What sets the human species, homo sapiens, apart from other animals? Hint: It’s not our thumbs. Other primates, including pandas, possums and koala bears have opposing thumbs. It’s the size of our brains.
All but the least intelligent of humans can reason far better than even the geniuses of lesser species. So why don’t we? Why is it that you can lead a person to logic, but you can’t make them think? I believe the answer is very simple – their otherwise healthy brain is infected with a virus. Not a biological virus. Not something you can see under a microscope. Nor is it anything the body can eliminate with antibodies. Once infected, the brain is usually doomed to host the virus for the entirety of its life.
I’m talking about beliefs. Beliefs that are immune to reason; and, that’s why the brain is helpless in ridding itself of the virus. Once a belief takes hold nothing can affect it. Other humans with uninfected brains (brains that can still function logically and do what healthy brains do – think) are unable to bring the affected person back to reality.
Most people are infected at birth. I don’t mean they are born with infected brains. That’s not how it works. Their brains are very quickly infected by exposure to the brains of their parents. They are inculcated with the cultural beliefs of their parents which invariably include the existence of magic and the supernatural.
Children are taught superstitious beliefs by those they trust to be reliable sources of truth. Yes, that doesn’t just include religious beliefs, it describes them by definition:
Excessively credulous beliefs in and reverence for supernatural beings, and unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to to certain consequences of an action or event, including practices based on such a belief.
The only thing that can prevent being infected by one of these all pervasive mental viruses is reason, e.g. the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.
When someone with an infected brain knocks on your door with a pamphlet in his, or her, hand, and one does not immediately close the door, or ward off the virus with reasoned thought, there is the risk of infection. It has happened; and, in fact, it once happened to me. Mormons!
I was perhaps more easily infected because I had suffered from a religious infection from birth. It took me three years of determined research to heal my mind and rid it once and for all of religiosity. In the end, it was simple logic that did the trick.
I used the same tool of reasoning that scientists use in seeking truth. Often it is impossible to prove what is true; but, rarely is it difficult to prove what is false. It’s called falsifiability; and, here is how it works. I’ll use the simple postulate, “All ravens are black.” The statement, though it may appeal to inductive reasoning (i.e. every crow I’ve ever seen was black, ergo they must all be black), it is immediately proven false with the presentation of one single, solitary white crow. That is deductive reasoning.
I won’t go into the myriad of falsifications that I have found for religious beliefs, particularly the ones I’m most familiar with in Christianity. I will only say that once I began to reason logically and accept my own conclusions, my virus began to die; and, my brain began to heal rapidly. The virus was riddled with falsities.
The contradictions are there in plain sight. But, unfortunately, the most effective aspect of a mental virus is its ability to create a hard shell that protects it from logical thought.
Note: Though I have focused on one particular genus of mental virus, the same applies to any ideology or worldview. Injections of logical reasoning are universally beneficial.