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If You Would Attempt To Persuade, You Must Appeal To Interest, Not Intellect.


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"If you would attempt to persuade, you must appeal to interest, not intellect."

 

I read this quote by Ben Franklin today and it got me thinking about the constant debates we often get into with fundies, often with little to no effect (the capacity for delusion is mind-boggling). I have been thinking for some time now that what keeps people invested in faith has more to do with emotion than reason. This quote seems to support that idea. What do you think would be the "interests" that might persuade believers? Or is it just hopeless?

 

For me, it was basically do I want to pledge loyalty to a god that endorses infanticide, genocide, and rape. But this is not an "interest" for everyone (I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for social justice issues). Just curious if you all could think of others.

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Honestly, I think it's hopeless. I suspect most if not all who leave the faith do so after investigating their own doubts and not having their own questions answered. Arguments against religion are useless when directed toward a believer.

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Oh I agree that it is hopeless to argue them out of faith. I'm asking if anyone can think of emotional interests that might be able to be appealed to. Perhaps it is unique to each believer, but I was wondering what others thought, or if people had good examples.

 

Or are you saying that even this is hopeless?

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I lean towards Florduh's position, but I don't think it is hopeless. I would say it is more like this joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

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In my experience, faith is the backdrop, context and filter for everything that comes along. You don't just say or do something to change that; the change must come from within. I think it's a good idea to offer support and information once that process of deconversion begins.

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Another way of saying the same thing is that an emotional element must be a component of any persuasive argument.  All professional salesmen recognize this as an essential element in their presentation. Although most people would probably indicate they make informed decisions data indicates emotion plays a far more significant role in decision making than most people are willing to admit.

 

As an example that relates to spirituality, I continue to investigate the merits of Deism. On a Deist site that I read it has been noted that Deism has never caught on as an alternative to Christianity because it lacked an emotional component. A creator God that walked away just isn’t appealing to very many people. Therefore, other forms of Deism have evolved and one of the more interesting concepts is Panendeism. This alternative form of Deism adds that missing emotional element into the mix because there is no perceived benefit in having an absentee Deity.

 

Those who have rejected religion per se but still seek some form of spirituality are in reality seeking to satisfy an emotional need. Therefore, as others have noted, arguing or debating facts with a fundamentalist isn’t likely to produce very much, if any, positive results.  If, or more likely when, a fundamentalist comes to the realization their religion has become little more than a religion of rules to be followed they often lose interest and when that happens they often become receptive to other ways to fulfill their spiritual needs.

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Honestly, I think it's hopeless. I suspect most if not all who leave the faith do so after investigating their own doubts and not having their own questions answered. Arguments against religion are useless when directed toward a believer.

I agree with this but I'm all for planting a seed of blasphemous doubt in hopes that it flourishes later on and they repay me with an interesting conversation over a cold, dark and English, beer.

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I think that there's a sense in which the presence of this site is about interest rather than intellect - because we are often conversational or supportive in ways that are as much emotional as intellectual, particularly in the subforum where people post about their personal stories of leaving Christianity. And who doesn't enjoy a good deconversion story? I do as much as anyone. But for me, the occasional post here completely satisfies my ex-C interests.

 

I've been talking to a friend about this a lot recently, as I just found out that he's also a deconvert. He's a lot more interested in the idea of ex-C/post-C community than I ever have been, and I think that sense of community is part of what's meant by "interests". The church does appeal to interests - it can be one of the only places for musical adults to sing and play instruments with a group. It has children's activities for people with kids. There are opportunities to volunteer, and some churches have gardens, dinners, hobby groups, etc. Even where atheists provide volunteer opportunities or discussion groups, there's often not the sense of coherence that many churches have.

 

But to some extent IMO, there's self-selection. I think it's easier for people who don't like groups to leave the church. OTOH, we see often people who love the music or have many close friendships struggling with leaving even after they've stopped believing. It seems likely that the people who had no trouble leaving that behind are going to have a hard time relating to other people's desire for it.

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The only way we could appeal to their interests is to find a way to make it more appealing elsewhere. Basically people take positions on things because they get out of it. 

 

We'd have to show them that they'd be considered more special, more righteous, more elite, and more important with little to no effort than what they have now. 

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I think I found something that is better defines what I am trying to get at: secular humanism. The basic idea is that it takes atheism a step further by combining atheism's naturalistic worldview with a positive ethical outlook. You could say that it is a specific brand of atheism, but I think it speaks to the emotional interest component that I am thinking about.

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     Look, the religion has the answer.  The parable of the sower.  You all know it so I won't go into it but you sow the seeds and some land here and die or they land there and grow into something.  Same thing on any subject or direction.  You can just do so much.  Go say what you will and maybe it will do something or maybe it won't.  Saying nothing at all definitely will grow nothing at all, ever.  So if you're the type that likes to discuss things then go right ahead.  Maybe something will come of it.

 

          mwc

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"If you would attempt to persuade, you must appeal to interest, not intellect."

 

I read this quote by Ben Franklin today and it got me thinking about the constant debates we often get into with fundies, often with little to no effect (the capacity for delusion is mind-boggling). I have been thinking for some time now that what keeps people invested in faith has more to do with emotion than reason. This quote seems to support that idea. What do you think would be the "interests" that might persuade believers? Or is it just hopeless?

 

For me, it was basically do I want to pledge loyalty to a god that endorses infanticide, genocide, and rape. But this is not an "interest" for everyone (I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for social justice issues). Just curious if you all could think of others.

 

Christianity is self-reinforcing. It has comprehensive defense mechanisms based on fear. Hard to get around that mental programming.

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I think it's about looking at the motivations for their belief. For many, if not most, I think it's emotionally driven. How many believers have you heard say something along the lines of, "I could never stop believing. My life would be so empty without God." Atheism alone offers them nothing to take the place of the gap that is left behind. An emphasis on ethics and the betterment of mankind offers something at least.

 

I still don't think that most theists will ever come to the dark side, but I think it might help if more of them knew that there was something positive waiting there for them. That's all I'm trying to say.

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     I think it's about presenting alternate ideas in general not so much about an alternate package.  How does <X> happen?  Well, god, or maybe through this process.  The result might only be turning a YEC into an OEC but that's a tad more sane and it generally carries a few more related ideas along with it.  Take what you can get.

 

          mwc

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"If you would attempt to persuade, you must appeal to interest, not intellect."

 

I read this quote by Ben Franklin today and it got me thinking about the constant debates we often get into with fundies, often with little to no effect (the capacity for delusion is mind-boggling). I have been thinking for some time now that what keeps people invested in faith has more to do with emotion than reason. This quote seems to support that idea. What do you think would be the "interests" that might persuade believers? Or is it just hopeless?

 

For me, it was basically do I want to pledge loyalty to a god that endorses infanticide, genocide, and rape. But this is not an "interest" for everyone (I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for social justice issues). Just curious if you all could think of others.

 

Christianity is self-reinforcing. It has comprehensive defense mechanisms based on fear. Hard to get around that mental programming.

 

This.  Richard Dawkins made a great case for this in the God Delusion.  I know it took years, and in my case, a lot of psychological trauma to get beyond it myself.  It's why I'm a bit reluctant to try to presuade Christians to give up their beliefs.  I mean I'm supportive of someone leaving, but I quit arguing with the true believers.

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I really don't care what people believe or don't believe. My goal is most cases is to present the case that it is wrong to try to force that system on the general public by means of laws and regulations, especially in the school system. I don't expect to turn anyone away from their faith, I just want them to understand that they do not have the right to force it on me.

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This.  Richard Dawkins made a great case for this in the God Delusion.  I know it took years, and in my case, a lot of psychological trauma to get beyond it myself.  It's why I'm a bit reluctant to try to presuade Christians to give up their beliefs.  I mean I'm supportive of someone leaving, but I quit arguing with the true believers.

 

True. But he keeps on debating, critiquing, and writing. Isn't part of why he does this to potentially dissuade someone of their belief? Or do you just think he's preaching to the choir?

 

 

I really don't care what people believe or don't believe. My goal is most cases is to present the case that it is wrong to try to force that system on the general public by means of laws and regulations, especially in the school system. I don't expect to turn anyone away from their faith, I just want them to understand that they do not have the right to force it on me.

 

Of course they don't have that right. But they believe they do. That's part of their belief system. So by trying to get them to understand that they do not have that right, you are in fact trying to change part of their belief system.

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This video is part of a series on the role of cognition and belief. It touches on the role of emotion in changing beliefs, but suggests that arguing does not usually work. They suggest that the best strategy is simply to be "out" and tear down old sterotypes.

 

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This.  Richard Dawkins made a great case for this in the God Delusion.  I know it took years, and in my case, a lot of psychological trauma to get beyond it myself.  It's why I'm a bit reluctant to try to presuade Christians to give up their beliefs.  I mean I'm supportive of someone leaving, but I quit arguing with the true believers.

 

True. But he keeps on debating, critiquing, and writing. Isn't part of why he does this to potentially dissuade someone of their belief? Or do you just think he's preaching to the choir?

 

 

I should probably clarify that I referenced Dawkins in the sense that I agree with his view of what religion is. My response, i.e. avoiding argument, is only a choice I have made based on my own experiences. I actually admire people who have the courage to argue publically in favor of atheism.  I also think that arguing against religion can be effective particularly over the long run.

 

I think different people have different situations.  I mean it was very traumatic for me when I left the faith in which I was raised.  For others it wasn't.  Most of my family remains religious.  Other people don't have that situation.  Also, I primarily avoid discussing it with my family members.  With others I tend to be up front about my atheism and I will certainly explain the reasoning behind my worldview, if for an example some Jehovah's Witnesses knock on my door.

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I really don't care what people believe or don't believe. My goal is most cases is to present the case that it is wrong to try to force that system on the general public by means of laws and regulations, especially in the school system. I don't expect to turn anyone away from their faith, I just want them to understand that they do not have the right to force it on me.

Well said and I echo this position.

I would certainly agree that the problem is not what people believe per se, it's when they try to jam their beliefs into society with relentless force.

In most cases it's hopeless to try and dialog with a fundamentalist believer, but it can level the playing field for others that are in the process of evaluating a particular religion or beilef.

Fundamentalist Christianity is an extremely aggressive religion, determined to expand and dominate over all other beliefs.

Its mandate is to create reality for all other people.

They specialize in selling a product and will use any means to do so.

For far too long, this belief system has imposed its myths, speculations, and assertions on American society in particular, advertising them as "facts". 

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