So I'm talking with an old friend, we went to a private Jewish school together, and now we are both turning 40, but he still believes in fairy tales. With most people I would keep my mouth shut, but we are good friends and I couldn't hold myself. "Tell me you don't believe in the OT, please." The response? "Of course I do!" Really? You believe that people should be stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath? That women should be forced to marry their rapists? Etc. No, he replied, of course he doesn't. So beyond the glaring contradictions of believing in what you don't believe in, I got quite motivated, as I do, to see if there was any way to bring this otherwise normal person back to the real world.
What really struck me was how sensitive the subject was for him. He went straight into defense mode (to be fair, my tone was confrontational), and you could just feel the mental doors slamming shut. Everyone here knows that feeling of the frustration of someone who just can't allow themselves to question what most needs to be questioned! And I think that this kind of mental slavery has really got to be the worst part of religion.
How do you explain to somebody that their mind is being controlled? That they are being blindly obedient to the authority of other men, most of whom are long dead and who lived in an age of vast ignorance? Maybe there are other problems with religious beliefs - I gave him 2 very good examples of the insanity that he professes to believe in - but as I like to say, thank God for hypocrisy; the danger of the things they would really do if only common sense wasn't allowed to override religious convictions is mitigated by the lesser problem of being just a plain old hypocrite. The true believers at least have the courage of their convictions, but who wouldn't take a hypocrite over a monster?
So this is what I want to focus on, and what I'd like your help with. What are some good arguments you have heard? Besides the blind obedience to authority, the core of religious belief seems to lie in it deliberately preventing criticism of itself, either internally or externally. That is why they make every effort to get you when you are too young to defend yourself from their mindfuck. What separates faith from reason is that reason admits of criticism, it doesn't just allow skepticism, it demands it. Reason does everything it can to encourage doubt, while faith does everything it can to discourage it. The former restrains one from claiming to know what one cannot know, the latter downright demands it. The former asks for evidence, the latter ignores it. Reason gives no one authority over your thoughts, faith commands you to cede that authority to others. Is it any surprise that the original sin of mankind, according to the Torah, is eating from the Tree of Knowledge?
It is fear that keeps all these minds in line. Perhaps this is why Jews are known to have a higher than average rate of becoming atheists, because religion had not yet evolved the fear tactics of hell and Devils it developed later on. I only hope I can get through to my friend. Every mind lost to the self-imprisoning nonsense of religion is another nail in the coffin of humanity.