How to deconvert people: tips and pointers.

My work in the movement is mostly concerned with helping other people in their deconversion efforts, and yet I rarely, if at all, blog about it. So I thought it might be useful for those of you who decon (decon-verting people), or are interested in deconning, to go over some general and basic points about how a decon should generally go. Take it or leave it, but these methods are tried and tested, and they work.

For the sake of classification, we can say there are two basic approaches to deconning: the theoretical (bottom-up) approach and the practical (top-down) approach. The theoretical approach starts from moral principles and then points out how they apply against the State (this is the approach I take in my book). The practical approach starts from various concrete facts about the State and then points out how they are systemic. Here are some examples:

Universality argument, geometric argument -> The State is immoral because it claims “rights” to do things that are considered criminal behaviour in normal people and groups. (see flyer 2 for a whole walkthrough) Theoretical approach.

Freedom as the expression of individual values -> The State as greatest barrier to freedom. Theoretical approach.

The Constitution is not based on consent -> No government is based on consent, no government is moral in nature, government is the enemy of society. (see flyer 3 for a whole walkthrough) Practical approach.

The war in Iraq is based on lies, costly and immoral -> War is the cause and health of government, government cannot exist without immorality. Practical approach.

Note that the source of both is very different. For theoretical approaches, you will want to start from some argument or two. Of course, it is always helpful if you know your arguments and be ready to use any of them when necessary, not just as a foundation. Here is a short list. For practical approaches, recemt events can be used, such as in my example the War in Iraq, or the 9/11 Truth movement, or Ron Paul’s ideals.

You have to adapt your approach to the situation and who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to someone who already self-identifies with a group that lends itself well to a practical approach, then do that. On the other hand, some people respond better to a more theoretical approach, especially people who are already minarchists or liberals/civil libertarians. Some people might be more emotional, in which case you will have to address their feelings before you talk about concepts. Everyone thinks differently, and if you miss that boat, you won’t get anywhere with most people, because most people do not think the way you do!

In all cases, your foundation must be of a moral nature (never argue from efficacy, unless you are answering a question where this is appropriate), you must keep in mind that foundation, and you should always seek to come back to it whenever possible. Whatver your approach, your objectives are two-fold:

Objective 1: Get the other guy to agree to your foundation (whatever it is).

Objective 2: Get the other guy to agree about MA being desirable.

What you should NOT do, is immediately start talking about the stateless society and how great it is. If you do not first establish a foundation, a connection between you and your interlocutor, something he can grasp, then any answer you give him on MA will go right over his head. You need something to anchor your answers to, so that he can grasp what it is you’re trying to communicate.

So as, for instance, someone may tell you:

“Anarchy is no good because we need the State to protect us from terrorists.”

If you just rampage head-on in the conversation and answer him with some complicated point about perpetual warfare or incentive systems or whatever, he will have no way to relate that to anything he knows. So he will simply reject your answer.

Now suppose you are arguing from the universality approach. Your foundation is, “The State is immoral because it claims “rights” to do things that are considered criminal behaviour in normal people and groups.” Your answer could be something like this:

“How do we need a terrorist organization to stop terrorism? The State does plenty of terrorist things through its military, they are just not recognized as such. The most obvious way to stop terrorism is to stop the enemies of our society from having the means to attack us, and that means the State first and foremost. Furthermore, terrorist attacks are perpetrated against States, not society. It is government actions that terrorists fight against and seek vengeance for, not for you and me.”

Never get diverted for too long on issues of detail or efficacy. Do answer the questions, do not evade any question, but try to find a way back to your foundation through your answer. The statist may invoke particular cases where, say, the State allegedly stopped terrorists. You should engage his question or point, but always keep in mind that you should come back to your foundation. You should reflect on the fact that the actions perpetrated by the State were in fact immoral, and how this reflects badly on the State’s abilities as a whole. This is just one idea.

As a basic rule, you need to establish the foundation, and once you do that, you need to return to it as often as you can. It’s the only way that you can make any headway with someone who is not already familiar with MA ideas.

I hope this article will be helpful for deconners out there, in terms of refining your technique and getting better results. If you have any questions, put them in comments and I will address them (general questions, particular cases of deconning gone bad, etc).

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9 thoughts on “How to deconvert people: tips and pointers.

  1. [...] from Check Your Premises, we’ve got a great list of some of the best ‘deconversion arguments‘ to use against Statists.  I’ve always particularly liked the Universality Argument, [...]

  2. mathaytacechristou January 13 2008 at 19:04

    If what you say is true, and there is no God. No eternal consequences, no life after death etc.

    Why bother deconverting people? If I were an atheist, i’d just let people talk to their imaginary friend and get on with my life. Why bother with something that in essence doesn’t matter?

  3. Francois Tremblay January 13 2008 at 19:10

    Actually, my article is about deconverting statists, not Christians. So I don’t really see your point here. Why does anyone want anyone else to agree with them about politics? Obviously because they think a world where people agree with them would turn out better than the current one.

  4. mathaytacechristou January 13 2008 at 21:55

    oops, sorry i skimmed it (feels stupid)

    (Very stupid)

  5. Francois Tremblay January 14 2008 at 3:33

    No biggie. Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve posted anything on deconverting Christians because it’s a lot easier than deconverting statists (from what I hear in my own group, anyway). I did post stuff about it on my old atheist blog, Goosing the Antithesis.

  6. [...] they are and the relationship they have with you, deconverting statists can be difficult, but using well-reasoned arguments and methods can make the task easier. You can help make the movement bigger, and some people have had great [...]

  7. [...] March, 2008 I have already discussed decon strategies at length, but in this entry I want to give some specific tips borne from experience: a number of things that [...]

  8. [...] they are and the relationship they have with you, deconverting statists can be difficult, but using well-reasoned arguments and methods can make the task easier. You can help make the movement bigger, and some people have had great [...]

  9. readbalance August 9 2010 at 20:30

    Very interesting. At readbalance.com, you will find an article that analyzes Bible prophecy and shows how the Bible can’t possibly be divine. It is not anti God though. Many former church goers are drawing quite a bit of comfort and freedom from it. Check it out!

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