One of the struggles I find with discussions of this sort centers around the differences in meaning many assigned to the terms used by various parties. Science, in the way I generally use the term, could also be described as methodological naturalism. In this way, science is not the body of knowledge itself, but the way that knowledge is acquired and tested.

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    • In this way, science is not the body of knowledge itself, but the way that knowledge is acquired and tested.

      Fair enough, but that doesn’t really change my point. Where the creationists in question consider divine revelation to be the supreme path to knowledge, Richard Dawkins considers methodological naturalism to be the supreme path to knowledge (and vehemently denounces those who hold a contrary view). Both positions are equally exclusive and dogmatic, and neither is self-evidently true, or even provably true by any method I know. (In fact, I have good reason to think that both positions are provably unprovable, but let’s not complicate matters further.)

      Does that address your concerns about being “misleading”?

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  5. Yes, I’d say that addresses it quite nicely. Thanks, Brett.

    I agree that both positions are probably unprovable. Opposing epistemologies aren’t the sort of things one goes about nailing down in the space of an afternoon. I’m still quite torn as to where I lean, specifically, when it comes to my own feelings on the matter. Let’s say that for the moment, I’m not far from the thinking of Karl Popper on the subject. Falsifiability is a key element in our empirical observations.

    That being said, I also feel that assuming some form of naturalism is justifiable in that no other system of acquiring and classifying knowledge has provided us with greater insight into how the universe works, so to speak. Anything outside our universe can be discounted out of hand if it can have no measurable method of interacting with our perceived universe.

    This is why I discount out of hand any claims of the existence of what might be called the supernatural. Anything that does interact with our universe in a measurable fashion is therefore part of our universe, and not supernatural. [Yes, these are difficult to define terms, and people have been wrestling with these concepts for centuries.]

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    • Let’s say that for the moment, I’m not far from the thinking of Karl Popper on the subject.

      I like Paul Feyerabend.

      …some form of naturalism is justifiable in that no other system of acquiring and classifying knowledge has provided us with greater insight into how the universe works…

      I see where you are coming from, but I don’t think you should credit “naturalism” as such. It suggests the inclusion of philosophical naturalism (i.e. “atheism” in a loose sense), and this is certainly not true of many golden-age scientists, like Newton. The driving philosophy was not so much “naturalism” as a belief that the universe operated in a consistent and lawful manner, and that those laws could be discerned through careful observation and interaction. This contrasted with Greek philosophy, which (as I understand it, and I haven’t studied it in any detail) considered abstract studies such as geometry to be the purest form of knowledge, and the world itself to be an impure approximation of that ideal.

      The concepts of lawfulness and consistency are orthogonal to and much more important than any form of naturalism. There is nothing about “nature” which necessarily implies either lawfulness or consistency, in and of itself. A perfectly natural universe could also be in a constant state of flux as regards its laws, and such flux would render experiment useless: in such a universe, any given measurement would not tell you anything about any future behaviour.

      This leads me to offer a subtly different (yet palatable, I hope) characterisation of science. Instead of “methodological naturalism”, I offer “systematic analysis” as the pithy phrase which describes the means by which knowledge is acquired. It is not the analysis itself that is systematic (at least, not in any rigid sense): rather, the phrase is meant to emphasise an underlying belief that the universe can — to some profitable extent — be described as an abstract mathematical system. This system is amenable to analysis, which allows us to come up with formulae that closely match the observed behaviour of the universe, and may allow us to make predictions as to how the universe will behave. Our resultant models are sometimes limited to a subset of observations, and only ever approximate, but still immensely useful.

      “Systematic analysis” is also important for what it doesn’t say. It has no implication regarding the existence of anything outside nature. There may be a supernatural, or there may not: the scope of the claim is merely that nature is a system which is amenable to analysis. We might deign to describe something as “supernatural” if it rigidly defied analysis — but the term is also compatible with the idea that everything is a lawful system, some of which we simply lack the sophistication to analyse successfully. “Systematic analysis” is neither theistic nor atheistic: it assumes nature to be analysable, but does not insist that nature is all there is. It doesn’t even hold its base assumption as infallibly true: if it happens to be true, then well and good; if not, then it’s a useful fiction even so.

      Not only do I agree that this “systematic analysis” has yielded tremendously useful results, I would go so far as to say that many of these results could not have been achieved through scriptural analysis, even if we suppose the Bible (or whatever) to actually be the inspired Word of God. I seriously doubt that anyone could have come up with the science and technology of electronics, for example, by pure scriptural analysis. Divine revelation is limited to that which the divinity chooses to reveal; systematic analysis can be conducted through effort of the intellect — although that carries limitations of another sort. Mind you, a bit of both sounds like a wonderful thing, and for all I know, flashes of inspiration are God’s way of dropping a hint.

      But I digress. Still, I hope this alternative view of science offers some food for thought about its potential compatibility with religion. Methodological naturalism carries atheistic connotations which put it at loggerheads with theism. Tweak your view of science just a little, however, and you arrive at systematic analysis, which is agnostic. Accept science as a utilitarian endeavour, seeking that which is useful rather than that which is true (or “falsifiable but unfalsified” if you prefer), and there is even less room for conflict. Doing so does cede a lot of authority, though: “useful” holds less argumentative force than “true”.

      My apologies for being long-winded again.

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  6. Buddy, it seems to me that there are only (quote lil old me on this one)….true atheists. Awesomeness.

    Kriss

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  7. The new atheists use so many brain washing techniques its incredible that no one ever speaks of this!
    Hint: Atheists regimes slaughtered more people in a century than all religions combined in all history! Over 170 million murders committed by officially atheist regimes.
    Why did people under these leaders Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Pot, etc do what these things?
    They were severely brainwashed by atheist’s that practically invented brainwashing – now days more commonly know as mass marketing.

    The BS about religion doing all the brainwashing sucks big time. Atheists assholes like Dawkins, Harris etc do more brainwashing in a day than any religion of earth – unless you realize that atheism IS a religion – now with its own churches, pastors, ministers, TV evangelists, bigoted dogma, violence intolerance and on and on it goes…

    Sickening that all these blind atheist dupes never mention atheist brainwashing.

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  8. @Hitch 
    @Hitch You  are so wrong, it’s hard to know where to start.  Do
    atheists meet every week and sing the praises of Darwin, Hitchens, and
    other atheists?  Do we demand that children memorize verses from an
    atheist bible?

    Do atheists insist upon their lack of belief become the law for everyone?

    People
    under Stalin at al did those things because they were in a totalitarian
    government and they had to stifle dissent any way they could.  Just
    like religion does.  Atheism had nothiing to do with it.  That’s just a
    lie that you theists tell consistently, no matter how many times it’s
    shown to be absurd.

    But then, there is nothing too
    absurd, illegal, stupid or just plain evil that religion will not use it
    to secure their power over the gullible and ignorant.

    Atheism
    a religions?  Bitch please!  It has its own churches, etc?  That’s so
    profoundly dumb it’s hard to believe that anyone could accept that idea.
     
    Finally, where is your proof of any of this?  Oops,
    awkward moment for you.  Proof and rational thinking are always fatal to
    any religion.  That’s why we never see any from them.

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  9. @ Hitch – “I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.” – Adolf Hitler. Catholic church teaches that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus, not renounced until the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Hitler did not personally do the killing, and could not have done so without the help of the German people. A people who were overwhelmingly religious. Uncomfortable facts for someone trying to prove that Jews were killed in the name of atheism.

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  10. Geoff Boulton Well done.  I have that quote saved and forgot I had it.  Thanks for bringing it up.  Don’t expect the babble thumping crowd to respond intelligently, though.

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