Was looking at hypnosis ( always wondered why it works so well on some people - not because I want to convince everyone I meet to be my slaves - honestly ;) ) and I read something that stopped me in my tracks. The articles author stated that most of the time we are in a state of hypnosis which is no more than our automated systems taking over from our conscious ones for example, when we drive home and realise we didn't think too hard about driving we just 'arrive home' we are in a mild hypnotic state; when we get immersed in a movie and lose our sense of where we are we are in a suggestible world where we potentially get moved by what we see etc. All these are indicators of our conscious self focusing in such a way that our actual behaviours are handed over to our sub-conscious brain which is also our long term learning process. A program I watched (Horizon) also mentioned this idea that our sub-conscious is responsible for a majority of our behaviour - when we first play a sport/instrument we play it slowly and awkwardly thinking each step through but as it transfers to our sub-conscious brain controlling areas it becomes natural and unforced.
Could almost all of religion and its hold over us be explained by this sub-conscious / hypnotic state of our brains? Repetition, re-read scriptures, messages inculcated into our sub- conscious via hymns and so on are all hypnotic practices leading us to perform our religious lives in a mild trance such that we consciously switch off allowing our sub-conscious to get us though a service, knock on doors, feel guilt at disobeying, avoid 'dangers' etc. In fact this trancelike state is our normal day to day state - for the religious the subconscious is trained to obey the main tenents for everyone else its whatever they've allowed themeselves to become. Could this also explain why it is so difficult to reach someone with facts and criticism and why there is a recognition that people have to want to discover the truth about the 'truth' themselves? Appealing to someone using our conscious self is almost impossible , especially for a long term member , because the actual belief is in the sub-conscious and the conscious self doesn't do much more than act as doorkeeper. This could be why our conscious self is more moral than our sub-conscious self (conscious I wouldn't kill my daughter but a religious sub-conscious me could ) and why religious people can take the most immoral of social positions yet feel genuinely moral.
A trick for getting people to do what you want is to confuse the conscious brain and insert your behaviour/suggestion into that confused space (so a con man might approach you like a life long friend and as we struggle to adapt they've picked your pocket ; a funny advert makes you laugh and then sells you the product and so on). This would be why many of us look back to a particular moment when our mental dam broke, something snapped, our conscious self was shocked and allowed the doubt/fact/revelation into our subconscious self (which seems powerless to defend itself once the conscious self has stopped guarding the gates.) Our tactic to help our family/friends out of any controlling meme must be to look for shocks and or to provide suggestions only during certain trance states when the conscious self is dulled. My example (I know I'm blathering on but this is quite exciting for me.)
I took 2 years+ of solid research to come to the conclusion my faith was a sham but I presented this information to my wife and she didnt reject me because it was also at the same time we were both fuming at a seperate situation where the church had really failed so we were both agitated and she was defending me from local church leaders. Since her conscious self was in 'defend hubby' mode and shocked by church leadership behaviour I was able to present my information in a matter of a few hours and get most of it direct to her sub conscious without an extended period of rejection/ fear and defense of her beliefs. Now she's almost out.
This whole principle could be at the root of why some people are so persuasive - they've learnt to shock or lull the conscious brain by key words, actions, physical touches , socially forward or humorous behaviours so allowing them to say what they want direct to our sub-conscious while our conscious self is dazzled/confused.