Faith as a surrogate for logic and evidence is an insidious anti-science concept that should be confronted by all thinking people for the benefit of our species. Pointing out faith’s problems to believers can be a frustrating challenge, however. For more effective encounters I recommend that one keep in mind the following three points when discussing faith with believers.
(1.) The subconscious mind is listening. Never forget that you are talking to two people rather than just one. It is not enough to win an argument against a believer’s conscious mind. You must work to win over the subconscious as well or it may veto any gains made. This can be difficult as numerous irrational biases often come into play. To increase the odds of success, be nice and as non-threatening as possible. Focus on the topic of faith. Avoid distractions in the form of hot-button issues. Politics, taste in music, and sports team loyalties may be unrelated or trivial but they can easily lead a subconscious minds to reject you and everything you say in an instant.
(2.) Gods are plural. Never yield 99.999 percent of the battlefield by playing the monotheists’ game of speaking as if only one God matters. Humankind is a God-creating species and always has been. Hundreds of millions of Gods exist, according to sane, intelligent human beings alive now or in the past. By consistently referring to Gods in the plural you force believers to confront the troublesome truth that faith works as well for one God as another. This helps them to recognize that faith doesn’t work at all.
(3.) Be humble. An irritant consistently cited by believers is that skeptics and atheists are arrogant jerks who think they know everything. Setting aside the fact that it is believers more than anyone who tend to exhibit extreme levels of unwarranted confidence in extraordinary claims, this is an important problem because it impacts one’s ability to reason with faith defenders. To be effective, one must be overtly and obviously humble, even while relentlessly and mercilessly demolishing the concept of faith with reason.
This should not be difficult as it is only sensible to be humble, open-minded, and eager to drop conclusions if shown to be wrong. It may help to remember that it is only human to believe the unbelievable. Our cultures, our fears and hopes, and many of the brain’s natural processes make all of us vulnerable to hollow claims and intellectual frauds such as faith. No one is born immune to bad ideas. —Guy P Harrison