I have to add...the child that grows up among adults worshiping a god, is taught that adults are the authority, and you are not to question them on this topic. This is the adult Santa Claus, and it is difficult to escape the delusion. The child is literally trapped in this pathetic system of fear and authority.
As I see it, one major problem atheists often have when confronting the wall of "wannabelieve" is to radically underestimate just how clever the Yahweh meme
is. Comparing Yahweh to Santa is a bit of an apples-and-oranges situation, in that the two memes have very different survival strategies.
The Santa meme survives by flaring up for a few months (burning especially bright and monopolizing the most cognitive resources between November 25th and December 25th), then going dormant for the rest of the year. This spares Santa from all but relatively half-hearted competition with Yahweh, as the carriers of the latter know that Santa will go away (for most of the year) if they just ignore him a little longer. Interestingly, the Santa meme is spread and perpetuated and made plausible almost entirely by non-believers
--adults who do not think that Santa actually exists. When the child learns that Santa doesn't exist, hir relationship to the meme changes. It goes dormant in hir mind until s/he is an adult with children of hir own, at which point it re-activates in its adult stage and causes the adult human to spawn new Santa-meme larvae in the minds of hir children. Because of this, non-belief in the actual existence of Santa is not any impediment to the survival and spreading of the meme, so it does not need a permanent wall of anti-rationality as a defense. Though it is difficult to find a more fiendish attack by an adult on the integrity of a child's mind than the famous article "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."
Yahweh takes a very different approach. Yahweh is a monopolist, a memetic robber baron. He wants nothing short of total world domination based on year-round control of every mind he can put his hooks into. When a child or vulnerable would-be convert is initially infected with the Yahweh meme, the first thing that happens is that they're told Yahweh owns the sole patent and trademark on every conceivable superlative. He's an omnimax
who is supremely
good and loving and beautiful and magnificent in every imaginable way. This is deeply inculcated before anyone is ever given a Bible or Quran or Book of Mormon to read on their own. Instead of being called by a name like Zeus or Isis or Odin or Gaia, he is given the generic big-G "God" as his moniker. This smuggles in the idea that Yahweh owns a monopoly on divinity. Like "the Sun," he's the only one.
By the time a person can start reading one of the holy books and perhaps encounter something absurd or repulsive, the mechanisms of cognitive bias are already in place. "Well, this talking snake thing sounds kinda mythological, but it's God's Word, so it must be Satan taking the form
of a snake, or maybe an allegory." "Well, exterminating all these Canaanites sounds like something Hitler would do, but since this is Moses and Joshua obeying God, it must be because the Canaanites were just so utterly, completely horrible that it had to be done!"
Since Yahweh is the apotheosis of everything wonderful, to give up belief in him is to give up everything wonderful. Yahweh creates motivation for cognitive biases by claiming monopoly ownership of just about everything worth having that isn't some kind of tangible good.
Without Yahweh, there is no morality, no justice, no meaning or purpose to life, no membership in the community of believers, no decency, no good society, no real love, no hope for immortality. Fundamentalism is the attempt (with limited success) by Yahweh to claim the credibility of science and factual truth (e.g. history). Leave the fold, and you're cast out into a howling Lovecraftian wilderness of chaos, meaninglessness, and existential despair, a world where nothing is true, everything is permissible, and everybody might as well act like the guy in Grand Theft Auto.
Once all this is in place, there's no need to brainwash anyone into believing that the Cosmos is 6,000 years old or that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. The believer's own ordinary human cognitive biases (agency detection, confirmation bias, and so on) will do all that legwork automatically. Or, if belief in such things can no longer be clung to even as attire
, then the victim's brain will swing into action looking for ways to cling to some form of Yahweh-belief that does not require those things--hence, "moderate" or "liberal" versions of the Abrahamic faiths. The cost of losing Yahweh-belief is made so high that the human mind automatically takes extreme measures to protect it. The same would be true of atheism if we really did get endless orgies, lots of money, and fun, fun, fun as membership benefits. When believers say that atheists only disbelieve because we don't want there to be a "God" with all those dour rules we'd have to obey, they're projecting their own approach to belief onto us. This is because motivated cognition (believing something because you want
it to be true) has been inculcated as the way everybody decides what they believe.
To put it another way, believers aren't idiots,
they are the victims of an extremely sophisticated mind-virus that has evolved to exploit a wide array of flaws in the human system of consciousness. Yahweh is not a foe to be underestimated. When atheists react to the Yahweh meme as if it were a scientific proposal ("Uh--talking snakes? Blowing down fortifications with trumpets? Yeah, right. You're an idiot.") their arrows shoot past the true stronghold of its power. The Yahweh meme sucks as a description of how Universe actually works, but it is stupendous
at generating cognitive bias in its favor. Even if Jesus isn't the Son of God with power, he is still the best, wisest, most loving and noble human ever, right?
Only two things have ever proven to be genuine threats to the existence of a Yahweh meme: other Yahweh memes,
and fossil-fuel powered modern economic prosperity, especially in the form of European-style welfare states. The former wield the same arsenal of cognitive biases, along with plain ol' brute force; the latter undermines Yahweh's claim to monopoly ownership of peace, justice, life worth living, etc..