How do I know I’m not being brainwashed?

brainwash[This is chapter 1 of a book I’m writing which explains the case for why Christianity is true for non-Christians.]

Any book which talks about God is probably trying to brainwash you without knowing it, right? I know what it is like to be brainwashed. I grew up in a conservative Christian family who went to church multiple times each week from the day my mum got out of hospital. I learned church songs, memorized Bible verses and listened to countless sermons growing up. So if anyone has been brainwashed by religion, I’m a reasonably good candidate.

When I hit late primary school, I started noticing that my family’s church background was fairly odd, and no kid likes to stand out for being odd, so that was the start of my struggling with my faith. I have been struggling for the last 25ish odd years, and even today, I still struggle at times. Most of all I struggle with how it is that so many apparently intelligent normal people in the world can believe differently from me or maybe not even give a thought to the issue of God. How do I know I’ve not just been brainwashed into believing something, and I’m just being loyal to my family’s religious traditions? Why should what I believe be right, and what so many other people believe be wrong?

Well, the fact is, I have been brainwashed- I’m quite open about the fact. But here’s the important point. Maybe all of us are being brainwashed. Some of us more so than others, but nevertheless, all of us are being brainwashed to some degree. That is, all of us just believe stuff which we have been told over and over again, without really thinking it through for ourselves.

Think about it. Most people who live in India are fervent Hindus. Why? Most of them don’t think of questioning their faith much- they are brainwashed into believing it. Most people who live in Saudi Arabia are Muslims. Why? Most of them are just taught to believe its truth without thinking about it. Most of them are brainwashed too. Most people who grow up in America believe in the Christian God. Why? Yes, the reason is that they are brainwashed. Most don’t analyse their reasons and compare them with other religions and beliefs in any detail. They accept it mostly on the basis of what they have been taught to believe.

But what about those lucky people who have not been brainwashed by any religion, and remain uncommitted, open-minded or skeptical towards religion? Well, it’s possible that they have escaped brainwashing, but it’s also very possible that they are being brainwashed too. Why? Maybe because in our country we are being brainwashed by our very secular media that religion is a subject not to get too worked up about. Television, movies and newspapers in the west actually talk about religion surprisingly often, and the message is usually overwhelmingly negative. The implicit message given is that religion is at best quaint and old fashioned, or at worst, it is irrational and even evil. Often no rational arguments are given- instead, brainwashing techniques are applied. It is very often given an image of irrelevance by showing imagery of priests in drab robes from the middle ages accompanied by music of the same era. It is given an image of irrationality and irrelevance which many people accept without question.

So, don’t think you’re not being brainwashed. Of course you’re being brainwashed- all of us are. Most people never think about why they believe what they believe. Perhaps you’re different and you do think a lot, and you’ve come to firm conclusions about your religious beliefs. That’s great- I hope you’ll read the rest of this book and benefit from engaging critically with my conclusions. But for the great majority of the rest of you who actually haven’t thought for yourself much, I hope that reading this will stir your thoughts and help you in your journey. This book is my attempt to share with you my journey to break free, and how I’ve come to the conclusion that I think that Christianity is probably true. But that is a bit of a heretical thing to say so I had better defend myself in the next chapter.

Next chapter: Why I think Christianity is probably true.