This guide is a training manual for non-violent subversives to engage in an asymmetric conflict against their particular house of worship. This guide is primarily intended for a Catholic and Protestant audiences. This is not meant to exclude people trapped in other faiths; the author is just the most familiar with that particular tradition. Readers of different backgrounds are encouraged to use this guide as a template for writing follow-up guides to address other religions.
The plan is simple. Waste your priest’s time. Every hour of their time which you consume is an hour they can’t spend indoctrinating a young person. If we (justifiably) assume a priest works a full shift every day, then they would produce a total of 2,912 man-hours per year of preistcraft. 56 people wasting one hour of their local priest’s time each week has the net global effect of having one priest renounce their vows for a full year. A subversive nonbeliever-to-priest ratio of 56:1 would thus render the entire clergy inert. This is realizable, since the current nonbeliever-to-priest ratio in the US is 81:1, and every extra hour wasted per week has the next effect of recruiting another subversive. Domination is not requisite to overcome challenges; victory only requires a slight advantage. This is why bringing the worst out in your opponent has the same net effect as bringing out the best in you.
Additionally, priests are already overworked, underpaid, and lead tumultuous personal lives. With all of their standing responsibilities, any waste of their time just cuts into the already-small amount of leisure which their life allows them. Each little time delay holding up their operations is like a grain of sand in a gearbox. Many priests are teetering on the brink of burnout as it is; while no one pestering question will persuade a priest to leave their position, no one raindrop causes the flood. Having a priest leave for any reason will have a traumatic impact on their church; on average, 28% of worshipers will seek another parish, and 19% will cease going to any church altogether. Their replacements are often required to schedule fewer services, to maintain the appearance of full seats. Of those who remain, as many as 40% will tithe less, and many church programs will be eliminated as the church enters survival mode.
By just asking questions and wasting their time, you can subtlety stress and eventually burnout your priest. Every hour spent talking to you about a feigned spiritual crisis is an hour where the clergyman cannot perform any other work. This approach is ideal, since you can act against your priest and church without legal recourse or repercussions. Likewise, following this approach leaves these subversive actor free from retribution, since they are not rebelling per se; they are desperately trying to obey and follow.
|Every act of rebelling expresses a nostalgia for innocence.|
This strategy has been proven to work; it is a variation of the popular sit-in strike and administrative overload techniques -- the meatspace analogues of a DDoS. The sit-in occupies an area and renders it unable to be used for it intended purpose. This was used to great effect in the Civil Rights movement to places economic pressure on segregated restaurants and other businesses, by preventing racist store owners from completing transactions until they changed their policies. Administrative overload was used by the Vietnam War protesters in the 1960’s to great effect. The Selective Service required draft-age males to submit a 10-day written notification whenever they moved. Protesters then wrote to inform Selective Service about every trip to the store; every time they moved into another room; or that they planned on moving, only to change their minds a few days later. This overwhelmed the Selective Service offices with meaningless work, impeding their productivity.
The methodology is simple, and has been outlined below:
- 1 Get the Clergy's Attention
- 2 Maintain a Good Rapport
- 3 Maximize Muda in a Non-obvious Way
- 4 Get Invited Back to Induce Faith-Breaking Processes in the Sheltered or Overprotected
- 4.1 Discovering Small, Disconcerting Cracks Within Their Religious Teachings
- 4.2 The Realization of Religious Manipulation Within Their Life or Family 
- 4.3 The Inability to Reconcile Science with Religion
- 4.4 Frustration with the Ineffectiveness of God and the Church
- 4.5 Ineffective Indoctrination
- 4.6 Santa Claus
- 5 Enable and Enlist Existing Malcontents
- 5.1 Identifying Traits of Malcontent Candidates
- 5.1.1 Powerlessness
- 5.1.2 Religious Zealotry
- 5.1.3 Past Middle-Age or Elderly
- 5.1.4 A Life of Self-denial
- 5.1.5 “Sunset Values”
- 5.1.6 A Fear of the Future
- 5.1.7 Previously Slighted or Overlooked
- 5.1.8 A Low Sense of Self-esteem and Self-worth
- 5.1.9 Not Lazy
- 5.1.10 Culturally Short-sighted
- 5.1.11 Following a Consistent Modus Operandi
- 5.1 Identifying Traits of Malcontent Candidates
- 6 Counter-manipulate the Use of Language
- 6.1 Only Use “Faith” in a Religious Context
- 6.2 Challenge Invocations of Faith
- 6.3 Refer to Scripture as “Bible Stories”
- 6.4 Abstain from Idiomatic References to God
- 6.5 Remain Unfazed by Scripture
- 6.6 Use Doublespeak (or “Alternate Phrasing”)
- 6.7 Say “Because”
- 6.8 Avoid Saying "You"
- 6.9 You Might Want to Consider Speaking in the Passive Voice
- 6.10 Use Charisma-Generating Words
- 6.11 Use Language to Frame People and Viewpoints
- 6.12 Impose Ideas with the Word "Don't"
- 6.13 Use "Leading Language" to Induce Compliance
- 6.14 Everyone Loves to Hear Secrets
- 6.15 Not Communicating is Communication
- 6.16 Establish Credibility
- 6.17 Give Orders Indirectly
- 6.18 Avoid Some Phrases Altogether
- 7 The Need for Non-Violent Action
- 8 The Value of Humor
- 9 Catholic-specific Considerations
- 10 References
Get the Clergy's Attention
Winning an audience with a priest is simple -- just ask for help. You must phrase it like that. By asking people for help, they cannot resist without seeming like an unhelpful person. Additionally, this forces a role upon the priest, and once a person has accepted the helper role, it is usually awkward and/or difficult to back out from helping further. Helping people with spiritual problems or crises is the priests reason-for-being; it is literally their function in society to hear you out. The issue needs to be of a spiritual concern, so that they cannot turn you away -- it must be something that only they can help you with. This will make the priest feel important, and by feeding their ego, they will become more compliant and willing to work with you.
Start out by asking a number of innocuous questions before starting in. This will catch them up in a “momentum of compliance,” and they will drop their defenses and become more likely to answer further questions.
Then, tell the priest that you’ve had a crisis of faith, causing you to lapse as a Christian because of your inability to reconcile your questions about Christianity, or even faith itself. Act depressed and distraught by this, especially upon your first meeting. The younger you are, the more likely this scheme will work. It is normal for young people to be confused and questioning, as those are both normal parts of the growth and maturation processes. Even if a young person is revealed to be a subversive, their deviant behavior can be written off as part of a rebellious “piss and vinegar” phase; a certain amount of deviance is expected from the young, as another normal part of the growth and maturation process. Adults can also implement this strategy, but they must face the full consequences if they are found out, unless they have earned a reputation as a successful eccentric. Deviant behavior is tolerated from successful eccentrics -- not because they are eccentric, but because they are successful -- and they are too valuable to get rid of.
You Cannot Seem Hostile
Hostility is doubly unproductive. A direct, frontal attack will push the priest away, closing the lines of communication, and minimizing your results. Even worse though, is that Christians expect to be persecuted -- it was one of Christ’s promises to them (JOH 15:20) -- so your hostility will just be cited as proof that the Bible is true. For best results you need to have some familiarity or rapport, but these are both easy to develop. By merely hanging around an area long enough, people will assume that you belong there. Giving a receptionist a $5 bill, and telling them “I found this on the floor. Did anyone say they lost money?” will imbue you with the qualities of honesty and trustworthiness. This is important, since it exploits the Fundamental Attribution Error -- the human brain tends to overestimate the importance of character traits, and underestimate the importance of situations and contexts.
Take a Soft, Long-Term Approach
Burnout is a process of erosion, not a display of force. Non-believers are expected to be angry and hostile, relying on overt, in-your-face tactics. The clergy’s standard responses do not apply to the indirect sneak attacks we advocate; they will literally be blind-sided. Even if you are called out or directly proven to be a subversive, you will have still have some degree of protection from what psychologist Philip Zimbardo termed “Not-Me Syndrome” (The Illusion of Personal Invulnerability). People tend to ignore direct evidence that they’ve been cheated simply to avoid the pain and shame that comes with admitting that they’ve been cheated.
Furthermore, there is no way for priests to stop these time-wasting conversations without alienating the spiritual community which they exist to serve. By maintaining a soft approach, you can subvert your church while maintaining a safe, unassailable position as an active and valued participant. A hardline approach can defeat opponents, but soft power will conquer them. Soft power is borne from a sensitivity to changing forces, fluidly and flexibly redirecting them as needed.
Maintain a Good Rapport
You must use soft approaches to maintain power over others; you must work with -- not against -- human nature. To ensure this, you must follow the following guidelines:
Start on a Positive Note
Don't Argue or Debate
The problems associated with this approach do not come from the subversive's weaknesses, but from the overuse of their strengths. Citing lots of data makes the whole conversation seem rehearsed, which will raise suspicion. Most priests have already encountered confrontational "firebrand" atheists, and they will quickly write you off as being one you lay it on too thick or too strong. As such, don't go all-out -- only give it 60-70%.
- Christianity protects itself by being inherently non-disprovable. There is no way to confirm or deny any of Christianity’s claims; they only appear strong because Christians frame non-belief as passive and noncommittal. Rather than trying to disprove religious claims, hold your priest to them. This creates the illusion of mutual agreement, but you can use this to corner your pastor, and force them to take on absurd, indefensible positions.
- Entering a religious debate only sets yourself up to fail. Religious debates are unwinnable, since there is no way to definitively verify anyone’s claims; the theologian has no lab. No one is totally competent in a religious debate, because it spans history, philosophy, psychology, morality, biblical criticism, medicine, astronomy, biology, linguistics, economics, and politics.
- The “thou shalt not debate” rule does not apply to “creation scientists.” Creationists actively seek out debates at every opportunity, because by simply agreeing to debate them, you automatically grant them a partial victory by acknowledging that their views contain some quantum of merit. Even if you are not a scientist, you can lock creationists up for hours by just asking them to explain creationism to you. If you want to engage them on a follow-up visit, you can visit a website such as Talk.Origins for highly-polished refutations to creationist talking points, written by scientists for you to use at no cost. Alternately, reading basic astronomy, geology, and biology textbooks from your local public library will give you the scientific background to keep them intellectually engaged in fruitless activity for days. (While reading three introductory-level textbooks may sound like an insufficient science education, it doesn’t take much to throw creationists into a spin).
- Additionally, meta-discussions of creationism are also fair debates; ask what constitutes a science, and debate the philosophy of science with them, because this is a favorite topic among creationists. Evolution is frequently dismissed as being “just a theory,” which sets up a number of fun and time-consuming discussions, namely:
- What is the definition of a theory?
- Why the Theory of Creationism is not equally discredited?
- How does this affect other disciplines? (e.g., does music theory imply the non-existence of music?)
- Additionally, meta-discussions of creationism are also fair debates; ask what constitutes a science, and debate the philosophy of science with them, because this is a favorite topic among creationists. Evolution is frequently dismissed as being “just a theory,” which sets up a number of fun and time-consuming discussions, namely:
Don't Read from a Script
Do not read prepared statements. Instead, try your best to remember what you’ve previously read. In general, being well-read is what makes you credible. Reading from a script will come across as inauthentic, and will reveal yourself as a troublemaker. Additionally, if you make an error, or if the conversation goes off on a tangent, your whole routine unravels. Instead, just be comfortable about the topic and have a general idea of what to say, and improvise.
Don't Try to Impress or Persuade
Never try to convince people that you're smart, or that you're trying to get them to change their minds -- these will be taken as challenges, since most Christians automatically assume that curiosity and doubt are equivalent to ridicule and rage. Christians have rigged the game so that it is considered rude to even question their beliefs, so this must be done indirectly. Only use soft approaches and focus on long-term goals.
Don't Discuss Political Issues
Involving politics will only compound and complicate things, and it will out you as a troublemaker. If the priest goes off onto a political tangent, it is only because they are trying to divert you from the topic at hand, likely to escape the discomfort of your questioning. Try to direct the priest back onto some faith-based discussion. Focus on faith; by targeting faith, you will simultaneously target all faith-based political topics (e.g., LGBTQ issues, school prayer, stem cell research, abortion, etc.).
Avoid Simplistic Persuasive Techniques
You are not trying to persuade anyone; you are talking for talking’s sake. Additionally, most of these techniques will undermine your credibility. These include:
- Glittering generalities (e.g., appeals to patriotism, being a good mother, etc.).
- Testimonials (i.e., the viewpoints of actors, athletes, etc.).
- The “plain folks” approach (e.g., “...you should do this because I’m just like you...”).
Maintain Intellectual Rigor and Integrity
If you act like a fool, people will treat you like one. So, if you feel compelled to use one of the following techniques -- don’t:
- Making arguments based on false premises.
- Making a priori (circular) arguments, which “beg the question” by using the desired conclusion as a premise.
- Putting a spin on a negative thing.
- Lashing out and taking the offensive when trapped by facts.
- Intimidating and/or making accusations.
- Focusing on irrelevant points or minutia.
- Using invalid analogies. C. S. Lewis was notorious for this, frequently using analogies in place of structured arguments.
- Demanding proof of self-evident facts (e.g., 1+2=3, Reagan winning re-election in 1984, etc.).
- Making excessive use of intellectual and/or esoteric language to feign intelligence.
- Failing to define the terms you discuss.
- Assuming that the nature of the thing is a result of its definition.
- Assigning physical properties to the immaterial.
- Assigning broad general properties to an entire class of things. C. S. Lewis was notorious for this, working only in absolutes and making no room for special cases and/or situational ethics.
Avoid Direct Eye Contact
Finally, although it sounds strange, do not look in the priest’s eyes. Looking anyone in the eyes gives them an opportunity to mesmerize you, creating a sensation of losing yourself and melding into one being. Instead, look at their chin or neck.
Maximize Muda in a Non-obvious Way
The efficiency and high productivity of Japanese manufacturing plants is not the result of working harder, but of working better. Efficiency is optimized by identifying and eliminating each of the 8 forms of waste and inefficiency, or muda (無駄, literally: “futility/uselessness/wastefulness”). Unlike “value-added work,” which describes any process that adds value by helping to produce/provide goods or services that a customer is willing to pay for, muda is any process that unnecessarily consumes resources, causing waste to occur. The 8 forms of muda are:
- Overproduction. Producing products without a demand for them creates overstaffing, storage, and transportation problems. Additionally, overproduction renders productive tasks unaffordable, since available capital becomes tied up in unsaleable products.
- Waiting. Anything which is not being improved, worked on, or generating value is wasteful, because storage is an expense, and idled workers still draw wages.
- Transportation. In addition to shipping and handling costs, transportation introduces additional time delays for loading, unloading, and transit.
- Over-processing or incorrect processing. Introducing extra steps into a process increases the time needed to complete the process. Additionally, these additional tasks create the possibility for additional defects, and require additional transportation to their unnecessary workstations.
- Excess inventory. This applies to raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods. This introduces losses from obsolescence, damaged goods, and transportation and storage costs. Extra inventory hides the effects of other process inefficiencies, such as: production imbalances, late deliveries, defects, equipment downtime, and long setup times.
- Unnecessary movement. Inefficient processes cause unnecessary wear-and-tear on both machines and on workers.
- Defects. Inspection and rework introduces extra steps into a process. Scrapping and replacement production consume additional resources.
- Unused creativity. Those who are intimately familiar with a process are aware of its shortcomings; their insight is invaluable to process improvement.
The goal of a secular subversive is to increase muda with your church whenever possible. This is best achieved by wasting your priest’s time -- and thus removing his time, focus, and expertise away from value-add activities. This is achievable via the following process:
Let the Priest Completely State Their Case, Without Interruption
This gratifies their ego, and it's harder for them to build a defense once they've laid their cards out on the table. Soft power is still power. If you keep quiet, people will think that you’re a philosopher.
Pause Before Answering
This creates the illusion of considering their talking points, further gratifying their ego.
Use Three-point Communication
Once you get an opportunity to speak, say “let me sure I have this right,” then paraphrase what the priest just said, and allow them to confirm that you heard everything right. Not only does this prolong the conversation by redundantly repeating everything they say, it has a psychological impact that pulls the clergyman further in to the conversation:
- This automatically hooks other person, forcing them to assume a listening role, and allowing you to dominate the conversation.
- This allows for communication errors to be corrected. This clarifies the situation, and prevents others from twisting your words, or claiming that you said something which you did not.
- The priest's perspective changes; now he must listen to his own words.
- The process allows for the re-inclusion of any omitted details.
- This induces a modeling behavior, which will cause people to paraphrase you, and thus granting you the time and repetition needed to etch your facts into their mind.
State Your Case Moderately and Accurately
Do not repeat the same thing over and over. If it didn’t sink in the first time, it won’t sink in the second time; you must approach the situation from a different angle. If your point did not sink in, rephrase it.
Speak Through Third Persons
Invoking and quoting others prevents others from arguing, since they must argue against people who are not there.
Priests are notorious for exploiting this trick, quoting scriptures or eminent theologians as a “hit and run” tactic, using biblical authority to end tricky conversations. Priests also invoke biblical authority to dismiss any non-priests from using the scriptures as endorsements of their particular views; by claiming the Bible is being quoted out of context. If your priest does either of these, use it as a jumping-off point for follow-up questions:
- Who wrote the verse, and how do you know? Scholars continue to debate much of the Bible’s authorship.
- Why was the verse written, and to whom?
- When was it written?
- Is the translation accurate?
- Does the author offer any clues to the meaning, or is this just a personal interpretation?
- Are there any literary allusions or parallels involved?
- If liberal scholars are blind to the “true” context, then why would an intelligent God have a chosen book that he knew could be so easily misunderstood?
- Remember that Christians cannot write off, ignore, or rationalize their way out of any of the Old Testament laws, or the horrors which they have spawned, since Christ explicitly mentions on several occasions that every character of the old law is true and correct, and must be obeyed (MAT 5:17-19; JOH 7:19; LUK 16:17). Any attempt to dance around this problem defies Christ’s direct teachings.
Partial answers to these questions are listed in another section.
Give the Priest an Opportunity to Save Face
Give the priest a loophole that allows a safe escape via their own logic. When applied cleverly, this can be used as smooth transition from their mode of thinking into yours. When left with no means to escape, priests will become hostile when their arguments fail. This will make the priest reluctant to talk with you further, limiting the amount of their time which you can waste. You must concede to succeed, sacrificing a pawn to lure them into checkmate.
- All arguments can be turned back on themselves, and a good argument must be able to survive this test. Make the priest defend their own beliefs against their own logic -- give them enough rope, and they’ll hang themselves.
- Rather than attacking the priest’s premises and evidences, accept their arguments at face value, and discuss their unintended consequences.
- It’s easier to find flaws and contradictions in certain or absolute statements than from ambiguous ones.
- This technique cannot be used on a questioning or non-believing person, since they make no assertions. The burden of proof lays on those who make the claim; the skeptic is not required to say anything.
- If the priest asks you to display knowledge, dismiss this by saying that you are interested in following their lead.
- The religious have no evidence to back up any of their claims. As such, apologists are trained to argue about the necessary criteria for something to constitute evidence. Asking for evidence will never result in evidence, but it will eat up a brick of their time.
- If your priest has you completely stumped, ask them to define the terms they used. Not only will this consume time, but defining things limits them, which will create new avenues for discussion.
Get Invited Back to Induce Faith-Breaking Processes in the Sheltered or Overprotected
Do not expect immediate, dramatic, or tangible results. Victory is not getting your priest to burnout; victory is the process of burnout. It is the process, not the outcome that is crucial. Progress is always incremental; this is why the persistent always beat the talented. The summation of numerous small forces acts the same as a large force, just as how no single raindrop causes the flood. You must be welcomed back to have many, many further discussions for this strategy to work. Hostility kills all hope of succeeding; while people will forget what you did for them or what you gave them -- but they will never forget how you made them feel. It is therefore essential that you give partial concessions and find mutual agreements, simply to allow egos to go undamaged, and to allow open lines of communication for later conversations. There are no unrealistic goals, just unrealistic deadlines, but every hour you consume of your priest’s time is an hour they can’t spend indoctrinating some kid.
By being invited back, you integrate yourself deeper into their community. This is of the utmost importance, since then -- and only then -- can you befriend the most sheltered and overprotected members of your community. The church's fellowship and the many summer camps available to Christian youths can isolate them from society as a whole, while providing them with enough friends to not feel isolated. While hosts of non-theist books have been written in the past 20 years, they have done nothing for those who cannot (or would not) access them. This is rebellion is in purest form, which awakens the hearts and passions of everyone involved -- and it’s easier than you could possibly imagine. Parents are so overly-focused on shielding their children from vice, that conversations which actually induce spiritual dissolution will go unnoticed.
|Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.|
It’s not uncommon for outsiders to attend church functions (e.g., youth groups) just to be social; many of these activities are designed with the intention of drawing such people in. Local recreational sports leagues or music lessons are other ways to befriend the sheltered or overprotected.
Older teens make the best subversives, because they can easily win the respect and rapport of the younger teens which disproportionately comprise church youth groups. Older teens are close enough age-wise to have many mutual commonalities, while their additional life experience grants them an aura of expertise. While the latter part seems inconsequential, it isn't for young people -- a 16 year-old has significantly more life experience than a 14 year-old (12.5%). Additionally, since older teens can drive, they can give people rides, making them sought after -- and car rides give the subversive a captive audience. The physically gifted can create an inadvertent audience via infatuation. While it may seem improper to use the prospect of love (or lust) as a motivator, people have no say in who they are or are not attracted too, and teenagers will be driven by love (or lust) regardless of how you or anyone else acts. The quest to find a suitable mate is a huge motivation for unattached young people to attend any social function.
If you have the opportunity to speak to a sheltered or overprotected person, do not “witness” or otherwise sell non-belief to them. Christ prophesized the suppression of Christianity, so such efforts will only validate their faith. Instead, faith must be devalued as a concept, until people eventually discredit and discard faith on their own. Religious debates only confirm the “atheists are angry people, and they are angry at god” talking point. Disproving the atheist anger myth will itself introduce a tiny crack into their faith. Do not change people’s beliefs, change the way they form beliefs, because if a person was not reasoned into their faith, they cannot be reasoned out of it. No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie; if anything, it causes deeper belief, because faith allows emotion to be used in lieu for evidence. This is a sore spot for many Christians, who already face sleeping giant of doubt in their inner thoughts and quiet moments. This insecurity leads preachers to constantly reiterate that their parishioners must keep their faith strong. Secularizing forces do not directly confront religion; instead, its bypasses and undercuts religion and moves on to other things, like water flowing around a rock.
This is why the process of de-conversion is wholly unlike conversion. Non-believers who become Christians usually do so after experiencing a sudden, highly-emotional event, be it personal (e.g., death of a loved one) or societal (e.g., the 9/11 terror attacks). Those who de-convert do not “lose their faith,” it crumbles before being discarded. De-conversion is a slow path, which occurs after several years of reading, conversing, and personal reflection. While some may claim that an abrupt life change caused a loss of faith (e.g., death, divorce, job relocation), de-conversion is actually caused the secondary effects of these events, which exposes people to new friends and ideas (e.g., moving to a new town, attending a new church, starting at a new school, or from the general shuffling and rebuilding of cliques which occurs in and around the 7th grade). Our interviews and personal conversations with the hundreds of non-theists have found no single root cause for de-conversion; they are all unique, personal experiences. However, de-conversion stories to touch upon a few re-occurring themes:
Discovering Small, Disconcerting Cracks Within Their Religious Teachings
Typically, this occurs in adolescence, upon re-hearing a childhood Bible story which now seems so outrageous that it defies credibility (e.g., Jonah and the Whale), leading the young person to scrutinize religious claims from then on. This pushes the snowball down the hill, leading to further scrutiny and discovering additional cracks in their religion. These cracks tend to widen upon gaining additional life experience, and over late-night conversations with friends.
This is particularly vicious, because Sunday School is a leading cause of de-conversion. The more devout a person is, the more closely they examine scriptures, and are thus more likely to discover one of these cracks. If their priest is unable to answer these questions, the parishioner will be forced to seek answers elsewhere, exposing themselves to alternate theologies and worldviews to fill the gaps.
Stand-up comedians (e.g., George Carlin, Ricky Gervais, Lewis C.K., Sam Kinison) are excellent vectors for these messages, since they can pose confrontational ideas and alternate worldviews under the façade of joking around. While overprotective parents are likely to censor these bawdry acts, they often go undetected due to the strange phenomena where the most profane and vulgar comedians eventually become children’s entertainers (e.g., George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bob Saget).
The Realization of Religious Manipulation Within Their Life or Family 
Historically, religion has been used to subjugate populations by convincing them that suffering is a blessing, while maintaining that the social elite have some divine right to their positions. Upon realizing that the elite exist at the expense of others drew scrutiny to religious claims. People respect priests because their priests tell them they should. The crux of every religion is that you need that religion. Priests only act in self-beneficial ways because priests have no power of their own. They must convince, cajole, coax, or condemn others into acting on their behalf. Even then, the fact that no one ever tried to burn down or drive-by shoot Anton LaVey’s Black Mansion is irrefutable proof that Christians are more bark than bite. Priests maintain their illusion of power through the following mechanisms: 
- Fear of sanctions (e.g., social pressure).
- Moral obligation, due to:
- The belief that obedience contributes to the common good of society.
- The belief the priest has superpowers (e.g., granting sacraments, being “a holy man,” or a cult of personality).
- Legitimacy, as defined by law, tradition, or a constitution.
- Conformity to accepted norms.
- Self-interest (i.e., rewards of money, power, and prestige on Earth and/or in the afterlife.)
- Psychological identification with the priest (i.e., charisma, hero-worship, idealization).
- Indifference of the parishioners to stand against the priest.
- Parishioners lacking the self-confidence needed to stand against the priest.
The Inability to Reconcile Science with Religion
Contrary to popular belief, school science classes are not the vector for faith-compromising scientific ideas. These ideas are typically transmitted by a popular science author (e.g., Carl Sagan, Steven Hawking, Desmond Morris, Gary Zhukav, etc.) or TV host (e.g., Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye), who proposed challenging questions and ideas in a non-threatening manner.
Frustration with the Ineffectiveness of God and the Church
Modern life is characterized by two motifs: worldliness and pragmatism (i.e., “Will it work?”), because the world constantly imposes unique challenges. Churches addresses neither of these motifs, as they tend to be filled with passivity activists who devote most of their energy fighting change, and every unanswered prayer causes young people to question the efficacy of prayer.
This is not a cause per se, but many people who’ve “lost their faith” didn’t have much faith to lose. Modern preaching is ineffective because the call to worship is in general and non-specific terms, and the “good news” of Christ’s death and resurrection happened so long ago that it can’t be considered “news,” per se.
|Sunday School teachers kind of paint themselves into corners, because they can't stop "class clowns," because they can't punish anyone, and they can't throw anyone out, because the whole point is to get people to come in.|
While many Christian (and even non-theist!) youths have had positive experiences at religious retreats, these events tend to take on standard “cookie-cutter” formats, causing the waning effectiveness of each subsequent retreat as they become “old hat.” This boredom leads to troublemaking, mostly for a want of stimulus, and not actual malice. Any subversive act or discussion gives permission for others to join in, resulting in a Butterfly Effect that evokes change. This is magnified by the fact that most Sunday school classes have no system or means of enforcing discipline. Outside of a parochial school setting, religious education has no grading, and no one can be failed or held back, since that will only drive the student to join another denomination.
Discussion topics can be easily derailed by invoking a relevant scriptural inconsistency (typically, a conflict between the New and Old Testaments, or with the New Testament and itself) or some thought-experiment. This is effective because it conceals subversion as a thoughtful discussion. You can easily assume control of the class in this manner because Sunday school teachers and youth group mentors are typically lay volunteers driven by a personal agendas (usually, to overcompensate for a perceived shortcoming, or to repay a debt of honor) and they tend to be poorly trained in theology and/or its presentation.
|The final straw where I knew I wasn't with the faith was when I graduated high school, and we had the service at church where the seniors get recognized. The important part of the ceremony was when they gave us all college devotional Bibles. I looked down at it, something that I had been give countless times before, just in different packages, and I thought "they truly believe that this is all the information that I need to get through life."|
Another effective way to subvert a Sunday school class is to steer the discussion into how to deal with non-believers, and their worldviews. This manipulates the teachers into introducing our ideas into their classes, spreading our message to closeted or potential non-believers. Getting Sunday School teachers to talk about atheism is not unrealistic -- it’s the Rumspringa Principle -- even the most sheltered people must be provided knowledge of the outside world and its influences, so that they know what to avoid.
Additionally, expressing faith requires expression, which requires an artistic medium -- be it fine art, writing, theatre, or music. Cultivating artistic skill requires meeting artists, who have widely-varying perspective and worldviews, and expertise in challenging disciplines with rich, deep lore components that have already has grabbed the young person’s interest. Additionally, these new arts provide young people an outlet to explore emotions like anger and lust, for which Christianity provides no outlet.
The most important attribute of a successful secular subversive is perseverance. Those who try will fail repeatedly, but if one keeps trying, then they’ll hit upon the right time and place to be heard and evoke change. In the end the shotgun approach always works.
When many children found out that Santa Claus isn’t real, they asked about the other invisible characters in their lives -- the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy -- and God. Unprepared parents then have to awkwardly explain how everything they said about Santa Claus is false, while everything they said about God is true. While it sounds silly, our interviews indicate that ~5% of non-theists were set on the path to non-belief by their parents inadequately answering this question.
Enable and Enlist Existing Malcontents
Getting rid of your pastor is easier than it seems, because churches are rife with malcontents who already want to see them gone. 43% of people who leave their church do so because of issues with their pastor. While the pastors seem to be in charge of their churches, like modern Pharisees who uphold religious laws and traditions, this is really an illusion. Priests are leaders, but not bosses; priests have no authority beyond their ability to persuade people.
Malcontents evoke the most damage to their churches not through direct opposition, but by indirect effect of destroying the enthusiasm necessary for church health and growth. The malcontents keep people from wanting to invite their friends to worship services, due to the tension their “us-vs.-them” dichotomy places in the air.
Enlisting the malcontents to serve your hidden agenda is easy, because they are first-and-foremost reactionaries, who can be infinitely distracted with silly non-issues. Ideally, these issues should have some bearing on the priest’s ability to run their parish, which is controlled by:
- The parishioner's desire to listen to their pastor.
- The strength of the pastor’s independent support organizations and institutions.
- The parishioner’s ability to withhold their consent and assistance.
Drama will be the inevitable result. Drama begets drama! Drama cannot be avoided, but it can be mitigated. Drama is the cause of all human suffering. Drama is unavoidable, because drama is the prelude to conflict, and conflict cannot be avoided -- it can be delayed to alter the balance of power. Drama appears anytime resources must be distributed; wherever there is scarcity, drama will follow. Humans are drawn to drama, seeking it and creating it as an alternative to the monotony and boredom of their lives.
If pastors become preoccupied with avoiding drama, minimizing any challenges to the malcontents, and “only fighting the battles that need to be fought,” then they will lose their spontaneity and creativity. Church growth is then stunted, and the ministry directs itself along the path of least resistance, which is the course that makes rivers crooked. Outreach falters, because when a pastor is more focused on damage control then spreading Christianity, the ministry fails its mission. However, churches will still enable these malcontents to thrive, prosper, and assume critical operational roles because clergymen tend to:
Hostile parishioners are allowed to prosper because of:
- Both volunteer and paid leaders undergo little or no pre-hire screening.
- Secondary channels are used to work outside of established procedures. This confers special privileges to individuals, robbing the existing political structure of its power.
- Failed attempts to quell a parishioner’s anger which did not address the root cause.
- Support systems failing to address issues and/or defend the pastor.
- Allowing the “collateral damage” of drama/conflict to compromise a support system.
- The denomination and/or bishop failing to intervene, because their limited power and/or situational involvement. However, even if these authorities can’t directly intervene, they should still be able to assert their authority and/or mandate compliance.
- A failure to understand how unresolved past issues continue to influence the present.
- A failure to quell gossip.
- Seminaries fail to teach their students how to deal with hostility.
- Pastors fail to explore other options and opportunities.
- Pastors often have no other pastors to turn too or collaborate with.
- This does not apply to Catholic priests, who are procedurally required to have their own designated confessor.
- Pastors who fail to assert their authority.
- Pastors are unusually prone to guilt, which makes them more vulnerable to manipulation from con artists or others who wish to extort money and/or services.
- Pastors who fail to employ a “good-vs.-evil” mentality. Pastors often delude themselves into thinking that Christian love can overcome all; and will deny, pamper, or excuse subversive actions. Likewise, this mentality renders pastors completely unable to deal with the mentally ill, or with the truly evil.
- Rational arguments, love, and negotiations are ineffective against the truly evil.
- The mentally ill become completely predictable once they’ve been diagnosed.
- An uninformed and theologically-illiterate laity are vulnerable to the threats, flattery, cajolery, misrepresentation, etc. of those who are trying to undermine their pastors.
Identifying Traits of Malcontent Candidates
Church-disrupting malcontents have been found to exhibit the following traits:
A common thread among all malcontents is a sense of frustration stemming from their inability to act or invoke change. These poignantly frustrated individuals who are condemned by circumstances to rust away in idleness, despite having the talents and temperament needed to equip them for a life of action. As such, disaffected malcontents tend to come from the following groups:
- The Recently Impoverished. Those who have been poor their entire lives feel no frustration -- they don’t want to challenge the status quo because they crave order; they have no grievances because they have no dreams. It is only the recently destitute who are frustrated, since they have recent memories of better things. The taste of better things is what excites people to revolt; not the avoidance of actual suffering.
- Misfits. Misfits are too self-aware to be true zealots; however, they can conceive autonomous existences which are purposeful and hopeful, so they’ll never fully buy-in to anyone’s message.
- Outcasts. The barbarians who overthrew Rome were few in number, but once they invaded a country, they were joined by the oppressed and dissatisfied in all walks of life: “it was a social revolution started and masked by a superficial foreign conquest.” As such, immigrants can be easily recruited, since they were already frustrated for want of a new beginning.
- Minorities. The least and most successful (economically and culturally) are likely to be more frustrated than those in-between. Unsuccessful people see themselves as outsiders, especially among minority group members who want to blend in with the majority. Likewise, minority members who attain fortune and fame find it difficult to enter the majority’s exclusive circles, making them conscious of their foreignness. Furthermore, having evidence of their individual superiority, they resent the admission of inferiority implied in the process of assimilation.
- Adolescents. Movies and comics have pre-conditioned young people to overthrow any perceived tyrant.
- The Ambitious. This applies to those who are ambitious in the face of insurmountable obstacles, as well as those who are ambitious in the face of unlimited choice.
- Those in the Grip of Vice or Obsession. They are predictably unpredictable.
- The Impotent (in Body or Mind). The man who wants to write a great book, paint a great picture, create an architectural masterpiece, become a great scientist, etc., and knows that never be able to realize this innermost desire, will never find peace in any social order. They view their life as irrevocably spoiled and the world perpetually out of joint, and they will only feel at home in a state of chaos.
- The Selfish. The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in themselves. They separate their sense of selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some noble cause -- this is why the persuasive champions of love and humility tend to be neither loving nor humble.
- The Bored. Dollar for dollar, trouble-making is the best form of entertainment.
- Sinners. Who else is guaranteed to revolt against the church?
Zealots overcompensate for their own lost faith. The less justified someone is in claiming personal excellence, the more ready they are to claim excellence for their group (e.g., nation, religion, race, etc.), so they can become great by proxy. Apologists aren’t trying to convince others; they are trying to convince themselves. Proselytizing fanatics convert others to strengthen their own faith; to justify themselves, rather than to convince others. Therefore, those who hold creeds with an easily-challenged legitimacy are the most likely to develop this impulse.
Past Middle-Age or Elderly
Older people seek traditional church experiences, because it is one of the few things that remain from their youth. These childhood religious influences are imprinted on their minds, permanently influencing their thinking. The joy and calm that they associate with their religious practice is actually just from completely disassociating themselves from the world around them.
A Life of Self-denial
Self-denial seemly confers the right to be harsh and merciless toward others. This is likely related to self-righteous behavior; the self-righteous have a need to condemn others as immoral, to make themselves seem moral by default. They can rationalize the disapproval caused by their earthly actions by convincing themselves of approval it will win in the afterlife.
“Sunset Values” are passionate, highly-prized values that gain intensity from the fact that they are about to disappear or be forever changed. Much like a setting sun, these values are overlooked until they make a flamboyant show at their end. The belief that homosexuals should not marry is one example of a sunset value.
Those who still cling to these values after their sunset will be overlooked and marginalized by everyone in their church, because religions must change whenever culture changes or the religion loses its influence and its ability to propagate. No moral issue is so large that it cannot disappear in the face of cultural change; no one preaches against racial integration anymore, and few pastors have preached against birth control in the last 10 years.
A Fear of the Future
Invalids and those past middle-age maintain a conservative worldview which constantly looks for signs of decay, simply because they have nothing left to look forward too; any changes in their lives are usually for the worse. Likewise, the abjectly poor tend to be conservatives because they have no faith in the future, which they see as an unending series of boobytraps that they must walk through.
Those with power will always resist growth; growth always upsets the established balance of power, and thus threatens their position.
Previously Slighted or Overlooked
There is a "we should have let Hitler into art school" moment in every fault-finder's career where a deferential or conciliatory gesture from those in power would have won them over to their side. Jesus might have preached a different Gospel had the Pharisees listened to him.
A Low Sense of Self-esteem and Self-worth
This manifests itself as fear and extreme pettiness, because the malcontent's self-image is so low that one blow will destroy it altogether. Since every remark is an existential threat, they will preemptively attack anyone capable of delivering that one undermining blow.
Lazy people are never mischievous, because mischief takes effort. Laziness is just an extreme means of avoiding disapproval.
These people are often unable to tell where their Christian principles end and where there cultural perspective begins. This leaves the malcontents vulnerable to manipulation via cultural assimilation. Conservatism defines itself as the resistance to cultural change, but culture is neither uniform nor monolithic, and it can change to push conservativism into any direction. American conservatives are preoccupied with the alleged corrupting influence of secular humanists, that they have ignored their own secularization -- science, technology, politics, wealth are now the tools the Christians use to achieve their ends.
This is especially germane because our culture is discontinuously different from those of earlier generations; no group of Christians has lived through a world that has changed so quickly. While there is less physical persecution, the cultural changes are more daunting (e.g., because of mobile devices with internet access, teachers and pastors can be fact-checked in real-time). There can be no old-time revival, since most groups abandon their culture upon moving to a new one (While recent immigrants will continue to speak their native languages, their children will be bilingual, and their grandchildren will have lost all of their old-world language and traditions).
Following a Consistent Modus Operandi
Observations from pastor-support groups have noted that the malcontents within parishes tend to act in a similar fashion:
- At first, they are one of a new pastor’s strongest supporters, and they work excessively to befriend them.
- They frequently compare the new pastor to the old pastor.
- Malcontents thrive when the church’s formal authority (bureaucracy) does not match the actual internal power structure (due to nepotism, etc.).
- Malcontents are bred in counseling; they were loyal parishioners who were made resentful by a counselor’s failure to solve someone’s problems.
- Again, malcontents exhibit a higher degree of religious zeal that other parishioners. They considered taking on a religious vocation at one time, but did not follow through for some reason; therefore, they believe that they know how the pastor’s job is supposed to be done.
Counter-manipulate the Use of Language
Priests use loaded language, and you need to protect yourself from falling into this trap. There are several subtle ways to go about this:
Only Use “Faith” in a Religious Context
Use an acceptable synonym (e.g., “hope,” “trust,” “confidence”) in all other contexts. This subtracts from the power of faith, which clergy frequent invoke to justify their knowledge claims. (e.g., Christians do not have hope in Jesus’ miracles).
Challenge Invocations of Faith
When invoked in a conversation, faith is often used as a thought-terminating cliché to quickly sidestep or end arguments. Religion does not need to be attacked, only faith. Faith is the critical load-bearing member holding religion up. Attacks on religion are always perceived as attacks on friends, family, communities, and relationships. Directly attacking religion has an alienating effect, which will make it harder to separate them from their faith. Indirect attacks against the notion of faith are more fruitful. Always remember that faith is:
- Belief without evidence. If there were evidence to support religious claims, then there would be no need for faith. As such, all faith is blind faith. Faith is invoked when beliefs cannot be justified, but want to be retained.
- Pretending to know unknown things. In fact, “faith” can be interchanged with “pretending to know something I don’t know” without any loss of fidelity. This is why modern apologists use euphemisms for faith (e.g., promise, confidence, trust).
- Not universal. By framing faith as a personal thing, it can be quietly coaxed it into a corner from which it will never emerge.
- Not hope. Hope makes no knowledge claims, nor do its euphemisms (e.g., promise, confidence, trust). Hope implies that the desired outcome might not occur, and implicitly admits the possibility for failure. Hope is not certain; it is the desire for certainty. (Christians believe that Jesus walked on water; they don’t hope he did.)
- Not a body of knowledge. Faith is an epistemology; a method and process used to understand reality. Faith allows for subjective claims of personal experience to be admitted as objective facts, and contains no error-correcting or filtering mechanisms to separate the two.
- Not an argument. Reason is limited by fact, and anything else is a hypothesis or wishful thinking. Faith is accepting a statement as true in spite of insufficient or contradictory evidence; faith is inconsistent with reason. Faith, at its very invocation, is a transparent admission that a claim lacks merit.
Refer to Scripture as “Bible Stories”
This is intrinsically derogatory because it automatically assumes they are fairy tales. However, it is a commonly-accepted form of speech, allowing you to discretely frame the dialogue.
Abstain from Idiomatic References to God
|Examples of Idiomatic References to Avoid|
|God bless you!||Lord, have mercy!||The devil’s in the details|
|Thank God!||Soul-searching||For God’s sake!|
|God only helps those who help themselves||God only knows||God willing|
|Thank God for...||God’s gift to...||Godspeed|
|Our thoughts and prayers are with you||Thank you God!||God damn it!|
|Leap of faith||Article of faith||Act of God|
|Count your blessings||Match made in heaven|
Remain Unfazed by Scripture
Christians believe that reading the Bible grants them an edge over “natural men” (1COR 2:12-14), and thus act as though Bible verses are magical words that can somehow dispel evil and confusion, and win people’s hearts and minds, simply by being read aloud. If you become unfazed by this, the priest will likely double down and read more verses in a more dramatic tone. As this continues, their morale will slowly erode.
Use Doublespeak (or “Alternate Phrasing”)
Doublespeak (or “alternate phrasing”) can soften any harsh points that may come across while addressing your concerns (e.g., a “zero-sum game” should be called a “fixed-pie situation”).
Due to the way that parents speak to their children, this adds a subtle, covert, authoritative weight to anything you say.
Avoid Saying "You"
Avoid using the word “you,” when questioning others, since it turns simple questions into personal attacks.
You Might Want to Consider Speaking in the Passive Voice
You can verbally attack people without them realizing it, provided that you do so in the passive voice.
Use Charisma-Generating Words
Salesmen have empirically determined that the following words grant their users charismatic power:
Use Language to Frame People and Viewpoints
The following words should be used to place things in a positive light, augmenting the power of your message:
|Words for Positive Framing|
The following words should be used to place things in a negative light, or to define an opponent and their positions by establishing a contrast, augmenting the power of your message:
|Words for Negative Framing|
|liberal||criminal rights||ideological||they/them||permissive attitude||red tape||anti-(issue)|
Impose Ideas with the Word "Don't"
Using “don’t” language patterns forces people to think what you told them not to think of. This exploits the fact that people cannot visualize the word “don’t”, since it isn’t a noun. Examples include:
- “Don’t feel as though you have to buy something today.”
- “Don’t look at me and smile.”
- “Don’t consider taking me out to dinner if you don’t want to.”
- “Don’t decide now. You can do it later if you are comfortable.”
- “You have to help me clean the house, really.”
- “I don’t know how this book is going to completely change your life.”
- “Don’t make up your mind to quickly.”
Use "Leading Language" to Induce Compliance
Language patterns which infer an assumption of the obvious will make people feel as though they should should’ve already accepted what you are about to say:
- “You probably already know that…”
- “People can, you know…”
- “You will realize how…”
- “Sooner or later you will be…”
- “Eventually, you will….”
Salesmen have empirically determined that you make people agree with a statement if you precede it with three other statements which they already agree to. By getting someone to say “yes” three times, they will fall into a rut and be more likely to say “yes” a fourth time.
Everyone Loves to Hear Secrets
By sharing secrets, you establish a trust and rapport. However, you do not need to actually reveal your secrets to exploit this effect; you just need to predicate your statements with one of the following:
- “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but….”
- “Can you promise me you won’t say anything to anyone about what I’m going to tell you?”
- “Off the record, I think you should know…”
Not Communicating is Communication
The silent treatment is a form of communication, since it sends a message. Communication is largely nonverbal; and attitudes have been determined to be 7% based on the actual verbal message, 38% based on vocal intonation, and 55% based on facial expression.
You can establish your credibility when speaking by:
- Being objective. Point out a negative aspect about your position. By satisfying your critics leaves them with no talking points. You gain great credibility whenever you look at your own products, services ideas, and opinions objectively. (This is the “8-Mile Strategy”.)
- Being precise. Quantity-based claims are more believable when they are not multiples of 5. (“I lost 17 lbs.” is more believable that “I lost 20 lbs.”)
- Be reinforced with written documentation from an objective, independent third-party. If anything you say is suspect, then invoke someone else to speak for you.
- Being open-ended. The first person to act (i.e., the one who starts the conversation) is typically the one with the most to gain from it. You must directly state your openness to any outcome to relieve any pressure or tension the conversation might cause.
Give Orders Indirectly
Not only do people dislike being told what to do, they dislike being told what not to do. As such, avoid statements such as:
- “I wouldn’t tell you to ask, because...”
- “I could tell you that you make a mistake but I won’t. You want to figure it out for yourself.”
- “I can tell you that X is far superior to Y, but I won’t. You’ll realize that after you’ve done Y for a few years.”
If you do need to persuade the clergyman to do something, phrase your sentences so they use the words “might” and “maybe.” Most individuals are too explosive, authoritarian, or demanding when persuading others; the use of using “might” and “maybe” allows you to persuade people without giving direct orders, which they may resent. Be aware that the use of “maybe” can cause unintended miscommunication; there is a tendency among men to parse “maybe” as “maybe-yes,” and a tendency among women for “maybe” to imply “maybe-no.”
Avoid Some Phrases Altogether
|Phrases to Avoid, How to Avoid Them, and How to Best Respond to Them|
|Phrase to Avoid||Reason||Alternative Phrase||Best Response|
|“Come here!”||Threatening order to comply.||Invite them over.||“Why?"|
|“You wouldn’t understand!”||Implies that the other party is stupid.||“I don’t want to answer that.”||“Yes, I would. Try me, I want to help.”|
|“Because those are the rules!”||It makes you look like a tool, and more concerned with the system than with people.||“Why was that rule made?”|
|“It’s none of your business”||Demonstrates that you have no good reasoning.||Explain why information cannot be revealed.||“It is my business, and this is why...”|
|“I’m not going to say this again...”||Destroys credibility with a lie. It is always immediately followed by what you weren’t going to say.||“It’s important that you understand this, so let me say it again, and please listen carefully.”||“Ok, got it.”|
|“What do you want me to do about it?”||Evasion of responsibility.||“I can’t help.”||“I want you to listen and help me.”|
|“You never/always...”||Indicates a loss of perspective.||Try to see their point.|
|“Calm down!”||Contradictory; criticizes behavior. This phrase always makes people angrier.||“It’s going to be all right. Talk to me, what’s the trouble?”||“I’m not calm for these reasons, which I will talk about.”|
|“What’s your problem?”||Makes it a “you vs. me” problem rather than an “us” problem.||“What’s the matter, how can I help?”||“It’s not a problem, It’s just something I need to discuss.”|
|“I’m doing this for your own good.”||No one buys it, and it makes you look manipulative.||“I know what’s best for me.”|
|“Why don’t you be reasonable?”||Insulting, since no one thinks themselves to be irrational.||Use paraphrasing.||“I am being reasonable...” then explain why.|
The Need for Non-Violent Action
Our movement must always remain non-violent, for both pragmatic and moral reasons. We must remain non-violent because, quite simply, we do not have other options -- we don’t have and army, nor can we raise one any time soon. Violent action only distracts the focus from an oppressor’s actions to your actions, and the root cause for fighting soon becomes lost. However, choosing peace allows us to take the moral high ground, and win the hearts of the young. We must set an example of calm, collected behavior -- this will enrage the clergy, as their narratives largely depend on the popular perception of nonbelievers as being misanthropes.
|Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.|
Do not be fooled -- nonviolent action is not passive, and it is not inaction -- it is action that is non-violent. Non-violent action is not pacifism. Strategy, skill, and strength are all requisite; we will provide you with the first two, and you must look into yourself to find the third. Non-violent action is not merely psychological or rhetorical; it a culturally-independent tool that exploits social, political, and economic power to gain leverage under any political system or climate. Non-violent action even works against violent opponents, since violent people have never been able to counter the sort of power that non-violent actors wield; Gandhi said it was “like trying to cut water with a sword.” Opponents who are ignorant of the power of non-violent action will become overconfident, and react mildly to its challenges until they are too late to stop.
Non-violent action is based on the assumption that governments and institutions (like churches) depend on people, that power is pluralistic, and power is a fragile thing which depends on many groups synergistically reinforcing the sources of power. Power is most effectively controlled at its sources, and the priest’s illusion of power can be compromised by attacking these power sources. In general, these are:
- Authority. The right to command and direct, to be heard or obeyed by others, and be voluntarily accepted by the people without imposing sanctions. Authority figures do not need to be superior; they just need to be perceived and accepted as superior. Authority is a power source, and not power per se; it is purely mental.
- Human resources. Power is affected by the number of followers, allies, and helpers; the strength of their organizations; and their proportion relative to the rest of society.
- Knowledge, skills, and abilities.
- Intangible psychological/ideological factors. Habits and attitudes towards obedience and submission; presence of a common faith, ideology, or mission.
- Material resources. The limits of power are defined by control of property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, and means of communication, and means of transportation.
- Sanctions. The ability to punish others. These sanctions do not produce obedience; only the fear of sanctions. These sanctions manifest themselves as the eight forms of repression:
- Control of communication and information.
- Psychological pressures (e.g., slander, rumors, ostracizing, vague threats, making examples of others).
- Economic sanctions (e.g., boycotts, blacklists, firings, cutting off utilities).
- Bans and prohibitions.
- Arrests and imprisonment.
- Exceptional restrictions (e.g., new laws, extralegal trials, suspensions of habeas corpus).
- Direct physical violence.
|Won’t you triumph the day? If not who will?|
Non-violent action is not a safe means of struggle; there is no such thing. Repression should not come as a surprise. A high degree of courage is needed to accept these sufferings; there will be a price to pay to achieve objectives. Freedom isn’t free. The fear of retribution only encourages its continuation. The fastest way to end an opponent's brutalities is to demonstrate that they can't achieve the opponent’s objectives. Addressing the root causes of the brutalities will mitigate the repression. Facing repression is a positive sign, because it proves you're a serious threat to the opposition. Repression will become increasing severe whenever the current method is deemed ineffective. Repression only works when it is feared, and when that fear compromises the activist’s willpower. Non-violent action does not induce the oppressor’s violent tendencies; it merely reveals them. Non-violent action brings out the bully in those inclined to be bullies, stripping away cherished images to expose the truth. Non-violent action usurps power from the oppressing group by assuming their status, and acting in ways they had the “right” to behave. This frustration, irritation and inadequacy causes the oppressor to feel powerless, leading them to use of force to return their illusion of strength. If non-violent action is misperceived as weakness, and not courage, then repression occurs anyway out of irrational hostility. Other times, the oppressors are demoralized by from the knowledge that the non-violent actors are right.
Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Camus, and Sartre all agree that courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the ability to move forward in spite of fear or despair. Brave people aren’t fearless; they’ve just found something which means more to them than fear. Only the insane are fearless. Only cowards boast about fearlessness; they know no fear only because they’ve never been tested. Courage isn’t intrinsic, it’s a learned response; a learned skill. Fear cannot be killed, but regularly exposing yourself to fear will mitigate and trivialize its effects, similar to allergy shots. Consistently dealing with frightening situations is the only thing that can make you brave, just as how rejecting temptations confers temperance. Every triumph of the will as against your fear cultivates a permanent habit of courage; courage thrives on encouragement. Finding courage is the easiest, and the most noble, when it involves overcoming fear associated with preventing others from being harmed; cultivating courage is a selfless discipline that conquers selfish fear. Compassion cultivates courage.
Activists must unflinchingly endure sanctions. Hardships are temporary. Despair is the conclusion of fools. Power is an illusion you must learn to see though. Repression is less effective against non-violent action because repression was designed to stop violent actions. “With the power of conviction, there is no sacrifice” -- if you truly want something, then the hardships which must be faced to complete that goal will become trivial and welcome.
Non-violent action does not claim to “love” opponents or make any efforts to convert them; this is a fallacy created by religious apologists who see most non-violent actions as too aggressive for their tastes. Opponents will not respect those who helplessly submit or plea in fear of punishment. Sabotage is technically a non-violent action, since it destroys property, not people. However, the use of sabotage is discouraged since it:
- Can unintentionally hurt or kill opponents or bystanders.
- Requires a willingness to use violence against guards or those who discover the plans.
- Requires secrecy, which undermines the trust between non-violent actors.
|Martin was not the leader. He was the spokesman, a very competent, eloquent spokesman. He was a great man. But if people think of him as a superhuman or a saint, then when something needs to be changed they are tempted to say, ‘I wish we had a leader like Martin Luther King today.’ People need to know that it was just people like themselves who though up the strategies and managed the movement. Charismatic leadership has not freed us and it never will, because freedom is, by definition, people realizing that they are their own leaders.|
—Diane Nash, organizer of the 1959 Nashville lunch counter sit-ins.
Non-violent action does not require a mutual closeness or a sense of community. Non-violent activists do not need to be pacifists or saints. Non-violent activists do not need to be in fighting shape; the elderly, disabled, and out-of-shape can all make equal contributions -- thus leading to the rapid development of a numerically superior force. Non-violent activists have no educational requirement, allowing anyone to join. Historically, the most effective operators were “ordinary” people. Tolstoy was among the first to realize that the “Great Man” Theory of History is false -- that many small individual actions, contribute to, and create the environments necessary for great men to rise to power. Great men merely channel and leverage the zeitgeist. Likewise, what individuals do not do is often as important as what they do. This is why War and Peace is such a long book; because it painstakingly chronicles each of these small actions. Case and point, the Tiananmen Square Tank Man is a considered to be a rousing symbol of defiance and freedom -- but he didn’t accomplish anything. Conversely, a WWII prison break in Poland only succeeded because a young female telegrapher aided the effort simply by not sending a request for reinforcements.
Most remarkable people are not remarkable by nature. Instead, they made a few key choices that helped them overcome their fears.
The Value of Humor
True evil is the opposition of laughter. Ridicule and satire are the most powerful weapons in the human arsenal. It's nearly impossible to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition into reacting on your terms, and not theirs. Laughter conquers all, since it robs the powerful of the authority and prestige needed to dominate others. This is why humor is incompatible with dogmatism -- because laughter is true power, because one cannot stop laughter without becoming a monster. The mocked must allow themselves to mocked, or they force themselves to become hated.
Every feeling of shame or regret, every hurt feeling, every failure, disappointment, and injustice is a setup for a joke. By reframing these experiences as a setup for a joke, they become less painful. This is why the conservatives, Christians, and fascists are all humorless -- by oppressing others, they have no good setups to work with. How could they ever hope to be funny? You can change a few lines of a Greek tragedy to make it into a comedy, and vice-versa. Thus, the repressed always have access to weaponized humor, and the use of mockery to punish those who cause real harm. Comedy is justice.
The most important characteristic of humor is that it allows us to feel superior to others who are depicted as incompetent, stupid, foolish, ugly, and so forth. In fact, some have argued that laughter evolved from the pleasure response of acknowledging superiority over a defeated enemy. Humor most likely occurs when it is connected with people, ideas, or events which the joker has no positive feelings or affiliation towards. The meat of any joke is the emotional investment tied into a situation; this is why jokes about teachers are funnier to those with strained relationship with their teachers. The only problem with weaponized humor is that it may distract people from directly addressing real problems.
There are some special considerations regarding Catholic clergy that should be noted:
- Catholics have always placed an extreme emphasis on the minor aspects of their religion which differ from Protestantism; these have come to define both their faith and sense of identity. Catholicism is not-Protestantism.
- Catholics tend to have stronger institutions than Protestants. Protestantism compensates for this with stronger Biblical authority.
- Distance has a way of enhancing power, so that respect becomes tinged with reverence. This is indicated by the Catholic tendency to constantly reiterate that the pope is “the Pope, in Rome.”
- Catholics, and especially Catholic institutions, tend to think in absolutes. This results in the following side effects:
- This absolute thinking manifests itself as various tautologies which are used as thought-terminating clichés (e.g., “all murder is wrong,” or “all good men are virtuous”). This can be advantageous, as it can prolong your conversations with a variety of tangents which evaluate all of the special cases.
- The Catholic predisposition to absolute thinking leads to absolute rejections. This is why ex-Catholics are more likely to become atheists than ex-Protestants. Because of their relativism, discouraged ex-Protestants typically join different Christian sects.
- Catholics tend to be less aware of their shortcomings, and spend less time dwelling on their past than Protestants do. This is because Protestants have no confession/absolution mechanism to fall back on; they only have a final judgment.
- Parishioners can appeal a priest’s actions, or inaction, by petitioning their bishop. If that fails, the parishioner can petition the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and/or the pope directly, to address the bishop’s alleged heresy.
- Remember, the Jesuits were once fanatical not from the strength of the church, but from its weakness during the Reformation.
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