The only way to change the tide of religious extremism is by changing the mind of a believer. The unconventional approach to save the believer is a worthwhile endeavor. Are you ready for the challenge?
Religious indoctrination is a slippery slope. The more exposure you have to this brainwashing technique, the farther down you slide and the harder it becomes to change the trajectory of your thinking. Someone brainwashed will reject facts and reason to protect their sacred ground.
Can You Save a Believer?
“Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky.” — George Carlin
“I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.” — Bertrand Russell
“Reason is non-negotiable. Try to argue against it or to exclude it from some realm of knowledge, and you’ve already lost the argument because you’re using reason to make your case. And no, this isn’t having “faith” in reason (in the same way that some people have faith in miracles), because we don’t “believe” in reason; we use reason.” — Steven Pinker
You need an approach that avoids confrontation but can still help them make the right decisions, because that’s how we make the world a better place.
Yes, You Can Save The Believer
Saving someone means returning them to their original mindset, free from any kind of religious propaganda. Not an easy task, but it can be done. You must guide them to the knowledge and give them the proper support which motivates them to make the change themselves.
To overcome strongly held beliefs, you must get permission to walk on their sacred ground so you can show them the errors of their thinking. You must show them it is okay to change their beliefs.
It is possible to save a believer from the power of religious propaganda. How do you do this? The first step is to identify their level of indoctrination. You must pass the litmus test to become a trusted member of their group, so they will allow you to illuminate their sacred ground.
A believer is someone who accepts myths and superstitions as truth. There are four separate levels of belief:
Each group exhibits a specific level of harmful thinking and behavior. Harmful thinking increases as you move down from the Fringe to the Extremist. What makes a believer?
Religions indoctrination uses the groupthink manipulation tactics of self-hypnosis and group hypnosis. These are some of the most effective brainwashing tools ever created.
Levels of Religious Belief and Indoctrination
1) Fringe Believer
“You believe in a book that has sticks turning into snakes, and you say we are the ones that need help?” — Dan Barker
Family or cultural tradition holds the fringe believer captive to the belief system even though they see inconsistencies in the system. Unfortunately, they go along with many of the negative social biases to fit in and support harmful policies and practices even when they know they are unjust and unfair. This group is more open-minded and more likely to reject the religion altogether.
Comparative Analysis is a structured way to examine concepts across different belief systems, it help people see the biased and prejudiced thinking behind religious doctrine. If you are going to save a believer, this is the process to start with.
2) Moderate Believer
Moderate believers attend services regularly. They know about many of facts contradicting their beliefs, but they choose not to believe them. These people often have family, business relationships, and a social network intertwined with their religion, which cements them into the religious narrative.
“The most dangerous fundamentalists aren’t just waging war in Iraq; they’re attacking evolution, blocking medical research and ignoring the environment.” — Jill Greenberg
They are more susceptible to extremist ideologies because of their exposure to groupthink manipulation tactics. This group often spend several hours a week watching religious TV and radio programming. However, they can also be powerful advocates for the truth if you can turn their passion away from religious bigotry. The unconventional process below is one of the best methods that can change their thinking.
3) Hardline Believer
The hardline believer is the person who sees their religion as their identity. Hardline believers attend more than one meeting a week, take courses to advance their knowledge of their sect. Because of their devotion to the cult, they become middle-management.
Hardliners often lead small groups and help enforce the boundaries of their beliefs, they can be influential in pushing either a liberal or extremist agenda. Groupthink manipulation tactics are second nature by now because they have been subject to it for so long. Not being aware they have been brainwashed, they mimic the same strategies to covert others.
4) Extremist Believer
Extremists often become leaders. They tend to be charismatic, trained in groupthink manipulation tactics. They seek ways to spark controversy, fear, and anger. They build strong emotional ties that motivate the sect members to act on their behalf.
They typically attend several meetings a month, regularly listen to religious radio and TV broadcasts, reinforcing this programming. Their religion is their identity.
“I am absolutely convinced that religion is the main source of hatred in this world.” — Christopher Hitchens
Extremists develop the need to believe. Belief in their religious mythology and superstition become the centerpieces of their lives. They will defend their worldview with violence if necessary. Religious elitism dominates thinking. A chosen one mentality that gives a false sense of superiority. It’s not impossible to change their minds, but they likely have a lot of baggage and ties into their closed community, which makes it challenging.
An Unconventional Approach To Save The Believer
There are two well-known approaches for winning over someone with firmly held religious beliefs. We know the first one as “reprogramming.” It was an infamous practice in the 1970s. It is a tactic to take minors against their will into private custody from religious compounds.
Reprogramming is not widely used today because it involves kidnapping a person and holding them in custody, forcing them to face the facts about their beliefs. It’s one way to save a believer, but obvious reasons, we do not recommend this tactic.
The second technique is approach utilizes alignment and acceptance to guide people into making better choices. In this technique, you gain acceptance to help someone see big picture and understand how they have become brainwashed. Even hardline and extremist believers can be guided to change their minds. But it will take an investment of your time. If you care for people and the world, this is worth the effort. If you have a friend who has succumbed to the effects of religious indoctrination, then this process is a good option. We call the unconventional approach to save a believer. You are reading about it now.
Fringe, moderate, and hardline believers are all susceptible to extremist ideologies. Changing their mindset can help keep them from becoming a danger to others.
Once you help them become freethinkers, they become powerful advocates for positive change. The world needs more people who care for others and the planet. Here are the steps you can guide the deeply religious from extremism to a freethinker. It’s important not to skip or rush through the steps.
1) Alignment for Acceptance
Step one. Gain alignment. Yes, alignment is the first key. Alignment leads to acceptance. The believer needs to feel safe with you. So, you must align with them to gain acceptance. In principle, you must agree to the tenets of their worldview for them to accept you as safe.
Research the language and catch-phrases they use. The typical believer mimics and repeats specific phrases. These cues act as bonding mechanisms of the group. You need to learn these. For example, at the end of a sentence, they will tag on the phrase, praise Jesus. They may gaze upward at the same time.
You save the believer through acceptance. Notice I didn’t say trust. The foundation of organized religion is fear. So it is hard for believers to trust anything outside their enclave. They live in a continual state of fear over losing several things, from their health and financial security to their afterlife. They have anxiety over losing personal freedoms, which are all exploited for control.
This alignment stage is critical, and it may take some time. Be careful not to confront or threaten any of the central tenets of their worldview. It will make it harder for them to accept as safe. You may need to attend several meetings before accepting you as a group member. It can be a substantial investment of time. But it’s worth it if you can help someone find their way out of the programming.
Bottom line. You must play along with the make-believe to align and be accepted as safe. If you are not ready to play along, this strategy isn’t for you. If you have strong moral objections to playing the game to reach someone, or live with the consequences. The fact is, we all have to live with the results of those who remain under the influence of negative religious programming.
Passing The Religious Litmus Test
Winning over a believer depends on your ability to pass a religious litmus test. A religious litmus test is the benchmark answer required to prove you are like-minded. You must be able to answer their benchmark questions to gain acceptance. It’s an essential step in this unconventional approach.
This litmus test can come at any time. This test could come in your first conversation, so do your homework ahead of time. Find out what things are necessary to pass the test. i.e., Do you need to know a specific creed or critical part of their sacred texts? Do you believe in the power of magical underwear or holy texts?
To pass this test, you must give a qualified response. A qualified reply is a truthful yet incomplete answer. It’s an answer which does not fully disclose the scope of your understanding.
For example, if they ask you if you believe in the existence of Zeus. In good conscience, you can say yes, I believe Zeus exists. It is a truthful, qualified response. It does not include the additional information that you also believe in Mithra and Apollo’s existence to the same degree, which is precisely zero. You believe Zeus exists to the same degree as the other Gods.
A qualified response is pretending, it is just like when you were a child; you played games where you pretended you had an imaginary friend. This is the adult version. You and the believer are pretending. However, the religious believer thinks his imaginary friend is real. You pretend too, but you know the imaginary friend is not real. Playing the pretending game with them gives you acceptance.
Passing the litmus test gives you acceptability, allowing you to align. Now you can help lead the religious believer to the truth by asking more probing questions.
2) Ask for Help
Asking for help shows you respect their knowledge. It helps to build trust because you are coming to them for answers. This unconventional approach is non-confrontational. It forces them to think about what they believe and why. This strategy leads them down the path of questioning their cultural narrative.
You can set up the questions as things that bother you from when you were in Sunday School. It can merely be questions that come up because of your research. Here are some questions to get this process started.
If God created everything and everyone and is a loving God, why create Hell in the first place?
Christians say Jesus will save the believer from Hell. But, if the same person offering you salvation also promises to send you to Hell, this is extortion, not salvation. It is exactly like the person who says, if you don’t pay me, I’ll do something terrible to you.
If God is all-powerful and saw people were sinning, why didn’t he talk to them and get them to change their ways? Instead, he punished everyone by flooding the entire world. That doesn’t seem like the actions of a rational, loving being, does it?
If God is a loving God who forgives, why didn’t he Satan for his disobedience? If God can save murders, why not Satan?
If one must proclaim Jesus as a savior to be saved, what happened to everyone who lived before Jesus was born? What happens to everyone who never has the opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus?
They will more than likely give you a pre-programmed answer, but the questions will make them think about their beliefs. Hopefully, this will lead them to question the cultural narrative. If possible, get them to engage in a Comparative Analysis study with you. It’s a structured form of comparative religious study. It will expose them to the similarities of concepts in other belief systems.
We make the world a better place when we save the believer from their propaganda. We help them see how their religion uses programming to install negative bias and prejudice. You help pose the right questions to confront their unhealthy magical thinking. It all starts with the unconventional approach, which requires alignment to gain acceptance. Once they accept you, you can lead them further. Eventually, you can help them confront the facts behind their beliefs in mythology. It will move them closer to a more humanist-centered mindset.
“People know the difference between good and evil in their hearts-if they search them. Religions twist good and evil. Their differences are the kind that need to be taught because they aren’t natural.” — Julianna Baggott
“You could easily spot any Religion of Peace. Its extremist members would be extremely peaceful.” ― Ricky Gervais