The book which was being discussed was I Told Me So: The Role of Self-Deception in Christian Living by Gregg A. Ten Elshof. Pontification aside, the point of the book as explained by the reviewer seems sound and applicable to anyone, not just those of the christian faith:
The abilities that contribute to self-deception are not wrong in themselves. People go wrong when they use their deceiving abilities to convince themselves that they are better than they actually are: "If I'm not so bad, I don't have to change."Makes sense and in all honesty this is a pretty basic point. Self deception (they cite setting your alarm ahead 15 minutes so that you don't wake up late as an example) is not always bad, it's only destructive when the self decption results in a negative impact on yourself or others which is additionally somehow rationalized by the person inflicting the damage as not their fault or concern. The book evidently reconciles this by stating the following:
How does one avoid self-deception's negative effects? Ten Elshof offers several helpful strategies: Recognize that everyone does it, put real plans into action that prevent the need to deceive oneself, welcome honest and diverse feedback, and ultimately, seek the Holy Spirit's guidance to reveal the truth.This bothers me. As an atheist I see the whole 'holy spirit' figure as a kind of self deception, so in essence this author is suggesting that the negative effects of self deception can be avoided by participating in...more self deception.
I understand that religious people don't see their myth the same way I do and for them this seeking out of the holy spirit is something so real to them it can't possibly be categorized as self deception in the same way rationalizing cheating or lying is, but essentially the rationalizing of a lie is performed by having a conversation with yourself. I can't see the whole looking to the holy spirit for guidance thing as anything more than just another conversation with yourself, only in that instance you're not only mulling something over in your own head, you're additionally pretending that your own head is something far more grandiose (and therefore more worthy of consideration regardless of how crazy the end result of the conversation may be) than yourself. That kind of make believe seems far more dangerous to me than any reality based self deception out there.