Got faith? ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ would like to change that | Religion News Service


(RNS) 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:

  • Avoid facts: Facts seldom persuade, but getting someone to question why they believe can cause them to re-evaluate.
  • Avoid showing frustration: “De-conversion” takes longer than conversion, he writes, and requires patience for those who would make nonbelievers.
  • Avoid politics: They sidetrack the discussion, which should be about faith.

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.

Written By: Kimberly Winston
continue to source article at


  1. Does this book log case studies of successful and unsuccessful deconversions?
    Does he talk about how to select the most likely candidates?
    Do you know where this book can be bought with PayPal?

  2. @OP – Not everyone is a fan, of course. Tom Gilson, the national field director of Ratio Christi, a student apologetics alliance, has followed Boghossian since first viewing his Easter Bunny lecture. He has read the book and criticized it on his blog,

    No surprise there – although if he read it, his comments show no comprehension of it!
    It does sound like it should be named the “”!

    Gilson finds particular fault with Boghossian’s definition of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t,” which he calls both “weak” and “erroneous.”

    faith – 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

    Perhaps Gilson should learn to read a dictionary – or is that just too much like objective reasoning for a meaning-shifting or obfuscating apologist, who like the poor workman blaming his tools, projects his weakness at reading onto the text and its author?

    “He is very strong on the importance of the Socratic method and the importance of objective truth and the importance of evidence,” he said. “As a Christian, I agree with every one of those.

    Ha! ha! ha! – Really? Objectivity and evidence???? – Just after denying the dictionary definition of “faith”!
    It looks like the cognitive dissonance of a false authority claim to me!

    Where he is weak is in defining faith and explaining why he disagrees with it.”

    …Says Gilson without attempting an alternative definition and asserting the “weakness” of using standard definitions of words, while apparently incapable of reading and understanding the clear quotes in the OP from the book he has supposedly read !

    . … . . And … of course the standard theist, “I have made up this vague nonsense so YOU have to disprove it or accept it, while I sit in denial of any challenges to MY assumptions and assertions”!

  3. In reply to #6 by Roedy:

    3) What version do you want? Kindle, Nook, Kobo or paperback ?


    And what kind of programming do you use on your 3D Printer…. 😎

  4. I downloaded the Nook version last night. It looks quite promising. I’m already substituting “pretending to know something I don’t know” every time I hear the word “faith”. Not quite sure I can become a “Street Epistemologist” in my current work environment, but at least I can be better prepared for the occasional proselytizer. 🙂


  5. “It will not take you to reality. So we need to help people value processes of reasoning that will lead them to the truth.”

    We hope. Processes of reasoning have lead us far from the truth, before. I see reason as being the best chance at being lead to the truth but no guarantee. You may not even know when you’ve arrived at the truth, if you ever do.

  6. As someone who deals with religion in the college setting, I have long found this approach to be effective. If you just come at someone with a catalog of facts, they get bogged down in debating details and defending the faith. If you just come on strong and say, “There’s no God!” you instantly lose them. But if you get them to start asking questions, they may just find themselves moving in a new direction. It has always seemed to me that a transition from religion to atheism or agnosticism is something a person has to do on their own. Part of the point is that people learn to think for themselves, so if all they do is bow to your authority, they haven’t gained anything. But if they come to it on their own, they really gain a new way of seeing the world.

  7. The very fact that religion is a sensitive thing and is a trigger for war and terror proves one important unrefutable truth. It is a TERRIBLE thing to believe in. Its potential for terror, for war undermines the very love that it preaches. Religion is unfit to PREACH LOVE. It should go the way of the dinosaurs. May humanism thrives and a new enlightenment begin….one filled with real love that is self driven by logic and reason….not one imposed into oneself by an imaginary being.

  8. Humanity can believe in anything. They can believe in a brand, they can believe in products, they can believe in football….the furthest they ever go is a fight with casualties and sometimes some deaths. For a war to begin….all it takes is religion. That itself makes religion DANGEROUS to believe.

Leave a Reply