Got faith? ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ would like to change that [Excerpts]
Got faith? Peter Boghossian says get rid of it. Boghossian is a philosophy instructor and author of a wildly popular new book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists,” that seeks to equip nonbelievers like him with the skills to convince believers to abandon their faith.
And while the book is sure to upset many religious people and even some atheists, it may signal a change in the way atheists engage believers. Unlike previous best-selling atheists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, Boghossian wants his readers to refrain from high-decible attacks against God and, instead, home in on faith.
“Faith is an unreliable reasoning process,” Boghossian, 47, said in an interview from Portland, Ore., where he teaches at Portland State University. “It will not take you to reality. So we need to help people value processes of reasoning that will lead them to the truth.”
He compares reasoning people out of it to administering treatment to drug addicts. “Faith,” he writes, “is a virus.”
To fight that virus, Boghossian’s book details techniques for creating “street epistemologists” — atheists trained to attempt to get believers to think more critically. He writes that he has used these techniques on friends, students, strangers and prison inmates. They include:
In what is perhaps the biggest difference between his methods and those of other, better-known atheist authors, Boghossian insists that his street epistemologists be, above all, kind, considerate, empathetic and respectful of people of faith.
“The ideal street epistemologist models the behavior she would like to see in others,” he said. “They should be gentle and open to ideas. They should be compassionate and seek no reward for disabusing people of specious ways of reasoning. Nobody owes you for helping them to reason better. You do it because you care about people and want to help them.”
And despite the title, Boghossian claims he is not proselytizing — a loaded word for atheists because of its association with religion — but “educating.”
“Proselytizing, by definition, means converting people and having them value being closed off to alternative beliefs and ways of thinking,” Boghossian said. “I’m advocating that we help people value belief revision and enable them to develop a mechanism that lets them differentiate reality from make-believeland. This is almost the opposite of proselytizing or converting people.”
[TBC: Boghossian is living in his own form of "make-believeland." It was the reality of the risen Christ that confronted the first believers. In 1 John:1:1, the apostle begins by stating, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life." Boghossian hardly addresses the claims of Scripture. Luke begins his gospel by declaring, "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" (Luke:1:1-2). The professor has failed to shed his own delusions and presumptions as he seeks to proselytize others.]