Category Archives: Cognitive flaws

Death Cult Christianity

I just found another blog post to reblog. This time written by The Brazilian atheist John Zande, a very skillful anti-theist debater and blogger.

In this blog post John Zande analyzes Christianity from a death cult perspective. His post is full of valuable facts and data put together, by him, in a very praiseworthy way.

Maybe he should have analyzed also the concept of Christian martyrdom.Therefore I’m now going to add some facts about that aspect.

To start with, two links that might be of interest:

1) ; and

2) .

Today we shake our heads when we see or hear about Muslim suicide bombers killing themselves at the same time as they kill innocent people (often seen as religious enemies, non-believers, wrongdoers, apostates etc).

Since the suicide bomber does this evil act in the name of Allah, he or she is promised, by an imam or cleric, to get/have instant access to all the enjoyments in Paradise immediately after his/her death.

But we must not forget that also Christians have practiced martyrdom by killing people belonging to other religions (maybe especially Islam).

By defending Christian religion and values and/or attacking those who refused to see Jesus as the Christ hypostasis of the God Trinity you could become a martyr, if you died (was killed) while trying to do this.

Here is another good article about Christian martyrs: .

A quote from this article: “[…,] even Christian authorities have abandoned the prohibition against voluntary martyrdom. The diaries of medieval crusaders clearly indicate that they viewed themselves as martyrs, and Pope Urban II offered the fallen complete absolution and immediate passage to heaven. (The status of crusaders as voluntary martyrs is somewhat controversial, because they may have viewed themselves as draftees in a defensive war.)

Let me summarize like this: The concept of “Lying for Jesus” is still today rather well-known. But the idea of “Dying for Jesus” seems to have fallen into oblivion. So it’s about time to resuscitate that notion to show there are more reasons than the ones cited by John Zande to call Christianity a death cult religion. (I myself even consider the Christian Communion to be a cannibalistic ritual.)

David at Applied Faith has a post up, How Evangelicals Can Look Not-So-Crazy about the End Times, concerning the imminent arrival of the Christian End Times

“We’re in a climate where Christians are being mass-murdered and driven out of the Middle East. Russia is violently propping up the Shia regime in Syria, Iran may already have a nuclear weapon, and the United Nations routinely persecutes Israel. Many Christians believe that Islam is evil, and the followers of Muhammad may spawn The Anti-Christ.” 

As you might however have gathered from the article’s title, his worry is not the pending annihilation of our home planet and the eradication of all life at the hands of his particular Middle Eastern god, Yhwh, but rather the somewhat annoying fact that evangelicals, like himself, are broadly considered “crazy” by the general public when they start hollering the end is neigh. It’s an honest complaint, and…

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The logical paradox of ghost hunting

Most of us know – and it’s reiterated over and over again by true woo bullshit believers – that supernatural phenomena can’t be tested or measured the same way as is the case for natural physical phenomena, because supernatural energy emanating from the spiritual world doesn’t behave the same way as energy from the real physical world does.

Supernatural energy always hides from such equipment that is used to detect and measure “natural” energy.

This is as plain as a pikestaff. *Shush, don’t question this woo-ish claim, or else you risk becoming insane; it’s not worth it, unless you intend to become a woo yourself.*

So instruments and gadgets used to measure physical phenomena are worthless to use if you are aiming at detecting/measuring the supernatural, for example ghosts and other purely spiritual beings/entities/energy fields.

Yet we can see/hear/read almost daily that ghostbusters use scientific tools in their search for ghosts.

How come? Why is it so?

This 64,000 US dollar question is a real logical one since it’s building on so illogical woo premises.

The blogger himself prefers to call it a logical paradox. That’s very kind and humble by him, because some true woo believers can thereby misunderstand the whole thing and instead interpret that term (“logical paradox”) as evidence of something worth being considered as useful and taken seriously although it’s just ordinary woo bullshit.

You need not be blind in order to not seeing that. It’s enough if you’re a woo.

Woo-ish true believers won’t see anything contradictory at all by using scientific equipment to detect ghosts.

This talented blogger, whose post I’m now reblogging, claims that the tradition to use scientific equipment to look for ghosts is inherently self defeating! He is so right.

According to this blogger we basically have the following three possibilities:

1. Ghosts don’t exist

2. Supernatural ghosts do exist, but cannot be tested using science

3. “Ghosts” exist, but then that must mean they are natural, not supernatural, physical phenomena, and that claim is, in turn, proved by the fact that the ghosts can be documented using science apparatuses.

The Logic of Science

paradox inception meme Arthur Joseph Gordon-LevitMany people believe in the paranormal, and a great deal of time and effort is spent searching for evidence of it. Indeed, shows like “Ghost Hunters” are extremely popular, and the notion of using scientific equipment to detect the supernatural is well ingrained into our literature, movies, and culture more generally. The reality is, however, the ghost hunting is a perfect case study in pseudoscience, and it is based on a series of logical fallacies and amusing paradoxes.

Most obviously, ghost hunting (along with related pseudoscientific ventures such as UFO spotting, searches for Big Foot and Nessy, Creation Research, etc.) suffers a serious flaw which automatically removes it from the realm of science. Namely, it starts with a conclusion (i.e., ghosts exist), then tries to prove that conclusion. In contrast, real science always starts with the evidence, then forms a conclusion based on that evidence. This distinction is extremely important…

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About woo-ism, psychiatric symptoms and immune system disturbances

Autoimmune and inflammatory activities in the brain seem to be linked with psychiatric symptoms. Have a look at this article:

I even suspect there may be a positive correlation between woo-ism (believing woo experiences must be true/genuine/real phenomena PLUS also displaying a higher disposition towards experiencing such paranormal – and psychic – phenomena).

It’s undeniable that there exists an overlap between mental and physical illness. They have many symptoms in common.

Furthermore, lately researchers have detected a network of vessels that seem to be able to directly connect the brain with the immune system, so it’s not farfetched to assume that neuroinflammatory and/or neurodegenerative diseases are associated with immune system dysfunction.

For details, see: .

There are also many indications that stressors of any kind, especially in childhood, can activate our immune system. A hyperactive immune system alarm goes hand in hand with autoimmune diseases. And woo believers are known to have more autoimmune disorder diagnoses than non-woo believers.

Examples of such stressors are physical abuse, sexual abuse, feelings of neglect and grief, nutritional deficiencies, sleep deprivation, and much more. A childhood full of stressors like these might pave the ground for woo beliefs later on.

This finding is, in turn, completely compatible with the positive correlation between woo believers and mental disorders like depression, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. And those diagnoses are, in turn, suspected to be caused, partly, by an infection that has activated the immune-inflammatory system of their bodies.

So it’s easy to imagine that both stressors (like those I just mentioned) and Infections during childhood – maybe already in the womb – might work in concert with genetics to make that individual (already as a fetus) sensitive to not only psychosocial factors but also to become prone to believe in, and experience, paranormal phenomena.

BTW, Here’s a book I can recommend to all those interested in the woo-personality traits: .

The author David Ritchey summarizes his findings here: . The following six points are listed (especially point #5 is of extra interest here):

1. Various factors including Biology (“nature”), Trauma and Abuse (“nurture”) and Temperament Type Preferences (“personality”) can predispose an individual to be an Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP).

2. If an individual is anomalously sensitive in one realm (the “Physiological,” for example), s/he is very likely to be anomalously sensitive in the other realms (“Cognitive,” “Emotional,” “Altered States of Consciousness” and “Transpersonal Experiences”) as well.

3. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: be female, be hypopigmented (blond hair/blue eyes), be Non-Right-Handed (left-handed or ambidextrous), be artists, be born as one of a set of twins/triplets/etc. and have an other-than-conventionally heterosexual sexual orientation.

4. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: have an Introverted (rather than Extraverted) Orientation, have a preference for an Intuitive (rather than Sensate) mode of Perceiving and have a preference for a Feeling (rather than Thinking) mode of Judging.

5. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: have unusually sensitive immune systems, be highly reactive/responsive to sensory stimuli, exhibit learning/attention styles that differ from the norm, be very attuned to the emotions of both themselves and others, be especially facile at accessing Altered States of Consciousness and to frequently have Transpersonal (“metaphysical,” “paranormal,” “psychic”) Experiences.

6. The HISS data support the position of those negativists who hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of temporo-limbic epilepsy. The HISS data also support the position of those positivists who hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of kundalini arousal. The HISS data also support those who have no position and hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of anomalous sensitivity.

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A common non sequitur

A blog post containing good examples of illogical conclusions so easily drawn by woos and others using the magical & religious thought processing system in our brains (a.k.a. IPS #1, the Information Processing System #1; for details, see ).

Skeptical Exaddict

Recently I found an interesting non sequitur posed to an “atheist and freethinkers” Facebook group I belong to. Interesting because it’s an argument I’ve seen before. I commented that it was a non sequitur, and the OP didn’t know what that is. (Neither did I until recently, but Google is my friend.)

So what is a non sequitur? It’s Latin for “does not follow”. Very simply, it’s a bad logical argument where a conclusion is drawn that is not derived from the arguments presented. There are many different kinds of logical fallacies that result in non sequitur statements, but they do seem to follow a basic pattern, which is that some inference happens between the arguments and the conclusion; there’s a disconnect and some sort of implicit assumption going on, which is unstated.

For example: The sky is blue. My pen is blue. Conclusion: Who wrote the sky?


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On Pascal’s wager

A brilliant rebuttal of Pascal’s wager.

Skeptical Exaddict

Pascal’s wager is something I had never heard of until yesterday. It is an excellent example of a false dilemma, also known as a false dichotomy.

Essentially, it states that it is better to believe in God than to risk eternity in Hell. From the rational wiki link, it can be summarized as:

  1. If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: thus an infinite gain.
  2. If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: thus an infinite loss.
  3. If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: thus a finite loss.
  4. If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: thus a finite gain.

It can be…

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Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

The existence of a Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is often denied by true believers and others who support religious beliefs and think that religious faith is good for humanity.

But the RTS is, indeed, for real. Many tears have been shed because of that sort of traumas.

So, please, read Valerie Tarico’s take on this important topic very carefully.

Also read Marlene Winell’s take (in three parts) on that same subject on the Ex-Christian blog:

Part 1 = .

Part 2 = .

Part 3 =

It’s not going to extremes calling religion a poisonous method that obstructs and complicates people’s endeavours to find a high quality of life. It also hinders you from becoming a really “free” thinker, one who is allowed to study any books s/he likes.

Many philosophers, politicians and scientists have expressed their gloomy ideas of religion and its future.

For example, Karl Marx said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

Frederick II once said: “Religion is the idol of the mob; it adores everything it does not understand”.

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich”.

Friedrich Nietzsche said. “In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point”.

He also said: “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad”.

Albert Einstein (who didn’t believe in any personal God of the Abrahamic kind) said. Science without religion is lame, [but] religion without science is [also] blind.
At the same time he also said: “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity”.

If Albert Einstein had been alive today, I think he would have stated: Things about religion seemingly have to become worse before they at last can be transformed to a non-poisonous life philosophy. There is still a very long way to go for today’s religions all around the world.

BTW, talking of promoting science and reason, have a look at this blog post: .

From that blog post we learn that, unfortunately,neither intelligence nor (high) education is able to promote ‘good thinking’.

And finally, my own take on this:

Religious cults are nowadays mostly confined to having to rely on ‘God of the Gaps’ arguments. The primary goal for today’s cult leaders has become to try to convince their ignorant and incredulous followers that science is, always, wrong, meaning that it’s, also always, better to believe in what holy scriptures like the Bible and Koran say is the truth. That strategy is also known as intellectual dishonesty.

Religious Trauma Syndrome- AnguishAt age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help…

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Magical thinking springs up everywhere, and language is its accomplice. How language can and does deceive us.  

The human language came into existence with the help of the more primitive intuitive information processing system in our brains, the one that is specialized in, and focused on, magical and religious (bullshit) thinking. For details, see this blog post, ; and read this Wikipedia article, .

Magical thinking springs up everywhere. The phenomenon is in a way related to pareidoiia, our tendency to see human faces in patterns created by mould fungi or tree stumps, (see: ).

Emotional stress and events of personal significance push us strongly toward magical meaning-making.

Another important factor is time – or rather lack of time.

The IPS #1 is much faster than the rational and logical IPS #2 system. So if you are in a lack of time – i.e. when you have to make a quick decision – you tend to prefer teleological conclusions instead of more critical and questioning ones. If you can’t detect any visible cause, your IPS #1 has no problem inventing HCAs, Hidden Causal Agents. Cf. the invention of imaginary playmates in childhood or the creation of more or less omnipotent and omniscient divine beings in adulthood.

Our language is strongly influenced by the supposed – or at least presupposed – existence of HCAs. We use verbs that dupe us to think teleologically.

Let’s think of, for example, the verb “create”. Here are some synonyms: breed, bring about, build, cause, construct, contribute to, design, develop, engender, establish, fabricate, form, foster, generate, give rise to, initiate, launch, lead to, make, produce, promote, result in, set up, shape, sow the seeds of – need I mention any more?

Questions starting with a HOW, a WHAT or, above all, a WHY likewise prime your brain to think teleologically.

And, my third and last example, think of word constructions like “(in order) to”, meaning “used as a means of achieving a specified end/goal”.

If you don’t see my point by now, you must be blind on both eyes. 🙂 .

So no wonder we are ALL primed to think teleologically.

You can test yourself by pondering this simple sentence: “The sun is shining today and I feel warm.”

This sentence implies that the sun has – or at least may have – the intention, the purpose, to make me feel warm.

From there the next step can easily be to begin thinking of somewhat – or someone – that can explain WHY I feel a warming effect of the sunshine. For example a  divine being caring for me.

That’s the story behind Hidden Causal Agents that are created by your mind, with the help of magical and religious IPS #1 in your brain.

After this rather long introduction it’s time to recommend my readers to have a look at this interesting analysis, a blog post written by one of the bloggers I follow regularly, Tom Rees: .

Here is a quote from his article:

Research over the past few years has shown that many people intuitively think that things in the natural world exist for some ulterior purpose – almost as if they had been designed that way. We have a tendency to agree with statements such as ‘water condenses to moisten the air’, or ‘the sun shines in order to keep us warm’.

And finally, here are the conclusions of the study that Tom Rees is referring to:

[1] These data strongly support the idea that humans have a natural tendency to see the natural world as having a designer.

[2] Even more strikingly, they suggest that atheists are not naturally immune to these intuitions. Rather, they  teach themselves to actively overcome them!

I myself would like to add: And true believers teach themselves – on their own or by the help of a pastor – to actively prime their minds that there must be a Creator and a first cause of everything that happens.


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Just face the facts, there is no soul, there is no afterlife. It’s your wishful thinking that deceives you.

In the autumn of 2014 Dr. Sam Parnia’s long awaited AWARE study about the authenticity of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) as evidence of a surviving soul was published.

Dr. Parnia’s study can, at best, be described as very disheartening and depressing for those believing that NDEs are evidence of a soul that survives the bodily (physical) death.

Almost exactly a year ago I posted this blog focusing that interesting subject, see:

Now, a year later, I think it’s about time to have a new look at the NDE phenomena and how they can be explained without involving religious bullshit concepts like god(s), soul(s) or afterlife.

Let me start by asking you this question: Are you acquainted with a blog named “Imperfect Cognitions”?
Anyhow, it’s a site where all kinds of delusional beliefs, hallucinations and distorted memories are discussed:
In today’s newsletter from “Imperfect Cognitions” I found this blog post, written by Hayley Dewe, a PhD student from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. The title is: “Debunking Dualist Notions of Near-Death Experiences”.  You find her article here: .
Hayley Dewe’s research is based in The Selective Attention and Awareness laboratory, directed by Jason Braithwaite. Her research focuses on the neurocognitive correlates of anomalous (for example hallucinatory) experience, specifically pertaining to the ‘self’, embodiment, and consciousness.She explains NDEs in the following way:

NDEs are striking experiences that typically occur when one is close to death or exposed to life-threatening situations of intense physical and/or emotional danger (first coined by Moody 1975, Life after Life. New York: Bantam Books). This unusual experience includes a variety of aberrant components such as: sensations of peace and vivid imagery, bright flashes of light, the sensation of travelling through a dark tunnel towards a bright light, a disconnection from the physical body (a shift in perspective: the Out-of-Body Experience), and the sensation of entering a light / visions of an ‘afterlife’ etc.

And she continues:

From a parapsychological (or survivalist / supernatural) perspective, NDEs are understood as mystical and spiritual experiences that expose the individual to another world (or afterlife). This is taken as evidence for the survival of bodily death (i.e. dualism); that the mind/consciousness is not dependent on the brain.

In stark contrast is the scientific/neuroscience perspective. Here, it is argued that NDEs are hallucinatory phenomena, generated by a disinhibited and highly confused, dying brain (known as the ‘dying brain account’).

After this introduction she argues that:

#1: There are a host of logical fallacies and methodological discrepancies within the parapsychological literature.
#2: There appears to be no objective study validating the presence of an entirely inactive human brain with the simultaneous occurrence of an NDE!
#3: Even if there were evidence of a completely inactive brain, and subsequent recollection of an NDE, how could one pinpoint the precise time frame during which the NDE components occurred? That is, the NDE itself may well have occurred before levels of brain activity became ‘inactive’ (or ‘flattened’), or even experienced and recalled afterwards, during recovery.
#4: No component of the NDE is actually unique to the ‘near-death’ experience.
#5: As a matter of fact, you needn’t necessarily be ‘near to death’ to experience NDE phenomena.
So the only reasonable and likely conclusion seems to be: Dualist / Survivalist arguments of NDEs are, at the very best, flawed.
And I myself want to add here: They are not only flawed. They are completely wrong, built as they seem to be on wishful magical and religious bullshit thinking .
In short: THERE IS NO SOUL! Forget what you’ve read or heard about that religious bullshit concept.
And if souls don’t exist, the corollary must be: YOU’D BETTER FORGET ABOUT THE BELIEF IN AN AFTERLIFE, TOO.
For more details, see: (Towards a Cognitive Neuroscience of the Dying Brain), and:  (Occam’s Chainsaw: Neuroscientific Nails in the Coffin of Dualist Notions of the Near-death Experience [NDE]).
In the coming weeks or months I hope to have time to blog about the non-existent soul and non-existent afterlife.
But for the time being I have to confine myself to recommend all (true) soul believers – that is those who refuse to abandon their bullshit ideas of soul and afterlife – to study the contents in blog posts like these: , , and .
Need I say more? Yes, I think I also need to say that true believers are not so easily convinced that soul and afterlife are typical religious bullshit concepts. Sacrosanct beliefs, anchored in religious faith, are unfortunately extremely difficult to eradicate. For more details, see: .


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THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT LOGICAL FALLACIES: 24 common ways of wrong-thinking that often lead to distorted conclusions.

All of us every now and then fall a victim to logical wrong-thinking. In fact we are full of intellectual vices.
Sometimes this mental deficit or dysfunction/malfunction is called LMD (the Lazy Mind Syndrome). Read more about LMS here: .
LMS seems to be unusually prevalent in religiously true believers. Probably that’s why the representatives of the American political American Right show such a profound intellectual dishonesty and indulge in angry, arrogant and dishonest rantings and never – or at least very rarely – apologize for their blind misstatements, personal attacks, under-handed insinuations and direct factual contradictions.
While googling for Lazy Mind-articles I also found this pdf article: THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT LOGICAL FALLACIES: 24 common ways of wrong-thinking that often lead to distorted conclusions. See: .
I immediately understood that this overview of common logical fallacies can explain many, if not all, of the misstatements done by both religious and political (yes, you’re right, they ARE overlapping each other in a very distinct manner) true believers.
A logical fallacy is defined as a flaw in reasoning. Strong arguments are void of logical fallacies, whilst arguments that are weak tend to use logical fallacies to appear stronger than they are. They are frequently, and often also very sneakily, used by politicians, priests, ministers and others twho earn a living by fooling people in one way or another.
So don’t be fooled! Take a look at these 24 common methods and techniques that so often are used by true believers.
Because the poster with the 24 logical fallacies is published under a Creative Commons No Derivative Works license 2012, by a man named Jesse Richardson, you are free to print, copy, and redistribute this artwork, with the binding provison that you reproduce it in full so that others may share alike.
Here are the 24 logical fallacies that thou shalt not commit yourself and that thou shalt look for when meeting and debating a true believer.
1) STRAWMAN: Misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine rational debate.
After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting military spending
2) FALSE CAUSE: Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other. Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause.
Pointing to a fancy chart, Roger shows how temperatures have been rising over the past few centuries, whilst at the same time the numbers of pirates have been decreasing; thus pirates cool the world and global warming is a hoax.
3) APPEAL TO EMOTION: Manipulating an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument. Appeals to emotion include appeals to fear, envy, hatred, pity, guilt, and more. Though a valid, and reasoned, argument may sometimes have an emotional aspect, one must be careful that emotion doesn’t obscure or replace reason.
Luke didn’t want to eat his sheep’s brains with chopped liver and brussels sprouts, but his father told him to think about the poor, starving children in a third world country who weren’t fortunate enough to have any food at all.
4) THE FALLACY FALLACY: Presuming a claim to be necessarily wrong because a fallacy has been committed. It is entirely possibly to make a claim that is false yet argue with logical coherency for that claim, just as is possible to make a claim that is true and justify it with various fallacies and poor arguments.
Recognising that Amanda had committed a fallacy in arguing that we should eat healthy food because a nutritionist said it was popular, Alyse said we should therefore eat bacon double cheeseburgers every day.
5) SLIPPERY SLOPE: Asserting that if we allow A to happen, then Z will consequently happen too, therefore A should not happen. The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to baseless extreme hypotheticals. The merits of the original argument are then tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.
Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we’ll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.
6) AD HOMINEM: Attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument. Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or casting doubt on their character. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone without actually engaging with the substance of their argument.
After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn’t married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.
7) TU QUOQUE: Avoiding having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser – answering criticism with criticism. Literally translating as ‘you too’ this fallacy is commonly employed as an effective red herring because it takes the heat off the accused having to defend themselves and shifts the focus back onto the accuser themselves.
Nicole identified that Hannah had committed a logical fallacy, but instead of addressing the substance of her claim, Hannah accused Nicole of committing a fallacy earlier on in the conversation.
8) PERSONAL INCREDULITY: Saying that because one finds something difficult to understand, it’s therefore not true. Subjects such as biological evolution via the process of natural selection require a good amount of understanding before one is able to properly grasp them; this fallacy is usually used in place of that understanding.
Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with effusive disdain asked Richard if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things happening over time.
9) SPECIAL PLEADING: Moving the goalposts or making up exceptions when a claim is shown to be false. Humans are funny creatures and have a foolish aversion to being wrong. Rather than appreciate the benefits of being able to change one’s mind through better understanding, many will invent ways to cling to old beliefs.
Edward Johns claimed to be psychic, but when his ‘abilities’ were tested under proper scientific conditions, they magically disappeared. Edward explained this saying that one had to have faith in his abilities for them to work.
10) LOADED QUESTION: Asking a question that has an assumption built into it so that it can’t be answered without appearing guilty. Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature – the recipient of the loaded question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or on the back foot.
Grace and Helen were both romantically interested in Brad. One day, with Brad sitting within earshot, Grace asked in an inquisitive tone whether Helen was having any problems with a fungal infection.
11) BURDEN OF PROOF: Saying that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove. The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove a claim does not make it valid (however we must always go by the best available evidence).
Bertrand declares that a teapot is, at this very moment, in orbit around the Sun between the Earth and Mars, and that because no one can prove him wrong his claim is therefore a valid one.
12) AMBIGUITY: Using double meanings or ambiguities of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth. Politicians are often guilty of using ambiguity to mislead and will later point to how they were technically not outright lying if they come under scrutiny. It’s a particularly tricky and premeditated fallacy to commit.
When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn’t paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn’t have to pay them because the sign said ‘Fine for parking here’ and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.
13) THE GAMBLER’S FALLACY: Believing that ‘runs’ occur to statistically independent phenomena such as roulette wheel spins. This commonly believed fallacy can be said to have helped create a city (Las Vegas) in the desert of Nevada USA. Though the overall odds of a ‘big run’ happening may be low, each spin of the wheel is itself entirely independent from the last.
Red had come up six times in a row on the roulette wheel, so Greg knew that it was close to certain that black would be next up. Suffering an economic form of natural selection with this thinking, he soon lost all of his savings.
14) BANDWAGON: Appealing to popularity or the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation. The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity. If it did, then the Earth would have made itself flat for most of history to accommodate this popular belief.
Shamus pointed a drunken finger at Sean and asked him to explain how so many people could believe in leprechauns if they’re only a silly old superstition. Sean, however, had had a few too many Guinness himself and fell off his chair.
15) APPEAL TO AUTHORITY:  Saying that because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true. It’s important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding.
Not able to defend his position that evolution ‘isn’t true’ Bob says that he knows a scientist who also questions evolution (and presumably isn’t herself a primate).
16) COMPOSITION/DIVISION: Assuming that what’s true about one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it. Often when something is true for the part it does also apply to the whole, but because this isn’t always the case it can’t be presumed to be true. We must show evidence for why a consistency will exist.
Daniel was a precocious child and had a liking for logic. He reasoned that atoms are invisible, and that he was made of atoms and therefore invisible too. Unfortunately, despite his thinky skills, he lost the game of hide and go seek.
17) NO TRUE SCOTSMAN: Making what could be called an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws of an argument. This fallacy is often employed as a measure of last resort when a point has been lost. Seeing that a criticism is valid, yet not wanting to admit it, new criteria are invoked to dissociate oneself or one’s argument.
Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge.
18) GENETIC: Judging something good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it comes. To appeal to prejudices surrounding something’s origin is another red herring fallacy. This fallacy has the same function as an ad hominem, but applies instead to perceptions surrounding something’s source or context.
Accused on the 6 o’clock news of corruption and taking bribes, the senator said that we should all be very wary of the things we hear in the media, because we all know how very unreliable the media can be.
19) BLACK-OR-WHITE: Where two alternative states are presented as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist. Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine citizens’ rights, the Supreme Leader told the people they were either on his side, or on the side of the enemy.
20) BEGGING THE QUESTION: A circular argument in which the conclusion is included in the premise. This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their minds as a given. Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it’s not very good. The word of Zorbo the Great is flawless and perfect. We know this because it says so in The Great and Infallible Book of Zorbo’s Best and Most Truest Things that are Definitely True and Should Not Ever Be Questioned.
21) APPEAL TO NATURE: Making the argument that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, good, or ideal. Many ‘natural’ things are also considered ‘good’, and this can bias our thinking; but naturalness itself doesn’t make something good or bad. For instance murder could be seen as very natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s justifiable.
The medicine man rolled into town on his bandwagon offering various natural remedies, such as very special plain water. He said that it was only natural that people should be wary of ‘artificial’ medicines like antibiotics.
22) ANECDOTAL: Using personal experience or an isolated example instead of a valid argument, especially to dismiss statistics. It’s often much easier for people to believe someone’s testimony as opposed to understanding variation across a continuum. Scientific and statistical measures are almost always more accurate than individual perceptions and experiences.
Jason said that that was all cool and everything, but his grandfather smoked, like, 30 cigarettes a day and lived until 97 – so don’t believe everything you read about meta analyses of sound studies showing proven causal relationships.
23) THE TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER: Cherry-picking data clusters to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption. This ‘false cause’ fallacy is coined after a marksman shooting at barns and then painting a bullseye target around the spot where the most bullet holes appear. Clusters naturally appear by chance, and don’t necessarily indicate causation.
The makers of Sugarette Candy Drinks point to research showing that of the five countries where Sugarette drinks sell the most units, three of them are in the top ten healthiest countries on Earth, therefore Sugarette drinks are healthy.
24) MIDDLE GROUND: Saying that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must be the truth. Much of the time the truth does indeed lie between two extreme points, but this can bias our thinking: sometimes a thing is simply untrue and a compromise of it is also untrue. Half way between truth and a lie, is still a lie.
Holly said that vaccinations caused autism in children, but her scientifically well-read friend Caleb said that this claim had been debunked and proven false. Their friend Alice oered a compromise that vaccinations cause some autism.


Filed under Cognitive flaws, Debate, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science vs. pseudoscience, Theological bullshit, Woo, Woo-Personality

Are Brainwashing Techniques in the Bible and Strategically Used in Churches? Facts and consequences of priming.

Thanks to God (?) – yeah, praise the Lord! Amen! – I recently became acquainted with Victoria Neuronotes. She’s a BRILLIANT antitheist blogger, full of both wits and knowledge. And yes, sometimes she also speaks words of wisdom. She knows from her own experience how poisonous religious thoughts can be. So i will in the weeks to come reblog some of her many clever posts on my own blog, starting with this one. Indeed, she deserves many readers. And followers.

In her blog post Victoria – her name means “the victorious one”; God seemingly chose a good name for her – Amen! – focuses on different brainwashing techniques, used by spokesmen who promote the belief that there is an equivalent of childhood’s imaginary friend (sometimes more than just one, though) living somewhere in the sky (heavens).

An imaginary friend, usually full of benevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence – and, of course, always loving and caring for you, provided that you 1) believe He exists, and 2) are willing to help promoting His good advice and commandments by donating money to people, often called priests, chosen by God to spread His message all around the world.

A very interesting question is this one: How can grown-up persons continue to embrace the “out of this world” concept of an imaginary friend living, usually hidden, somewhere in the sky? (As I myself use to say to answer that question, “Only God knows…”)

Anyhow, in this reblogged post Victoria describes common techniques used by those who promote God’s lovable (?) and caring (?) message.

These techniques can be summarized in one word, BRAINWASHING.

Another word for brainwashing is PRIMING. Just google the words RELIGIOUS + PRIMING, and you’ll find almost countless of good articles and papers dealing with the effects of religious priming (a.k.a. brainwashing).

For example this one, .

Or this one, .

Some details about paper #1:

TITLE: When authoritarianism meets religion: Sacrificing others in the name of
abstract deontology.

AUTHORS: Matthieu van Pachterbeke, Christopher Freyer, and Vassilis Saroglou.

ABSTRACT: Authoritarianism is a stable construct in terms of individual differences (social attitudes based on personality and values), but its manifestations and behavioral outcomes may depend on contextual factors. In the present experiment, we investigated whether authoritarianism is sensitive to religious influences in predicting rigid morality. Specifically, we investigated whether authoritarians, after supraliminal religious priming, would show, in hypothetical moral dilemmas, preference for impersonal societal norms even at the detriment of interpersonal, care-based prosociality toward proximal persons and acquaintances in need. The results confirmed the expectations, with a small effect size for the religious priming vs. authoritarianism interaction. In addition, these results were specific to participants’ authoritarianism and not to their individual religiosity. The interaction between authoritarian dispositions and religious ideas may constitute a powerful combination leading to behaviors that are detrimental for the well-being and the life of others, even proximal people, in the name of abstract deontology.

Some details about paper #2:

TITLE: “Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening”: Religious Priming Activates Submissive Thoughts and Behaviors.

AUTHORS: Vassilis Saroglou, Olivier Corneille, and Patty Van Cappellen.

ABSTRACT: According to many theoretical perspectives, religion is positively associated with submission and conformity. However, no study to date provided xperimental evidence for this hypothesis. We did so in two experiments that relied on priming procedures. In Experiment 1, participants were tested for the strength of their religion-submission associations by using a lexical decision task. In Experiment 2, participants were primed with either religious or neutral concepts and were invited or not by the experimenter to take revenge on an individual who had allegedly criticized them. Both studies provided evidence for the expected religion-submission association, although the effects were limited to participants scoring high in personal submissiveness. Among these individuals, religious priming increased the accessibility of submission-related concepts (Experiment 1) and the acceptance of a morally problematic request for revenge (Experiment 2). Discussion focuses on questions for future research and implications for our understanding of religion’s role in morality and interpersonal relations.

The wordings in both abstracts can, according to me, be reworded in the following manner:

Religion is built on associative, emotional thinking (which is the opposite of logical and critically analyzing thinking), and is full of intellectual vices. For more details, have a look at this Wikipedia article; . And this article, found in the Aeon Magazine: .

Qualities like submissive behavior, obedience, and belief in authorities are encouraged and exhorted. Religious people are strongly advised and admonished to be accepting, not criticizing, what their leaders tell them to do, act, and believe. The key word here is CONFORMITY. Discord leads to bad feeling, feuding, and conflicts. So tell me, is that the higher “meaning of life”? (See there a so-called rhetorical question.)

Anyhow, this is why priming/brainwashing is a common technique used in religious groups in order to establish concord and unity. (And it also opens up to thinking of we and them, i.e. we are better than those others not sharing our beliefs, faith and values.)

Victoria NeuroNotes

Brainwashing and mind control techniques have been used by dictators, their agents and cult leaders throughout history. While it took me years to come to this understanding, it became apparent to me, through my research, that the Bible could be used as a tool for

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