--Excerpt from "Community"
Last July I wrote a verse by verse deconstruction of a chapter in the Book of Mormon wherein Joseph Smith really shows his lack of understanding of atheism by portraying Korihor (anti-Christ) as one of the most cliche-ridden depictions of an atheist I have ever seen. He also seems to have confused the Law of Moses with the US Constitution...
At any rate, at the end of the story Korihor reveals that he only disbelieved in god because a demon disguised as an angel told him there is no god, and he repeated the lie in his mind over and over again until he eventually believed it. To me this is the only thing of value in this story.
The concept of repeating falsehoods until you believe them is a well known psychological phenomenon, and I think many people fall victim to it within the realm of religious conviction and spiritual experiences. Furthermore, and this is the real point of this post, religious people are encouraged to get together regularly (sometimes even daily) to reaffirm each other's experiences and opinions as truth.
In my youth I was taught that the path to apostasy starts with inactivity. This is why the Mormon Church puts so much effort in to their "Home Teaching" program--so they can catch apostasy early on and bring people back to the Church. (Note: No Home Teachers have tried to contact me since I graduated from BYU, so clearly that's why I'm an atheist....)
I will admit that there is some truth to the notion that if you stop attending a church you will gradually become disenchanted with its teachings. But unlike religious people, who will tell you that this method of apostasy is just Satan gently leading you away from god, I say this shows the weakness of religious arguments. Conversely, biologists don't get together weekly just to tell each other that evolution is still true, because evolution does not rely upon subjective experiences interpreted through the lens of a book of questionable holiness and origin.
There are atheists who admire religions for their social networks, and some have even tried to start "atheist churches" to mimic this, but by and large most atheists do not feel the need to come together en masse on a weekly basis to reaffirm their logically sound, empirically based arguments. If anything, they want the occasional potluck and game-night.
Well, this coming weekend the Mormon Church is hosting their semi-annual General Conference and will broadcast it around the world. For those interested in seeing what group-think is really all about, or if you are just curiously masochistic, feel free to check it out. I, on the other hand, will be getting paid overtime as I work during each session of the conference. If anything interesting happens I am sure Facebook will let me know on Monday.
Christopher Hitchens on the strength of atheism:
And a cheeky advertisement for Britain's first atheist church: