What is the Best Way to Talk People Out of Faith?

What would it take to convince you of something so far off your radar screen it’s bizarre to even imagine? That’s the daunting task you’ve taken up by attempting to talk people out of their faith. So don’t become discouraged if you don’t succeed very often, if at all. Picture yourself as a seed planter. Your goal might be to plant as many seeds as you can in hopes that with the right nurturing it’ll grow into a fruit producing tree of reason and science.

The first thing you should do is become knowledgeable about the arguments and objections of believers, as this app will do. I’d also suggest you become knowledgeable in two different religions. Choose from Christianity, Islam, Scientology and Mormonism. Then when you meet up with Christians (for example) tell them about Mormonism (my favorite, although it too is a Christian religion), or vice versa. Follow the Socratic Method by asking why they reject Mormonism. Listen closely, and respond as one might do if a Mormon. Let the Christian know that’s what you’re doing too. Respond with questions if possible, pointed questions. Point out that Mormons usually accept their faith because they were born into it. Point out that they offer the same kinds of reasons for their faith that Christians do. Point out how good they are at evading key objections too.

Then ask Christians how to best solve these religious disputes. Ask them if they would still consider faith to be a virtue since Mormon’s also punt to faith. Then share how bad the brain can deceive us and why scientific thinking is our only hope for knowing about the nature of nature and its workings. Show why we must think exclusively in terms of the probabilities and never go beyond them with faith.

When engaging believers I listen and then end by recommending a book for them to read. I’ve written and edited a few of them so usually I just pick one of mine. I try to instill enough doubt in them that they’ll research into their faith on their own, and I steer them in the right direction. In the short time with them the goal should be to get them thinking and researching on their own. Get them to stick their noses in some good books on the topic of your discussion afterward. I don’t think you could do an intervention any better than this. —John W Loftus