My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.
2. How do you help readers accomplish this?
Almost everyone can relate to having had conversations with friends, family, coworkers, where you are left shaking your head and wondering how in the world they can believe what they believe—conversations where they fully and uniformly dismiss every fact and piece of evidence presented to them. So the core piece of advice I give may at first sound counterintuitive, but it is simple: When speaking with people who hold beliefs based on faith, don’t get into a debate about facts or evidence or even their specific beliefs. Rather, get them to question the manner in which they’ve reached their beliefs—that is, get them to question the value of faith in appraising the world. Once they question the value of faith, all the unevidenced and unreasoned beliefs will inevitably collapse on their own. In that sense, the book is really about getting people to think critically—the atheism part is just a by-product. So my hope is that people won’t just read A Manual for Creating Atheists—they’ll act on it and put it to use. It’s a tool, and like any tool, it does no good unless it’s used.
The book draws from multiple domains of study—philosophy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, psychotherapy, history, apologetics, even criminal justice and addiction medicine—and focuses principally on research designed to change the behavior of people who don’t think they have a problem and don’t want their behavior changed. This vast body of peer-reviewed literature forms the basis of the book, but the book also stems in large part from my own decades-long work using and teaching these techniques in prisons, colleges, seminaries, and hospitals, and even on the streets, where I’ve honed and revised them, improved upon what’s worked, and discarded what hasn’t. The result is a book that will get the reader quickly up to speed—through step-by-step guides and conversational templates—on all the academically grounded, street-tested techniques and tools required for talking people out of faith and superstition and into reason.
3. What is the most common logical error religious people make in their arguments for the existence of God?