Drawing on years of research and real-world experience, Dr. Peter Boghossian gives a crash course on how to talk people away from faith and towards a life of reason. If you find this talk interesting, be sure to check out his book "A Manual for Creating Atheists": http://tinyurl.com/mlpdpbf

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This is helpful in dealing with theists.

Definitely an interesting read. Glad to see folks promoting these ideas.

I don't generally read books on "atheism" because I don't need anyone to explain to me why I should be an atheist. But AMFCA is a practical guide to what Dr. Boghossian calls "street epistemology."

Youtube playlist of Dr. Boghossian videos

Unofficial Facebook group: A Manual for Creating Atheists


This reminds me of things I wrote earlier, about believers having a different system for accepting something as true - a different "theory of knowledge" or epistemology. 

His idea that you should focus on the person's theory of knowledge in talking with them, is interesting.  I wonder what evidence there is that it works - both in making those inevitable conversations with theists feel better, and in possibly making a theist question their beliefs. 

Believers often admit they don't know if it's true.  They say religion is a hope rather than a conclusion. 

Capitalizing on this moment of honesty seems like it might be a good approach. 

Over and over, in conversations with theists, what they talk about is the benefits of faith to them - not truth questions. 

Those moments of honesty are what is really being aimed for; not trying to get them to completely change their minds after one conversation.

He says to model the attitude and behavior that you would like to see in the other person (curiosity, willingness to consider other perspectives, etc.), and I think that is part of the reason to use this technique of Socratic questioning. You ask questions in the hopes that *they* will continue asking questions long after they've left your company.

And Boghossian does address the "benefits" issue in his book, but I don't recall his argument at the moment.


As for evidence, I don't recall Boghossian citing any empirical studies. I believe the only thing we have is people self-reporting that conversations with another person either brought them into a religion, or helped them walk away from one.


Marketing has been extensively researched.  Likely there are much more sophisticated approaches to persuasion than what Boghossian presents.  He is a philosopher, not a marketing expert.  We do not have good evidence so far as I know that his methods actually work. 

People believe things for emotional reasons, and his approach doesn't seem to take the emotional reasons into account. 

Well, his method is basically Socratic questioning, which is a little bit older than the field of marketing. But if you're not interested in using his methods, then don't.

And one of the purposes of using this method is to get the other person to see that the basis of their faith is something other than reason (like culture, or fulfilling some emotional need).

He's offering the benefit of his experience to those who are interested in learning his approach. He's not claiming to have the "one right way" to do anything.


I don't much care what a stranger believes.  But when people in casual conversation bring up their belief in God, perhaps this book would give one something to say. 

I usually don't say much in such conversations, just m-hm and "I don't believe".

I think the point of the street epistemology approach is that none of us exist in a vacuum.

The stranger gets to vote and may take their views on God into the voting booth. I would argue that it doesn't matter if they think their religion influences their vote, or not. The way they process information - accepting things without evidence - will influence how they think about what they're voting on.

The stranger might decide to just "pray on it," rather than actually doing anything to help their fellow human beings.

The stranger might teach their child that "God hates fags." And then that child goes to school and beats up another student they believe to be gay/lesbian. Why not? "God hates them, so, why shouldn't I?"

However, Boghossian also acknowledges that actually doing street epistemology isn't for everyone, and that's okay, too. You can still support a secular society in your own way.

You can help promote books like Dr. Boghossian's. You can donate to secular organizations, like Americans United for Separation of Church & State. You can try to encourage the use of reason in your own circle of friends & family. If you have children, you can raise them to be skeptical thinkers.


I don't subscribe to the idea that everyone should get deconverted.  There may be pros and cons to their religious beliefs. 

And, my ideas of what I can do are much bigger and broader than your ideas of what I can do.

My position is, as far as I know, the same as Dr. Boghossian's on the issue of "religion."

I'm not really concerned with whether or not someone claims to be a follower of any particular religion. I don't address religion per se, or even the existence or non-existence of gods. What I'm interested in challenging is the idea of faith as a reliable way of knowing anything.

When someone says they have "faith" in something, they are generally making factual claims. They have faith that Jesus walked on water, was resurrected, or whatever. Those are claims about the world, about reality. And believing claims about the world because, "my book says so, so I believe it," is a dangerous way for adults to go around making decisions, and voting on laws that affect the rest of the country.

Instead of faith, I want them to have doubt, because doubts make you ask questions. When you think that you already have all the answers, then you have no reason to ask questions, or consider other points of view.

Obviously, I don't expect you to change your mind based simply on anything I write here. But I wanted to respond for the sake of others who might read this.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this discussion.


You are telling me what to do, as men so often do to women, and that's what I'm reacting to. It actually turns me off to the idea of trying to deconvert a stranger. 


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