The only way to change the tide of religious extremism is to change the mindset of those on the slippery slope of religious indoctrination. You can’t do this by confronting their beliefs. You need an approach that helps them to make the right decisions. That’s how we make the world a better place.
How to Save The Believer
A believer is a religious devotee who accepts some degree of unhealthy magical thinking. We can divide those involved in organized religion into categories. These groups range from fringe believers to extremists.
Each group is subject to varying degrees of activism. The level of allegiance depends on the level of exposure to groupthink manipulation programming. The more programming and propaganda the more susceptible they become accepting extremist ideologies. That’s why we want to save the believer.
The fringe believer is someone who gives the outward appearance of allegiance to the religion. They attend meetings at special celebrations and festivals. These people are the most likely to have investigated the origins of their religion.
Family or cultural tradition holds the fringe believer captive to the belief system. However, they see the inconsistencies in the system. Unfortunately, they will go along with many of the negative social biases. They submit to the discriminatory practices even though they understand they are harmful. People in this group one step away from becoming freethinkers. All it takes is someone to help them find a way out. A process like Comparative Analysis is one way. This is a structured way to examine concepts across different belief systems. This will help them leave behind negative stereotypes and prejudice thinking.
The moderate believer attends religious services regularly. They are aware of facts that contradict their beliefs, but they do not investigate them. These people often have family and business relationships intertwined with their religion. This cements the believer in the control of the religious narrative. They are susceptible to extremist ideas and ideologies. This is because of their exposure to groupthink manipulation tactics. This group is also apt to follow religious TV and radio programming. However, they are also someone who can be a real advocate for truth if you can turn their passion away from religious bigotry. The unconventional process below is one of the best methods.
The hardline believer is the person who sees their religion as their identity. They attend more than one meeting a week and take courses to advance their knowledge of their religion. Because of their passion and devotion to the cult, they become middle-management. They lead small groups and help enforce the boundaries of their beliefs. As semi-leaders, they are influential in pushing extremist agenda items. They not only are subject to groupthink manipulation, they become the primary tools for motivating others.
The extremist often becomes one of the main leaders of the sect or cult. They are always charismatic and they are trained in using groupthink manipulation tactics to their benefit. They seek ways to spark controversy, fear, and anger. They stroke strong emotional ties that motivate members of the sect to act on their behalf.
They typically attend several meetings a month. They also listen to radio and TV programs, which further reinforce this programming. Their religion becomes their identity.
The “need to believe” overrides any argument or fact that threatens their worldview. Their religion programs them to reject any idea that threatens their worldview. You will waste your time trying to point out factual and logical errors. All this does is create conflict. There’s a better way to win them over.
An Unconventional Approach
There are two well-known approaches for winning over someone with firmly held religious beliefs. We know the first one as “reprogramming”. This was famous in the 1970s. It is a tactic to take minors against their will into private custody from religious compounds. But, this practice is not widely used today. You kidnap a person and hold them in custody, forcing them to face the facts about their beliefs. For obvious reasons, we do not recommend this tactic.
The second technique is the approach of alignment. In this technique, you gain acceptance in order to lead the religious fanatic out of the cult. Believe it or not, someone with deeply held religious beliefs can 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.
Fringe, moderate and hardline believers, all susceptible to sliding toward extremist views. So, changing their mindset can help to keep them from becoming someone that is a danger to others.
Once you help them become a freethinker, then they become a powerful advocate for positive change. The world needs more people who care for others and the planet. Here are the steps you can use to 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. Align and agree with them. 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. You must agree in principle to the tenets of their worldview to be accepted as “safe”.
Research the language and catch-phrases that they use. The typical believer is trained to repeat a variety of linguistic and kinesthetic phrases and motions. These cues act as bonding mechanisms of the group. You need to learn and mimic 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. Since the foundation of organized religion is based on fear, it is hard for them to trust anything. They live in a continual state of fear over the loss of several things from their health and financial security to their afterlife.
This alignment stage is very important and it may take some time. Be careful not to confront or threaten their worldviews. This will make it harder for you to be accepted as “safe”. So, don’t be surprised if it takes several meetings before they accept you into the group. This is an investment you need to make to help someone find their way out of the 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 pass as a believer. You must be able to answer their benchmark questions to gain acceptance. This is an important step in this unconventional approach.
This litmus test can come at any time. It could be 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 sacred texts?
To pass this test you must give a qualified response. A qualified response is a truthful yet incomplete answer. A qualified response is one which does not disclose the full scope of your answer.
For example, if they ask you if you believe in the existence of Zeus. You can in good conscience say yes, I believe Zeus exists. This is a truthful qualified response. It does not include the additional information that you also believe in the existence of Mithra and Apollo to the same degree, which is zero. You believe Zeus exists to the same degree as the other Gods.
Think of a qualified response as pretending. You may remember when you were a child and you played games pretending you had an imaginary friend. It’s just like that. Both you and the believer are pretending. However, the religious believer pretends and believes Zeus is real. You pretending but you know Zeus is imaginary and not real. Playing the pretending game together gives you acceptance.
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 leads them down the path of questioning their cultural narrative.
You can set up the questions as things that bother you from the time you were in Sunday School. Or, it can simply be questions that come up because of your research. Here are some questions to get this process started.
- If God forgives, then why didn’t he forgive and convert Satan? After all, murders can be saved, why not Satan?
- Are all the people who lived before Jesus doomed to hell?
They will more than likely give you a pre-programmed answer. But, the questions will make them think about their beliefs. This leads them to start questioning the cultural narrative. If possible, get them to engage in a Comparative Analysis study with you. This is a structured form of comparative religious study. This 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 to see how their religion using programing 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. Then once they accept you, it’s possible for you to lead them further. Eventually, you can help them confront the facts behind their beliefs in mythology. This will move them closer to a more humanist centered mindset.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia