Philosopher Stephen Law immunises against the wiles of cultists, religious and political zealots, conspiracy theorists, and various other nutcases by clearly setting out the tricks of the trade by which such insidious belief systems are created and sustained.
Wacky belief systems abound. Members of the Heavens Gate suicide cult believed they were taking a ride to heaven on board a UFO. Muslim suicide bombers expect to be greeted after death by 72 virgins. And many fundamentalist Christians insist the entire universe is just 6,000 years old. It’s not only cults and religions that promote bizarre beliefs. Some believe that aliens built the pyramids. Others that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. How do such preposterous views succeed in entrenching themselves in the minds of sane, intelligent, educated people, turning them into the willing slaves of claptrap?
Law is Reader in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London, and the author of many popular introductions to Philosophy, including The Philosophy Gym, The Great Philosophers, and (for children) The Complete Philosophy Files.