Helping a Muslim question her Islamic faith

Nov 14, 2014

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Street Epistemology Breakdown: Maha | SE Tutorial 4

Published on Nov 14, 2014
Street Epistemology (SE) Breakdown: Maha | SE Tutorial 4
San Antonio, TX
14 November 2014
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Twitter: @magnabosco

My fourth Street Epistemology tutorial analyzes a discussion I had with Maha, a young Muslim woman who was working a booth during Women’s Week for the Muslim Student Association at a local university.

My objective is to teach others how to conduct similar conversations with believers—regardless of the religion they subscribe to—based on techniques from Dr. Peter Boghossian‘s book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists”. I also want to encourage others to build off of these techniques and conduct similar conversations with believers in their own, unique style.

Want more “breakdown” videos? Let me know which encounter I’ve conducted that you want to see deconstructed in the ‘Comments’ section, and I’ll consider it.

Want to Learn More About Street Epistemology? Read the Book: http://www.amazon.com/Manual-Creating-Atheists-Peter-Boghossian/dp/1939578094/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i

For playlist of more Street Epistemology videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…
Audio Only: http://www.spreaker.com/show/street-e…

For playlist of more Secular Exchange videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…
Audio Only: http://www.spreaker.com/show/secular-…

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INITIAL MAHA INTERVIEW: http://youtu.be/gPh8EUTdcKE

Resources:

Peter Boghossian: ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ http://tinyurl.com/lpnxpk8 Peter Boghossian’s Twitter @peterboghossian

 

Mistakes:

My GoPro uses a SD card, not a SIM card. Sorry, techies!

Please let me know if you notice any mistakes so that I can address them here for self-improvement.

Video captured using Go-Pro Hero 3
Video edited using PowerDirector

The views addressed here are mine and mine alone, and are not necessarily views shared by members of my family and friends.

 

105 comments on “Helping a Muslim question her Islamic faith

  • It does seem a bit like proselytizing, doesn’t it?
    I would sooner compare it to the “de-programming” that is often required of those who have been taken in by cults.
    Can you be more comfortable with that?

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  • My objective is to teach others how to conduct similar conversations with believers—regardless of the religion they subscribe to—based on techniques from Dr. Peter Boghossian‘s book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists”.

    My intuitive reaction was to cringe. IMHO, atheists shouldn’t direct their activities at individuals who believe in religion. It is a waste of time and resources. There will always be religion and religious people. We are bred to believe in religions. I am of the view that the secular rationalist movement, that includes atheists, should campaign for evidenced based decision making at all levels and across all walks of life. That is the goal. Limit the impact of irrational views in governments, world affairs and decision making bodies. Going after individual religious people is going to have a huge media backlash and we don’t need Joe Christian from the street corner. We need to stop high end organized religions from influencing major decisions. America’s politics on Israel. Teaching creation in schools. Reproductive options. etc.

    In my opinion, the goal of the secular rationalist movement should be to have religion practiced by anyone who wants to, in adult private groups. Leave the kids alone. Worship all you like. But when you sit on the town council, like the old west when you left your guns at the sheriff’s office, you leave your religion at home.

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  • There’s a lot to make me suspicious here.

    But, I just wanted to point out that she answered your question. You asked how you might decide who was right between her and another religious person and she proceeded after some thought -perfectly normal- to give you an argument for monotheism and against polytheism. I’m guessing by your not acknowledging her answer -you even call it a strawman in your video (it wasn’t)- she got discouraged and just accepted that she really didn’t know.

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  • 5
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Want to Learn More About Street Epistemology? Read the Book: http://www.amazon.com/Manual-Creating-Atheists-Peter-Boghossian/dp/1939578094/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i

    Does that come with the roll of duct tape and bottle of ether or do you have to supply those yourself?

    This is the weirdest thread I’ve ever seen on this site. Leave young Muslim women alone, Anthony Magnabosco. Do I need to call a constable?

    Saying you’re “helping” this woman question her faith just piles on the creepy. Set up your own stall and let people come to you but don’t wander around with a camera telling guileless college students you want to help them. How old are you anyway, guy?

    P.S. You can’t be an atheist and an agnostic; you’re either one or the other.

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  • weirdest thread

    Yep, not at all what I thought it would be.

    creepy

    Regardez > accompanying photo w/ ‘Lobbying Sways NIH Grants’ article.

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  • Well, if they are looking for a fight, then it’s fair game. But all in proportion.

    I’ll leave these ‘street epistemology’ tactics to others. Like Ray Comfort.

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  • I never proselytized when I was either religion. This is creepy and disingenuous. It’s all about putting on the front of trying to be sincere and nice while his interests are in actuality an attempt to sway her into abandoning her beliefs. No wonder he skipped being considerate about her illness. Someone had to point this out to him. He has no true regard for this woman as an individual. People eventually catch on if you fake being interested. If people are respectful of others’ boundaries and rights, does it really matter that we all believe the same? With that said, if someone were to confront you, perhaps some of his ideas are useful.

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  • I want to clarify my earlier comment. In particular the suspicion bit. I’m talking about the method, specifically what he believes about what is going on when he uses it. There is a lot there in my opinion that may be completely ass backwards.

    I do not want to say that his motives may be suspect.

    –//–

    Assuming you read this board, if you’re going for the Socratic method have you read Plato?

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  • Hi QuestioningKat,

    I never proselytized when I was either religion.

    As I did with Crazy, I have to ask what you mean by this comment. Who was converting whom, and to what?

    This is creepy and disingenuous.

    I can agree that, from time to time, and as with any conversation that explores a person’s beliefs, this conversation was uncomfortable. But the word creepy implies an additional nastiness that I do not see. Clearly, Maha was very happy at the end of the interview.

    Also the word disingenuous implies that someone was being not truthful, even deceitful, but I see no evidence for that.

    It’s all about putting on the front of trying to be sincere and nice while his interests are in actuality an attempt to sway her into abandoning her beliefs.

    Peter Boghossian’s book.is badly named, and Dr. Boghossian himself commits the error of making his book about de-conversion from religion. It would have been far better if he had called it simply; Honest Thinking. To his credit, Anthony is not attempting de-conversion he is trying to help Maha to reach what Dr. Boghossian calls Doxastic Openness.

    No wonder he skipped being considerate about her illness. Someone had to point this out to him. He has no true regard for this woman as an individual.

    I don’t understand how you come to that conclusion? To me, Anthony is doing his absolute best to understand Maha’s position while respecting her personal space and her ability to think for herself.

    People eventually catch on if you fake being interested.

    They certainly do. Looking at Maha’s reaction to the interview, and at Anthony’s self-reproaches for not giving Maha enough praise for her full attention and her honesty I struggle to see what you mean by this?

    If people are respectful of others’ boundaries and rights, does it really matter that we all believe the same?

    Firstly, as I have tried to detail above, I saw respect for boundaries and rights in abundance – to me the video actually highlights those parts of the conversation, and Anthony is obviously concerned that as he has edited out further evidence of this he notes it.

    Secondly, yes, it does matter that we all believe something if that something is the truth. For example: It is important that we all believe that recent climate changes are anthropomorphic, in origin, and that we need to change or suffer horrific consequences.

    With that said, if someone were to confront you, perhaps some of his ideas are useful.

    As I note above, Dr. Boghossian’s book has been badly marketed and contains some errors. Nevertheless, as Anthony shows us in this video, this is really something. It’s about moving away from shouting matches, or the only marginally more civilised and effective Formal Debate.

    If you are commonly confronted then, yes, I would highly recommend that rather than having a debate you do what Anthony is doing. A personal conversation in which you honestly and openly attempt to explore, with the Believer, why they believe what they believe is going to make us all more likely to understand why we think the way we do, and how good (or not) we are at finding truth.

    Peace.

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  • Hi David,

    My intuitive reaction was to cringe.

    Why?

    IMHO, atheists shouldn’t direct their activities at individuals who believe in religion. It is a waste of time and resources.

    I tend to agree, approaching the political power of religion is a better use of our time.

    Nevertheless, as a Humanist, I find myself unable to resist the possibilities that are offered by getting religious people to think anew and with greater clarity. In addition, as Dr. Boghossian and Anthony are both keen to point out, practice makes perfect.

    There will always be religion and religious people.

    Things that make you go hmm. Sure, that’s true. Let’s all just give up and hide.

    We are bred to believe in religions.

    You are welcome to label yourself a stock animal suited for slaughter. Don’t count me in that herd.

    I am of the view that the secular rationalist movement, that includes atheists, should campaign for evidenced based decision making at all levels and across all walks of life. That is the goal. Limit the impact of irrational views in governments, world affairs and decision making bodies.

    I like your thinking.

    Going after individual religious people is going to have a huge media backlash …

    Well it hasn’t happened yet, and Dr. Boghossian’s book has been out for a long time now.

    … we don’t need Joe Christian from the street corner. We need to stop high end organized religions from influencing major decisions.

    The problem is that organized religions are made up of Joeys (Aussies welcome to smirk here). To truly undermine religion we need to work on individuals when we get the chance. Less members = less power.

    America’s politics on Israel. Teaching creation in schools. Reproductive options. etc.

    Less Joeys and Jeanettes = less letters to Senators, less $$ in the collection plate, less houses of worship on Main Street, less stupid posters on candidates, less dogmatic volunteers for the School Board, and, and, and … This is how the Greens got started, doing what they could on a personal level. Look what the anti-Apartheid Movement did – without a central organization – by simply persuading people on a personal level to boycott South African goods, then sport, then holiday destinations, then simply making views known to politicians. Acting at the personal level takes time, but it’s results can be very powerful because it builds a true grass-roots power base.

    In my opinion, the goal of the secular rationalist movement should be to have religion practiced by anyone who wants to, in adult private groups.

    That’s fine, and it has nothing to do with what Anthony is doing.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Sean,

    Maha used polytheism as a straw man argument. It seems to me that your focus on this point is not really helpful to our understanding of the conversation between Anthony and Maha.

    Anthony is very clear that what he aiming for is an understanding of why Maha believe what she believes. Maha uses the fact that Hindus tend to believe in more than one god as a reason for her to not take up that belief. Anthony points out that he is only using Hinduism as an example, what he really wants to understand is why chose one particular religion over another?

    Given Maha’s thoughtful reaction – and that she is clearly happy at the end of the video – she has obviously understood that Anthony is only trying to understand her thinking.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Katy (correctly spelled … must … keep .. taking … tablets),

    Want to Learn More About Street Epistemology? Read the Book

    Does that come with the roll of duct tape and bottle of ether or do you have to supply those yourself?

    Ha ha.

    This is the weirdest thread I’ve ever seen on this site.

    Then you need to come here more often.

    Leave young Muslim women alone, Anthony Magnabosco. Do I need to call a constable?

    For what purpose, what nefarious act has Anthony committed. While I appreciate that critical thinking and Socratic dialog are forbidden in a few areas of the World – typically those gardens of beauty that you and I and billions of others plan to avoid for our entire lives – this must, surely, not be the case at a University. Not even in Texas.

    Saying you’re “helping” this woman question her faith just piles on the creepy.

    I can agree that, from time to time, and as with any conversation that explores a person’s beliefs, this conversation was uncomfortable. But the word creepy implies an additional nastiness that I do not see. Clearly, Maha was very happy at the end of the interview.

    Set up your own stall and let people come to you …

    It seems to me that Anthony is doing just that, he simply lacks the physical counter.

    … don’t wander around with a camera telling guileless college students you want to help them.

    Why?

    How old are you anyway, guy?

    This question says more about you, and what makes you uncomfortable, than it does about Anthony. Again, Maha is clearly very happy at the end of the interview – happy enough to continue the conversation later.

    P.S. You can’t be an atheist and an agnostic; you’re either one or the other.

    Not true. I am both atheist and agnostic. I see no evidence for gods and am therefore an atheist. I am open to the possibility that evidence may appear that is convincing proof of gods, an am therefore agnostic QED.

    Peace.

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  • Hi QuestioningKat,

    To understand the interview in its proper context you have to see the full interview. Link in the description.

    For me, however, even this edited version – which has an entirely different and separate agenda where Anthony is simply trying to share lessons he has learned – identifies how Anthony’s focus is on Maha and how she forms beliefs. Anthony comes across to me as absorbed in Maha and how he can help her.

    I see nothing that could trigger the revulsion you feel. It seems to me that your projecting something on the conversation that is simply not there.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Olgun,

    Yes.

    Whether I’m happy with it or not it will probably happen.

    I appreciate that two wrongs don’t make a right.

    If my Daughter decided to convert to Islam, or Hinduism, or whatever, I would be happy so long as she could demonstrate that she had thought it through with doxastic openness.

    This is all that Anthony, and any other Street Epistemologist, is asking.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Phil,

    With individuals we should act only against unacceptable behaviours.

    What is acceptable about belief through faith?

    We are not the thought police.

    To me that comment is totally unconnected with what Anthony is trying to do.

    Peace.

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  • Would it not then be better to ask the Uni to ban ALL such activities on its grounds rather than be one of the two wrongs. It can then be extended to the town/city and if the student wanted to visit a church or an office where Anthony could do his stuff to those who choose to walk through his doors. Betterment rather than doing things just because others are.

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  • Hi Obzen,

    I see parallels that might be misinterpreted as connection. But I see no connection.

    Street epistemology and street preaching are different because one is about persuading to a point of view while the other is about helping people to think for themselves.

    When I watch Ray Comfort I see a man with the goal of converting to dogmatic, closed, thinking.

    When I watch a Street Epistemologist in action, I see someone who merely questions and encourages openness.

    If you really want to persuade me that there is a connection you’ll have to show me the evidence.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Sean,

    I want to clarify my earlier comment. In particular the suspicion bit. I’m talking about the method, specifically what he believes about what is going on when he uses it.

    That’s fine, as far as it goes, but what is it about the methods of Street Epitstemologists that interests you? The best thing for you to do might be to read Dr. Boghossian’s book. That is, after all, what it’s for.

    To be clear; I’m not an expert in this area.

    Dr. Boghossian claims that his Street Epistemology is based on the Socratic Method – as I remember it that means asking questions and analysing the replies.

    Peace.

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  • Sure, I kinda see what you are getting at. What threw me off is the use of a camera to record interviews, and that’s a tactic Ray uses to intimidate his interviewee. Furthermore, Ray Comfort regularly misrepresents the view of those people. He’s been caught doing that a few times.

    The goal is irrelevant anyway. The idea of stopping someone in the street and randomly talking about faith, belief, politics, and trying to ‘convince’ them or challenge their views is IMO wrong, and well yes, creepy. And because it is for a good cause doesn’t excuse it. It’s not exactly what is happening here, but still, I would feel especially uncomfortable with a camera shoved in my face (and she doesn’t seem too happy about it). If you gonna argue with someone privately, keep it private, please, even for demonstration purposes.

    There’s a time and place for that, and I would find it really out of place and rude if it happened to me. I rarely do street polls, especially marketing polls (they can F* right off). It puts you at a disadvantage anyway. Again, Ray loves to do this, to catch people unawares.

    I have no problem with the arguments, or the goal, just the methods. Moral high-ground and all that. I don’t like pushy people.

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  • Hi Olgun,

    Would it not then be better to ask the Uni to ban ALL such activities on its grounds rather than be one of the two wrongs.

    Universities should not ban anything – least of all free speech.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. When I said yes, I meant that I would be happy for a priest, or Shamen, or whatever, to proselytize to my Daughter.

    When I said two wrongs don’t make a right, I meant that I was trying to view the situation from your perspective; while I am happy with proselytizing I can see how that would make you even more uncomfortable – given your implied resistance to Street Epistemology.

    As with others here I feel the need to add that there is some confusion between street preaching and street epistemology. I can highly recommend Dr. Boghossian’s book.

    Peace.

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  • Sorry Stephen but they should ban all activities like this. This has nothing to do with free speech. I would not welcome atheists or religious preaching on the streets. I do not want Jehova witnesses knocking on my door or atheists or anyone else trying to sell me something. I go to where I want to learn something or donate to charity where I want to donate it. As you can see I do not see any difference in these activities, only in name, but would react the same if approached. Reading the science behind it would not make any difference either.

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  • Set up your own stall and let people come to you …

    >

    It seems to me that Anthony is doing just that, he simply lacks the physical counter.

    Actually he went to her stall. Maha wasn’t you average person on the street. She was representing the Muslim students association at a Women’s week event. Maha is clearly confident in her religious belief and was happy to have the conversation.

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  • Quakers believe that they are guided by the Inner Light of Zartha or some such (or am I thinking about Men in Black?). What do I care about this faith position? It means that Quakers are some of the most morally concerned, active and useful members of society, a jewel in the crown of the Enlightenment. They believe that moral authorship is entrusted to ordinary folk not to dogma. That they believe this dogmatically, does not bring me out in any kind of sweat as I sort of do too.

    So their improvement of our society by action and by example is awesome. Their 1963 paper on sexuality was hugely important in pushing for reform. Their understanding that kids are not to be proselytised at is at once self sacrificing and decent, and at least wins hearts and minds in honest fashion with a burgeoning atheist/agnostic section.

    I have a couple of occasionally schizophrenic friends. Sometimes they think some strange stuff but what they do with great success is create art whilst dancing on the edge.

    I have recently discovered groups of Muslims I have great regard for. They are pious which I don’t care for but they are energetic in improving the moral interpretations of their communities variously received wisdoms.

    I am not going to talk any of these people out of their faith positions unless I see it as a source of worsening the moral landscape (and most particularly for any kids they may have responsibility for). Not the Quaker’s faith in her “Inner Light”, my friends’ artistic creations, nor those Muslims changing communities from within.

    Should ANY engage me in discussions about faith I will happily give forth on how it, more than anything, can lead people to bad behaviours, BUT my only reason to be pro-active in this discussion is if bad behaviour merits an intervention. And then it will be about the bad behaviour and how faith may underwrite this. Should any wish to engage me about reason and how we get to know things then I will equally let forth about the catastrophe of faith, but I will not make any presumptions based on appearance nor, even more presumptiously, pro-actively engage them on such.

    The varieties of ways people in fact think are fortunately numerous. I had a Catholic friend whose behaviours and concerns could have been mine, whose concerns for the development of his children’s minds could have been mine. It beat me how that worked in his head, (mine would explode) but manage it he did. My rather Aspie way of thinking is something I wouldn’t actively wish on others, much as I’ve grown used to it myself.

    It is not for me to risk policing the way other people think until they visibly hurt themselves or others.

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  • Hi Stephen,

    what he really wants to understand is why chose one particular religion over another?

    Maha uses the fact that Hindus tend to believe in more than one god as a reason for her to not take up that belief.

    Would you agree that this represents a reason that may help you understand why someone chose one religion over another? Maha later gives us an argument in the same vein for preferring her religion over not just one but many others.

    The argument is completely ignored. Maha seems to give up on it after that. I worry her being discouraged is being mistaken for something else e.g. education.

    Given Maha’s thoughtful reaction – and that she is clearly happy at the end of the video – she has obviously understood that Anthony is only trying to understand her thinking.

    I interpret her responses differently.

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  • Sorry Stephen but they should ban all activities like this. This has nothing to do with free speech.

    Are you saying they should ban groups such as The Muslim Students Association from setting up such stalls? Or ban resulting discussions such as this one? Or ban the filming of such discussions?

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  • Hi Obzen,

    What threw me off is the use of a camera to record interviews, and that’s a tactic Ray uses to intimidate his interviewee.

    Fortunately, Maha was not intimidated.

    Anthony is, of course, using a camera in order to help himself, and us, to learn from his mistakes. Dr. Boghossian is clear, in his book, that practice and making mistakes are necessary.

    Ray Comfort may make videos for similar reasons, but it is clear from the way that he posts them that he’s also putting up trophies. This attitude stems from the very different goals.

    Furthermore, Ray Comfort regularly misrepresents the view of those people. He’s been caught doing that a few times.

    Agreed. Whereas Anthony is crystal clear: Street Epistemology is about fully respecting the people you chat with, and that avoiding misrepresentation is key to ensuring the person the SE is talking too can change their own thinking.

    The goal is irrelevant anyway.

    No, it really isn’t – as above.

    The idea of stopping someone in the street and randomly talking about faith, belief, politics, and trying to ‘convince’ them or challenge their views is IMO wrong …

    That’s true if the other person isn’t ready to talk. But if, like Maha, they are ready to talk then that’s free speech. Free speech, as Christopher Hitchens explained, is the freedom to listen just as much as it is the freedom to be heard.

    … and well yes, creepy.

    Everybody seems to come back to this word creepy. In what way creepy?

    … because it is for a good cause doesn’t excuse it..

    Doesn’t excuse what? Given that we have agreed that Anthony is not Ray Comfort, I am still confused by the negative comments.

    It’s not exactly what is happening here, but still, I would feel especially uncomfortable with a camera shoved in my face (and she doesn’t seem too happy about it).

    I find this comment reassuring in one way, and wrong in another. By she I assume you mean Maha. Assuming that is true, I can only repeat what I’ve said a few times now: Exploring someone’s personal beliefs can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, even painful. This is a reason we sometimes avoid doing it, even with those we love – or should that be especially with those we love?

    Maha and Anthony share an experience of exploring thinking, how we kno what we think we know, and how we thereby arrive at decisions about what is true. But I simply cannot understand why anyone would judge the conversation we see as creepy.

    Perhaps other people are using the word creepy to mean what I mean by it makes me feel uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with conversations that make us feel uncomfortable and the experiences that Street Epistemologists are putting online indicate that we probably fear them far more than we should – the ultimate outcomes are heartwarming and speak of real person-to-person connection.

    If you gonna argue with someone privately, keep it private, please, even for demonstration purposes.

    I hear you, and I agree. Unfortunately that’s the Modern World and, it bears repeating, Maha was clearly happy.

    You wrote another paragraph at this point. I hope I can be forgiven for cutting it, but I have to go and make Sunday Lunch.

    I have no problem with the arguments, or the goal, just the methods. Moral high-ground and all that. I don’t like pushy people.

    Me neither, but Anthony was only pushing where Maha was willing to go.

    Peace.

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  • I’m not great at intuiting body language but Maha looked deeply uncomfortable to me. It is very difficult when got into those situations to in anyway regain some kind of equal control without looking bad. Polite questions have to be answered and going blank over a possible answer becomes hugely stressful when the question is re-asked three or four times, re-phrased and giving it the appearance that she is a bit stupid not to have a ready answer. Yes she redid next day because she really had no choice and because she needed to recoup some self esteem.

    Has she been really challenged in her beliefs over this trifle of an idea? Not a bit of it. I bet she later rationalised that all religions are an attempt at the truth. Islam may be ahead of the curve by being the more recent revelation. Pity the following day’s vid got lost and we got no comment on it…

    I find the “I just want to know about your religion schtick” utterly disingenuous. The second stated reason (to get you to question your faith [for unspecified reasons]) is the real reason. The first given reason is a tack-on excuse/presumed-license and is the source of that yucky creepy feel for me.

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  • 37
    Katy Cordeth says:

    “Leave young Muslim women alone, Anthony Magnabosco. Do I need to call a constable?”

    For what purpose, what nefarious act has Anthony committed. While I appreciate that critical thinking and Socratic dialog are forbidden in a few areas of the World – typically those gardens of beauty that you and I and billions of others plan to avoid for our entire lives – this must, surely, not be the case at a University. Not even in Texas.

    I’ll be honest and say I haven’t watched the video. There’s nothing necessarily nefarious about Mr. Magnabosco’s activity, although if I were his wife and the mother of his children I might wonder about my husband’s hanging around with a video camera on college campuses filming young women. Were you to do the same at a university in South London, I think campus security would be within their rights to ask what the devil you were up to. Looking at Anthony Magnabosco’s Twitter feed informs one that street epistemology seems to be his full-time occupation. Presumably he’s going to try and get a book deal out of this or something, I don’t know. It just seems like an odd way to fill up one’s hours.

    The young woman in the clip appears to be in her early twenties or thereabouts. She’s presumably trying to connect with other Muslim women at this school in Texas (There are Muslims in Texas, who knew? I wonder how much verbal abuse she’s has to endure), and doesn’t need some guy in his thirties who isn’t enrolled treating her as a subject in one of his ‘tutorials’. Other human beings are not your lab rats, Anthony, to be filmed and numbered (Maha is number four as I’m sure she’d be delighted to find out; it’d be interesting to know whether subjects one to three were similarly young and ingenuous) and provide a lesson to other smug atheist know-alls on how to get the upper hand when dealing with religious people.

    From your reply to Sean W:

    Given Maha’s thoughtful reaction – and that she is clearly happy at the end of the video – she has obviously understood that Anthony is only trying to understand her thinking.

    He isn’t only trying to understand no. four’s thinking though, is he? The title of this thread makes it clear he is ‘helping’ her question her faith? His agenda isn’t to become more understanding, he already knows he’s right. He’s ‘helping’ someone who hasn’t requested his help to better understand her own religion (I’m guessing our friend must be some sort of expert on Islam). That isn’t scientific, despite Magnabosco’s attempts to document his activity as though it were; he’s proselytizing for atheism, or teaching others how to proselytize. Fair enough, you might say, the book he’s working from after all is about how to create atheists — “Take a pinch of Dawkins, add a touch of Dennett, and a little bitty bit of Sam Harris…”

    I don’t know, I think I’m just annoyed by the title. It assumes religious people necessarily need to be helped, and we enlightened agnostic atheists are the ones to provide that help. If you went on a religious site and there was a video called ‘Helping an atheist question his lack of faith in God: A step-by-step tutorial for putting one over on the Godless’, wouldn’t that get your dander up?

    Clearly, Maha was very happy at the end of the interview.

    Well, it was over.

    “How old are you anyway, guy?”

    This question says more about you, and what makes you uncomfortable, than it does about Anthony. Again, Maha is clearly very happy at the end of the interview – happy enough to continue the conversation later.

    Is that what happens: he asks if she’d like to continue the conversation later? Perhaps over dinner? Kidding. Maybe it’s a girl thing. From puberty (often before puberty) onward we get macked on constantly. Listening to our discomfort can save our life. Perhaps as someone who’s defending this man, you know if the other three subjects of his tutorials were cuties like Number Four.

    “P.S. You can’t be an atheist and an agnostic; you’re either one or the other.”

    Not true. I am both atheist and agnostic. I see no evidence for gods and am therefore an atheist. I am open to the possibility that evidence may appear that is convincing proof of gods, an am therefore agnostic QED.

    I’m not sure about this. I don’t believe in any gods so call myself an atheist. I’m not certain these beings do not exist and would never claim definitive knowledge of their nonexistence, which means I too am open to the possibility of evidence emerging which proves gods are real. I wouldn’t describe myself as agnostic though, I’m atheist through and through. The first Google dictionary definition of an agnostic is:

    “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

    I claim disbelief in God even though I lack absolute certainty so can’t be an agnostic. QE2.

    Peace.

    I think the efficacy of praying for others’ well-being has been demonstrated to be zero. Nevertheless, I send out peace rays to you as well.

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  • SofW,
    Anthony interviewed her because he came from the premise that she is incorrect. (Meaning that he saw her as flawed in the first place. ) His ultimate unsaid goal was to disrupt her thinking and cause her to question her views and record it for all to see on video. This was his intention. The entire video is from this position. Do you not agree? It was not to get to know her more than a superficial reason except to make this video.

    creepy implies an additional nastiness that I do not see

    Yes, he was nice about. I get the whole concept of talking with her, but the added step of making a video is troubling to me. I don’t understand why people would seek to make a connection with someone and then post it all over the internet. His goal was not to make a personal connection.
    He used her as an example for this video. He is showcasing her as someone with wrong views. She was a willing and easy target.

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  • Very nice response Phil. My former religion had much in common with the Quakers’ lack of dogma and unwillingness to do any “preaching.” At times, I deeply miss being surrounded by this decent and accepting behavior. It was refreshing and a positive example..and it made good sense too.

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  • Anthony comes across to me as absorbed in Maha and how he can help her.

    When people come from the position that someone is in need of help, they also come from the view that something about them is flawed – lacking something (that they have or everybody else has.) This is the same mindset that is used on atheists. They can be really nice about questioning you and asking if something bad has ever happened to you, be genuinely interested, etc. Maybe even use you as an example in front of their church group. In both instances, it is subtle proselytizing – a “step-by-step tutorial.” I don’t think anything will change until we are able to work together on common goals. This is really a “step-by-step tutorial” on how to proselytize without being confrontational and letting the person know that this is your true intention.

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  • but what is it about the methods of Street Epitstemologists that interests you?

    I’m interested in this person’s beliefs about what he’s doing and accomplishing. That they may apply to others who have read Dr. Boghossian is interesting too I guess. Should I take your recommendation to read the book to mean you believe this video represents what Dr. Boghossian hopes to accomplish, that this is Street Epistemology?

    To be clear; I’m not an expert in this area.

    -point taken

    Dr. Boghossian claims that his Street Epistemology is based on the Socratic Method – as I remember it that means asking questions and analysing the replies.

    Thus my question about having read Plato. I love the character Socrates. I’m annoyed by him too. But what I had said originally last night and then deleted -for fear of attracting a real philosopher- was how much Socrates contributes to each discussion. I guess you call that analyzing. Here the opportunity for that would have been for example when Maha offered an argument. (Restate it, find the premises, take it to its conclusions etc.)

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  • I’m not great at intuiting body language but Maha looked deeply uncomfortable to me.

    Yes she did look uncomfortable but that’s natural when you get stumped on a question. I think she was disappointed in herself for not being prepared, especially since she was there representing the Muslim Students Association. I’ll agree that since this was an edited video, he could have dwelled less on her lack of an answer and moved on.

    Islam may be ahead of the curve by being the more recent revelation.

    What about Mormonism? God had words with Joseph Smith as late as the 19th century. Here is a list of other “modern” religious movements.

    I find the “I just want to know about your religion schtick” utterly disingenuous.

    Did he say that? A couple of times he said he was interested to know how she came to her belief. I think he really is interested to know how people come to their religious beliefs – and Boghossian’s technique is all about that. Yes, he is out there because he thinks religious belief causes harm to society and he believes that showing people that their epistemology is flawed is a productive method of getting them to question those beliefs.

    When Maha said that there was a time when she didn’t really believe in Allah and that she had researched other religions did you also find that utterly disingenuous? Maybe just a little exaggerated.

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  • Hi Phil,

    That’s a lot to think about after a heavy Sunday lunch. I only have time to pick up on a couple of themes.

    What do I care about this faith position?

    I suppose that depends on how important you feel about society being guided by truth versus people believing in things they don’t know (and in most cases, where religion is concerned, cannot know).

    Quakers are some of the most morally concerned, active and useful members of society, a jewel in the crown of the Enlightenment.

    I don’t doubt that religious people do good, or that they are capable of good thinking – some of the time. That still leaves troubling moments, at best.

    [Quakers] understanding that kids are not to be proselytised at is at once self sacrificing and decent, and at least wins hearts and minds in honest fashion with a burgeoning atheist/agnostic section.

    Again, I’m not coming from the all-religious-people-are-evil perspective.

    Neither would I advocate that every religious person is ripe for an approach by a Street Epistemologist. My Mother, a retired Anglican priest, is extremely unlikely to gain much – and she would probably have much to lose.

    I have a couple of occasionally schizophrenic friends. Sometimes they think some strange stuff but what they do with great success is create art whilst dancing on the edge.

    Schizophrenia is a long term mental condition wholly unsuited for an approach through philosophy – particularly through a direct intervention by what would be, by definition, a amateur Street Epistemologist.

    I have recently discovered groups of Muslims I have great regard for

    Me too. I don’t see why Muslims are important, Street Epistemology does not discriminate against any particular faith.

    I am not going to talk any of these people out of their faith positions unless I see it as a source of worsening the moral landscape …

    What about truth?

    There are two sides to the truth. There’s the personal side; as a Humanist I would prefer that my friends are living in the Real World – it’s the humane way. However, as with many Anglicans (who, from your input Phil, seem to have learned from the Quakers) people are clever – they can compartmentalise their thinking into faith thinking on one side and Real World, evidenced-based, thinking on the other.

    There is no doubt in my mind that you are correct Phil, many self-proclaimed Muslims also fit this niche. The ultimate expression of this, it seems to me, is what is called belief in belief, c.f. Daniel Dennett.

    There is probably some way to draw up a scale, or continuum, that covers this but a Street Epistemologist should be concentrating on those most likely to gain from it by being moved towards the end furthest from the pure-faith end.

    On that basis, incidentally, Anthony’s choice of a University Campus is excellent.

    But I digress. The second side to truth is the socio-political side. How do we ensure that those who believe some things through faith are compartmentalizing? How do we ensure they don’t back slide, become recidivists, or know-tow to their religious leaders – or even suffer from overt threats?

    The only sure answer is to turn people away from faith-based thinking.

    Should ANY engage me in discussions about faith I will happily give forth on how it, more than anything, can lead people to bad behaviours, BUT my only reason to be pro-active in this discussion is if bad behaviour merits an intervention.

    As far as I can see Phil, we disagree only on the probability that people of faith might find their view of reality corrupted (or should that be further corrupted?).

    Should any wish to engage me about reason and how we get to know things then I will equally let forth about the catastrophe of faith, but I will not make any presumptions based on appearance nor, even more presumptiously, pro-actively engage them on such.

    Feel free to be idle in this ever-changing World.

    I wish you happiness in your complaisance as the faithful, filled with conviction and false visions, seek to pull that change away from truth.

    I say these things and I realise I’m throwing stones in a glass house. I am just as guilty of letting too much pass me by. Those who choose to be Street Epistemologists, I salute you.

    It is not for me to risk policing the way other people think …

    Nor mine. Nor anyStreet Epistemologist.

    … until they visibly hurt themselves or others..

    Where, when, how … ?

    I see no ships.

    Peace.

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  • 45
    jabberwock says:

    I am open to the possibility that evidence may appear that is convincing proof of gods

    Why are you open to this possibility? In other words, what is your argument for holding this position? What essentially do you mean by “gods”? What sort of evidence would be convincing proof of gods, and do you think such evidence would be possible? Would you be open to the possibility that evidence may appear that is convincing proof of square-circles (a square-circle being an alleged entity that is both a square and a circle at the same time and in the same respect)?

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  • Hi QuestioningKat,

    I really really recommend Peter Boghossian’s book to you because there is simply not enough space here to go into the number of misconceptions we’re batting back and forth here.

    Anthony interviewed [Maha] because he came from the premise that she is incorrect.

    I can’t speak for Anthony. I can only say that, in Boghossian form, street epistemology is about assuming that people who are religious have reached that point by believing through faith – a.k.a. pretending to know things you don’t know. I think we can agree that this is incorrect thinking.

    On the other hand, there is nothing in street epistemology that says it is not possible for the Street Epistemologist to be converted to their interlocutor’s religion. All they would have to do is convince the SE that the thinking that led them to their religious beliefs is a good epistemology by which to discover truth.

    [Anthony’s] ultimate unsaid goal was to disrupt her thinking …

    It wasn’t unsaid -this is the central goal of street epistemology, to make people realize their thinking may be faulty, to make them think again.

    … and cause her to question her views and record it for all to see on video.

    It is extremely unfortunate that http://www.richarddawkins.net chose to post the instructional video rather than the full interview. You’re not alone, Kat in picking up the instructional part and misinterpreting it as Street-Preacher-style superiority complex triumphalism.

    All I can do Kat is encourage you to read the book and to see the full interview video, and hope you see through the parallels with street preaching. Yes there are some superficial similarities, but I urge you to look closely,. In essence, approach and goals they could not be more different.

    Peace.

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  • Hi Olgun,

    Sorry Stephen but they should ban all activities like this.

    That is a very interesting thing to say.

    Why?

    This has nothing to do with free speech.

    I don’t understand your position, Olgun. To me the idea that two people can stand under the Sun and debate truth is absolutely at the core of the principle of free speech. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

    I would not welcome atheists or religious preaching on the streets.

    Then you and are destined to oppose each other in the strongest possible terms.

    Open the streets to the Fundamentalists, say I.

    Unless, that is, you can persuade me.

    I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it, unto death. [attrib. Voltaire]

    Peace.

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  • Stephen.

    I shan’t go through yours forensically, and maybe I can short circuit all of this in finding out if I have misunderstood Athony’s intentions. Is he (and or Peter B) encouraging a pro-active engagement with people of faith other than close friends, because of their faith?

    If so then all my complaints stand. If not skip to the end.

    Engaging Maha in the interests of lifting global levels of truth comprehension is twenty valuable minutes squandered when you could be engaging a teabagger or libertarian about their solipsistic, selfish world view. They are a bigger “faith” threat to my immediate world, crippling my once favourite place, the United States.

    Education slowly but surely makes changes in the young and provided we have taken care of education and there are not problems of bad behaviour amongst the “target faithers”, proselytising to the young and vulnerable, sexism, denial of rights or services to others, bullying or coercion, then we have far bigger fish to fry.

    The claim to be an effective route to securing increased truthfulness out of others within a five minute time slot (Anthony’s allowance) seems barking. I’m with Hitchen’s that you cannot reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into. The time frames for creating reasonable doubt and having it fed and watered whilst the emotional buy-in to faith erodes make the whole proposition specious. This is a process that takes a year or two of weekly visits to the pub to achieve.

    The End

    If the plan is to improve the quality and rationality of your own arguments in the pub should you get to engage with a few new friends or friends of friends, those you may see more than once, this is great stuff. Being polite and trying to give the appearance of being bilateral, at least, can only help. Pointers to being a better and more productive discusser of these issues is peachy keen.

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  • Marktony,

    We mostly agree on stuff it seems, so this is interesting. As I said to Stephen, maybe I am misapprehending the intention here. What would piss me off royaly, though, is if these videos resulted in Atheists in smart suits going around in pairs and ringing on doorbells…so to speak.

    The rationalisation I put in Maha’s mouth is only that and not reasonable per se. Joseph Smith was a historically documented fraud is her next rationalisation. This was not the profound stuff Anthony needed. Questions of evil and suffering are usually the ones that linger through the months and years to truly erode faith.

    It was the disingenuousness of leading with “I’m interested in your beliefs” and then saying “I would like you to question them” or whatever. He is doing this only to get her to question her beliefs. All the guidance is about that with even the “I’m interested in you” featuring as much as a technique for enhanced engagement than simply as a wholesome interest in itself. A tome from Peter B on how to investigate, analyse and understand the faithist mind would be in all good bookshops now, else.

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  • I’m with Stephen on this one, Olgun.

    My position is- Any curtailment to speech in a public space short of incitement to violence is a failure, at least, and possibly the start of a catastrophe.

    If the students are adults, the university authorities are not obliged to restrict entrance to their events and may indeed wish to be outward facing. Equally they can restrict as they see fit. Their property is not a public space.

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  • I don’t get it Phil. If we can object to schools then I would extend it to anywhere public. A bit like smoking. No advertisement and not in public places, albeit in closed spaces. Practice at home or at your church. It just seems like a contradiction otherwise. Do we have to legislate for minimum age? Too many questions unanswered.

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  • Perhaps as someone who’s defending this man, you know if the other three subjects of his tutorials were cuties like Number Four.

    He seems to be alternating male/female. Number one was Paul. I’ll leave you to judge if he is a cutie.

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  • Hi Katy,

    I’ll be honest and say I haven’t watched the video.

    Does anyone know how guffaw loudly on text? Okay, you win kudos for a little honesty, but that’s all.

    if I were his wife and the mother of his children I might wonder about my husband’s hanging around with a video camera on college campuses filming young women.

    I find your lack of faith in your sisters disturbing. A tendency to jealousy may be understandable, but an ageist attitude is not. Please check yours at the door next time.

    Were you to do the same at a university in South London, I think campus security would be within their rights to ask what the devil you were up to.

    On what basis? I see no relevant rights attached to being a security officer. The University might have grounds to complain if I’m pulling in a crowd – but in every other respect they should be actively working to protect my and my interlocutor’s free speech rights.

    Looking at Anthony Magnabosco’s Twitter feed informs one that street epistemology seems to be his full-time occupation.

    It takes all sorts to make a World. I am not here to speak for Anthony, if he thinks anyone has said anything important he can register and sign in.

    The young woman … etc. … doesn’t need some guy in his thirties who isn’t enrolled treating her as a subject in one of his ‘tutorials’

    Again, your ageism, not to mention your projecting your image of Anthony onto Anthony, is showing.

    I don’t see, as Marktony also noted above, why Maha would object – though I am assuming she thought through all the possibilities of being filmed. I can also not discount the possibility that Maha may have changed her mind about being filmed later, regrets are normal in such situations. What I can say is that even the heavily edited instructional video clearly demonstrates that Maha was very happy to have the discussion, very happy to be filmed and very happy to agree to both continue the conversation and to continue to be filmed. This is, unless I am deceived, the only evidence we have of Maha’s frame of mind at the time.

    Maha is number four as I’m sure she’d be delighted to find out; it’d be interesting to know whether subjects one to three were similarly young and ingenuous …

    Go for it Katy, take a peek. I promise you that you can’t catch Ebola from YouTube.

    By the by, if you can call her Maha, then you learned that from Anthony’s first question and his repeated use of her name during their chat.

    [Anthony] isn’t only trying to understand no. four’s thinking though, is he? The title of this thread makes it clear he is ‘helping’ her question her faith?

    True, though it isn’t clear that he got far with that in this first intervention. They spent most time exploring Maha’s thinking process, how she chooses what to believe and what not – thus the structure of my answer to Sean.

    His agenda isn’t to become more understanding, he already knows he’s right.

    As per my response to QuestioningKat, he doesn’t know anything about Maha at the beginning. His street epistemology is therefore on target. It is perfectly possible that Maha could have persuaded Anthony that she used thinking that he cannot question to come to her religious beliefs. However, Maha’s answers to his questions tended to highlight that his original position was correct.

    He’s ‘helping’ someone who hasn’t requested his help …

    Right … and Katy would stand on the river bank, right by the life preserver ring, and watch the drowning woman go down for the third time – because the drowning woman didn’t shout for help … ?

    [Anthony’s] proselytizing for atheism, or teaching others how to proselytize.

    You’re not the first person to say this, and I’m beginning to worry that I need a new dictionary. To me, proselytizing is a verb meaning to convert. Street epistemology, as envisioned by Peter Boghossian, is not about conversion. It’s about getting people, on their own, in their own time, to think through how they came to the beliefs they hold. To be fair, Dr. Boghossian does say that this will, in all likelihood, lead people of faith away from faith. He even goes too far – possibly encouraged by his publisher – and says it will lead people to atheism.

    However, it is clear when we read through Dr. Boghossian’s book that he sees the process as being only one of seeding new ways of thinking and enabling people to see different perspectives. if people de-convert as a result of encountering a Boghossian Street Epistemologist then it will be because they decided to do so under their own steam. This is a key fact that Boghossian fails to make crystal clear, but it is in there.

    I don’t know, I think I’m just annoyed by the title. It assumes religious people necessarily need to be helped, and we enlightened agnostic atheists are the ones to provide that help.

    Yep.

    If you went on a religious site and there was a video called ‘Helping an atheist question his lack of faith in God: A step-by-step tutorial for putting one over on the Godless’, wouldn’t that get your dander up?

    I would take a look, and probably have a good laugh.

    Maybe it’s a girl thing. From puberty (often before puberty) onward we get macked on constantly. Listening to our discomfort can save our life.

    I’m not familiar with the word macked, but I get the jist. Projecting, as I suspected. it’s no biggie, I’m sure I’m just as bad sometimes.

    Perhaps as someone who’s defending this man …

    No, no, no.. I am not defending Anthony’s character – I don’t know the guy! He could be a serial murderer of transsexuals who owes the IRS more money than a mega-church for all I know!

    I don’t believe in any gods so call myself an atheist. I’m not certain these beings do not exist and would never claim definitive knowledge … etc..

    Fair enough, but the definitions of agnostic that some claim are not recognised by agnostics like me – I.e most of the billions of us washing round the planet.

    I think the efficacy of praying for others’ well-being has been demonstrated to be zero. Nevertheless, I send out peace rays to you as well.

    Cool.

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  • Then I must refer you again to Hitchens

    Free speech is precious, so I will join with Stephen to defend your right to preach against it.

    Age counts hugely… the younger, the more protection. But adults enjoy the freedom to listen to whatever people may have to say.

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  • Hi Sean,

    I’m interested in this person’s …

    I had to assume that this refers to Anthony.?

    … beliefs about what he’s doing and accomplishing.

    I hear your concern. Something about Anthony has set off several other readers’ alarms too. I do not claim to know Anthony, much less his mind or the state of his mental health. He did not set off any alarms for me but I appear to have a large advantage: I have actually read Peter Boghossian’s book and watched the full video.

    Just to be clear; I’m not having a crack at anyone. I may be blind to something in Anthony’s personal presentation, but I don’t think so.

    What I think is probably happening is that we’re just not used to seeing people have their religious beliefs questioned deeply, repeatedly and in a personal and challenging way.

    In addition, Peter Boghossian’s book is a new departure. It says that we can be in the driving seat. As Daniel Dennettt so memorably put it “you don’t have to be quiet about it”. Up to now this has meant debates that are little more than people talking past each other and not listening.

    To his very great credit Peter Boghossian is saying; turn this new social phenomenon on it’s head. Go 1-to-1, and ask believers about their beliefs, and listen.

    Anthony could, as others on this thread have tried to claim, still have other ulterior motives. They may even be nasty motives. I do not know, indeed I cannot know. But what I can add, knowing what I know, is that Anthony is also trying very hard to use the conversational approach that Dr. Boghossian has given us to help people who’s lives are being – often unknowingly – disfigured by belief through faith.

    if that doesn’t answer your question, please come back at me.

    Should I take your recommendation to read the book to mean you believe this video represents what Dr. Boghossian hopes to accomplish, that this is Street Epistemology?

    Yes. As Anthony is honest to admit, his approach may not be an exact or true interpretation. But Dr. Boghossian himself, in his book, says that it is important that we develop our own styles. What he means by this is that we need to feel comfortable with what we do, and also that we will be more effective if we’re not trying to do something, say something, that we’re not.

    I have read a little Plato, particularly his records on Socrates’ dialogs I find Socrates to be the more interesting of the two but I cannot claim to have studied them. My personal favourite among the ancient Greeks is Aristotle, now that boy could really think.

    To be sure we understand each other, although Dr. Boghossian is a philosopher, it isn’t necessary to study philosophy to understand his book. Far from it, Bohemian has made his book accessible to all us orn’ry folk.

    Peace.

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  • Too politicaly correct and a bit of a cop out for me Phil. I realise the need for freedom of speech and the fear you have of overstepping the mark but, can we never be responsible enough to know what is right and what is not that we must allow everything? We cannot see the dangers and lives ruined by gambling to ban it, for instance? We endure misery because we cannot trust ourselves to make decisions? We deserve religion if that is the case. The future could be that robot in ” The Day The Earth Stood Still”. We cannot trust ourselves so we invent a “God” that does exist and is vengeful.

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  • turn this new social phenomenon on it’s head. Go 1-to-1, and ask believers about their morals, and listen.

    This would fix it for me. It would turn something fatuous into something worthwhile. How many versions of the belief stories do I have to hear for my ongoing edification.? I have nothing new to learn about these after two decades of serious study. And once I have learned about this one person’s belief system type 37b then what doubts do I want to instil in her? Go for the big one and try to subvert the whole edifice or be shrewder and target what is really needed? Question the brainwashing of kids, or believing your community owns and controls the behaviours of its members, or that your community members had no say in their membership, or that sexism is ok, or whatever the evil is that so irks you.

    Moral arguments are the only ones to have. (And teaching creationism is a moral argument lest truth in the abstract is held up). They’re not as easy as belief arguments and they are more likely to end in a fist fight, but they are the needful arguments.

    If you are not prepared to get into these, far better go to the pub or the coffee shop and swap photos of your kids with “them” and get to know them. Understand what their fears are, what they fear about you. Simply tell them what you want from life and for your kids and what you fear. What you think moral and what not. You’ll have more fun. You may even win friends and influence people.

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  • Hi Phil,

    Need to keep this short, battery about to die.

    Is [Anthony] (and or Peter B) encouraging a pro-active engagement with people of faith other than close friends, because of their faith?

    Yes.

    Engaging Maha in the interests of lifting global levels of truth comprehension is twenty valuable minutes squandered when you could be engaging a teabagger or libertarian about their solipsistic, selfish world view.

    Actually, I tend to agree. The Peter Boghossian approach remains very interesting to me.

    They are a bigger “faith” threat to my immediate world, crippling my once favourite place, the United States.

    I admire your ability to see past the connections … wait, that’s not right somewhere …

    The claim to be an effective route to securing increased truthfulness out of others within a five minute time slot (Anthony’s allowance) seems barking.

    I think five minutes is ambitious too. Dr. Boghossian does say that it is better to leave off the interventions (read: conversations) and come back to them. In this one respect Anthony’s over-ambition is clear.

    I’m with Hitchen’s that you cannot reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into

    Me too. Would be great except that many religious are persuaded (self-persuaded?) that they reasoned themselves into religion.

    The time frames for creating reasonable doubt and having it fed and watered whilst the emotional buy-in to faith erodes make the whole proposition specious. This is a process that takes a year or two of weekly visits to the pub to achieve.

    Your plan not for Muslims then. You have basically repeated one of Peter Boghossian’s insights. Suggest you read book.

    Peace.

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  • Hi QuestioningKat,

    I don’t agree with your analysis. Street epistemology is not about conversion per sai, it is about understanding people and helping them to understand thinking. That may lead to a loss of faith, but it is not guaranteed, nor should it be sought.

    Sadly my battery about to expire.

    Peace.

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  • can we never be responsible enough to know what is right and what is not …

    No, not entirely.

    “Cromwell’s rule” in statistics must exclude the probabilities of 0 or 1.

    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken”

    Free speech is our safety net par excellence. It allows an escape from the trap of mass misconception, like religion, for instance. That doesn’t mean we don’t enact laws to protect society from the actively malicious. But the passively malicious are to be lived with. And children are to be a special case for protection.

    Laws can be skillfully formed and applied that achieve this. Incitement to violence is a great test that can allow speech but constrain its form. I once saw a policemen not silence a raving zealot who claimed the right to spout his racist bile. (He wasn’t inciting violence though was close to it). But the copper said, “I ‘m not silencing you. You’ve said the same thing three times now. You can say it once more and after that I’m doing you for breach of the peace.” People cheered. It was fair and it brought peace as the guy skulked off.

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  • it is the way of evolution but not the way of rational thought. We are not ready and I accept that. Just as Anthony will have to accept a punch on the nose one day.

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  • 67
    Katy Cordeth says:

    “Were you to do the same at a university in South London, I think campus security would be within their rights to ask what the devil you were up to.”

    On what basis? I see no relevant rights attached to being a security officer. The University might have grounds to complain if I’m pulling in a crowd – but in every other respect they should be actively working to protect my and my interlocutor’s free speech rights.

    The only duty campus security guards have is to the safety of students and staff, and maybe preventing theft of college property. They’re not there to ensure your free speech is protected. Student and employee identity cards exist for a reason, that being to make certain only those who have business, approved business, on college grounds get to be there. But by all means if you want to equip yourself with a video camera and troll into the playground of a school in the SW postcode area, be my guest.

    “The young woman … etc. … doesn’t need some guy in his thirties who isn’t enrolled treating her as a subject in one of his ‘tutorials’”

    Again, your ageism, not to mention your projecting your image of Anthony onto Anthony, is showing.

    Are people in their third decade eligible for consideration when it comes to the offence of ageism? Unlike many here at our little oasis, I don’t have much of an issue with political correctness, but if 30 year olds start crying foul about age discrimination, even I would have to acknowledge it was PC gone mad. If we were talking about someone in his forties approaching a woman in her thirties, age wouldn’t be an issue, the playing field would be more level. But this is a young woman presumably barely out of high school. Different rules apply.

    I don’t see, as Marktony also noted above, why Maha would object – though I am assuming she thought through all the possibilities of being filmed. I can also not discount the possibility that Maha may have changed her mind about being filmed later, regrets are normal in such situations. What I can say is that even the heavily edited instructional video clearly demonstrates that Maha was very happy to have the discussion, very happy to be filmed and very happy to agree to both continue the conversation and to continue to be filmed. This is, unless I am deceived, the only evidence we have of Maha’s frame of mind at the time.”

    I don’t really see how Number Four had time to think through all the possibilities since she was approached out of the blue; maybe if our filmmaker had arranged to interview her at a later date… but this street episiotomy business seems to be about spontaneity. Perhaps it’s like street magic, a phenomenon that leaves me similarly unimpressed. You are aware I hope that many Muslim women are raised to be respectful and accommodating to men, particularly older men. Even though Four seemed to be enjoying this experience, she may have been… well, see the diner scene from the documentary When Harry Met Sally.

    “Maha is number four as I’m sure she’d be delighted to find out; it’d be interesting to know whether subjects one to three were similarly young and ingenuous …

    Go for it Katy, take a peek. I promise you that you can’t catch Ebola from YouTube.

    I rely on others to do this sort of legwork for me (thank you Mark).

    By the by, if you can call her Maha, then you learned that from Anthony’s first question and his repeated use of her name during their chat.

    Great, he knows her name and repeats it. That’s something politicians have begun doing in recent years, too, along with that weird thumb-pointing thing they do. Keep calling someone by their name and you ingratiate yourself with them. Did he learn that from Mr Boghosian’s book? I expect it also gives instructions on how to mirror your subjects’ body language.

    “[Anthony] isn’t only trying to understand no. four’s thinking though, is he? The title of this thread makes it clear he is ‘helping’ her question her faith?”

    True, though it isn’t clear that he got far with that in this first intervention. They spent most time exploring Maha’s thinking process, how she chooses what to believe and what not – thus the structure of my answer to Sean.

    My point was that this wisdom was not solicited, hence the scare quotes around ‘helping’. Since Mr Magnabosco has adopted the mantle of Number Four’s religious deprogrammer, I’m sure we can expect him to see it through to the end. If Four does renounce her religion, he will no doubt be there to provide moral support when she breaks the news to her family; if they react badly, he’ll give her money and his protection. I’m sure he would’t be so callous as to simply walk away under such circumstances. He’s a caring guy after all, just like you, Peter Boghossian, and all street epidemiologists.

    “He’s ‘helping’ someone who hasn’t requested his help …”

    Right … and Katy would stand on the river bank, right by the life preserver ring, and watch the drowning woman go down for the third time – because the drowning woman didn’t shout for help … ?

    Now that is interesting. You regard Four as being in need of help, someone who requires rescuing from her religion. There’s no chance at all she could be content in her faith. Anthony is on a mission to save Four’s… what, her soul? And there was me thinking she represented just another guinea pig in one of his tutorials. I take back everything I said: this fellow is a saint. He’s wasting his time hanging around college campuses though; he needs to be someplace there’s a lot of foot traffic, such as… oh, I don’t know… an airport? And think of what he might accomplish were he not on his lonesome. There should be lots of these guys… dressed, yeah yeah, get this, dressed in bright primary colors to make them stand out from ordinary commuters, and they could hand out flowers as a show of goodwill maybe.

    “[Anthony’s] proselytizing for atheism, or teaching others how to proselytize.”

    You’re not the first person to say this, and I’m beginning to worry that I need a new dictionary. To me, proselytizing is a verb meaning to convert. Street epistemology, as envisioned by Peter Boghossian, is not about conversion. It’s about getting people, on their own, in their own time, to think through how they came to the beliefs they hold. To be fair, Dr. Boghossian does say that this will, in all likelihood, lead people of faith away from faith. He even goes too far – possibly encouraged by his publisher – and says it will lead people to atheism.

    I literally cannot think of a bigger waste of human effort than this. Seriously, volunteer to deliver meals to old people, or referee kids’ soccer matches, or fasten a nail to the end of a broom handle and go around your neighborhood picking up McDonald’s wrappers and other garbage—fu#k the Wombles. Do anything but what this Boghossian guy suggests. His book seems like a manual for creating itinerant weirdos. Maybe he saw The Fisher King one too many times…

    “I think the efficacy of praying for others’ well-being has been demonstrated to be zero. Nevertheless, I send out peace rays to you as well.”

    Cool.

    I feel guilty now as I didn’t really send out peace rays, I only pretended to. I was going to, honest, but I forgot to charge the crystal I use for doing that the last time I used it and the thing was completely flat.

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  • I can’t say that I am not disappointed in a mind such as yours, that looks to better things in so many ways, settling for that world Phil.

    Cheeses! You know how to hurt a guy…

    Settle? I aspire to it. We have lived millenia under the jackboot of certainty, in thrall to the bullies and the chronically anxious. No more.

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  • But by all means if you want to equip yourself with a video camera and troll into the playground of a school in the SW postcode area, be my guest.

    ??

    I don’t have much of an issue with political correctness, but if 30 year olds start crying foul about age discrimination, even I would have to acknowledge it was PC gone mad. If we were talking about someone in his forties approaching a woman in her thirties, age wouldn’t be an issue, the playing field would be more level. But this is a young woman presumably barely out of high school. Different rules apply.

    So he is too old to talk to female university students but too young to be suffering ageism.

    You are aware I hope that many Muslim women are raised to be respectful and accommodating to men, particularly older men.

    Do you think that’s why he is approaching young Muslim cuties – because he knows they are raised to be “accommodating”?

    I rely on others to do this sort of legwork for me (thank you Mark).

    Welcome.

    If Four does renounce her religion, he will no doubt be there to provide moral support when she breaks the news to her family; if they react badly, he’ll give her money and his protection.

    Why do you assume she would need protection from her family?

    I literally cannot think of a bigger waste of human effort than this.

    Is that why you are investing such effort into convincing us on this discussion page.

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  • S of W There is no reply button to your 2:15 comment.
    Actually, I have the book and have yet to read it…. now I’m wondering if I really want to… I will check out the full video.

    I don’t care how nice, considerate, etc. you are…unless they approach me…I will not do any such thing as shown in this video. To me it seems as if people who were raised in “preaching” situations and households keep doing this regardless of their beliefs.

    It wasn’t unsaid -this is the central goal of street epistemology, to make people realize their thinking may be faulty, to make them think again.

    It is better to wear sandals than try to pave the world in leather.

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  • We mostly agree on stuff it seems, so this is interesting. As I said to Stephen, maybe I am misapprehending the intention here. What would piss me off royally, though, is if these videos resulted in Atheists in smart suits going around in pairs and ringing on doorbells…so to speak.

    Hardly likely is it? How many of your fellow atheists would be convinced to start doorstepping by this video? Or even wear smart suits?

    Joseph Smith was a historically documented fraud is her next rationalisation.

    He may have been a fraudster but that doesn’t prove God did not talk to him. Perhaps Anthony could have then asked Maha why she thinks so many Mormons still believe – is it faith and is that a good reason to believe?

    It was the disingenuousness of leading with “I’m interested in your beliefs” and then saying “I would like you to question them” or whatever.

    I watched the video again and I didn’t see that – what time? I suggest you watch some more of his videos to put your mind at rest.

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  • 75
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I liked it too. So that brings the count of the people participating to this thread who actually read Boghossian’s book to three….

    But more to the point, I liked Stephen’s comments. I found his arguments to be the most compelling on all fronts. Impeccable aplomb, serene grace and flawless rationality in the face of more than a few emotionally driven arguments that sometimes bordered on personal attack.

    I tip my hat to you Stephen. There, I said it. You worked so hard and well to get your point across that someone had to step in and give you some credit.

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  • 76
    Katy Cordeth says:

    @Marktony

    “But by all means if you want to equip yourself with a video camera and troll into the playground of a school in the SW postcode area, be my guest.”

    ??

    Wimbledon, in the South West area of London. SW postcode. Troll, meaning to walk. From Polari. Spoken to rhyme with doll not goal. Either that or I meant to say stroll but my s key sticks.

    “I don’t have much of an issue with political correctness, but if 30 year olds start crying foul about age discrimination, even I would have to acknowledge it was PC gone mad. If we were talking about someone in his forties approaching a woman in her thirties, age wouldn’t be an issue, the playing field would be more level. But this is a young woman presumably barely out of high school. Different rules apply.”

    So he is too old to talk to female university students but too young to be suffering ageism.

    There’s a reason they’re known as the Terrible Thirties.

    “You are aware I hope that many Muslim women are raised to be respectful and accommodating to men, particularly older men.”

    Do you think that’s why he is approaching young Muslim cuties – because he knows they are raised to be “accommodating”?

    I think one of the benefits of street epistemologyism is that you get to select those whom you want to epistemologize. You can wander about and size people up before you decide whether or not to go epistemological on their ass. I want to see your man standing outside any of the numerous mosques there are in the Lone Star state with his video camera in one hand and a sign in the other bearing the words ‘Think Allah is real? Talk to Me’. A truly confident street epistemolologist is one who hangs out his shingle and lets people come to him, as I think I might already have suggested.

    “I rely on others to do this sort of legwork for me (thank you Mark).”

    Welcome.

    Ooh. Now. This is super-awkward. I meant another Mark, my friend Mark whose job it is to stun kippers before they’re killed at the fish market. Sorry.

    “If Four does renounce her religion, he will no doubt be there to provide moral support when she breaks the news to her family; if they react badly, he’ll give her money and his protection.”

    Why do you assume she would need protection from her family?

    I don’t, but if your raison d’être is showing people how their belief system is fakakta, you have to accept some responsibility for what happens to them when the profundity of what you have to say sinks in and they abandon their faith. Islam traditionally has strict rules concerning apostasy, and if you’re looking to convert a Muslim, that might be something you need to take into consideration.

    “I literally cannot think of a bigger waste of human effort than this.”

    Is that why you are investing such effort into convincing us on this discussion page?

    What effort? I’m sitting in the comfort of my living room as I type this, partaking of an occasional huff from a can of the finest (non-toxic) paint money can buy, and engaging with some of you destined-for-the-flames agnostic heathen atheists. This isn’t effort, Mark, it’s a veritable pleasure.

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  • Something about Anthony has set off several other readers’ alarms too.

    I think the people who have a problem with his approach have stated clearly what that problem is.

    He did not set off any alarms for me but I appear to have a large advantage: I have actually read Peter Boghossian’s book and watched the full video.

    You’ve said this is Street Epistemology as explained in the book. It’s what in your opinion Dr. Boghossian hopes to accomplish. So I’m not sure what your advantage is exactly.

    What I think is probably happening is that we’re just not used to seeing people have their religious beliefs questioned deeply, repeatedly and in a personal and challenging way.

    In addition, Peter Boghossian’s book is a new departure. It says that we can be in the driving seat. As Daniel Dennettt so memorably put it “you don’t have to be quiet about it”. Up to now this has meant debates that are little more than people talking past each other and not listening.

    To his very great credit Peter Boghossian is saying; turn this new social phenomenon on it’s head. Go 1-to-1, and ask believers about their beliefs, and listen.

    This is bollocks. Everyone here is used to seeing people have their religious beliefs questioned deeply, repeatedly and in a personal way. The simpler explanation works best here. People don’t like it when niceness and -oh what the hell, Phil summed up those complaints perfectly:

    I find the “I just want to know about your religion schtick” utterly disingenuous. The second stated reason (to get you to question your faith [for unspecified reasons]) is the real reason. The first given reason is a tack-on excuse/presumed-license and is the source of that yucky creepy feel for me.

    …and at least part of my complaint was nicely stated as well. By me of course:

    The argument is completely ignored. Maha seems to give up on it after that. I worry her being discouraged is being mistaken for something else e.g. education.

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  • 79
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Yeah, that monobrowed bitch is all kinds of sympathetic when it comes to dispensing psychiatric advice, but ask her to hold a football for you and you’ll be flat on your derrière.

    Snoopy’s ideas about religion, plagiarised by Oliver Cromwell some four hundred years earlier (who’d have thought such a thing was even possible? That time’s arrow stuff is clearly nonsense) should make this beagle the go-to Peanuts character for atheists.

    This could be a Question of the Week: Which cartoon character best represents atheistic principles? The winner will receive a copy of An Appetite for Hunger or whatever it’s called.

    My submission: Nedward “Ned” Flanders, Jr.

    That’s right.

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  • Which cartoon character best represents atheistic principles?

    Daria Morgendorffer

    There was a cartoon series called Daria and her social commentary would have been right at home in this forum. She is a rational evidence based atheist. More details here.

    Daria is an American animated television series created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn for MTV. The series focuses on Daria Morgendorffer, a smart, acerbic, and somewhat misanthropic teenage girl who observes the world around her. The show is set in the fictional suburban American town of Lawndale and is a satire of high school life, and full of allusions to and criticisms of popular culture and social classes.

    A short 2 minute video with classic Daria quotes. When my daughter was in high school, we watched this show and Daria became her role model.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI4YaLJKFw4

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  • 81
    thanhlam says:

    I am a Buddhist, I respect the religious roots of the conversion value and emphasize the humanitarian system. actually I find the actions of the radical Muslims are threatening the peace of the world, I find disgusting actions of those who borrowed the name of religion to carry out their crimes

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  • Hardly likely is it? How many of your fellow atheists would be convinced to start doorstepping by this video? Or even wear smart suits?

    I wasn’t ever expecting to see an atheist targetting religious strangers to get them to just think a bit for five or twenty minutes. (You do realise the suited duo were an illustrative gag?)

    I’m complaining about this as much because it is lame and wussy (can I say that?). I want people to behave better. I don’t want to waste time on people who are not a clear and present danger. By targetting faith rather than the point where faith causes bad behaviour we have wasted time. Everything we know about talking to faithists (and most of us have done this and most of us have learned a lot of what Peter B espouses) know that progress is painfully slow. Just getting them to tidy up their moral act is the best we can hope for, that and concentrate on decent education for the kids and press for secularity and opening up communities.

    He may have been a fraudster but that doesn’t prove God did not talk to him.

    We are not discussing truth, we are discussing what is reasonably in Maha’s head. My point is that religious deflections can go a long way back once they are on their guard. And the timescales and format of the activity are simply innapropriate for this huge task. If this achieves any kind of scale I fear we may develop a comic collective persona to match the suited duo, the orange robed hare Krishnas, or the over eager psych testing scientology teens. The nerdy gnat bites from over earnest baseball capped guys (it will be mostly guys) is the tacky image I see for us. (Anthony is exactly as I would imagine him to be.)

    Its the format. We can spend time far more profitably.

    And how do we know this mild dose of doubt isn’t just going to build up antibodies? I want controlled tests!

    I’ll find the references this evening.

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  • You’ve started something now……….Ive always identified with…

    the Hulk:

    Stan Lee

    I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Frankenstein monster.
    No one could ever convince me that he was the bad guy…. He never
    wanted to hurt anyone; he merely groped his torturous way through a
    second life trying to defend himself, trying to come to terms with
    those who sought to destroy him. ..

    and

    In the debut, Lee chose gray for the Hulk because he wanted a color
    that did not suggest any particular ethnic group.[13] Colorist Stan
    Goldberg, however, had problems with the gray coloring, resulting in
    different shades of grey, and even green, in the issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hulk_(comics)

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  • 84
    inquisador says:

    Credit is due to Boghossian for this effort.

    Whether or not it catches on in a big way, as Phil fears, it owns the distinction of putting rational atheistic ideas to work in a practical way that may help to liberate the thinking of some who are in a kind of theistic mental rut.

    It may seem a bit cheesy by association with evangelistic methods, but the point is that the objectives are diametrically opposite.

    Or are we to give up on such conversations because they may be seen by some as ‘distasteful’ or ‘inappropriate’?

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  • Or are we to give up on such conversations because they may be seen by some as ‘distasteful’ or ‘inappropriate’…..

    or ineffective, or rather less effective than they can be? I want the time spent on people whose morals are iffy, who cause social problems. Peter B’s book is undoubtedly a great guide to civilised discourse where the aim is to (respectfully) destabilise faith. (There is no guidance in the learning about another’s faith to then give it a pass.) But….meh. Besides-

    Some people of faith are doing my bidding, campaigning for a secular state, for enlightenment values for improving the lot of women within sexist communities. Much as I hate faith as a mode of thought, I hate immoral, selfish, sexist, paternalist, bullying ideas far, far more. Why would I even go near them until they screw up morally in some way?

    Most people’s faith grows from their received moral position and is then patched into the religion of their family and community. Questions of how and who to blame in our daily struggle figure far larger in the minds of most than existential concerns about God the Magician. The route to tackle the problem of religion I contend is from the immoral behaviours (after all the objectional parts) inwards.

    This is crucially important to me. I have no interest in atheism that is (a mode of) Thought Policing. I am interested in Policing. Education is the route to create good thinking habits and it is a biiiiiig problem as much because of all the other dogmas out there. And this is wasting time when we could be more directly improving the quality of children’s or women’s or gay’s lives.

    It is the fact that it is distasteful to no good or clear effect. I’m happy to look a fool for important stuff.

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  • (You do realise the suited duo were an illustrative gag?)

    Yes, I got that. You are worried we might end up acting religious?

    By targetting faith rather than the point where faith causes bad behaviour we have wasted time.

    Isn’t it a bit late then? I thought your issue was that he was actively seeking out people of faith at public events. But you seem here to be going further, which does surprise me. I suspect Dawkins, Hitchens and others have had a lot of success targeting faith. I’m sure most of the arguments used by Anthony can be found in The God Delusion – was TGD wasted time?

    Just getting them to tidy up their moral act is the best we can hope for, that and concentrate on decent education for the kids and press for secularity and opening up communities.

    Doesn’t look good with increasing numbers of faith schools. Street epistemology doesn’t seem to be an easy option, but I think it has potential. If you try to talk to people about tidying up their moral act or try to debate the classic arguments for/against God, many will just back off. As well as providing these YouTube guides to help others who have the guts to try this (not me), he seems to be learning himself.

    The nerdy gnat bites from over earnest baseball capped guys (it will be mostly guys) is the tacky image I see for us. (Anthony is exactly as I would imagine him to be.)

    I’m sure the same has been said about the contributions to these posts – nerdy gnat bites mostly from guys. Here is a worrying thought for you – maybe after some more global warming the baseball cap will become almost as popular here in the UK.

    Did you check out any of his other videos.

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  • I want to see your man standing outside any of the numerous mosques there are in the Lone Star state with his video camera in one hand and a sign in the other bearing the words ‘Think Allah is real? Talk to Me’.

    He carries a sign that says “how did you come to you God belief, let’s discuss it in 5 minutes”.

    Ooh. Now. This is super-awkward. I meant another Mark, my friend Mark whose job it is to stun kippers before they’re killed at the fish market. Sorry.

    Nasty job your friend has.

    I don’t, but if your raison d’être is showing people how their belief system is fakakta, you have to accept some responsibility for what happens to them when the profundity of what you have to say sinks in and they abandon their faith. Islam traditionally has strict rules concerning apostasy, and if you’re looking to convert a Muslim, that might be something you need to take into consideration.

    That’s a low blow. If you convinced Anthony to take his sign to the wrong mosque and he was attacked, would you feel partly responsible. Do you think Malala Yousafzai should take into consideration the possibility of girls getting shot or blown up before she campaigns for girls education. Would she be partly responsible – no the ba***rds who did it would be fully responsible.

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  • Isn’t it a bit late then?

    No. Its a great mistake to think that faith is the start of behaviours. It is most often the final locking in place and what it seeks to lock in place depends on a person’s innate Haidtian inclinations and the parental and cultural dogmas you have been trained and then schooled in and then the hat pin of faith on top to keep it locked neat.

    I thought your issue was that he was actively seeking out people of faith at public events.

    Yes! But there are many people of faith I don’t want to deprogram when they are doing good just where they are. They are moving people in a more moral direction from within. I object violently on picking on a random person of faith and setting to, without some other justification.

    But you seem here to be going further,

    Yes! We need to do this with much better justification. Choose people who have espoused sexist behaviours or child indoctrination. Stop trying to let atheists off the hook of being properly strident and being fully clear that if you didn’t bring this shit into the public space or indoctrinate your kids in schools or keep young wives from accessing the laws of the state we’d leave you in peace. And otherwise leave them in peace!

    As I said if you don’t fancy that take whomever you can’t bring yourself to condemn to the pub or the (Costa) coffee shop and swap family photos and concerns for your kids. You’ll possibly make more differences that way anyway.

    Doesn’t look good with increasing numbers of faith schools. Street epistemology doesn’t seem to be an easy option, but I think it has potential.

    You are not suggesting we solve one with the other, I’m sure, so I don’t get this.

    If you try to talk to people about tidying up their moral act or try to debate the classic arguments for/against God,

    I am really really not interested in talking people out of God. When talking about morals I use the example of Quaker’s believing that they are both equipped and required to do the deciding about what in any situation is the more moral path. Why wouldn’t a perfectly loving god make it so? This works. RCs act more moral than their faith. People show the way and faiths follow. Beliefs evolve as we discover that animals and homosexuals are sentient. Abandon nothing. How can a limited set of rules guide us when we will be faced by an infinite number of choices? We have been entrusted with choice. Muslim? No problem. Trot out the examples of modern civilised thinking amongst modern civilised Muslims. You don’t try to shyly unpick everything of their faith in fifteen minutes, you get them simply to consider taking a step to minimise the hurts to others that others like them have already taken. Dammit we could be trying to restart the Enlightenment…

    I’m sure the same has been said about the contributions to these posts – nerdy gnat bites mostly from guys.

    But people come to us. We’re at home. We aren’t cold calling.

    I have a baseball cap somewhere. I think there is an age limit for wearing it though…

    Other films?

    Sorry not yet. I am not in anyway thrilled by his comments or insights so far which I think variously clunkingly obvious, palpably wrong, condescending or missing a trick. Maybe this is my problem? Or maybe, maybe its simply my aspie self cringing…

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  • …. and then the hat pin of faith on top to keep it locked neat.

    You have a narrower definition of faith than me. People are more easily trained in that dogma if they have already been trained in faith thinking. As Dan Dennett says here, it’s an excuse to stop thinking.

    I object violently on picking on a random person of faith and setting to, without some other justification.

    And I expect Anthony would strongly disagree with that interpretation. He said (at 1:30) that he had already established a rapport with her – she was manning a stall at the event. Where I would be critical of him is that I doubt he fully explained to her that he may use the video as part of a training guide for street epistemology, though I may be wrong.

    You are not suggesting we solve one with the other, I’m sure, so I don’t get this.

    No, I’m not. Anything we can do to improve education is welcome. Maybe Anthony feels he has a better chance of making a difference with this than with trying to influence change in the Texas education system.

    I am really really not interested in talking people out of God. When talking about morals I use the example of Quaker’s believing that they are both equipped and required to do the deciding about what in any situation is the more moral path.

    It seems the Quakers are following a religion that has some requirements in agreement with what Anthony is trying to promote, eg. deciding about what in any situation is the more moral path. I don’t think he has been doing this for long, so maybe he has not had the opportunity to talk to a Quaker. The idea is to convince people that faith thinking is a bad idea (ie. believing in something for no good reason), losing faith in a God or religion is often a natural consequence of that. If a religion already has a bias against that type of thinking then this is less likely to be of consequence. I think the Quakers are not your average religion. Could Anthony be promoting Quaker values? I’ve not convinced you, have I?

    But people come to us. We’re at home. We aren’t cold calling.

    RDFRS provides this space for people to have reasonable discussion on selected topics, often about religion. If Maha posted a message referring to her Islamic beliefs and somebody, lets call them Anthony or Stephen, replied “how did you come to your belief in Allah, let’s discuss it” would the same discussion still disturb you?

    As it was, it seems Anthony approached Maha at her Muslim Students Association stall. Not really cold calling.

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  • @ 6:52 pm

    If Maha posted a message…

    That would be by her own volition, then.

    … it seems Anthony *approached* Maha at her MSA stall

    Could also mean cornered.

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  • If Maha posted a message referring to her Islamic beliefs and somebody, lets call them Anthony or Stephen, replied “how did you come to your belief in Allah, let’s discuss it” would the same discussion still disturb you?

    Not in the least.

    As it was, it seems Anthony approached Maha at her Muslim Students Association stall. Not really cold calling.

    Yep. Cold calling.

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  • People are more easily trained in that dogma if they have already been trained in faith thinking.

    True. But faith thinking is also an infection that needs little training. Its severity is upon a sliding scale. What people say of themselves, what they want to believe and what they think they are and what they actually are are different. What protective coating this may be to loss, misery, abuse etc. makes this a subject to be treated carefully. No amount of politeness can give you the sensitivity that may be called for.

    Faith is probably always unhealthy for post 600BC societies or for an individuals maximal truth finding, but it may (irritatingly!) be personally health restoring or protective.

    If they come to you, no problem. But “Street Epistomology” has set off on the wrong tack here. You can’t assure me with a term like that that it will not be abused Maximum risk least returns.

    Anthony’s indifference to issues of morality or at least failure to prioritise it sets him apart from Quakers, I think.

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  • There’s far too much respect for religion being shown on this thread. In the video itself, the conversation was perfectly polite and friendly. But, from various replies you would get the impression that religion is sacred and it would be wrong to argue anybody out of it. Not that I would want, or expect, to do so. People can be very attached to their opinions on all kinds of subjects. Why would it be wrong to make it plain that somebody’s opinion on the European Union was contradicted by the facts and lacking in logic, if a discussion arose?

    This is not to say that not being able to find a good argument means that people will change their minds, in politics as in religion. Nor does it mean that there is no possibility of finding common ground and working together on other issues outside your area of disagreement, even if it is a fundamental disagreement.

    “Your religion, ideology, xenophobia, etc is intellectual rubbish but I respect, and insist on, your right to make up your own mind on the issue”, as any student of J.S. Mill might say.

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  • 99
    jabberwock says:

    Just trying to help you to grasp the irrationality of your position. After all, you are clearly a staunch and vocal advocate of a fully rational epistemology – and commendably so – so why not strive to apply reason consistently in all your thinking.

    Toward a firmer grasp of the utter absurdity of the notion of God (the god of Christianity), you would do well to consider this question: Is it possible for a consciousness to be conscious of nothing?

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  • 100
    jabberwock says:

    I too am open to the possibility of evidence emerging which proves gods are real.

    Really? So you must think it is possible for an incorporeal consciousness to exist, and not merely to exist but also to have the ability to create the whole of existence (apart from itself, of course) out of non-existence, and, furthermore, to have the ability to control absolutely any aspect of its “creation” by mere acts of consciousness? By what cognitive process did you arrive at this conclusion?

    “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the
    existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena;
    a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

    The emboldened part of this dictionary definition of “agnostic” is poorly cast; it is at best ambiguous in meaning and at worst asserts a blatant self-contradiction. To me, it essentially defines an agnostic as a person who claims neither belief in God nor an absence of belief in God, which is nonsense; it has to be one or the other, because these are mutually exclusive positions. Towards greater clarity, the last part of this dictionary definition needs recasting, perhaps something like this: a person who claims neither belief in God nor belief in the absence (non-existence) of God. (Absence of belief is not the same as belief in absence.)

    You can’t be an atheist and an agnostic; you’re either one or the
    other.

    Agnosticism in regard to God (the claim to absence of belief in the existence and non-existence of God, due to an alleged impossibility of relevant knowledge) necessarily entails atheism (absence of belief in the existence of God).

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  • But he’s absolutely not doing that. He’s asking religious people questions about their beliefs, hopefully to make them think more carefully about those beliefs but also to better understand why they have those beliefs at all. And somehow you see this as atheist proselytising? But aside from that, what would be so bad about encouraging people to be atheist? If you are a person who thinks religious beliefs are a problem in the world, and a hindrance to human progress (and I am), why would trying to get people to reflect on and question those beliefs be a bad thing? He is encouraging thought. How is that bad?

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  • 103
    Katy Cordeth says:

    Woah back at you. It’s possible to get get vegetarian bacon too but that doesn’t make it the genuine article. The only reason to call yourself agnostic when you’re clearly atheist is if the notion of atheism is viewed negatively in your community and you want to take some of the sting off of it.

    Either that or you’re a genuine agnostic who longs for whatever cachet being an atheist provides (it’s possible there are t-shirts and bumper stickers available to buy with which one may proclaim one’s agnostic status to the world but I haven’t seen any) and agnosticism, the philosophical equivalent of being the guy in a restaurant who procrastinates so much about what he wants to eat that by the time he’s ready to order the kitchen is closed, doesn’t.

    The only way I’d qualify my original statement is to say it’s possible to be an atheist and be an agnostic about other things beside God. For instance: you don’t believe in the Almighty so are an atheist, but agnostic when it comes to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot or whatever.

    When it pertains to God though, someone is either an atheist, an agnostic, or a believer. Agnostics are the Liberal Democrats of theological belief, and should be shunned as such and made to wear a large red capital letter A. If memory serves there was a bit in The God Delusion or God is Not Great where Hitchens or Dawkins spoke about having had in their youth a teacher who was a devout Christian. This guy had a fondness for atheists but couldn’t stand fence-sitting, Pascal wage-slave agnostics.

    P.S. I have during my time on this website said things much more irrational and out-there than this.

    Pre-posting edit. A third option has just occurred to me, which is that someone may call herself an agnostic because she mistakenly thinks being atheist means one is absolutely certain about the non-existence of God, whereas as we know, it means no such thing. Even Professor Dawkins only puts himself at a six on his own scale.

    This is all the more reason to draw a clear distinction between atheism and agnosticism. To a casual outsider it’s going to look like this: theists believe in the existence of God and an afterlife; agnostics are not sure about it; and atheists are absolutely certain God is not real and think they have evidence to prove it, the arrogant, arrogant ninnies. Why, they’re hardly any different from religious fundamentalists themselves.

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  • Your third option is quite true Katy. I thought I was an atheist until reading the GD and found I was only 99.9% because of the fact I could not prove God didn’t exist, so I must be agnostic as well.

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