An Example of Religious Gaslighting

Mak found an article that’s a good example of religious gaslighting. The article attempts to answer whether science disproves the Christian deity. Mak went into his own critique on the specifics. After reading it, I found that not only was it a god of the gaps fallacy, but it relies on several tropes and styles of rhetoric that devalue information contrary to Christianity.

I don’t know if these tropes and rhetorical devices are taught in seminary or religious instruction. They are pervasive in articles which seek to question contradictions of faith-factual claims. That is, when someone brings up a specific claim of fact in the Bible or elsewhere, one can expect responses similar to the article’s (link here).

Image found here.


The first: fake humility.
I’m describing the humility as fake not because I think the author has bad intentions. The author makes a few points that I used to agree with as recently as seven years ago. Rather, I say that the humility is fake because it contradicts the main point of the piece: to carve out a defense of religious belief against scientific inquiry.

Three paragraphs in, and here it is:

None of the points I’ll make here is intended to provide absolute certainty; no amount of mere reasoning could do that — whether for or against God. This is why I find crowing triumphalists, whether believers or unbelievers, so frustrating and unhelpful, to be honest. Their confidence-to-competence ratio is out of proportion with reality, and their overconfidence is as harmful to serious discussion as it is common.

This paragraph attempts to establish shared values while downplaying certainty. Certainty is now a bad thing, unwarranted by an alleged “confidence-to-competence ratio[.]” It implies that the author grapples with a socially acceptable (but undefined) level of belief in his own deity.

What this does is isolate people who might think they are sure about not believing in deities. Should they be as confident as they are? Does that mean they’re unreasonable? Will others think they’re unreasonable?

Original image source unknown.


It’s more useful in a church setting.
In an actual conversation, this kind of stuff quiets dissent. It gives the crowd an easy excuse to shout people down. Anyone who says, “I don’t think gods are real” can be dismissed out of hand.

Back when I went to church, or even when I visited adult bible studies, this kind of thinking became a way to establish group identity. Here is what is reasonable, and here is what is not reasonable. Agree and be rewarded with sympathy. Disagree and stand out from the herd.

Looks like the Greeks were right, too.


Why the humility is fake.
No matter how often I saw this get used, doubts never get examined. In the cited article, the author never goes into specifics. There’s just some level of doubt that makes his belief better than someone with more certainty. As long as nobody asks, the author and others won’t have to talk about it.

Even though the humility is fake, people still might be able to tell you about doubts they have. The difference is that these doubts have a ready answer. In legal parlance, they’ve been asked and answered. These doubts exist in the past, and they rarely plague a person in the present.


So no, doubting Christianity isn’t unreasonable.
Everyone has their own reasons for believing things. Whether others might agree is subject to how they’re presented. Just because someone’s willing to act humble, it doesn’t mean someone is actually being humble.

Like so many aspects of the faith that I’ve left behind, this kind of stuff helped keep me believing when I should have been heading for the door. Every little allowance told me that I should just listen and accept whatever comes next. Don’t stand out. Don’t be alone in a crowded room.

Funny thing is, it never stopped me from feeling alone in a crowded room.


There’s more I wanted to go into, but I’ll save it for later.
This post is already too long, and there’s more in the article that I wanted to go into. I just want to say that none of this is specific to the article or the author of that article. He just wrote something that has good examples of what I’ve been talking about many times on this blog.

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