A Review of Chapter 3 of The Christian Delusion

Chapter 3 of The Christian Delusion is entitled “The Malleability of the Human Mind” and is written by Jason Long.  The chapter starts by noting that it is unlikely for someone to change the beliefs he was indoctrinated with as a child.  It continues with some suggestions for how atheists could be more successful in overcoming religious indoctrination in others:  (1) present your strongest arguments and leave out weaker arguments; (2) talk face-to-face; (3) act friendly; and (4) do not apply pressure.  He continues with a number of examples of the fallibility of the human mind.

Then Long states that people “who study a concept in which they have no emotional investment are probably going to offer more reliable conclusions than those who want the concept to yield a specific result” (p. 73).  Due to the existence of cognitive bias, the author writes that scholars with no emotional investment in Christianity will probably present the most unbiased conclusions.  Fair enough, but this is no guarantee that atheists will be unbiased when studying religion.  A child can be indoctrinated into atheism just as easily as he can be indoctrinated into Christianity and there are atheists who don’t want God to exist.  Furthermore, what are we to do if an unbiased, secular scholar started studying Christianity and became a Christian?  Ultimately, all of us have to attempt to deal with the arguments for and against Christianity in as unbiased a fashion as we are capable of.

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