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The Science of Deception


“Anything is justifiable in the name of religion.”

Xenocrates

Over the last couple of months, my blog entries have focused on the lies most ubiquitously propagated by religion. I’ve sought to explain this phenomenon through analyzing the responses I’ve gotten from many folks – particularly those who’ve responded to me in person. From talking to these people, I’ve established a most discernable pattern: The average person is a linear thinker. They tend to accept most ideas at face value and interpret most problems using the most conspicuous parameters defined by that problem. They assume that the underlying premise is true so long as it appears to make sense – whether or not it actually does. This is why people believe so many of the highly illogical and perhaps even nonsensical things they do – especially as it relates to religion. In this entry, I will discuss some of the core ideas we’ve come to know in religion and how we can use critical thinking to expose the illogical nature of these teachings. You will see that deception is more of a science than an art and you will understand why it is used to snare the minds of the simple minded.

Thinking “Outside The Box”

Before we can delve into the core content of this discussion, we have to understand the value of Critical thinking. This is not so much a hard science, as it is a tried, tested and proven methodology for problem solving and the discernment of truth. The very expression “thinking outside the box” is nothing more than a convenient four word expression which embodies the very premise of critical thinking. Allow me to demonstrate:

9 dots

Observe the image above. What do you see? Most of you will say 9 dots. Some of you will say 9 dots arranged in a pattern. Few of you will say 9 dots arranged in a matrix. Very few of you still will immediately see the extended possibilities of this arrangement (and perhaps even extrapolate the arrangement to other things you see in your everyday life). However, almost none of you will know that your brain has already made several presuppositions about this image. Let’s say that I asked you to draw a line through all the dots using as few lines as possible, without retracing any of the lines and without removing the drawing instrument from the pattern. I’m pretty sure that 99% of you would come up with the image below.

Lines through the pattern

Assuming that the four corners of the pattern were numbered, the vast majority of you would draw a pattern starting from one arbitrary corner (1), then proceed along the perimeter of the pattern (2, 3, 4 then back to 1) and then draw a diagonal through the center of the image. At this point you might be thinking to yourself: “Gee that was pretty easy. What’s the big deal?” right? Well technically, one could say that you solved the problem – or did you?

Most people read the instructions in bold as “Draw lines through all the dots on the pattern without retracing or removing the drawing instrument“. That’s why most of you came up with a pattern with 5 lines. Most of you only paid cursory attention to the part of the instruction where it says “…using as few lines as possible“. Even those of you who took that into consideration still made one critical error: When you first saw the image above, your brain extrapolates the pattern as something that is immediately recognizable: a box – a square box to be precise. Your brain doesn’t think there’s any other reason for seeing it this or any other way. This is your brain accepting the image presented to you at face value. When asked to treat the image in a certain way, you used this face value interpretation to attempt solving the problem. However, I will show you a more excellent way:

4 Lines

This solution uses 4 lines. How was this possible? A pattern is drawn starting at some arbitrary corner (1), moved along any one of the sides of the pattern, but not stopping at the perceived corner of the box, but rather at some imaginary point (2), cutting through the left and bottom mid points in the pattern to some imaginary point that aligns with the first corner (3), following the perimeter to that corner (1), then cutting a diagonal through the center to pick up the middle and bottom left dots (4).

For the 1 or 2 percent of you who came up with this pattern, even though your brain interpreted the pattern as a box, you ignored this obvious interpretation and thought of the pattern as only 9 dots. Treating the problem as 9 dots and not a box allows you to come up with a more efficient solution. This is where the expression “thinking outside the box” is derived. This is the core concept of critical thinking.

Logical Fallacies

Another key component to critical thinking is the discernment of truth. Discerning truth is nothing more than filtering out logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is any conclusion which is unsupported by the premises upon which it is based. Observe the following syllogism: 

  • Socrates is human.
  • All humans die. 
  • Therefore Socrates will die.

This is logically sound because we can prove each statement for all cases. We know that Socrates was a human being. We know that nobody lives for ever. Therefore, it is only logical to expect that Socrates will die sooner or later. We can prove each case because of what can be collectively termed: ostensible phenomena – meaning, conditions which can be observed and demonstrated as proof. Each statement in the syllogism is true, therefore the conclusions must also be true, right? Let’s look at another:

  • Bicycles have wheels.
  • Wheels are found on cars.
  • Therefore bicycles are cars.

The first two statements are categorically true. However, we know that bicycles and cars are not the same thing. This is a logical fallacy, because the conclusion assumes that all wheeled things can be referred to interchangeably. By the same logic, we could also say that clocks are bicycles (clocks have wheels internally) or that cars are locomotives (they both use wheels for the same purpose). Again, these are all ostensible phenomena, so we can easily expose the logical fallacy. But there’s an even more subtle type of fallacy. Observe the following syllogism:

  • Socrates is a man.
  • Men like women.
  • Therefore Socrates likes women.

Is this logically sound? Most people would say so. You might agree with the third line in the syllogism because the basic premises are true – even though Socrates was actually a homosexual. Thinking inside the box, we assume that all men like women and thus we would deem the conclusion to be sound. This kind of logical fallacy is one of the most dangerous types, because it is based on a generalization. By this type of logic, you can mask an illogical premise inside a logical argument. Here’s an example:

  • Dogs have sex in many random, meaningless patterns.
  • Men would enjoy sex with many women in random meaningless encounters.
  • Therefore all men are dogs.

Is the argument logically sound? Yes! If you examine the metaphor, the argument does hold water because its rule of comparison was not broken in the conclusion. However, are the premises true? Examine the logic of the comparison. If you were to think outside the box, you would realise that testing the logic in other scenarios will certify its worthiness. With reapplication, you will realise that the comparison suffers from a fatal flaw that provides room for a firm rebuttal. For by the same logic:

  • If all men are dogs,
  • and all women are of the same species of animal as men,
  • then all women are bitches.

And thus, the flaw in the logic is exposed…

Do you see how you can use a logically sound argument to sell a fallacious premise? This is how deception works. This type of deception is most preferred for use in politics and religion – more the latter than the former. It is not so conspicuous in religion because people are not encouraged to think outside the box. In fact, they are told to renounce their doubt and re-affirm their faith.

If you should ask your pastor some tough question that challenges the core of your chosen religion’s belief system, they will most likely try to discourage you from doing so, saying that such kind of thinking is “of the devil” or they may even play it off as you taxing your mind unnecessarily. While faith has its purpose, believing without proof is asking to be deceived. Let’s look at some real world applications of these types of deception in religion. This is going to blow your mind.

The Elusive Definition of God

God, huh?The following section critically examines some of the really challenging issues that have been questioned by many young people growing up in church. The questions are asked because of a conspicuous void that naturally occurs in the mind of a young person who is trying to defend what they believe. Most of the answers they are given are by people who really do mean well. It’s just that they lack the capacity for critical thinking. We will start the discussion by analysing one of the most commonly propagated pieces of misinformation in Christendom:

  • Good things are Blessings.
  • Blessings come from God.
  • Therefore God is good.

This argument suffers from definition problems. ‘Good’ is relative to the speaker. So while it is good that I won the war, it is bad for my enemy who lost. Furthermore, everything comes from God, not just those things we perceive to be good.  Therefore to say that God is good, would be the same as saying that a computer is plastic. Here’s a better syllogism:

  • Good and evil are descriptive ideas for things.
  • All things come from God.
  • Therefore good and evil are only two of the many possible interpretations of God’s work. 

We therefore obliterate the ideology that God is omnibenevolent. If he was, then evil wouldn’t exist. Since evil exists, one of four things is true:

  1. God is all-powerful, but doesn’t care; (but this would make him malevolent!)
  2. God cares, but is not all powerful; (but then he wouldn’t be God, would he?)
  3. God is neither all-powerful nor does he care (which would mean that he doesn’t exist) OR;
  4. God is all-powerful and he does care (which doesn’t explain evil)

When I first came up with this list, little did I know that an ancient Greek philosopher by the name of Epicurus once wrote almost exactly the same things. Let’s examine each point for its merits and demerits and prove or disprove it logically:

  1. If God is all-powerful and unwilling, then He is not worthy of praise, since this would make Him a malevolent God. This throws out the entire Bible and every teaching in it, and renders Christianity as a useless religion. So if this argument is true, then either Christianity is utter rubbish, or God doesn’t exist. If you maintain that Christianity (and indeed, by extension all religions) should hold water, then this argument must be rejected.
  2. If God is willing, but not all powerful, it would certainly explain why He can’t seem to control the Devil or evil and would make the “God is omnibenevolent” argument make a lot of sense. However, if God is not all powerful, then He certainly isn’t God, and again, that would render Christianity completely moot. We reject this argument for the same reasons stipulated above.
  3. If God is not all-powerful and doesn’t care, then “God” simply doesn’t exist. He would be just a figment of our imagination. We only reject this argument because of causality. If there is no first cause, then the universe wouldn’t exist. So if there was no God, then we don’t exist. Since we know we exist (we are conscious of our own thoughts!), then some creator must likewise exist.
  4. If God is able to stop evil, and wants to stop evil, then why did he create a universe and then allow evil to exist? The two ideas conflict with each other because an all powerful God who hates evil wouldn’t allow it to exist in the first place. Because of this obvious logical flaw, we reject this one too.

In Christianity we are taught that one day God is going to return to earth and resurrect all the good people and take them back to heaven. Heaven is supposedly this perfect place of pure bliss where no evil exists. If God had the power to create such a place at all, why didn’t he just create the entire universe where no evil existed in the first place? I guarantee you that if you ask your pastor this question, he’s either going to be stumped, try to sidestep the question or would just give you another rubbish answer (trust me, I’ve been there many, MANY times). However, I’ve got a perfectly good answer. Follow this syllogism:

  • If God exists, then He is all powerful.
  • Humans are not all-powerful, otherwise we too would be Gods.
  • Therefore, God is not Human.

Now with that syllogism, we can use its conclusion to explain everything else:

  • Humans relate in emotive terms (e.g. love, hate, regret, etc.)
  • God is not Human.
  • Therefore God doesn’t relate in Human terms.

That fixes the issue of God being good or evil or malevolent or mischievous or any other anthropomorphic adjective we tend to describe him with. This means that all human descriptions of God are automatically logical fallacies – including those in the Bible. Remember that the Bible was written by men, so they described God from a human point of view. God doesn’t regret, or feel anger (as we see written a plethora of times through the Bible). These descriptions were just men trying to rationalise God’s behaviour from a human point of view. So that solves the issue of God behaving like a human in the Bible. Now this allows us to solve the problem of the origin of evil:

  • God created the universe and everything in it.
  • Evil exists in the universe.
  • Therefore (among other things), God must have created evil.

We can easily prove that this logic is true in the Bible where it quite explicitly says that God created evil (Isaiah 45:7). We cannot say from this conclusion that God is malevolent, since this would run afoul of our previous conclusion that God is not Human. Saying that God is malevolent is a faulty anthropomorphication. If God created all things, then saying that God is malevolent (because evil exists) would be like saying that Airplanes are evil (since when they crash, they take human lives). That kind of argument suffers from tunnel vision, whereby it makes a broad sweeping generalisation about the entire nature of God by referencing only one tiny effect of God’s causality. This we can further expand to explain events in our world:

  • God is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful).
  • Therefore God is the architect of the future.
  • Therefore anything that happens is God’s will.

This is critical to understand since an all powerful God who knows everything would naturally have pre-destinated (vis-a-vis omniscience) every single event of the future (vis-a-vis omnipotence). This effectively blows a hole in any argument that seeks to suggest that when people sin or “backslide“, that they are going outside of God’s will. Let’s solve this logically:

  • If God is all powerful, then nothing can happen unless He allows it.
  • If God is all knowing, then everything that happens was predestinated.
  • Therefore the universe always unfolds exactly as it should.

This automatically eliminates ideas like “chaos” and “chance” and “God’s mercy” and “going against God’s will” and the rest of it. None of those ideas can exist if every single event was predestinated by God. In fact, based on our previous conclusions, we can expand on this idea even further:

  • The universe always unfolds exactly as it should.
  • Therefore “good” and “evil” events are all predestinated.
  • Therefore praying for “blessing” may not necessarily coincide with this predestination.

Note the conclusion carefully. The word “coincide” here is critical, because it explains prayers that go unanswered. When you pray to God to ask for something, it is critical to note that:

  • When what you pray for happens to be what God willed, we say “our prayer was answered“.
  • When what you pray for is not what God willed, we say “our prayer was not answered“.

I see Christians do things like ask God for journeying mercies before taking a long trip, “plea the blood” over a new car or house, ask God to deliver them out of debt, ask for for life partners and even financial blessings or even pray for God’s guidance when they embark on some new initiative. However, asking God for these things doesn’t necessarily mean that God will grant them since He obviously already has a plan. If God has already predestinated the outcome of everything, then that moment spent in prayer will most likely be a waste of time. This blows a huge hole in any teaching that seeks to suggest that wealth or success is directly proportional to holiness (or any other such derivative). All such teachings are lies. We can sum this up in a neat little syllogism:

  • God’s will is absolute.
  • Prayer is based on humans’ desires.
  • Therefore prayer and God’s will are mutually exclusive.

This sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? But it actually explains things like religious oppression, irrationality, and holy wars. In fact, we can blow the entire lid on the wanton and indiscriminate religious indoctrination which has plagued mankind from the days of the Christian crusades to today’s Muslim Jihads. This tidy little syllogism wraps this up nicely:

  • Religion is based on faith, not proof.
  • If Religion was based on proof, we would not need faith.
  • Therefore anything can be justified once it is done in the name of religion.

That’s why Muslims can strap bombs to themselves and wage a holy war, and why Christians can pressure other people in society, destroy families and cause a furore over semantics – they do it in the name of their faith. As such, theists are not under any obligation to provide proof to justifty their irrational behaviour. So they can pretty much make up any piece of garbage and pass it off as inerrant dogma. This is very dangerous because: 

  • If I don’t need proof to believe in something,
  • Then I can believe in anything I want for any reason I want,
  • And this is all the justification I need to win followers, heal the sick or wage war.

That’s why the Muslims refer to their irrationally violent behaviour as a “Holy War”. Just by tacking on “holy” to a negative word, by their logic, it justifies the bloodshed. It’s justified just by virtue of it being holy. Christians were no different just over 1,000 years ago. In fact, Christians in politics can tell people what to believe, what they can or can’t do and what rights they can or cannot have, simply because their behaviour is rationalised just by virtue of the fact that it’s their “faith”. But the deception doesn’t end there. Let’s not forget Hope. Examine this syllogism:

  • Most people subscribe to religion because of the hope it gives them. 
  • Hope is achieved through the suspension of the logical mind thus attaining “faith”.
  • Therefore Hope is simultaneously the quintessential human strength and the greatest human delusion.

But wait! It gets better:

  • Religion is based on faith, not proof.
  • If we had proof, we wouldn’t need religion.
  • If there is no need for religion, then all of those who base their livelihoods therein would have no purpose in their lives.

So now you know exactly why pastors don’t teach this in church. We can further extend this to say that:

  • All faith based systems are non-profit organisations. 
  • Non profit organisations still need to be financially supported.
  • Therefore, eliminating the need for faith, eliminates that financial support.

This is why if you should go and ask your pastor a really tough question (like: Why did God create evil?), He will do one of three things:

  1. Discourage you from trying to find the answer to the question you asked by saying “that kind of question is of the devil“. He may even pray for you, or in a worst case scenario, go to DEFCON 3 and get all exorcist on your ass.
  2. Give you a placebo answer which doesn’t satisfy your question.
  3. Side step the question altogether and tell you to… wait for it… (drum roll please) …have faith.

But let’s be reasonable. If a pastor were to go up on the podium and tell his congregation: “Everyone of you, go home and live your lives free of guilt. You are responsible for your own behaviour.” he will not earn one red cent from the offering. In fact, he will have to quit his day job and go and find real work. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:

and then, watch this:

…and now you see, the deception is complete.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, critical thinking will save you a world of trouble, not get you into one. We are taught in the Bible to be as wise as snakes, yet as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). Instead, most people who call themselves Christians only retain the “harmless as doves” part, and completely ignore the “wise” part. This is because of the on-going tradition of deception in religion where people are taught that thinking too much about what they believe is somehow “blasphemous” or otherwise “wrong“. This is utter and absolute rubbish! 

When I ask very tough questions that deconstruct the Christian belief system, a lot of Christians get defensive and are unable to adequately defend what they believe. This is all too common, because they’ve never thought about it beyond what they are taught in church. They don’t know how to answer the questions because they’re not critical thinkers. They accept most of what they see at face value, and thus become locked inside a constricting box made to enslave their minds that was bought at church with their offerings. As such, they are easily led away by a multitude of various Christian cults and other types of harmful or downright bogus religious teachings – many of which originate right there in church.

The Bible did not intend to create the systems we collectively know today as organised religion. If it did, it would not encourage us to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), because that’s exactly what religious pundits don’t want their followers to do. It would unravel the web of garbage that most of them have created and expose them as nothing more than highly sophisticated, diabolical con-artists preying upon the gullibility of an unsuspecting horde who use religion as an opiate to pacify their emotional stagnation while justifying their pitiful existence. This goes for every religion on earth (particularly Christianity, which has the largest following on earth). 

While I do believe in God, and I do believe that there is wisdom to be derived from the musings of ancient men, we should not be so quick and ready to accept every wind of doctrine that flies our way. I don’t care who said it, or where it was said, or if it was televised, in a book, on a DVD – wherever. Nonsense is indiscriminate with respect to source and destination, and most of the people you hear preaching don’t know the difference. Everyone must be ready and prepared to brutally criticize what they believe in. When you have proof, you don’t need to rely on spurious faith. That is never enough. The very Bible confirms this by stating that unsubstantiated faith is useless (James 2:20). 

I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you believe or where you worship: You MUST be able to prove what you believe. If you can’t prove what you believe, then why believe in it? How else can you defend it? How do you know that you aren’t wrong? Are you really that gullible? Anything else is nothing more than a recipe for exposing yourself to religious deception or at best, just making an ass of yourself and misrepresenting your chosen faith. It shouldn’t just be atheists who are willing to challenge what you believe. If you’re not willing to challenge your own belief, then prepare to be deceived.

And just in case you think I’ve officially gone off the deep end…

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  1. Elora
    July 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    This was a very interesting read.

  2. Richard
    December 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man? living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.
    -George Carlin

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