Fundamentalists Deflect
All Attempts At
Reasoned Discussion
Luke Banton

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Luke Banton"
Subject: Re: contradictions in the bible??
Date: April 19, 2002 7:34 AM

I don't.

It's really none of my business what they believe.

You will notice that all the answers they give come from the same three or four "Answers To Tough Questions" books (not the real name, just what I decided to call that genre for now). You will also notice that that's where C. Dennis McKinsey gets his ideas (you think he pours through the Bible looking for toughies? No! He reads these books!)

Back to the bottom line, though, it's none of my business. It's none of my business, that is, unless and until they try to foist that drivel upon the public specifically for the purpose of changing legislation. When this happens, I try to let human reason do its thing, because, as you can see, one must be tightly wrapped up into the cultic viewpoint and mentality in order not to see through the shallowness of their lines of unreasoning. In other words, you gotta want to believe so badly that you'll even ignore stuff like this.
 

What you're running into can be useful to change people, though, but it's a lot of work. It's so much work, in fact, that I would probably reserve it for a close relative, such as a sister's teenaged kid who is getting caught up in a cultic group.

Ted Patrick, the renowned (or infamous) "Father of Cult Deprogramming" once told me how he made this motif work for him. He would first isolate the mark into a controlled environment (where no fellow cult members can have access to the kid being deprogrammed ). Remember that in the early 1970s, the cultic groups targeted the college-aged offspring of the well-to-do; thus, Patrick's clientele consisted entirely of parents who had paid Patrick and his goons thousands each to literally kidnap the kids from the cultic group's compound (or lure them away from the compound and then snatch 'em). He would then hold the kids in hotel rooms for days at a time.

Again: These are the techniques that Patrick used on these much-cared-for heirs. Patrick often spent days on end with the mark, locked away in a heavily secured room. This stuff is not for use on some clown making posts on an Internet debate forum!

Safe in the clutches of a well-guarded hotel room (often with adjoining and nearby rooms also rented and stocked with bodyguards "just in case"), Patrick would keep the discussion going for hours and hours. Whenever the cult member tried to change the subject, Patrick was a master at bringing the topic of the conversation back to whatever he had decided it would be. You can see me often having had to do this on the earlier Forum dialogues: changing the subject is by far the favorite technique of anybody who is in the hot seat and being questioned by any authority figure. Patrick, having the key to the hotel room, as well as the key to the refrigerator and the key to his bodyguards' payroll, was most definitely in a position of authority!

When Patrick thought he had obtained the cult member's attention, he would begin peppering the person with questions about the cult's teachings and beliefs. Patrick was a genius at assimilating not only the front-line teaching (the "hooks" with which they entice you into the cult) but also those beliefs which the recruit learns only after she or he has been safely "inside" the group for some time. Quick to compare just about any claim with just about any other claim, Patrick could, for example, show how one of the group's teachings contradicts a passage in the Bible. If the group believes in the Bible, for example, and also forbids the eating of meat, then Patrick would literally pummel the member with this contradiction, forcing the member to "go outside the cultic world view in order to find an answer," as Patrick told me in an interview in about 1981 or so.
 

This is a responsible and very common way to run a Forum.
 

If what you have to say isn't going to introduce confusion, disorder, or a disrespect for the church group's authority, it will probably go on the Forum. If you want to see what you're talking about at its worst, go to Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Recovery Watch web sites and learn a few of the basic arguments against the Twelve Step Programs. Then log onto the Recovery from Addictions forums at AOL or wherever and start capping on Alcoholics Anonymous. The Recovery groups This is ten times worse than any church you'll find because in AA, if you lead somebody astray from AA, you have just murdered that person! I kid you not!! Regardless of their Traditions for welcoming anybody who wants to show up (who has a problem, of course), they run dissenters right out of those rooms because they think their lives depend on their doing so. They have many very subtle techniques involving everything from body language to highly involved campaigns for discrediting certain individuals. As an atheist who seemed to only be able to make friends with other atheists, I saw a lot of this. I might have seen all of it, actually!

When I was sick recently and had nobody to talk to (all my close friends got spooked when the doctors started talking about me pushing dasies), and couldn't even walk across the room without excruciating pain, I started going to a Sunday-night NA meeting two blocks away -- just for the social outlet. I figured it was unfair to hang in the local tavern unless I intended to drink, and I was way too sick to do any of that. The very next week a coalition of "old-timers" who knew me from eight to thirteen years ago had begun to frequent that meeting and would grab the floor, which goes to the fastest to yell out his name, and then the group says "Hi" back and that's how who gets the floor gets decided.

Once on the floor, these "old-timers" would say things designed to discredit anything I might say then, later, or even in private, after the meeting. This has been happening for years: whenever I show up to a meeting where the "old-timers" are there (they all know me), the room suddenly takes on a very religious atmosphere -- even when these guys are not otherwise religious. When these men with "lots of time" begin to assert themselves, the others know better than to do anything but follow suit. The topic is always how crucial one's relationship with God is to recovery. The "experiences," the life-stories, of these "old-timers" suddenly changed so that, for the first time since I've known them, they are now "admitting" that they tried to "do it without God" but only got loaded, etc.

Within a single month, even those who had been friendly toward me at first would not speak with me for longer than it took to say that they had to run and that it was nice seeing me again! The only one who continues to play friendly with me at all is the group's secretary, because he knows I always place a more-than-generous donation into the basket, and it is he who must concern himself with the group's budget. Knowing what that's like, I always make up for at least five slackers, usually ten or more if I can help it. and considering that whenever I show up the bulk of his slackers have come to give me the business, I might consider it part of my obligation, in a way!

Graphic Rule

Back to your question, this is likewise a responsible and very common way to run a Forum where one can expect youngsters to spend their time. I wouldn't let young kids visit forums unless they were (at minimum) run this way. Some kids are mature enough to graduate from this by age 10, but this is contingent on them having gone through a frank discussion about what perverts are and how to identify them. Is your 10-year-old mature enough not only to sit through such a discussion but also to take with her or him the important messages behind such a discussion: how to avoid being exploited by a sicko? I would hope that all but the slowest of 12-year-olds have been given such as discussion and have been trained in the ways to avoid exploitation.

However, if this Forum is for those over 12, I think it is somewhat of a coin-toss, depending on the motive. If your motive is to keep members' mailboxes from being cluttered by junk, as is the case with the TWAIN_L forum that I belong to, then have someone approve all posts. The Vic Stenger forum I also belong to is not run this way, and accounts, at times, for as many as 100 e-mails each day. When I'm taking in over 300 e-mails even on slow days (when Stenger's list is only spitting out 30 or 40 posts), this is a lot of e-mail. My box now peaks out at 600 e-mails on a hot day, including Stenger's and twelve other lists (the rest of which are like ours at Positive Atheism: the ListMaster is the only person who may post).

If you're not worried about spamming and flaming, then there is no need to censor posts. With Stenger's list, several of us have become tired of a few who send dozens of posts advocating out what Stenger calls "woo woo science," and we simply filter them out with our Message Rules filter and never see them. It wouldn't bother me if Stenger would just block these nuts, but that would make him appear unscientific and besides, they could just log on with different e-mail addresses and continue if they wanted.

The main thing about any forum (or any game involving inviting the public to participate) is to have a clear set of rules and to enforce those rules fairly upon all no matter what. This appears to have been the problem with the last go-around you had with this group: certain things were okay if some did them but not others.

There is one problem you'll encounter in almost every aspect of life, and we all do well to examine our own behavior to make sure we're not behaving this way when dealing with adversarial organizations and groups: I'll talk about this kid who hangs out at some karaoke bars (because he's been kicked out of most of them). What he does is hang around and be nice, but all the while, he's finding out what their rules are: what can he get away with that's not technically breaking the rules. He then does things that we all know are inappropriate, "But you didn't tell me this was against the rules!" Those bars who fall for his shenanigans quickly find themselves with a big, long list of "Don'ts" on their wall or in the front page of their songbooks.

What I find fascinating, though, is just how few individuals make it to age 22 without having learned all this stuff to the point of applying it to just about every aspect of their lives. Like I've said many times, "If you're old enough to get into a bar and you still put your cap on backwards, you are sending me a very clear message: "The person underneath this cap is an abject loser!" I have yet to find an exception to this observation, although it's become quite a game of mine to deliberately look for the exceptions.

The bars who wish to run a smooth operation for the vast majority of their patrons will establish an arbitrary (read: "unfair") rule that boils down to a prohibition against other patrons getting upset with you. I was asked to leave a bar on the most recent election night for talking about George Bush and Al Gore!! Really, now! We were all watching this thing come down on the telly, and it was the strangest thing that any of us had ever seen (an election that had not been decided long before the West Coast's polls closed). This was simply an extension of the old "Never discuss religion and politics" rule of etiquette. In this case, the barkeeper's job was to keep the peace and to provide an atmosphere from where folks may escape the pressures and disappointments of real life and engage in various forms of relaxation. For this reason, antique stores and picture books featuring relics of recent history are replete with quaint little signs for posting in bars which remind patrons to mind their manners.

But it's a tough call. What you're running into is a group that treats its followers like children, that cannot trust its followers to think for themselves (rather, that can trust its followers to obey the commandment not to think for themselves!).

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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