Again, it's probable that my title deceived you. This page is not a guide on how to brainwash people into Islam. No, my premise is quite the opposite. I hold that any opponent of Islam is brainwashed.
If you're not willing to give my premise the benefit of the doubt, consider this:
In this world there are people who are being brainwashed. However, people don't realize that they are being brainwashed. As soon as one realizes it, one no longer believes in what has been brainwashed onto him because I doubt anyone would allow himself to be brainwashed knowingly. So if you would be brainwashed, you wouldn't even know it. So the safest position against brainwashing is to start by assuming you could have been brainwashed, and then being critical from that starting position out. But then how do you recognize brainwashing?
Contrary to popular belief, brainwashing is not simply repeating something over and over until you start to believe it, the process is a bit more complex. A friend of mine downloaded a PDF the other day called "The brainwashing manual". He figured he might read it in order to know what to watch out for, and passed on a copy to me. It is published under the name of L. Ron Hubbard. For those who don't know him, that's the science fiction writer who started his own religion -Scientology- I guess that makes him an expert on brainwashing. For those who are interested in this book I should give a head's up, the title creates false expectations. Rather then being a manual, it is more of a justification for the use of those techniques. The irony of it all though, is that the book itself uses indoctrination techniques to convince the reader of it's message. And as if that isn't enough by itself, yet another twist lies here: Hubbard claims he is not the author of this work, but came across the text and published it to protect the public by revealing it. The book describes a very aggressive brainwashing method of drugging in combination with hypnosis; something that Hubbard's religion does not approve of. On the other hand Scientology is well known for it's subtle brainwashing. Now since the book describes aggressive brainwashing, whenever someone accused Scientology of brainwashing, Hubbard could easily dismiss the accusations. For the scientologists M.O. is nothing like the description found in that handbook. So that makes it easy to write off those accusations as anti-Scientology propaganda. In other words, Hubbard had written a whole book that defends something his organization does not approve of, for the sole purpose of indoctrinating his followers with a different, more narrow definition of what brainwashing actually is. So, since most readers will be focused on, and disgusted by the pro-brainwashing arguments the book gives, they take no heed of the narrow definition of brainwashing the book subtlety feeds them! Now, I don't care about Scientology that much, I just brought this anecdote up because it illustrates quite efficiently how complex and subtle brainwashing can actually be.
Obviously the goal of brainwashing is to spread lies and deceive people, but next to that you will often find additional lies to support the main lie. In fact as a general rule you could say, the bigger and older the lie, the easier it is to fool people! People think no way can a lie persist so long and still survive and no way can a lie be that big and no one finds out. So a very big, complex and sophisticated lie, that is mixed with half truths, will be allot easier to swallow, as opposed to a single isolated lie. Such a lie is also harder to reject once you are convinced of it, because you need to indulge a larger number of alternatives in order to reject the lie.
Often manipulators also resort to logical fallacies to reach false deductions based on true facts. Weak analogies, straw man arguments, circular reasoning, and many more. Anyone who gets involved in debates, especially religious ones should know these fallacies. Here's a good start: List of Logical Fallacies. If you come across them they are a red flag for someone feeding you lies. But of course that is not conclusive, sometimes people use these fallacies without realizing, and sometimes even to argue in favour of genuine truths. Here they use these fallacies simply because they do not master the art of debate and reasoning.
Sometimes the brainwasher can set a verbal "stage". The idea here is to only insinuate a certain conclusion, but without making it Crystal clear. It's a bit similar to what story writers in Hollywood do. On one hand they want the shows to be unpredictable, yet on the other hand they don't want to fail the viewer's expectation. So many successful shows will "direct" it's viewers towards a certain ending subconsciously; without making it all to obviously predictable on the other hand. This way they give the viewer a false sense of accomplishment. "It wasn't predictable, yet I expected it because I'm so good at this." The same can be done in an argument, rather then spoon feeding something, one simply sets the circumstances so that eventually the victim feels like he himself drew the conclusion that the brainwasher wants him to reach. Not only will the victim be less aware of the brainwasher's influence in all of this; he will likely feel proud of his accomplishment and will even defend this conclusion because he feels he himself is on trial if his conclusion is questioned.
Working with emotions and feelings. Emotions and feelings play a very determining role in our paradigm. Far more then the average person would admit. The way we feel about a concept and idea is influenced by our personal experiences. This has both good and bad consequences. The bad part of it is, emotions and feelings can't be defeated by reason even if these feelings are out of place and uncalled for. If you want to use logical reasoning, all you can do is explain your view and then let your opponent accept or reject it on his personal feelings. On the other hand it can be considered a good thing that you can't force someone into believing something simply by superior reasoning. This is also why in many religious debates you'll find that people resort to emotive arguments rather then logical ones. One of the most powerful ways to convey emotive arguments is by art. Poetry, music or even paintings can convey strong arguments that can't be defeated by logic. Whether or not that argument or message is realistic is of course a totally different matter. But important here, is that most people do not approach emotive messages from a sceptical, logical point of view. Of course most of this happens subconsciously. And according to Freud's model of the topography of mind, these subconscious influences outweigh by far our conscious arguments and decisions. So our true motives for our choices lie buried in our subconscious urges, which are easily influenced by emotions and thus subject to emotional arguments that you find in art, music, poetry and so on.
In a way one could argue that everybody is guided by their unconscious desires in choosing their views. I completely agree, although I would add a slight nuance and say everybody is guided by their desires to some extend. I cannot deny that for me there is also a factor of personal unconscious desires which guided me in the past. I think this is an inevitable factor every human has to deal with. However, I also think that every person has conflicting desires, and then again we have a choice in which desires we allow to take the lead. So perhaps our choices in faith are not free; and are instead a direct result of our previous (apparently unrelated) choice we have made in the past. I do believe so. But this still means our faith is nevertheless the result of a choice. And not just any choice. It is the result of a choice of which desires we allow to guide ourselves. Which subconscious drives do we let take control: urges, needs, fears, shame morality, immorality, instinct, conscience? This is definitely a choice we can be held accountable for. So even if we're not as free as we think in choosing our religion, we are free in choosing what kind of person we'll be, and our choice in religion will be influenced by that. It's also a choice we all have to make at a rather young age. Long before we even consider whether or not religion is true. And by the time we actually do consider religions, this previous choice is long forgotten and has become something we take for granted.
It appears many atheists share many similarities with people who are brainwashed. I will attempt to discuss some of them here. But first lets clear up some loose ends. For clarity let me explain the definition I have in mind, because I have encountered disagreement on this part whilst debating in the past:
A theist is someone who considers the existence of God as a fact.
An atheist is someone who considers the non-existence of God as a fact.
An agnostic is someone who considers the existence of God possible, but not factual.
To those who disagree and do not think that not all atheists find the non-existence factual, I argue that those who don't find it factual, are agnostics in disguise. But this is of course a purely semantic debate. So I can save both myself as well as those who disagree a lot of trouble, by asking those readers to simply replace everywhere it says "atheist" with "person that takes atheism as factual". I suppose such would be more politically correct.
Now of course my statement of atheists bearing resemblances with brainwashed people, is a very dubious statement. So for your protection, and also just so that you wouldn't suspect me of brainwashing, let's consider some of the questions this begs:
Does similarity prove that atheism is being brainwashed?
Of course not. At best you could say that deduction is only "suggested". But similarity does not prove equality.
If atheism is brainwashed, does that prove atheism wrong?
Again, no it doesn't. the method in which a message is spread has no bearing on its validity. It would however invite us to reconsider it.
If atheism is indeed being brainwashed, then who is behind this?
That I grant, is a very tricky question. Personally I would have to admit that I am not certain of the answer. I can think of only three possibilities. Of course I realize their might be more then 3 possibilities, which I am incapable of thinking off. People who think they are on to something can always suggest their theories on my forum. Getting back on the three possibilities, based on my religious view I'm unable to rule any one out as false, neither can I view any of them as exclusive. Nevertheless I'm strongly inclined to believe that in reality all three are partially correct. In other words, we face a combination of those three possibilities. But then again, my personal inclination is hardly an authority.
1) Suspect from religion
The most usual suspect according to the three monotheistic religions, is Satan. Satan is a sworn enemy of mankind. His mission is to try and deceive as many people as possible. He had thousands of years of experience on how to manipulate mankind. He's always around whispering, from childhood on. People become so used to it they assume the ideas are just a part of them selfs, something that comes from within. He convinced many people he doesn't even exist. And they gladly accept it. They don't want him to be true, if Satan exists, then so does hell. If hell exists, we should try our best not to end up there. Therefore most people prefer to believe his lie. From the moment you start exposing him, people will defend him. They don't want you to be right, they don't want to be wrong. The idea that they had been manipulated their whole life and been on the wrong path is to scary to even consider. The idea that they have been tricked is an insult to their intelligence, and nobody feels prone to accept that. He's hiding in the best place an enemy could hide. Behind your fear, since that's the last place you'd want to look. However, this possibility comes with some restrictions. If Satan would be the sole contributor to atheism being brainwashed; then that would render people not responsible of their beliefs. You cannot blame someone for being brainwashed if he had no choice in the matter. So viewing Satan as the sole contributor seems contradictory to concepts as an afterlife with reward and punishment; heaven and hell.
2) Suspect from psychology
An alternative suspect could be the victim itself. A person could very well brainwash himself on a subconscious level. Of course this would not include elaborate ruses and setting of suggestive stages. But a person could guide his own reason by emotions and feelings that dictate what he wants to believe. Often people view themselves as incapable of believing. They figure it would be hypocrite to fake belief in something they aren't convinced of. Although they are right about forcing themselves being a hypocrite's approach, I doubt people are as incapable as they genuinely think. We can distinguish two types of reservations against being convinced: Logical and emotive. In the case of emotive arguments against believing, I think it's clear the person is not truly incapable of believing but rather is unwilling to believe, or even unwilling to indulge the thought. His emotions do not allow him to believe, even though his logic tells him it's perfectly possible. In the case of logical arguments, I'm pretty confident all the arguments are based on paradigmatic bias, and are hence based on a different choice some time in the past. A choice which was later on along the line forgotten, or never fully comprehended in the first place, similar to my story. The reason I'm quite confident in this is because to this day I have not seen any logical argument against the existence of God or against my religion hold it's ground. It's simply impossible to prove something or someone does not exist by logical argument. And as for religion, most arguments I've encountered are based on false premises or false conclusions. Of course if any of the readers disagree, they are welcome to present their arguments in the forum.
3) Suspect from sociology
Another culprit could be found trough sociology. Here we aren't facing with a purpose-minded person or group, but rather a unconscious randomly evolving movement. It's not a monolithic group either. Just a sum of popular mainstream ideas. To illustrate with an example, in the dark ages the Catholic Church held back scientific progress everywhere were it contradicted the Church's dogmatic views. After centuries of oppressing science as well as scientists; the scientific revolution nurtured anti Catholic views to the extend that in the West nowadays science is often viewed as being contradictory to any religion, even though other religions, like Islam never contradicted science in the first place. It's a perfect example of how mainstream views can brainwash the population without there being someone directly or intentionally behind it.
Lets start by listing some of the more common similarities. First of all, an atheist is by the earlier mentioned definition convinced his view is a given fact. By the definition we're handling, the atheists doesn't accept the possibility of the opposite viewpoint. He is blind to it, which is odd, since I have to date seen no argument against theism holding its ground, there's always a logical fallacy somewhere leaving the door to emotive arguments only. I will discuss the most common arguments below.
Furthermore, atheistic proofs are commonly based on lies and deception, a lot of time people will tell you falsehoods and sell it as science. I'm not saying science is bad. Science is wonderful, but all to often freethinkers act as if they "own" science and everyone who doesn't agree with them disagrees with science. Many of the misconceptions spread in mainstream thoughts about science can be found corrected here and here.
As I will be discussing some of the common arguments, you might object to some of my counterarguments for being biased. That is understandable, since you do not share my perspective. However you will have to grant me that any arguments against God or religion, that is not based on religious views is circular and hence flawed. A logical argument against religion or God that is not flawed should start from the position that God and religion exist, and then lead to a contradicting deduction. Or it could start from a neutral position and then rule out one by deductions. Anything that doesn't start from these position is circular reasoning. So since I will be taking a defensive stand against flawed arguments here, I have every right to be biased in countering. If it'd be the other way around though, that I'd be making arguments in favour of religion, then of course any argument should have to start from either the agnostic, or even the atheistic viewpoint. Some will even claim atheism isn't even a paradigm but the default starting position. They are obviously wrong, Agnosticism is the default starting position. Atheism is negatively biased towards the existence of God whereas theism is positively biased. The difference is, at least the theists acknowledges that their view is a belief. So, here goes, some of the common fallacies:
Argument from free will
I've already discussed free will a bit on the four-dimensionalism page. But as you can see in the following paragraphs, the issue of free will lies at the base of many arguments against theism, so it seems important enough to bring up here again. Other then that, free will as a very dominant aspect of monotheistic religions; and is a necessity for concepts of punishment and reward, hell and heaven. A God that punishes and rewards his own creation without giving them freedom of choice, makes about as much sense as a computer programmer who writes software that doesn't work, and then is angry with his software for not doing what he wanted it to do. Here are some of the concepts that at first glance contradict free will.
The riddle of Epicurus a.k.a. the argument from evil.
There exist many variations and spins on this but the original riddle goes like this:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
The weakness obviously lies in slippery slope deduction on the second premise. It completely leaves out the possibility that there might be a deeper underlying motive for an able God not want to ban evil without him being considered malevolent.
First we need to understand there's different types of evil:
The paradox of omnipotence.
Some argue that omnipotence is flawed by definition. A common example question to point this out is:
Can an omnipotent being create a stone that is so heavy the being cannot lift it?
If he cannot create it, then isn't that a flaw in his omnipotence?
If he can create it, but cannot lift it, then isn't that a flaw in his omnipotence?
The answer is very simple: "Yes he can create it; and no it's not a flaw that he cannot lift it.". The problem is choice again. An omnipotent being surely has the potential to lift any stone, but also the potential to wave his own potential by choice! So the reason he cannot lift the stone then is not because the being was never capable of lifting it, but because he chose to forfeit his ability to lift it while creating the stone.
Of course philosophers could make a variation to the question to bypass my counter-argument. A situation where the reason for not being able to lift it is better speculated. More precisely, so the characteristics of the stone is not linked directly to the creator, like: Can one omnipotent being create something that is to heavy for another omnipotent being to lift? Here the question is unreasonable, the characteristics of the stone are contradicting. He is asking if omnipotence can make the impossible possible. He might just as well have asked, can an omnipotent being create water that isn't wet, or squared circles. At best, the only thing this question could illustrate is that the existence of two different omnipotent beings is problematic since the omnipotence of one should include limiting the other's omnipotence and vice versa.
The paradox of omnipotence combined with omniscience
This is a variation of the free-will paradoxes I discussed.
The paradox states that an entity cannot be both omnipotent and omniscient. Being omniscient would imply foreseeing all of his own action and choices. The argument then continues that the act of foreseeing limits the choice, and thus limits omnipotence.
The paradox is flawed for the same reason as the free will paradoxes are flawed. It is a wrongful interpretation of causality again. If God is omniscient he does indeed knows the future. The argument seems to rely on the assumption that any possible future is fixed by the act of knowing it “despite” of his actions. This is off course absurd. An omnipotent being would know the future not despite of his actions but in synchrony with his actions. In other words, an omnipotent being would calculate his own actions/decisions within his method of knowing about the future. He knows what he will do, because he knows what he will choose to do with his omnipotence. His knowledge is thus based on his actions, and his actions are not restricted by his knowledge.
The sweeping generalization.
Most atheists I discussed religion with are raised in Catholic or Christian environments. And far to often I encounter arguments against those specific religions which they have extrapolated to "all religions". As if the flaws of one religion have a bearing on another religion. That believer of faith X rejects faith Y should be a given; and flaws of faith Y do not necessarily hold ground against faith X. Even within a religion, are usually different divisions and sects, who not always share views. A very common argument is: "There used to be a god for the explanation of fire and thunder it was just to explain things they couldn't yet understand at that time.". But as mentioned before, similarity does not prove equality. The other day I saw an interview with a Jesuit scientist who said: "I found in most of my scientific college's who are atheistic; after talking to them; that they "don't believe" in a very specific concept of God, a God that I myself as a theist don't believe in either."
Appeal on false authority.
Yet another common flaw in arguments against theism, or even against God, is to judge them not on their own merits but on the people who follow it. Obviously people are flawed and prone to mistakes. That doesn't mean their religion is bad though. In fact due to the lack of logical flaws in Islam, these are the most common arguments against it. "Some Muslims do this, some do that, some "Islamic" countries have these rules..." The fact that these example go in against Islamic scriptures, seems to have little relevance to those who make the arguments. Just because some dictator starts abusing a religion, doesn't make him an authority in Islam. In Islam, the only real authority are authentic scriptures. Even the most respected Imam or Sheikh's words are worthless if they are not backed up by some source.
Argument from disbelief.
This argument goes; if God wants us to believe in his existence, he could have easily seen to it, since he's omnipotent. The very fact that there exist people who have a rational disbelief thus suggests that there is no God. Here again philosophers ignored free will. God wants us to believe in him out of our free will, not in spite of our free will! God could have made us so that we all believe in him by default, but then it wouldn't be out free will. Especially when considering my arguments that suggest atheism is being brainwashed, this argument from disbelief doesn't hold much ground.
Argument from the supernatural.
The argument from the supernatural holds that the existence of God presupposes the existence of supernatural characteristics. These characteristics would in turn defy logic. However I've showed in the fundamentalism page, that supernatural is not illogical at all. The only thing super national defies is expectations which are based on previous events. Such defiance is only illogical based on the assumption that natural (as opposed to supernatural) laws are universal and ever present. Thus the whole argument is flawed by circularity.
Argument from poor design.
The argument from poor design is an argument against creation. It states that a perfect omnipotent creator would not make imperfect creations. The argument can thus apply to any creation allegedly created by a creator. However we find the exact opposite. Scientists are constantly amazed by the tremendous elegance of the universe and its characteristics. I've already explained the anthropic principle in the introduction page. But don't take my word for it, just watch the documentary called The elegant universe by physicist Brian Greene. The argument from poor design is used a lot in relation to the human body as well. I've answered that part in the evolution page.