The "core" model of belief part 1
The problem of evangelism, the paradox, can be expressed as such :
(1) Christians have beliefs, we have rational thought processes (to simplify - I grant that the reverse can be true in some people, and that most uninformed people do not have epistemic stances).
(2) Reason is not conductive to accepting beliefs.
(3) Belief systems are not conductive to accepting rational thought processes.
(4) How can we possibly convince Christians if they cannot accept our evidence (and vice-versa) ?
There are two general answers to the paradox. The first is to say that even though rational processes will not convince anyone, such arguments can plant the seed of cognitive dissonance and accumulate in a believer's mind until it reaches its breaking point. This is a tried and true method of evangelism, although it is relatively inefficient. The second is to use belief-like rhetoric (while maintaining rational premises) in order to convince the believer on his own terms. This should be harder but more effective.
Evangelism, therefore, is the study of these methods.
As I noted, uninformed people don't have epistemic stances, and as such they are the easiest to influence. Presenting a few potent facts to them usually veers them into agreement. You won't get a firm grasp or commitment on their part, but in most cases it would not be desirable to press them further. It is the seeker, the person who is already immersed in the issues and is desperate for answers, that needs help the most.
Let me present what I call the four principles of evangelism :
Principle 1 : All theological arguments are rationalizations in the name of faith. Discussing arguments is good for the nonbeliever's understanding, but serves only a small role in the deconversion process.
Principle 2 : All faith exists because of emotional appeal, and this appeal is based on misconceptions and lies fostered by religion.
Principle 3 : Faith is a mind-killer and an enemy of rational morality, science, and ultimately all cognition.
Principle 4 : By exposing the false emotional appeal of faith and religion, exposing its evil, and promoting the true emotional appeal of nonbelief and reason, we are helping society, and therefore ourselves.
Where does the "core" model fit into this ? If we are to convince believing minds, we need to understand how believing minds work. We need to understand how the emotional appeal of religion works and how to defeat it. This is why I have developed the concept of the "core" model. It is simple, probably simplistic, but I think it is a big help in understanding the believing mind. Therefore I propose it as an model for atheistic evangelists to try out and test for themselves.
The "core" model is composed of four parts.
1. Individual values - Our individual values are the result of our natural moral development. This moral development takes place even if a child is brainwashed at an early age. What this means, is that parallel to the religious development which stunts the moral sense, the individual is also subject, in the background, to the mental development, the observations and deductions which lead to moral development.
Now, I am not an optimist who believes that everyone is rational at the core (otherwise no one would be Christian). I am a realist that even if people deny it because of the extension of their dogma, most people hold natural values (such as "genocide is evil" and "improving material standards is good"). I know this is the case because even children who are raised in a rigorous cult environment can decide to get out of it, and children who were raised in dictatorships can seek to escape them. If their values were solely determined by social conditions, they would not seek to break the dictatorial pseudo-values they were raised on.
When we grow up, we observe the things around us, and amongst these things are people around us that we recognize as individuals with their own values and feelings, and from all this we naturally come to value ourselves, our survival, our flourishing, other people around us, people we love, things we love, and ultimately the society that is necessary for the expression of those values. No collectivist entity is needed to teach us all this - in fact, the very idea that such an entity is needed contradicts the existence of our natural values and sensibilities.
Go to part 2.