Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Breaking Down Street Epistemology


Street EpistemologyStreet Epistemology
is a buzz word in the atheist community. I believe they (atheists) think they’ve found a sure-fire method for talking Christians “out of their faith.” How are they doing it?

You can watch street epistemologists at work in hundreds of videos on the Internet. While each atheist has his or her personal style, the techniques are basically the same. Knowing what they are doing and how they are doing it is one key to preparing Christian young people to talk with them in public and private venues.

Street epistemologists use the basic technique of ‘presenting unreasonable arguments reasonably.’ They sound reasonable while asking questions, but the questions they ask are often unreasonable.

As one street epistemologist says about himself on his YouTube channel – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” That sounds reasonable. He wants to know how people arrive at their belief in God and if in his judgment they used a ‘possibly unreliable method’ to arrive at that belief, he will ‘try to help them discover that.’

Think about that for a moment.

The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.

Street epistemologists present themselves as people who can help other people ‘have more reliable ways to come to knowledge’ (motto of StreetEpistemology.com). That gives anyone who is interested in discerning the truth behind the methodology of street epistemology a measuring stick. We can look for both reliability of methodology and gaining of true knowledge.

Tactics for the Street

One of the tactics atheists are using in street epistemology is asking believers questions. That should sound familiar to Christians involved in apologetics and evangelism. Christians ask questions to understand what people are thinking and to guide them to supply ‘evidence’ that will help answer people’s questions about God and the Christian worldview. So, we ask, are street epistemologists (atheists) asking questions to understand what people are thinking so they can supply them with ‘evidence’ to help answer people’s question about the atheist worldview?

One of the questions atheist street epistemologists use at the beginning of their conversations with believers is about the ‘scale’ of the believer’s belief in God. They offer a range of belief in God from ‘0 to 100 percent’ with 0 percent meaning the person doesn’t believe in a god or gods and 100 percent that they absolutely believe in a god or gods. As the people answer (or try to answer) the question the atheist throws out more and more numbers: 20%? 50%? 80%? The point seems to be to get believers to pick a number, some number, that demonstrates their level of faith in God.

Think about that question for a moment. Is it reasonable to ask someone to select a percentage of their belief about God? Does that mean anything? Where is the logic in a belief percentage? From an apologetics perspective, what is the atheist’s argument? What is their evidence? There is no argument! There is no evidence. It’s just a trick thrown into the conversation to muddle and confuse the person being questioned.

The tactic is similar to what Judoka use on the mat in the dojo. The Judo player hides the technique inside a series of off-balancing movements. Once the opponent is off balance, the technique is revealed – often too late for the opponent to counter. Asking unreasonable questions in what appears to be a reasonable manner is an off-balancing technique. The atheist reveals the technique after off-balancing the believer, usually too late for the believer to counter with evidence or logic.

Another tactic you’ll see in the videos of street epistemologists is the ‘what if’ questions. ‘What if that hadn’t happened to you? Would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ And so on. ‘What if’ questions are not based in evidence. They are not reasonable, rational arguments. They are not logical. They are just ‘what if’ questions used as a tactic to confuse and mislead.

We could ask the same question of atheists. ‘What if Christians you knew growing up in your church had been nicer to you? Might you have grown up believing in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother had lived instead of died after you prayed for her? Is it possible that you would have believed in God if she was healed?’ And so on. There is no way for the atheist to know what would have happened in their life if something else had happened and there is no way for a Christian to know what would have happened in their life if something else had happened. That is not a reasonable discussion, it’s a tactic.

The Danger

Atheists say they want to help people think critically and clearly, but that is obviously not true just by listening to some of these street epistemologists talk with believers. However, and this is the danger to believers who have not learned why they believe what they believe, unreasonable questions asked in a reasonable fashion often have the appearance of being reasonable and thereby can mislead without being obviously misleading. If there is no ‘argument,’ then why are we arguing? If the question is unreasonable and illogical, then why are they claiming to use reason and logic?

Christians of all ages, but especially the young, must be equipped to ‘recognize’ atheist arguments for what they are, including when there is no argument. As we see in the conversation between Jesus and the father of a child with an evil spirit, even people who believe still deal with the challenges of  ‘unbelief.’ (Mark 9:24) A so-called ‘crisis of faith’ does not necessarily mean that someone is in danger of ‘losing their faith.’ The word ‘faith’ means “trust, confidence,’ so a crisis of faith means a believer is struggling with trust and confidence issues.

All believers, if they’re honest with themselves, have times in their walk with God when they struggle with trust and confidence, but that doesn’t mean they are going to ‘lose’ their faith. We need to help Christians understand that and work through their issues. We have to do more than tell Christians to ‘be strong.’ We need to help them become strong by listening, asking, answering, and providing the evidence that will help them overcome obstacles to trust.

More Tactics

Street epistemologists also use a basic ‘swarm attack’ method of asking so many unreasonable questions in such a short period of time that the ‘victim’ has a difficult time finding anything reasonable to respond to during the supposed conversation. ‘Swarming’ someone with questions is not a conversation. If that happens to you, politely ask the atheist to stop for a minute and listen to you. Once they are listening to you, ask them if they want to have a conversation with you. If they say yes, then ask them to ask one question at a time and allow you to answer the question before commenting or asking another question. Tell them that you also have some questions to ask them. If they say that is not what a conversation is, ask them to define the word conversation.

A conversation is defined as ‘an informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.’ It comes from a Middle English word which meant ‘familiarity, intimacy.’ It does not mean ‘argument’ or ‘debate’ or ‘trickery.’ It is an ‘exchange’ of ideas. The word exchange means ‘an act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return.’ A true conversation is two-sided. What atheists are looking for is a one-sided event where they ask questions for the purpose of pushing their agenda on an unsuspecting victim.

From what I’ve seen in videos and read in articles and books by street epistemologists, they are not interested in an exchange of ideas. Atheists are not trying to help anyone discover a reliable method for believing in God. They have one primary motive – to lead believers to ‘disabuse themselves of their faith.’  That’s a term atheists use as the goal of talking people out of their ‘faith tradition, irrationality, and superstition,’ and ‘into reason.’ Atheists believe that once they can lead people ‘into reason,’ the former believers will ‘disabuse themselves of their faith.’

Final Warning

Because I’ve been on both sides (atheist and theist) I have some background in what each side is doing and why they’re doing it. The current methodology known as ‘street epistemology’ does not live up to its claims of trying to help people find a reliable method to arrive at belief in God. They are trying to talk people out of their faith. When a street epistemologist talks with a person who believes in God they see them as being irrational, superstitious, unreasonable and illogical. Many atheists involved in street epistemology think that people who believe in God are mentally ill and need serious and immediate treatment for their illness.

Tell your young people that today. They need to know that the atheist world is coming for them and will use any trick they can find to deceive them to the point of questioning what they believe. Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.

Faith&SelfDefense

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252 thoughts on “Breaking Down Street Epistemology

  1. No comment on content, but on formatting.
    Why do you confine the text to a column that uses only about 1/3 the width of the screen? Some text is off-column to the left, and some is off-column to the right, making the text unviewable. Is there a way to remedy this?

  2. Knowledge on said:

    No, atheists never claim they know a more reliable method for discovering what is true in this process. The person being asked the questions discover the methods are unreliable on their own.
    The only way to combat SE is to be dishonest.

    • Hi, Knowledge. Nice to hear from you. Here is the quote from the street apologist …

      “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.”

      Here is what you wrote – “No, atheists never claim they know a more reliable method for discovering what is true in this process. The person being asked the questions discover the methods are unreliable on their own.”

      Am I correct that you are saying atheists do not know a reliable method for discovering what is true but can lead someone to discover unreliable methods for discovering truth?

    • Knowledge on said:

      I would say they don’t necessarily know a reliable method, I can’t speak for all atheists.
      However through cordial questioning and discourse we can help uncover unreliable methods, for both of us.
      One doesn’t necessarily need to know of a more reliable method to know another method is unreliable.
      One part of the quote you posted, is you missed a very important part, the word “if”
      “and ‘if’ they are using a possibly unreliable method”
      That is what discovery is all about. You don’t know what lies ahead until you uncover it.
      The Socratic method can help both the questioner and the interlocutor learn something new.
      However that being said, typically all this conversations lead to faith. Do you think faith is a reliable method for discovering what ia true?

    • Hi, Knowledge. I understand the Socratic method, but that’s not what the street epistemologist I quoted was doing. He displayed the image of Peter Boghossian’s book “A Manual for Creating Atheists” during portions of the video interview. Have you read the book? If you have, you know that Boghossian is not recommending the Socratic method. His purpose is to talk people “out of their faith.”

      Boghossian described street epistemologists as ‘people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.’

      My post is a warning to Christian parents to let them know the true purpose of street epistemologists.

      Now, to your last question – “Do you think faith is a reliable method for discovering what ia true?” It depends on how we define the word “faith.” If we define it as full confidence and trust in what is true, then “faith” is a reliable method for discovering what is true. If your definition is different, let’s discuss that.

      Thanks!

    • knowledge on said:

      Please explain how faith can be a reliable method for discovering what is true. I’m quite interested.

  3. When this author writes “Atheists are not trying to help anyone discover a reliable method for believing in God” he makes the same mistake demonstrated in not distinguishing “Belief in no god” and “No belief in god.” i.e., ‘agnostic atheists’ vs ‘gnostic atheists’. In other words, just because an atheist doesn’t know a ‘reliable method’ for belief in god doesn’t mean others might have found one he hasn’t considered. This is basic SE, i.e., Socratic skepticism.

    Not to believe there is a ‘reliable method’ to know god exists doesn’t mean one believes there is no ‘reliable method’. It’s up to the author to come up with this method – which I may reasonably question. This is basic Socratic questioning which leads to human wisdom. But the author thinks he has beyond human wisdom, which atheists don’t have, and dismisses ‘human wisdom’ as below what he, in deed, possess.

    He’s just another spiritually arrogant christian.

    • Hi, Doug. Nice to hear from you. Not sure why you think I’m “arrogant” since we don’t even know each other. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines arrogant as “having or showing the insulting attitude of people who believe that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people.” I am well-aware of my shortcomings as a human being and don’t view myself as “better, smarter, or more important than other people.” I view myself as a “sinner saved by grace.” I see myself as God sees me and am thankful for His mercy.

      Here is the context of the quote you mentioned from my article:

      “As one street epistemologist says about himself on his YouTube channel – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” That sounds reasonable. He wants to know how people arrive at their belief in God and if in his judgment they used a ‘possibly unreliable method’ to arrive at that belief, he will ‘try to help them discover that.’

      Think about that for a moment.

      The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.

      Street epistemologists present themselves as people who can help other people ‘have more reliable ways to come to knowledge’ (motto of StreetEpistemology.com). That gives anyone who is interested in discerning the truth behind the methodology of street epistemology a measuring stick. We can look for both reliability of methodology and gaining of true knowledge.”

      The street epistemologist I quoted talks with people about their “God” belief with an eye toward “a possibly unreliable method” of arriving at their belief. So, let’s look at the method I used as an atheist to arrive at my belief in God. It’s called “evidence-based methodology” and is the investigative process I used as a journalist. I also worked closely with law enforcement and members of the judicial system for several decades to learn how they used the method in their research. Do you view evidence-based methodology as “a possibly unreliable method” of arriving at a belief in God? If so, why? thanks!

    • Leesheep on said:

      Don’t take this personally, I speak as I find: This article is deceptive and as such dripping with hypocrisy. Mostly you just dismiss atheist’s attempts to coax people to understand what really motivates their belief as ‘tricks’ and misdirection. For all you are accusing atheists of deception, your first section is what I can only call a faux-argument. Lets examine it in detail so I can show you why:

      “The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God,” -(a statement saying atheists [using epistemology] are looking to find a person of faith’s reason for belief, true)

      “which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God.” -(another statement, in this one you claim that because atheists are searching for someone’s rationale for belief that means they know of a reliable method to determine god’s existence. This is untrue as even you yourself point out in the next section atheists do not believe there is a reliable method to prove god’s existence at all. So then why would you make this statement? It is literally untrue and I rather suspect this statement only exists because you want to imply there is deceit in the atheist’s approach.)

      “But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists.”- (having declared a fake assumption in the last sentence you now deconstruct it as false, but to an atheist that was always obvious. You’ve said something untrue about the way atheists supposedly think and then discredit your own invented argument which gives the vague sense that you have thwarted an atheist argument where as in fact you have simply fabricated the entire problem and solution yourself.)

      “It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.” -(Another statement, you make no attempt to explain WHY it’s obviously a trick you simply declare that it is.)

      You haven’t proved atheists are deceptive, you’ve simply stated that they are without really providing any evidence or argument. Of course an atheist questioning someone’s reasons for belief is because they don’t think the reason is real. That’s obvious as soon as you know they are an atheist, there’s no deception.

      The real reason atheists are using this approach is that people usually do not actually have particularly good reasons behind their religious beliefs, most people believe in a specific religion because they were brought up to do so or believe they have had a personal experience of god. Both of these reasons are rather weak and can easily be discredited with simple logic and by exploring the illogical implications of such reasoning. I know from my own experiences living among Christians that the question of ‘does god really exist or what?’ is not ever entertained. It’s an alien concept and thus they avoid it by simply living with the assumption that there is a god and ignoring all evidence that contradicts this. Because the concept of no god is so alien to a christian and because they most likely associate primarily with other religious people they rarely ever question their own belief, which is exactly what the atheist in this scenario is attempting to do because he knows that their belief most probably does not really have a firm basis.

      It speaks volumes that you the Christian consider attempting to encourage analysis, rational thought and introspection as a ‘trick’.

      I’ll do some more:

      “Think about that question for a moment. Is it reasonable to ask someone to select a percentage of their belief about God? Does that mean anything? Where is the logic in a belief percentage? From an apologetics perspective, what is the atheist’s argument? What is their evidence? There is no argument! There is no evidence. It’s just a trick thrown into the conversation to muddle and confuse the person being questioned.” -(no it’s not a trick to muddle someone and take advantage of confusion, it’s an attempt to get people to analyse how serious they really are about their beliefs and perhaps discover that they don’t really believe all that much. Once again you simply declare that this is a dastardly trick without explaining why it’s deceptive or the rationale behind the deception)

      “The tactic is similar to what Judoka use on the mat in the dojo. The Judo player hides the technique inside a series of off-balancing movements. Once the opponent is off balance, the technique is revealed – often too late for the opponent to counter. Asking unreasonable questions in what appears to be a reasonable manner is an off-balancing technique. The atheist reveals the technique after off-balancing the believer, usually too late for the believer to counter with evidence or logic.” -(Pure waffle, you don’t really say anything here except imply without argument that atheists are trying to make the believer uneasy so that they can’t respond with ‘logic’. This is not the case, the questions are about making a believer question their beliefs not an attempt to bamboozle them. I’ll admit many Christians would be a bit bamboozled if asked to rationalise their belief if only because they’ve never done so before that point.

      “Another tactic you’ll see in the videos of street epistemologists is the ‘what if’ questions. ‘What if that hadn’t happened to you? Would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ And so on. ‘What if’ questions are not based in evidence. They are not reasonable, rational arguments. They are not logical. They are just ‘what if’ questions used as a tactic to confuse and mislead.” -(here you declare that because ‘what if’ scenarios are not real that means the argument is a trick. What logic is that? Hypothetical=trick? Really? The real purpose of this kind of question is to try and get the believer to question if they only believe because of some circumstance or experience that they might not of had rather than because of a proper thought-out belief and also to get them to consider a scenario where they themselves do no believe. Once again, not a trick.)

      “Atheists say they want to help people think critically and clearly, but that is obviously not true just by listening to some of these street epistemologists talk with believers.” -(once again a false statement with no argument or evidence, that is exactly what atheists are trying to get people to do by asking these questions)

      “All believers, if they’re honest with themselves, have times in their walk with God when they struggle with trust and confidence, but that doesn’t mean they are going to ‘lose’ their faith.” -(Here you imply that people who are having a ‘crisis of faith’ won’t lose their faith… well what about the increasingly huge numbers of people who do just that?

      “Atheists are not trying to help anyone discover a reliable method for believing in God” -(REALLY! You don’t say…)

      “Atheists believe that once they can lead people ‘into reason,’ the former believers will ‘disabuse themselves of their faith.” -(Probably because THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS, most atheists didn’t start out that way…)

      “Many atheists involved in street epistemology think that people who believe in God are mentally ill and need serious and immediate treatment for their illness.” -(WOW that’s a bold statement, ‘ignore the atheist they’re just arrogant and think you’re a loony’)

      You are trying to make people distrust atheists as much as possible much seems like a tactic to prevent an atheist from ever having a proper discussion with a believer. It seems to me that if faith is all that strong you would not worry about people trying to talk you out of it no? If you really believe in Jesus or whatever then shouldn’t you be happy to talk about these things as an atheist? Shouldn’t you be firm enough in your belief that such so-called ‘tricks’ would not be effective? Or is it possible that just a tiny bit of you knows that there are more holes in religious ‘reasoning’ than in a leaky sieve and thus you must make sure fellow Christians interact with atheists with maximum paranoia lest that actually consider logical thought?

    • Hi, Leesheep. I especially like your opening sentence:

      “Don’t take this personally, I speak as I find: This article is deceptive and as such dripping with hypocrisy.”

      I disagree that the article is deceptive and dripping with hypocrisy. Moving on to your primary points …

      Many people who claim to be Christians do not know why they believe what they believe. Many more Christians don’t even know what they believe and are often wrong about what they believe about Christianity. It’s a pretty sad state and the blame lies at the door of church leadership.

      Jesus Christ told His disciples to do some basic things – like loving God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and loving their neighbor as themselves. He also told His disciples to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey His commands. I believe many Christians would be hard pressed to name several of those commands.

      My articles are directed to Christians – especially parents and church leaders. Some of my articles contain information, some contain warnings. This article contains both. Most Christians who talk with me about atheists are paranoid about them. Contrary to what you claim, my objective is to remove the paranoia and help them respond to atheists with logic, reasoning, and evidence.

      Some of what I know about atheists and atheism comes from my background as an atheist. Some of what I know comes from talking with atheists through the years, reading their writings and watching their videos. My recent articles about Street Epistemology came about from reading Dr. Boghossian’s book, reading his articles, watching his videos, and reading and watching other atheists who use the term to identify themselves. What I’ve written in this article is true as a response to them. You may be a different kind of atheist, so please know that my comments are specifically addressing those who are involved in street epistemology as Boghossian describes.

      I have responded to many of your concerns in previous responses to other atheists and invite you to look through them for more information. Thank you for contacting me!

    • Leesheep on said:

      While I appreciate this article is supposed to be a sort of warning about Street Epistemology I can’t help but think that you could simply have explained to them what it is and it’s goals rather than weaving this article full of lies about tricks.
      While I don’t practise Street Epistemology I know what it is and those questions do serve a purpose that isn’t just a trick or to catch a christian off balance. The point of Street Epistemology is to get a person to reflect on their beliefs while not directly attacking them, which to me seems like a non-confrontational way that atheists could attempt to make the religious aware of their.. err.. logical shortcomings.

      While I can see why a religious person would fear Street Epistemology and indeed atheism I really don’t see how describing it as tricks that should be dismissed helps in any way. Why not just tell them like it is, explain what Street Epistemology is, what it sounds like and what it aims to do rather than telling people it’s atheist tricks set out to device you. Or do you think Christians are too fail or too stupid to handle that sort of information?

    • Hi, Leesheep. Here is the context of my using the term “trick” in the article –

      “The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.”

      “One of the questions atheist street epistemologists use at the beginning of their conversations with believers is about the ‘scale’ of the believer’s belief in God. They offer a range of belief in God from ‘0 to 100 percent’ with 0 percent meaning the person doesn’t believe in a god or gods and 100 percent that they absolutely believe in a god or gods. As the people answer (or try to answer) the question the atheist throws out more and more numbers: 20%? 50%? 80%? The point seems to be to get believers to pick a number, some number, that demonstrates their level of faith in God.

      Think about that question for a moment. Is it reasonable to ask someone to select a percentage of their belief about God? Does that mean anything? Where is the logic in a belief percentage? From an apologetics perspective, what is the atheist’s argument? What is their evidence? There is no argument! There is no evidence. It’s just a trick thrown into the conversation to muddle and confuse the person being questioned.”

      “A conversation is defined as ‘an informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.’ It comes from a Middle English word which meant ‘familiarity, intimacy.’ It does not mean ‘argument’ or ‘debate’ or ‘trickery.’ It is an ‘exchange’ of ideas. The word exchange means ‘an act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return.’ A true conversation is two-sided. What atheists are looking for is a one-sided event where they ask questions for the purpose of pushing their agenda on an unsuspecting victim.”

      “Tell your young people that today. They need to know that the atheist world is coming for them and will use any trick they can find to deceive them to the point of questioning what they believe. Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.”

      Oxford Dictionary defines “trick” as – “a cunning or skillful act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone.” I could have also used the word “method” from the Greek methodeias. It translates as “trick, wile, scheme, crafty, deceit.”

      Based on what I’ve read, heard and seen from street epistemologists, the term “trick” seems to fit. Thus, the warning to parents and leaders.

    • Knowledge on said:

      As a former Christian, I understand your position. However, in this article you erect a strawman agrument then tear it down. This is dishonest and does nothing to help with the issue at hand. Since your argument is fallacious, you don’t actually arrive at the root of the problem thus as a result will not ever find a solution.
      In order to address your concerns, you must face the real reasons why SE is so effective then and only then attempt to address them. Until such time, you will be “spinning your wheels.”

    • Hi, Knowledge. What is the root of the problem? Also, what do you believe are the real reasons SE is so effective?

    • Knowledge on said:

      Using faith to conclude something is true is the root of the problem.
      Once someone comes to the realization that faith is highly unreliable, they stop using it.

    • If you think that “faith” is the root of the problem, you must be defining the word differently than I am.

      If we define “faith” as full confidence and trust in what is true, then “faith” is a reliable method for discovering what is true. I don’t see how trusting what is true could be the root of the problem. Please explain. thanks!

    • knowledge on said:

      Do you accept the Bible’s definition of Faith?
      Hebrews 11:1
      Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    • To understand the Bible’s definition of “faith” would necessitate studying all uses of the word “faith” in the Bible in the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek) with some understanding of the cultural context.

      With that said, yes, I do accept the Bible’s definition of faith.

      εστιν δε πιστις ελπιζομενων υποστασις πραγματων ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων

      The Greek word for “faith” used in Hebrews 11:1 is πιστις, which translates as “belief, trust, confidence.” It comes from the word πείθω, which translates as “be persuaded by what is trustworthy.”

      Another interesting word in Hebrews 11:1 is ἐλπίζω, which translates as “expect, trust.” It comes from ἐλπίς, which translates as “confident expectation.”

      ὑπόστασις translates as “confidence, assurance.”

      ἔλεγχος translates as “a proof, a persuasion.” It comes from ἐλέγχω, which means “to convince with solid, compelling evidence.”

      A literal translation of Hebrews 11:1, from the Koine Greek, is – “Now is moreover faith of things hoped for the assurance, of things the conviction not being seen.”

      It’s interesting that you listed Hebrews 11:1 because my study of it led to the basic theme of this website – “Building Confidence Through Evidence”

      Here are a couple of posts that may help about understanding “faith” in the Bible.

      https://faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/13/short-post-about-defining-faith/

      https://faithandselfdefense.com/2013/11/14/is-faith-worth-believing/

    • knowledge on said:

      What is your definitions of trust, confidence and belief?
      Is belief the same as trust or confidence?

    • Trust, belief and confidence in the Bible are similar in definition. It’s being persuaded about what is true from both revelation and evidence. Relying on that truth is an important aspect of trusting, believing and being confident.

  4. “If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely.”
    I found that sentence particularly interesting. This implies 1. There is a reasonable and reliable method upon which to found a belief in God, and 2. That some (or even many Christians) are not founding their beliefs on such a method. I’d be interested to hear about that method, as well as a response to that second implication 🙂

    • Hi, Ben. Nice to hear from you. The full context of the quote you mentioned is this –

      “As one street epistemologist says about himself on his YouTube channel – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” That sounds reasonable. He wants to know how people arrive at their belief in God and if in his judgment they used a ‘possibly unreliable method’ to arrive at that belief, he will ‘try to help them discover that.’

      Think about that for a moment.

      The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.

      Street epistemologists present themselves as people who can help other people ‘have more reliable ways to come to knowledge’ (motto of StreetEpistemology.com). That gives anyone who is interested in discerning the truth behind the methodology of street epistemology a measuring stick. We can look for both reliability of methodology and gaining of true knowledge.”

      Ben, note that the quote you mentioned is based on the atheist saying he can identify an “unreliable” method to determine belief in God.

      As for the method for determining belief in God, please read more articles on this blog. I’ve addressed that topic many times.

      Many people who claim to believe in God do not base their belief on evidence that can be investigated. Their belief system is often based on emotions. That is one of the reasons I write articles for this blog.

      Thanks! Mark

    • If someone came to you and said there emotions led them to Allah, What would you say to them?

    • Hi, Matt. I would ask them if they’d like to look at the evidence. Emotions are not a good reason to believe in any religion. Look at the evidence and follow it to the truth.

    • Matthew Waters on said:

      blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Is evidence a substantial reason you believe in god?

      Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    • Hi, Matthew. Evidence is the substantial reason I became a Christian. I continue to believe in God because of evidence, but also the internal witness of God’s Spirit in my life. What are your thoughts about evidence for God?

    • Matthew Waters on said:

      blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Which one do you think gives you more confidence in your belief, the internal witness of gods spirt or evidence?

      Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    • Interesting question. They, evidence and internal witness, are both powerful. Evidence would be stronger for me, but the internal witness of God’s Spirit is compelling. This comment from R.C. Sproul may be helpful –

      “My experience as an apologist and minister has shown me that the real reason most people reject Christianity is not for lack of evidence. The proof from external sources regarding the truth of the biblical account is too overwhelming. No, the real issue is a moral one. The person not reconciled to God in Christ and living in disobedience does not want Scripture’s claim that God has a full and final claim on his life to be true. He wants to get rid of the book as fast as he can.

      This is where the internal witness of the Spirit comes in. Only those whom God the Holy Spirit has regenerated will submit to Scripture as His inerrant and infallible Word. The Holy Spirit does not give us a new argument for the truth of the Bible, but He confirms in our hearts the truth of Scripture as it is displayed in both the internal marks of Scripture (harmony and majesty of its contents) and the external marks of Scripture (historical accuracy). Objective proofs for the Bible are many and compelling, but they cannot force people to believe against their wills. Sinners are only persuaded to receive the Bible as God’s Word as the Holy Spirit changes their hearts and assures them that they can trust and rely on what Scripture says.”

    • How much would you say is evidence, and how much would you say is internal witness

  5. Mike Simpson on said:

    You said: “If someone is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, does that not mean they know the reliable method to determine belief in God?”
    I’ll take a stab at this.
    Faith is a “possibly unreliable” method to determine belief in God, or in anything else. One of the questions that I see asked in the SE videos is something like “do you rely on faith to determine the truth of anything other than your God belief?” An example that I wish would be asked is this: “If you had cancer, and you had to choose between two treatments, one of which is based solely on faith, and the other which is based on the results of clinical trials, which would you choose?”
    The SE videos I’ve seen do not push any beliefs on the people being questioned.
    They simply ask people to think about why they believe in {gods, ghosts, reincarnation, etc}. Why do you have a problem with that?

    • Hi, Mike. The word “faith” in the Bible come from Hebrew and Greek words which mean “trust, firm persuasion, conviction” based on hearing or seeing evidence. One Hebrew word means “confirmation, firm support” and carries the idea of being able to “have assurance” that something is reliable. The Greek word in secular antiquity referred to a guarantee or warranty. Biblical writers used the word in a similar sense to refer to God’s guarantee or warranty. There is no “blind” faith involved in Christianity. You are misrepresenting Christianity and Christians if you define faith as blind to evidence. Trust, firm persuasion, and conviction based on evidence is a reliable method for a “God belief.”

      Using your example about cancer treatment – it’s not an either/or decision in real life. If I had cancer, I would rely on clinical trials, my doctor’s interpretation about those trials as to how a drug or surgical procedure might help me, knowledge of how the human body heals when given proper nutrition, rest, etc., possible natural therapies that might be good to consider, and trust in God who asks us to pray. You might call that a cumulative response rather than an either/or response.

      Street epistemologists have an agenda, a reason why they go out to ask theists why they believe in God. The stated purpose, according to leading atheists involved in street epistemology, is “talking people out of their faith, to help them abandon their faith.” That’s good to know and is why I write blog posts for Christians to read. I teach faith defense in much the same way I teach self defense. It’s a simple matter of being aware and on guard.

      Christians have a similar agenda, a purpose why they go out to ask atheists why they don’t believe in God. The stated purpose, according to leading theists involved in evangelism, is “to preach the Gospel to all the nations.” Why do that? At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He said that His purpose was to “preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Jesus also said His purpose was to “seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s a very high purpose aimed at improving the lives of people at great cost to the life of Jesus. Jesus told His disciples to preach the Gospel, make disciples of all the nations, and teach them to “observe all things that I have commanded you.”

      God has a very high purpose for Christians to accomplish during their lives. Unfortunately, a large number of Christians are not aware of their purpose as people who believe in God or the purpose of those who do not believe in God. Thus, my purpose in writing is that they may know both.

      Thanks! Mark

  6. {“talking Christians “out of their faith.””}
    This is simply not true. So why lie?
    It’s about beliefs and why people have them. If a Muslim believes there are talking ants or a Christian believes Jesus existed there are reasons for them to believe this.
    If these are good reasons I want to know about them and if they are not then I am not damaging but helping the person I am talking to examine and define their beliefs.

    You are automatically defensive and are trying to teach people to lie, to defend, to avert, to deceive.

    You are highly dishonest and don’t even understand logics. Having a method to determine the existence of a god will show that no gods exist, not that having a method will have one believe a god exists.

    I would be interested in discovering methods of belief and if someone else finds their own method unreliable why not make them aware of it? I would want to know. Just like buying a car, I would like to know what I need to look out for before buying a dud. Why not apply this to gods?

    You are highly ignorant and clueless when it comes to atheists – unnecessary in the 21st century. Why not ask and educate yourself? No! The absence of a god-belief is NOT a worldview. What a weird concept.

    If a theist looses their faith after being asked just a few questions is that really a “loss” for you?

    You are scared, that’s all. You see the danger in people actually thinking about their beliefs and are trying to lie and deceive to keep others from thinking. Because you are scared of reality.

    • Hi, StopS. In a brief comment (280 words) you accused me of being a liar, highly ignorant, clueless, scared, highly dishonest, automatically defensive, teaching people to lie, defend, avert and deceive, deceiving others to keep them from thinking, and, of not understanding logic. Anything else? I want to give you the opportunity to vent fully, then I hope we can have a rational discussion.

      Thanks!

      Mark

    • Ranting aside, there were some valid points in there. The same question of “why try and reach someone to defend themselves in an intellectually honest conversation?” Isn’t that the epitome of being “defensive”. The defensive nature is something I come across constantly. It’s assumed I have a hidden agenda when I ask a question I’m seriously and honestly curious about. However, it’s often met with something along the lines of; “you just hate God and are trying to get me to do the same” In that one sentence (it’s a verbatim response that i got a few days ago) I’m being told what I think and what my motives are, by someone who can’t know as well as I do what they are. It’s funny to me, since any response of that nature shows me that the person I’m speaking to has the ability to be staggeringly wrong (as every word was inaccurate). So if they’re capable of being so incredibly wrong over something so basic, wouldn’t that mean that they’re more than capable of being wrong over something much more complicated, like the existence of God? I just seems to me that being overly defensive.. or defensive at all in a conversation often results in incorrect accusations, assertions, and assumptions, which in turn only shows their capacity for being incorrect on other things.

      Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg, because it also seems to show a great amount of fear that if they don’t attack, and instead conduct in a civil, calm, and rational conversation, that in the end, they may leave with a doubt or two.

      Where this fear of doubt came into play when discussing theology is baffling to me, because in many other instances in life, having doubts are normal, healthy, and help us to make the right decisions.

      Personally, I think it would be great if I walked away from a conversation with a theist with a few doubts…. it certainly would motivate me to learn more and try to find what is right and true.

      If you were to go into every situation, (not just the topic at hand), with a mindset of “this person is out to get me”, I belive it stands to reason that you’d live a very paranoid and unhappy life.

      Just my 2 cents

    • Hi, Jorudinz. I’m not sure where the quote comes from – “why try and reach someone to defend themselves in an intellectually honest conversation?” Let me know who you’re quoting and I’ll respond to that.

      As to the other points in your comment:

      When I was an atheist arguing with theists, I often ran into similar responses. I found them ill-equipped to defend their beliefs, so they would often lash out at me because of what I was saying about their beliefs. However, when I met theists who were well-equipped to defend their beliefs we had excellent conversations. That may be what you’re running into as well. It may also be that they are afraid they will begin to have doubts because their beliefs are not based on logic and evidence.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Mark

  7. Karlton on said:

    As an atheist I actually agree with many of your points. However I should point out the the assertion that they are trying to help you find “a reliable method of believing in God” is a straw man from my experience. Most of the people that I have spoken to in the SE movement are trying to demonstrate if subjective experience is a reliable method for arriving at truth in general” not necessarily God.

    This, if accurate, would make your first accusation irrelevant.

    • Hi, Karlton and thank you for your comment. Here’s the context from my article:

      “As one street epistemologist says about himself on his YouTube channel – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” That sounds reasonable. He wants to know how people arrive at their belief in God and if in his judgment they used a ‘possibly unreliable method’ to arrive at that belief, he will ‘try to help them discover that.’

      Think about that for a moment.

      The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.

      Street epistemologists present themselves as people who can help other people ‘have more reliable ways to come to knowledge’ (motto of StreetEpistemology.com). That gives anyone who is interested in discerning the truth behind the methodology of street epistemology a measuring stick. We can look for both reliability of methodology and gaining of true knowledge.”

      I believe this is a logical statement. If someone believes they can help another person discover whether they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive at some belief, it would seem that the someone either knows the reliable method or the path for arriving at the reliable method. Otherwise, how could someone help another person discover whether they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive at a belief?

      You wrote: “Most of the people that I have spoken to in the SE movement are trying to demonstrate if subjective experience is a reliable method for arriving at truth in general” not necessarily God.” I see little problem with that “if” that is their true purpose. Subjective experience is no way to determine truth. However, as I’ve written in other articles, Street epistemologists’ real purpose is to try to ‘talk people out of their faith.’ Peter Boghossian in his book ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ described street epistemologists as ‘people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faith reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.’ (A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013) That’s the reason I recommend Christians be ‘on guard’ and prepare their children and teens to talk with street epistemologists. Discussions should be based on objective evidence, not subjective experience.

      Hope that helps! Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      I’ve seen you use the following premise many times in many responses;

      “The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God.”

      I believe this to be patently false, and I believe I can provide an analogy to prove so.

      Someone’s car is broken down on the side of the road, and the owner claims to know what’s wrong with it. If I seem them adding sawdust to the crank case, and I point out that there’s a problem with his or her approach by adding sawdust, that doesn’t mean that I know, or am even claiming to know what’s wrong with their vehicle or how to fix it. I just know enough about cars to know that putting sawdust in their oil won’t fix anything, and in fact, will almost certainly create more problems.

    • By then asking them “what makes you think that adding sawdust in your crank case is going to solve the problem?”

      Asking this question is not dishonest, I’m not trying to trick them, I’m not claiming to know the right way to fix their car, and my motivation for asking would be because I’d be beyond curious as to how they reached their conclusion.

    • I agree. In fact, it sounds like you’re trying to help the car’s owner by pointing out something that will damage his car. You ask that question because, as you wrote earlier, “I just know enough about cars to know that putting sawdust in their oil won’t fix anything, and in fact, will almost certainly create more problems.” It is because of your basic knowledge about cars that you can ask that question knowing that you can demonstrate to them both unreliable methods (adding sawdust in the crankcase) and reliable methods (not adding sawdust in the crankcase).

      That goes back to my “premise,” as you described it, that the atheist who asks random people how they arrived at their God belief for the purpose of showing them both unreliable and reliable methods for arriving at a “God belief” is presenting themselves as knowing something about arriving at God beliefs, as you did with the example of the sawdust in the crankcase.

      In your previous comment you stated – “I believe this to be patently false, and I believe I can provide an analogy to prove so” – and proceeded to share the example of the car broken down on the side of the road. What you did by sharing that example was to demonstrate that what I wrote about the street epistemologist is patently true.

      Mark

    • Hi Mark. I’ll only respond to this one thread to make things simpler. Thank you for taking the time to provide thoughtful response. However, I’m confused on how you can agree that my analogy is not only accurate, but also fits into how the SE approaches a theist, and then say that I’ve shown your premise to be patently true. I like analogies, so I’ll say that to me, that seems similar to saying “yes, I agree 2+2 = 4. So you’ve shown that my assertion of 2+2 = 5 is patently true”

      I’m not sure where the disconnect is happening here, but if you’ve agreed my car analogy is comparable (which you did), and myself essentially being the SE in the car example where you agree I’m correct and honest in knowing that the process they’ve used to come to their conclusion on how to fix the car is flawed, even without knowing the right process myself…. see where I’m confused? I’m not sure how you can agree the car Epistemologist can know a process is flawed while simultaneously not knowing the correct process, then say the car Epistemologist is implying he knows the correct process in which to determine what is actually wrong with the car, after agreeing that he wouldn’t need to know the correct process to know an incorrect process.

      This is very circular, I know. Just trying to understand your line of think.

    • Hi, Jorudinz. Not sure where we are disagreeing, but I do want to understand so we can go deeper into this area. You wrote:

      “I’m not sure how you can agree the car Epistemologist can know a process is flawed while simultaneously not knowing the correct process, then say the car Epistemologist is implying he knows the correct process in which to determine what is actually wrong with the car, after agreeing that he wouldn’t need to know the correct process to know an incorrect process. This is very circular, I know. Just trying to understand your line of think.”

      The car epistemologist knew the process is flawed because he knew enough about cars to know you don’t add sawdust to a crankcase. How did he know that? What previous information did he have about how a car works to know sawdust doesn’t work in a crankcase? Did he read a book? Attend a class? Remember something his father taught him about cars? He has to have some previous knowledge about how a car works (specifically the inner working of a crankcase) and be able to ask questions of the car owner that helps the car owner know something about how a car works. The car epistemologist may not know a reliable process for repairing the car, but he does know an unreliable process (adding sawdust to the crankcase) because of some previous knowledge.

      That’s what I’ve been saying about the street epistemologist. They have to know something about the process of arriving at a “God belief” to ask the questions that will lead a person to discover unreliable methods for that belief. Make sense?

      Are you saying that the only thing today’s street epistemologists can do is point out unreliable methods for arriving at a “God belief” and that they do not know reliable methods for arriving at a “God belief”? Based on your analogy with the car, it seems that’s what you’re saying. That sounds more like agnosticism. They don’t know how to discover a reliable method, but they know an unreliable method when they see it. It sounds from your analogy that the only thing a street epistemologist can do for another person is point out unreliable methods for “God belief”? Is that correct?

      I may have been giving street epistemologists more credit than I should. I thought they were atheists and knew that God doesn’t exist. I based that on my own experience as an atheist, knowing hundreds of atheists, and reading the writings of scores of atheists from the past century. Peter Boghossian in his book ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ described street epistemologists as ‘people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.’ In an interview Kevin Harris did with William Lane Craig, Harris played some clips of Boghossian so that Craig could comment. One of the clips from Boghossian said – “My book is about how to talk people out of a faith tradition, out of irrationality, out of superstition, and into reason. Philosophy – the term is epistemology – how you know, how you come to know. So the book teaches people to talk other people into a reliable epistemology. God is a conclusion that one comes to if one doesn’t have a reliable epistemology.” In his book, Boghossian wrote that the street epistemologist “doesn’t just tear down fairytales, comforting delusions, and imagined entities. She offers a humanistic vision.” Aha! There is the “reliable method” of the street epistemologist. They offer a “humanistic vision” as the answer to questions about unreliable methods of arriving at a “God belief.” Theism is wrong. Humanism is right. That’s the atheism I remember from my youth.

      It seems that Boghossian thinks of a street epistemologist as someone who is “equipped” with tools to go out into the community and help people “abandon their faith and embrace reason.” His intention is to “talk people out of a faith tradition, out of irrationality, out of superstition, and into reason.” That reasoning, says Boghossian, leads to the “humanistic vision,” the reliable method. He even used the term “reliable” in his comments – “So the book teaches people to talk other people into a reliable epistemology.” According to Boghossian, street epistemologists know both the unreliable and reliable ways to “know” something is true.

      Your car analogy sounds much different than what Boghossian and most other atheists I know are saying. Do you think you are saying the same thing as Boghossian? Someone who can help another person abandon their faith in God and “embrace reason” through the “humanistic vision” seems more like a person who can tell someone how to repair a car, not just ask questions about what’s wrong with the car. Boghossian and those who agree with him are on a mission to turn people from believing in God. He uses questions based on believing he has all the answers that come from the “humanistic vision.” He believes he can teach people (street epistemologists) to talk other people into a reliable epistemology. There is no agnosticism on his part. He is a full out atheist.

      Boghossian literally wrote the book on atheist street epistemology. Are you saying you don’t agree with him and espouse a different type of street epistemology? an agnostic epistemology? If so, I would like to know more about it.

      Thanks

      Mark

    • Hi Mark. So it’s become clear to me where we differ. It’s in our different presumptions of what a SE goes into the interaction with in his or her mindset. For example, I’m assuming that they are going in to try and see if there are flaws with someone’s decision making process as a whole (which is why my case analogy worked), not presuming there is a flaw, then narrowing it down to the more definitive topic at hand, whereas I believe you assume they are going in knowing there’s a flaw before having any informationew about the person. If this is true, then you should have disagreed that my analogy was applicable, since I wouldn’t have known enough to know that what he was doing was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t his car at all….maybe it was his estranged wife’s and he was trying to destroy the engine, in which case he’d be going about it absolutely right.

      True SE imo needs to start with the understanding that there’s potentially nothing wrong with someone’s reasons for believing in God. Then by having your own questions answered and gathering information, move the conversation along accordingly. When I engage a theist, I first try and find out about how their mind works, and what their processes are for reaching conclusions. If I realize they have absolutely horrible decision making skills in general (“sure, I love to drive drunk as can be….it’s a rush”), then there isn’t much point in continuing the conversation. However, if I determine that an individual has very strict criteria for believing most of the things they believe in, but forgo their standards only with their belief in their god, now we’re getting somewhere, and hopefully can have a long conversation that’s mutually beneficial.

      I think it’s wrong to assume that all SE’s go into the interaction the way you assume they do….I’m kind of proof that they all don’t go in with the same mindset or goals.

      Thank you for your time.

      Joel

    • Thank you, Joel.

      “I think it’s wrong to assume that all SE’s go into the interaction the way you assume they do….I’m kind of proof that they all don’t go in with the same mindset or goals.”

      It appears from what you are saying that your view of the purpose of street epistemology is different than the SE of Peter Boghossian and those who follow his thinking. His book, How To Create An Atheist, was published toward the end of 2013. It got a lot of attention and brought the term “street epistemologist” into public view.

      I wrote this article, Breaking Down Street Epistemology, in January 2015 after seeing what atheists would do with Boghossian’s emphasis. I watched SE videos online and read material coming from new websites attached to the SE perspective of Boghossian. I also watched some of Boghossian’s talks to atheist groups before and after the publication of his book. The emphasis from Boghossian and others who identified as street epistemologists was very similar, if not identical. After researching for more than a year, I wrote the article. It was based on observations, not assumptions.

      You have now introduced a different take on street epistemology that is unlike Boghossian’s. You wrote:

      “True SE imo needs to start with the understanding that there’s potentially nothing wrong with someone’s reasons for believing in God.”

      Boghossian, on the other hand, thinks that someone who believes in God has serious problems and needs an “intervention.”

      “Street Epistemologists view every conversation with the faithful as an intervention. An intervention is an attempt to help people, or ‘subjects’ as they’re referred to in an clinical context, change their beliefs and/or behavior. Subjects start with a faith-based belief or a faith-based epistemology. You administer a dialectical treatment with the goal of helping them become less certain and less confident in their faith commitment (or perhaps even cured of faith entirely). You will, in a very real sense, be administering a dialectical treatment to your conversational partners in a similar way that drug addicts receive treatment for drug abuse.” Peter Boghossian, How To Create An Atheist

      Boghossian believes that people who believe in God are delusional and that the role of a street epistemologist is “helping people see through a delusion.” However, you stated that you believe true street epistemology “needs to start with the understanding that there’s potentially nothing wrong with someone’s reasons for believing in God.” I agree. Belief in God is rational and reasonable.

      Thank you for clarifying this for me. I look forward to further conversations.

      Mark

      􏰐􏰎􏰆 􏰋􏰓􏰚􏰢􏰱􏰌􏰘􏰍􏰓􏰨􏰆 􏰕􏰓􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰞􏰗􏰎􏰌􏰆 􏰎􏰌􏰛􏰌􏰎􏰎􏰌􏰜􏰆 􏰍􏰐􏰆 􏰔􏰖􏰆 􏰕 􏰘􏰝􏰔􏰖􏰔􏰘􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰘􏰐􏰖􏰍􏰌􏰼􏰍􏰡􏰆 􏰘􏰒􏰕􏰖􏰑􏰌􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰔􏰎􏰆 􏰢􏰌􏰝􏰔􏰌􏰛􏰓􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰜􏱎􏰐􏰎􏰆 􏰢􏰌􏰒􏰕􏰣􏰔􏰐􏰎􏰥 􏰊􏰚􏰢􏰱􏰌􏰘􏰍􏰓􏰆 􏰓􏰍􏰕􏰎􏰍􏰆 􏰤􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰆 􏰕􏰆 􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰻􏰢􏰕􏰓􏰌􏰜􏰆 􏰢􏰌􏰝􏰔􏰌􏰛􏰆 􏰐􏰎􏰆 􏰕􏰆 􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰻􏰢􏰕􏰓􏰌􏰜 􏰌􏰟􏰔􏰓􏰍􏰌􏰠􏰐􏰝􏰐􏰑􏰞􏰥􏰆􏰸􏰐􏰚􏰆 􏰕􏰜􏰠􏰔􏰖􏰔􏰓􏰍􏰌􏰎􏰆 􏰕􏰆 􏰜􏰔􏰕􏰝􏰌􏰘􏰍􏰔􏰘􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰍􏰎􏰌􏰕􏰍􏰠􏰌􏰖􏰍􏰆 􏰤􏰔􏰍􏰒 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰑􏰐􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰐􏰛􏰆 􏰒􏰌􏰝􏰟􏰔􏰖􏰑􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰠􏰆 􏰢􏰌􏰘􏰐􏰠􏰌􏰆 􏰝􏰌􏰓􏰓􏰆 􏰘􏰌􏰎􏰍􏰕􏰔􏰖􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰆 􏰝􏰌􏰓􏰓 􏰘􏰐􏰖􏰛􏰔􏰜􏰌􏰖􏰍􏰆􏰔􏰖􏰆􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰔􏰎􏰆􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰆􏰘􏰐􏰠􏰠􏰔􏰍􏰠􏰌􏰖􏰍􏰆􏰾􏰐􏰎􏰆􏰟􏰌􏰎􏰒􏰕􏰟􏰓􏰆􏰌􏰣􏰌􏰖􏰆􏰘􏰚􏰎􏰌􏰜 􏰐􏰛􏰆􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰆􏰌􏰖􏰍􏰔􏰎􏰌􏰝􏰞􏱃􏰥

    • Hi, Jourdinz. The “premise” you mention comes from a quote by a street epistemologist on his YouTube channel. His quote is – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” Two questions: how is the street epistemologist going to identify that someone is using a possibly unreliable method to arrive at their “God belief,” and, what method will the street epistemologist use to “help them discover that”? Based on what the street epistemologist said on his YouTube channel, is it not logical to think he knows reliable and unreliable methods for arriving at a “God belief”?

      As you state in your example about the car broken down on the side of the road and the owner claiming to know what’s wrong with it – “I just know enough about cars to know that putting sawdust in their oil won’t fix anything, and in fact, will almost certainly create more problems.” Exactly! We are in agreement. You knew “just enough about cars” to know reliable and unreliable methods for addressing the owner’s problem. That’s what I am saying about the street epistemologist who says he can help someone discover reliable and possibly unreliable methods for arriving at their “God belief.”

      Thanks!

      Mark

  8. Russell D. on said:

    Everyone should understand why they believe what they believe. It is what separates the healthy minded individual from the sheep that will follow anything. If they don’t understand why they believe then these types of questions will help separate any kernels of absolute objective truth they may hold from the myths, indoctrination or any other incorrect dogma that may have also seeped in. If a person already believes the absolute truth then none of these basic, simple questions would undermine it.

    • Hi, Russell. I agree with you in principle. One of my primary points to Christians and Christian leaders for more than 40 years has been the necessity to equip/train young Christians for their life and service to God. One of the reasons I wrote the article about Street Epistemology was to help Christian parents understand how important it is to prepare their children to think critically. Thanks!

  9. I would suggest everyone who read this blog post actually go look up street epistemology, watch some videos and evaluate it for yourself.
    I started using Street Epistemology because I care about people and I wanted a way to have meaningful, reflective conversations with friends and family members about their faith without getting into arguments and burning relationships.
    I use Street epistemology on everything from god claims to ufos and conspiracy theories, and I make no claims to knowledge… I just want to evaluate the claim with someone and test it to see the foundation the belief is resting on.
    If any of the supernatural claims are true I want to know about it, but I also want to test the claim before I just execpt it.
    Take it from me, I care greatly for everyone that I talk to because they could be making decisions based on a belief that’s not true.

    -Your friendly caring skeptic ;P

    • Hi, Nete. I agree with you. It’s a great idea to watch videos of street epistemologists. Also suggest reading “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian where he explains the real purpose for street epistemology. Be sure to begin with the Advance Praise in the books by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, John Loftus, Victor Stenger, Richard Carrier, Steven Brutus, Guy Harrison, Stefan Molyneux, Al Stefanelli, Darrel Ray, Jake Farr-Wharton, Dan Barker, Christopher Johnson, Tim van Gelder, Kevin Boileau, Jake Farr-Wharton, and Russell Blackford. I appreciate their insights to the purpose of the book and street epistemology.

      “Up to now, most atheists have simply criticized religion in various ways, but the point is to dispel it. In A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian fills that gap, telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with skills to attack religion at its weakest point: its reliance on faith rather than evidence. This book is essential for nonbelievers who want to do more than just carp about religion, but want to weaken its odious grasp on the world.” Jerry Coyne

      “There is nothing else on the market like this book that helps atheists talk believers out of their faith. Every atheist interested in doing so, or who talks to believers about faith at all, should read it. It’s both needed and brilliant!” John Loftus

      “This is a manual that we can use in our everyday interaction with those infected by the faith virus.” Darrel Ray

      Here’s an excerpt from Chapter I – Street Epistemology

      “This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith. You’ll learn how to engage the faith􏰦􏰒􏰔􏰓􏰆full in conversations that help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their beliefs, and mistrust their faith. I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, ‘Street Epistemology.’ The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faith reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.” Peter Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists

      Just so we’re clear about the real purpose of street epistemology. 􏰢􏰐􏰐􏰩􏰆 􏰔􏰓 􏰌􏰓􏰓􏰌􏰖􏰍􏰔􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰛􏰐􏰎􏰆 􏰖􏰐􏰖􏰢􏰌􏰝􏰔􏰌􏰣􏰌􏰎􏰓􏰆 􏰤􏰒􏰐􏰆 􏰤􏰕􏰖􏰍􏰆 􏰍􏰐􏰆 􏰜􏰐􏰆 􏰠􏰐􏰎􏰌􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰕􏰖􏰆 􏰱􏰚􏰓􏰍 􏰘􏰕􏰎􏰟􏰆 􏰕􏰢􏰐􏰚􏰍􏰆 􏰎􏰌􏰝􏰔􏰑􏰔􏰐􏰖􏰡􏰆 􏰢􏰚􏰍􏰆 􏰤􏰕􏰖􏰍􏰆 􏰍􏰐􏰆 􏰤􏰌􏰕􏰩􏰌􏰖􏰆 􏰔􏰍􏰓􏰆 􏰐􏰜􏰔􏰐􏰚􏰓􏰆 􏰑􏰎􏰕􏰓􏰟 􏰐􏰖􏰆􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆􏰤􏰐􏰎􏰝􏰜􏰥

    • I’ve read the book, and yes I’ve seen the comments these people wrote about and for the book. I’m curious though, how would you suggest marketing a book to a group of people that are used to “debating” with facts, to get them to engage more in friendly dialogue than adversarial debate?

    • I’m interested to know why you think questioning the way you arrived at a belief is a clever ruse, if the belief is true shouldn’t this be an easy question, if you were asked how you determined you belief in Gravity wouldn’t that be an easy one to dispel. So why is the question why do I believe in God and is faith reliable so damaging to Christians you had to put a blog about it on the web, that some what seems a little discrediting

    • Hi, Matt. Nice to hear from you. Are you saying that a street epistemologist has no strategy in mind? Then, why are they on the street (e.g. campus, park, etc) asking questions to Christians? A similar series of questions between Christian and atheist friends during a conversation wouldn’t necessarily be strategic in the same sense that a stranger asking questions on the street would have.

      As I stated in the article, my purpose was and is to equip Christians of all ages, but especially the young, to ‘recognize’ atheist arguments for what they are, including when there is no argument. Even as Dr. Boghossian and others equip atheists to argue people “out of faith” (Chapter 1, A Manual for Creating Atheists … “This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith.”), so I and other Christians equip Christians to defend Christianity in private and public situations.

      How is writing to Christians for the purpose of educating and equipping “a little discrediting”? Dr. Boghossian wrote his book and blog, as have many other atheists, for the purpose of educating and equipping atheists to talk Christians out of their faith. Does that discredit them in some way? Was my educational work in the 1960s to train atheists and talk Christians out of their faith “a little discrediting” as well? If so, how?

      Thanks! Mark

    • Im saying why is this a difficult question. “What makes your religion true”. Can you think of any other instance were asking why x is true, would be so challenging. gavity wouldnt be so hard math wouldn’t be difficult. I think I would be easy to prove that life was wiped out by a globle flood, why is there no evedince?

    • Hi, Matt. Ask an “easy” question and you can probably get an “easy” answer. How much is 1+1? 2. What are the chemical properties of water? H2O. Ask a “tough” question and you will probably get a “tough” answer. How many days ago did the universe begin? How much water did it take to cover the earth in the global flood? Evidences do exist to discover the truth for many tough questions, but getting answers to tough questions usually takes time. Even questions about gravity take time to answer. I believe that the reason I return to the ground after jumping up off the ground is because of gravity. But how does gravity work in light of how the earth is moving through the universe? That takes a bit longer to answer. Can gravity affect the surface of objects in orbit around each other? If true, how does that work? How about a more difficult math question, like find constants A and B that make this equation true – 2x-9/x^2- x- 6 = A/x-3 + B/x+2 / as in fraction and ^2 as squared. The answer to that math question might take a little longer than the easy question about 1+1. It can still be answered .. but takes more time to figure out.

      What makes Christianity true? I’ve been speaking and writing about that for 45 years. People are still asking me questions. That’s why I decided to write a series about what convinced me to become a theist and Christian. It’s called “Convince Me There’s A God.” I began writing it in 2012 and have a few more years to go to finish the answer. Can a Christian answer the question in less than 10 seconds? Yes. “The evidence for the existence of God, the credibility of the Bible, and the historicity of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are overwhelming.” Will that answer contain enough information to convince an atheist there’s a God? Probably not. An answer that will convince an atheist will take longer.

      You asked why there is “no evidence” that would prove that life was wiped out by a global flood. Evidence does exist. It’s available in books as well as online. Most atheists I’ve talked with through the years don’t want to look at the evidence or won’t accept it as evidence when they see it, but that doesn’t change the fact that evidence does exist.

      Hope that helps. Mark

    • Still not exactly what I meant. I mean it’s easy to defend a belief in Gravity. it’s easy to describe how the basic principals of math work and why they make sense. But it’s very difficult to make sense of a belief in God as far as how one would know it to be true. As far as proof for the flood, I would need to see what you mean by that. If your going to drag out answers in Genesis than you have much more research to do. If the flood were true we would have some serious problems to consider, like were did all that extra water come from to cover all the mountains, the salt content of the water and oh balance would have been thrown way off, plus if the water had reached that high then it would have frozen which mean all of the marine life would have died as well. Plus we would have a fossil record of such a recent mass extinction. And there are way more problems than that. I am not aware of why you are so certain in your belief. But I am curious if you were wrong and I’m not saying that you are how would you go about finding out

    • Do you see gravity with your eyes? No, but you do see the results of gravity. Do you see God with your eyes? No, but you do see the results of God’s creative activity. Gravity exists and God exists. Not seen but known.

      As for the global flood, it’s a matter of looking at all of the available evidence. What was the earth’s geology, topography and climatology prior to the flood? Was it the same as today or did a massive world-wide flood change what was into what is? Was enough water stored above the earth and under the earth to flood the earth? What impact would a global flood have on topography, geology and climatology? Would a flood of that magnitude have frozen before returning to caverns under the earth where the water was and is stored (e.g. ocean springs, huge reserves of fresh water under the ocean, large body of water locked in ringwoodite beneath earth’s crust, etc.)? Or would the impact of such a flood bring about an ice age? Is there geological evidence that indicates rapid formation? Do rock formations demonstrate water catastrophism on a global scale? What about modern advancements in accelerator mass spectrometer method that impact the dating of rocks and fossils?

      As a journalist I am not concerned about being right or wrong as I begin an investigation. My sole concern is to discover truth. I became a theist and Christian 45 years ago through the process of investigation. I continue to investigate and will believe what is true.

    • One you still have to prove it was God that created everything you can’t just assert it and say it is. Two how could you know for sure it was the Christian God. And not a god from another religion. there is no data to support your claims about the flood. and your just throwing around this hole I was a journalist thing to try and sound open minded. If scientists had proven that the world was flood ten this and years ago this would be put into every texted book in the world. To better understand our earths history but the evidence isn’t there. And by the way even if the water had some how receded in to the crust and made all of the underground springs and resivorers there still wouldn’t be anywhere close to enough water to flood the earth the way it is described in the bible. And you never answered my last question. If you were wrong about your beliefs how could you know

    • Hi, Matt. Here are some thoughts on your points:

      1) “One you still have to prove it was God that created everything you can’t just assert it and say it is.”

      Based on the definition of the word “prove” as “to show the existence, truth, or correctness of (something) by using evidence, logic, etc.,” I believe I am doing that through the process of sharing evidences, using logic, etc. If you mean “prove” in the sense of “to check the correctness of (as an arithmetic result),” I don’t know of a math formula for “proving” God’s existence.

      Once I have gone through a methodological process to determine something to be true, I then speak about something as true. If I am wearing sneakers and they are black in color and I have determined through a methodological process that they are indeed black, I will speak about my sneakers as being black in color. That becomes a statement of fact (truth) based on what I observe as having the state or quality of having existence or substance (reality). Someone may argue with me that I am wearing white boots, but that does not change the fact that I am wearing black sneakers. We both look at the evidence (the black sneakers), yet come to a different conclusion based on our understanding of the evidence. What is truth? Truth is that which corresponds to reality. What is reality? I’m wearing black sneakers. Other people can believe that I am wearing white boots, but that does not change reality and does not change truth.

      2) “Two how could you know for sure it was the Christian God. And not a god from another religion.”

      That’s an excellent question. If God exists, which God? My journey was from strong atheism to deism to theism to Christianity. I have written hundreds of articles about why I believe God is the God of the Old and New Testaments and will be going into more depth next year in my series “Convince Me There’s A God.” I spent time studying Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism before becoming an atheist. Didn’t find truth there. Didn’t find truth in atheism. I’ve studied many, many other religions through the years. Didn’t find truth there either. I found truth in Christianity. Based on using a methodological process I determined that the Christian God is God. That’s why I say I believe in the God of the Bible.

      3) “there is no data to support your claims about the flood.”

      First, let’s remember who brought up the global flood issue – you did. The global flood is not mentioned in my article. Here’s where you brought it up in your comment dated 04/12/16: “Im saying why is this a difficult question. “What makes your religion true”. Can you think of any other instance were asking why x is true, would be so challenging. gavity wouldnt be so hard math wouldn’t be difficult. I think I would be easy to prove that life was wiped out by a globle flood, why is there no evedince?”

      In answering your question about what you called the “global flood,” I shared a small number of evidential points that “support” claims about the global flood. As I wrote in an earlier response to your comment – “Most atheists I’ve talked with through the years don’t want to look at the evidence or won’t accept it as evidence when they see it, but that doesn’t change the fact that evidence does exist.”

      4) “and your just throwing around this hole I was a journalist thing to try and sound open minded.”

      Why do you think I’m “throwing around” the fact that I’m a journalist? It’s a simple statement of fact. I went to college 50 years ago for the purpose of getting an education in journalism and spent more than 40 years as a career journalist in radio, television, newspapers, magazines and online. My education, training and experience in the field of journalism is at the root of how I think and research. I don’t mention my professional experience “to try and sound open minded.” I am able to have an “open mind” because of that professional journalism training and experience. If you tell me that you are a medical doctor and have been practicing medicine for 20, 30, 40 or more years, that tells me something about the way you think and do research. Rather than taking an oppositional view to your training and experience, I would want to know more about it. What kind of medicine? What kind of practice? If you would like to share with me your educational background and professional experience, I would enjoy knowing more about it.

      5) “And you never answered my last question. If you were wrong about your beliefs how could you know”

      I will share with you the same answer I gave in the last exchange – “I continue to investigate and will believe what is true.” I believe I will eventually know “just as I also am known.”

      Question for you. If you were wrong about your beliefs, how could you know? What method do you use to determine truth? How can you be sure your method can lead you to know the truth about God’s existence?

    • So then what would convince you that you were wrong. What would that look like. I know what would convince me there was a god, if let’s say we did a prayer study on AIDS victims and it was shown that faith in God healed 80 percent of AIDS carriers that might be enough to convince me.if the majority of geologists agreed that the earth was flooded and all life survived because of one man and a boat. And they had pletty of fossils to show that all these species died at the same time meaning the were found in the same layers of dirt I mean think about it. If that were true we should be able to dig down a few feet anywhere in the world and find numerous fossils of land and marine life. We should be able to see a very limited number of genes for all species scene there were only two of each species that survived. I think if were undoubtably a god he wouldn’t base salvation on wether you believe in him because you were lucky enough to be born in the right side of the world.

    • Hi, Matthew. Convincing me that I am wrong about there being a God and that God is the God of the Bible would take evidence that demonstrated that all or much of the evidence I’ve looked through the past 45 years is wrong. I look at evidence every day that purports to disprove the evidence I’ve seen, but none of it has risen to the level necessary to convince me I am wrong.

      Thank you for sharing with me what it would take to convince you of God’s existence. As for how God saves people, it is stated clearly in the Bible – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Since Christianity began in Israel and spread across the world, being born anywhere in the world is “the right side of the world.”

    • To answer your question I use external corispondense an fuctional adequacy to determine truth. If you can pray for something and it happen immediately that would certainly prove God exists.( would have to be something physical that all could see). You can’t just pray for internal peace or something like that or God could just show his face that would do it.

    • What you have described is exactly what Jesus Christ did when He was on earth. However, people didn’t believe it even when they saw it then and most wouldn’t believe it if they saw it now. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith. Faith is trusting the evidence that is true.

    • knowledge on said:

      Do we really see the results of God?
      If that is true, than shouldn’t we be able to test it?

    • Yes and yes. The “results” of God are both natural and supernatural. Natural sciences can test the natural results of God. Supernatural sciences can test the supernatural results of God.

    • “The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God”

      Where in the aforementioned statement did the atheist in question claim to know a reliable method to determine belief in god? This is similar to something I run into regularly in my talks and debates… it’s the misconception that the rejection of one claim means the person adopts the default position that the opposite claim is true. For example, my being an atheist is because I reject the claims a god exists based on the evidence at hand. That does NOT mean I default to a claim that no gods exist. An analogy for this is; there’s a jar of pennies on a desk. There’s either an even number or an odd number of pennies in the jar. A person approaches me and says “I know/believe that there is an even number of pennies in the jar. Will you accept my claim and believe it’s even too”. Without more than his proclamation of knowledge, my answer would be “no, I don’t believe there to be an even number in there” However, that does not mean by default that I am claiming to believe or know that there is an odd number of pennies in the jar.

      That analogy is very similar to you implying that just because someone wants to see if a thought process for belief is problematic that the individual inquiring knows a thought process that isn’t. It’s an unfounded, fallacious, and borderline intellectually dishonest assertion on your part….yet you claim dishonesty and trickery on their part? Interesting.

    • Hi, Jorudinz. Nice to hear from you. Let’s look at the full quote from my article:
      ___________________

      “As one street epistemologist says about himself on his YouTube channel – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” That sounds reasonable. He wants to know how people arrive at their belief in God and if in his judgment they used a ‘possibly unreliable method’ to arrive at that belief, he will ‘try to help them discover that.’

      Think about that for a moment.

      The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God. But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists. It’s obvious that the statement about helping people discover that they’re using an unreliable method to arrive at belief in God is a ruse, a clever trick.

      Street epistemologists present themselves as people who can help other people ‘have more reliable ways to come to knowledge’ (motto of StreetEpistemology.com). That gives anyone who is interested in discerning the truth behind the methodology of street epistemology a measuring stick. We can look for both reliability of methodology and gaining of true knowledge.”
      _________________

      You wrote – “Where in the aforementioned statement did the atheist in question claim to know a reliable method to determine belief in god?”

      He implied it – “I ask random people how they arrived at their God belief, and if they are using a possibly unreliable method to arrive there, try to help them discover that.” By saying that you can tell if someone is using “a possibly unreliable method” implies that you know a reliable method. Otherwise how could he help anyone if he didn’t know something.

      Another important aspect of this and other atheists who use street epistemology is to understand their purpose. Their stated purpose is “to talk believers out of their faith.” Their purpose is NOT to help someone “discover” how to develop a reliable method to arriving at their “God belief.” Their purpose is “to talk believers out of their faith.” It’s helpful to know someone’s real purpose. That way we can discern the truth of their statements.

      You wrote – “That analogy is very similar to you implying that just because someone wants to see if a thought process for belief is problematic that the individual inquiring knows a thought process that isn’t. It’s an unfounded, fallacious, and borderline intellectually dishonest assertion on your part….yet you claim dishonesty and trickery on their part? Interesting.”

      I don’t see how my analysis is in any way “unfounded, fallacious, and borderline intellectually dishonest.” Street epistemologists have a specific purpose – to talk believers out of their faith. That’s the primary factual statement in the first sentence in the first chapter of their manual for creating atheists – “􏰦􏰒􏰔􏰓􏰆This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith.” (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter I Street Epistemology) It is a purpose that the street epistemologist did not reveal to people when he/she asked to interview them. If you want honesty, how about street epistemologists saying this – “Hi, I’m an atheist and street epistemologist. I want to talk you out of your faith in God. May I interview you on camera for five minutes?” That would be honesty.􏰤 No tricks. Just truth.

      􏰟􏰌􏰐􏰟􏰝􏰌􏰆 􏰐􏰣􏰌􏰎􏰘􏰐􏰠􏰌􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰔􏰎 􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰡􏰆 􏰋􏰊􏰍􏰎􏰌􏰌􏰍􏰆 􏰅􏰟􏰔􏰓􏰍􏰌􏰠􏰐􏰝􏰐􏰑􏰞􏰥􏰨􏰆 􏰦􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰑􏰐􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰐􏰛􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰔􏰓􏰆 􏰢􏰐􏰐􏰩􏰆 􏰔􏰓􏰆 􏰍􏰐 􏰘􏰎􏰌􏰕􏰍􏰌􏰆 􏰕􏰆 􏰑􏰌􏰖􏰌􏰎􏰕􏰍􏰔􏰐􏰖􏰆 􏰐􏰛􏰆 􏰊􏰍􏰎􏰌􏰌􏰍􏰆 􏰅􏰟􏰔􏰓􏰍􏰌􏰠􏰐􏰝􏰐􏰑􏰔􏰓􏰍􏰓􏰰􏰆 􏰟􏰌􏰐􏰟􏰝􏰌 􏰌􏰙􏰚􏰔􏰟􏰟􏰌􏰜􏰆 􏰤􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰆 􏰕􏰎􏰎􏰕􏰞􏰆 􏰐􏰛􏰆 􏰜􏰔􏰕􏰝􏰌􏰘􏰍􏰔􏰘􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰆 􏰘􏰝􏰔􏰖􏰔􏰘􏰕􏰝􏰆 􏰍􏰐􏰐􏰝􏰓 􏰤􏰒􏰐􏰆 􏰕􏰘􏰍􏰔􏰣􏰌􏰝􏰞􏰆 􏰑􏰐􏰆 􏰔􏰖􏰍􏰐􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰓􏰍􏰎􏰌􏰌􏰍􏰓􏰡􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰟􏰎􏰔􏰓􏰐􏰖􏰓􏰡􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰢􏰕􏰎􏰓􏰡􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌 􏰘􏰒􏰚􏰎􏰘􏰒􏰌􏰓􏰡􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰓􏰘􏰒􏰐􏰐􏰝􏰓􏰡􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰘􏰐􏰠􏰠􏰚􏰖􏰔􏰍􏰞􏰧􏰔􏰖􏰍􏰐􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰞􏰆 􏰕􏰖􏰜 􏰌􏰣􏰌􏰎􏰞􏰆 􏰟􏰝􏰕􏰘􏰌􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰆 􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰛􏰚􏰝􏰆 􏰎􏰌􏰓􏰔􏰜􏰌􏰧􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰆 􏰒􏰌􏰝􏰟􏰆 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰠􏰆 􏰕􏰢􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰐􏰖 􏰍􏰒􏰌􏰔􏰎􏰆􏰛􏰕􏰔􏰍􏰒􏰆􏰕􏰖􏰜􏰆􏰌􏰠􏰢􏰎􏰕􏰘􏰌􏰆􏰎􏰌􏰕􏰓􏰐􏰖

    • Thank you for the response, however, your entire response really only had one sentence that was an attempted answer to my question. “He implied it”. Now, I disagree with that as well, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume I agreed that there was implication there, and we’ll read what you said again.

      “which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God.” If your stance in your response is actually what you meant, that “he implied it”, then wouldn’t it have been more accurate, and perhaps more intellectually honest to have used the word “implying” instead of “claiming” in that sentence?

      Now, back to your revised assertion of “implied”…. I don’t see a correlation between someone knowing someone is doing something wrong and not knowing how to do it exactly right themselves. I can’t rebuild a car engine, but if I see someone who says that they know how start by strapping dynamite to the engine and lighting the fuse, I’d be pretty safe in saying that I see a problem with how you plan on rebuilding that engine. Am I then implying that I know the best…or even the proper way to do it myself?

    • Hi, Jorudinz. If you’ve watched street epistemology videos, you know that some of them are showing the cover of “A Manual for Creating Atheists” during the first part of the interview with Christians and at the end of the interview with Christians. Covers of books, graphics, lower thirds, etc., are part of the message conveyed. I’m assuming that the video producer chose to show the cover of “A Manual for Creating Atheists” for a reason. It is in a prominent position in the lead and close of the video which demonstrates the importance the producer places on the book. In fact, it’s so important and so powerful that the producer doesn’t have to say a word about it. So, let’s read the book.

      First sentence of first chapter – “This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith.” Third sentence – “I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, ‘Street Epistemology.’ Fourth sentence – “The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.”

      I could have said that street epistemologists “claimed,” but I used the word “implied” based on the visual reference to “A Manual for Creating Atheists” and how the street epistemologists follow the manual during their “interviews” with Christians. I could also refer to the street epistemology “tutorials” on YouTube where the producer takes people through the process of attempting to talk Christians out of their faith point by point. Whether we call it “implied” or “claimed” doesn’t matter because the purpose and intent are stated in the manual as well as the tutorials and the actual videos of street epistemologists attempting to talk Christians out of their faith.

      I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion, so an atheist setting up a camera in a public place and inviting people to talk with them on camera is certainly well within their rights. It’s also well within my right to tell Christians what street epistemologists are doing since street epistemologists are not telling Christians why they’re doing what they’re doing. Do you agree?

    • Hi, Nete. That’s a good question. I love talking with people who have other worldviews, but many view anyone of another belief system as being somehow ignorant and dangerous. That goes for Christians as well as atheists and other non-Christians.

      The idea of engaging in “friendly dialogue” instead of “adversarial debate” is an interesting one. Two author friends, one Christian and the other atheist, could record an ongoing dialogue and then turn it into a book. It could be marketed as just that – a friendly dialogue about Christianity and atheism. That may seem unusual, but that’s a wonderful goal. Two people of differing viewpoints talking about the important subject of the existence of God, demonstrating respect throughout.

    • There is a major self defeating contradiction in the Christian god. Answer these questions even though I’m fairly certain I know the answers….

      Is God omnipotent and omniscient?

      Did God create every part of me withpurpose, right down to every cell and every synapse in my brain?

    • Hi, Jourdinz. I’m interested in hearing what you believe is a “major self defeating contradiction” in the Christian God.

      “Is God omnipotent and omniscient?”

      Yes, God is All Powerful and All Knowing.

      “Did God create every part of me withpurpose, right down to every cell and every synapse in my brain?”

      God created Adam and Eve. You and I are products of that creation and the “death” process that followed their disobedience to God. His stated purpose for every human being is to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love their neighbor as themself.

      Mark

  10. “But, wait a minute! Do atheists believe there is a reliable method to determine belief in God? Of course they don’t. If atheists believed there is a reliable method to believe in God, they would believe in God because they know the method upon which they can rely.”

    I’m sorry, this is plain wrong. Are you saying that a person utilizing methodological naturalism to arrive at a God belief would discount said belief? Of course not. This statement is vacuous. I believe there is a reliable method to determining if Bigfoot exists, this does not mean that I believe it exists. I’m sorry, I don’t think you thought this through.

    “atheists don’t believe in God and don’t believe there is a reliable method to know God exists”

    This is completely one hundred percent false. Even prominent atheists like Richard Carrier have proposed litmus tests for the existence of a god. http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/whynotchristian.html

    This is another version of the canard: “Nothing will convince you!” This is wrong and you should stop saying it.

    “Think about that question for a moment. Is it reasonable to ask someone to select a percentage of their belief about God?”

    Yes of course it is. I mean many Christians are agnostic. I’ve asked Christian friends how certain they are Jesus rose from the dead and they’ll say “pretty certain”. I mean is that not 90%. A conviction scale is not a new thing. What is your problem with it – I don’t get it.

    “From an apologetics perspective, what is the atheist’s argument?”

    You seem to be missing the point. A street epistemologist is not making an argument. They are simply asking how one came to conclude something. That’s it.

    “What is their evidence? There is no argument! There is no evidence. It’s just a trick thrown into the conversation to muddle and confuse the person being questioned.”

    Yes you are right. There is no evidence being offered. That’s not what street epistemology is. Are you sure you even researched this? It is not meant to confuse any more than me asking a friend who says “I believe that Obama will invade Texas”, “Wow! Interesting belief. How did you come to conclude this?” I mean…uh…this is a trick? Why?

    “unreasonable questions”

    By what standard? Asking someone how they came to a conclusion is unreasonable? Wow. I’m not actually sure you’re serious.

    “Street epistemologists also use a basic ‘swarm attack’ method of asking so many unreasonable questions in such a short period of time that the ‘victim’ has a difficult time finding anything reasonable to respond to during the supposed conversation. ‘Swarming’ someone with questions is not a conversation.”

    This is completely untrue and makes me think you have not even watched a video. What? Where in the world did you get this?

    “‘disabuse themselves of their faith.’”

    This is wrong. It is actually to disabuse someone of the use of faith itself as faith is not a reliable epistemology.

    “They are trying to talk people out of their faith.”

    At any time an interlocutor could convince a street epistemologist that a god exists. At any time. I’ll give you an example. Imagine I were talking with someone who said, “I’m 100% certain that a god exists.” I say, “Great! Why’s that!” He says, “Because I can pray to my god, Farupiton, and he will heal any cancer patient instantly.” Me: “Really! Wow! Can we go to the cancer ward?” Him: “Of course!” We go to the cancer ward, he cures an entire wing of cancer. I want to know more.

    I mean, seriously, this “Oh they just don’t want to believe!” is very disingenuous and plain wrong.

    “deceive them to the point of questioning what they believe.”

    It is very disconcerting to me that you believe the question “Why do you believe what you believe?” to be a form of deception. That pretty much says it all.

    • Hi, Ryan. We seem to disagree at many points, so please choose the one that is most important to you and we’ll begin there.

      Thanks! Mark

    • Harry Tick on said:

      The reason why there is no capital T truth is because of many scholars in philosophy of science arguing that there are many philosophical problems associated with talking about truth. For example, I would encourage you to read through this introductory philosophy on epistemology: http://philosophy.tamu.edu/~sdaniel/Notes/epi-kant.html

      Epistemology is focused on the question of how we come to know what we think we know. A lot of research in cognitive sciences have shown many cognitive biases/fallacies and tricks that our brains perform all the time. Since ultimately we come to know the world through our brains, we primarily have our senses and prefrontal cortex to process and sift information about the world. (If you don’t believe this, how exactly do you believe we come to have knowledge of the world?). My question then is, how do you know the things you believe with certainty are true, have any foundation in reality and are not the result of group think, fabricated evidence, false or dubious archeological records, cognitive biases and other problematic ways of coming to certainties? There is evidence in history of many apparitions and whole groups of people believing things that in the end we find out aren’t true. Like the witch trials in Salem for example. Many people thought they had evidence to prove all these women were witches but in fact the evidence they had was bad, subject to fear mongering, group think and many other unreliable epistemological methodologies.

      I don’t hold many certainties in life, yet I’m able to live a fulfilling happy life. Because I don’t believe there are any capital T truths does not mean my life is crippled with doubts. I merely don’t easily believe things simply because they’re popular. I constantly use logic, social sciences and science etc, to understand the world. Why are you afraid that teaching children to have doubts about believing anything anyone tells them will be bad? If we don’t teach children to question and doubt and learn for themselves, they end up being able to believe any hogwash anyone might tell them because they don’t have a reliable way of coming to knowledge (=epistemology).

      I’m not sorry to say but the atheist world is not coming for your children, your children are increasingly coming to the atheist world. And for the record, the religious world has controlled and gone to convert children all over the world for far too long, using abominable approaches like what happened to First Nations kids in Canada at the hands of the Catholics. The violence and conversion techniques used by those Catholics are still negatively affecting people 100 years later.

      If you have a problem with the relatively benign Socratic method used by street epistemologists, I’d advise you to learn about the many historical examples of violence and far worse techniques used by religious folks to convert, control and oppress entire cultures and populations of people.

      It concerns me that you think that a few questions asked to young Christians is so problematic. Science and many things in life are based on asking questions, are you teaching your young Christians to only ask the right predetermined questions and are worried about SE’s asking questions because you think being challenged in ones beliefs is bad?

      Asking questions should not be an assault on anyone’s identities, merely curiosity about how and why some people are so certain about their beliefs and using Socratic method to help flesh out inconsistencies and contradictions in reasoning or epistemology.

    • Hi, Harry. Thank you for contacting me and sharing the link to Epistemology at philosophy.tamu.edu. I studied something similar at college almost 50 years ago and continue to enjoy reading about it.

      You have shared many concepts here, so let’s pick a few to begin our discussion. You wrote:

      “A lot of research in cognitive sciences have shown many cognitive biases/fallacies and tricks that our brains perform all the time. Since ultimately we come to know the world through our brains, we primarily have our senses and prefrontal cortex to process and sift information about the world. (If you don’t believe this, how exactly do you believe we come to have knowledge of the world?). My question then is, how do you know the things you believe with certainty are true, have any foundation in reality and are not the result of group think, fabricated evidence, false or dubious archeological records, cognitive biases and other problematic ways of coming to certainties?”

      Research in cognitive science includes many disciplines (e.g. philosophy, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, linguistics, artificial intelligence). It would help me to get on the same page with you to read some of the research studies you are referencing.

      You wrote that “A lot of research in cognitive sciences have shown many cognitive biases/fallacies and tricks that our brains perform all the time.” If true, how do you know that your brain is not tricking you with cognitive biases/fallacies? How can you ‘trust’ your brain and what it’s telling you if your brain performs biases/fallacies and tricks ‘all the time’?

      You wrote that “we primarily have our senses and prefrontal cortex to process and sift information about the world.” What ‘senses’ do you accept as real? How does the prefrontal cortex fit into your concept about how we learn and function? Is there anything else a human being has that would support the processing and sifting of information about the world?

      You stated “Since ultimately we come to know the world through our brains …” Are you saying that a person can ‘only’ come to know the world through their brain or that the brain is the ‘primary’ way we come to know the world? or do you mean something else by that statement?

      Next question to you is your question to me: “how do you know the things you believe with certainty are true, have any foundation in reality and are not the result of group think, fabricated evidence, false or dubious archeological records, cognitive biases and other problematic ways of coming to certainties?” You said you “don’t hold many certainties in life.” Do you hold any certainties in life? If so, how can you know what you do believe with certainty is true? How do you know that anything you believe to be real has any foundation in reality and is not the result of group think, fabricated evidence, false or dubious records of any kind, cognitive biases and other problematic ways of coming to certainties? If there is no method for knowing whether anything is true, how can you possibly know whether anything is true? If you hold no certainties in life, how can you be certain of what you wrote to me?

      I look forward to our discussion.

    • Harry Tick on said:

      Hey Mark (sorry, I posted this in different places because it kept getting cut off),
      I am not going to explain to you all of my beliefs and certainties. All I wanted was to explore epistemology and philosophy of science further to understand your depth of understanding of the field. I have a degree in cognitive sciences and cannot explain to you everything I learned. There are literally thousands of articles of research you can find for yourself. I can share with you how it has shaped my frameworks for understanding the world. First, read through these:
      http://io9.com/5974468/the-most-common-cognitive-biases-that-prevent-you-from-being-rational
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027713001492
      First of all, it helps to understand such biases in order to try to avoid them. I take things with a grain of salt because I know these things exist and how they operate. However, one must apply rigorous skepticism and require an enormous amount of evidence for enormous claims such as claims of supernatural things that defy and violate the enormous amount of information discovered using the scientific method.
      Of course you can only come to know the world through the physical apparati that we are given, this includes the brain, sense organs etc. We evolved to be able to know the world in a certain way.
      You are merely parroting my questions back to me and have not answered any of them yourself. There are better methods of knowing the world than others. That is the whole point.
      I don’t hold many certainties because it means all of my beliefs are open to revision in light of new evidence. Are yours? What would it take for you to revise your certainties about god, jesus, religion, etc? What it would take for me to believe in god is if such an entity wrote in the stars that it exists in every language in the world to convey to every creature alive that it exists. This may sound absurd, but it is absurd to me to believe in a supernatural entity that ambiguously intervenes and doesn’t intervene at random times in the world.
      I am really mainly interested in your thoughts on the violent and horrendous methods of conversion used by religious people throughout history since religion was created. How do those methods compare to street epistemology methods? It is funny to me that you think you require 10 or more posts about defending against street epistemology. What defenses did the First nations have in Canada when the catholics came to strip them of their families, cultures, beliefs and livelihoods in order to make them “good christians”. What defense did the Cathars have in France when the Catholics came to massacre them merely for holding the wrong beliefs? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharism). You simply cannot talk about religion without talking about politics and history.
      On a side note, I do not agree with street epistemologist’s claims that religious believers are mentally ill etc. I think that use of language is unfair to people who have actual mental illnesses. However, I do think religious belief can be very damaging to many people as I have seen it many times. Especially when children are raised in such a way that they aren’t allowed to question religion or their entire identities are contingent on their beliefs and any challenge to such a belief crumbles their entire identities.
      I have absolutely no beliefs or certainties that I wouldn’t change in light of persuasive evidence using epistemologically sound methods. Nothing in religion convinces me because it is too rife with inconsistencies, plus I have learned too much about history, anthropology, sociology to be able to believe in it as well.

    • Hi, Harry and thank you for sharing the links with me. I’m familiar with the various cognitive biases and struggled with them years ago as I investigated claims about God, the Bible and Christ. The most difficult cognitive biases for me to overcome were the confirmation and ingroup biases. I had to use my education and experience in journalism to continually set aside those biases as an atheist in order to give the Christian worldview a fair and objective look.

      The journalistic method is based on observing, questioning, probing, correlating, analyzing, writing and reporting. Using that method with the vast evidence available about God, the Bible and Jesus Christ led me to a certainty about the reliability of the evidence. Using the same journalistic method with new evidence during the past 44+ years has continued to support and strengthen my certainty.

      “What would it take for you to revise your certainties about god, jesus, religion, etc?”

      One thing I can think of that would lead me to revise my certainties about God, the Bible and Jesus Christ would be if all of the evidence that led me to that certainty suddenly disappeared, no longer existed and never existed.

      “I am really mainly interested in your thoughts on the violent and horrendous methods of conversion used by religious people throughout history since religion was created. How do those methods compare to street epistemology methods?”

      I think what religious (e.g. monotheist, polytheist) and non-religious (e.g. atheist) have done in using violent and horrendous methods of conversion is despicable. New Testament Christianity (Christianity practiced during the 1st-3rd and early 4th centuries AD) did not condone violence as a method of conversion. New Testament Christianity is quite clear both in purpose and prescription and is opposed to using violent methods to convert people to Christianity. The New Testament defines religion this way – “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

      Street epistemology as observed in online videos does not incorporate violent and horrendous methods and for that I am grateful. I think there is much good that can come from atheists and Christians meeting for civil discourse about these important issues.

      “It is funny to me that you think you require 10 or more posts about defending against street epistemology.”

      I’m not sure why you find that ‘funny.’ Best practices for writing online posts include keeping them under 1,600 words. One of the books I wrote several years ago contains more than 400,000 words. If I were to have written that book as a series of posts first, it would have taken about 250 posts to complete it. Publishing multiple posts about one topic is well within the norm for publishing online.

      “Nothing in religion convinces me because it is too rife with inconsistencies, plus I have learned too much about history, anthropology, sociology to be able to believe in it as well.”

      That is certainly your right to believe as you will. I believe the problem is found in one word – “sin.” The solution to the one problem is a name – “Jesus Christ.” I came to that conclusion after following a proven process of learning and knowing. Thanks!

    • either there is a reliable way or there is not that is your point…. you are almost thinking this all the way though … you just have to try a little harder …. do you have a reliable way to know a god is real ??? if so please share it with us

    • Hi, Dum Dum. Thank you for your question. The word ‘reliable’ means ‘able to be trusted, well founded, dependable, valid.’ I don’t know what you have read on FaithandSelfDefense.com, but we have shared multiple ways to know God that are ‘reliable, able to be trusted, well founded, dependable, valid.’ What are your thoughts?

      Thanks!

  11. Hi, I am a former Christian and I would like to know how you got to your god belief.

    • Hi, JR. I’m a former atheist and came to belief in God through an investigation into theistic and Christian truth claims. I’m detailing the investigative process in an online series titled ‘Convince Me There’s A God.’ How did you get your ‘no god’ belief? Thanks!

    • Hey JR. I am actually interested in how you came to the conclusion you did. Please contact me. I’m a little perturbed by this “how did you get to your no god belief”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but a “belief in no X” is much different than simply not believing in something.

  12. “Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.”

    This is the wrong thing to do. You should teach your children how to investigate the world to come to their own conclusions. With something as contentious as religion, it is irresponsible to teach children what to believe, and even more irresponsible to just show them a positive case for their belief (or why to believe it). This is exactly the reason why society progresses so slowly, because parents assume they are imparting truths when really they hold a bunch of contentious beliefs that are morally reprehensible to pass down to children.

    I also wonder what is meant by “Truth”. I don’t see truth as ever needing to be capitalised, and it seems like you hold the assumption that you posess an absolute truth, which is an epistemically imorral stance.

    • Hi, Tjaart. I agree with your emphasis on teaching children how to investigate the world in which they live. I’d appreciate knowing more about how you view the investigative process in order to understand how you came to your conclusions concerning truth.

      1. What do you mean by “investigate the world”?
      2. What is the proper investigative process to arrive at truth?
      3. What is the proper response to arriving at truth derived from following the proper investigative process?
      4. How should parents teach their children to “investigate the world” to arrive at truth?
      5. How should parents teach their children to respond to the truth they arrive at through their proper investigation of the world?

      Thank you for your time in answering these questions. I look forward to more discussion.

      Mark

    • If you agree with my comment would you be willing to revise your last paragraph? It is irresponsible to advise people to teach their children conclusions and then only show positive case reasons for why those kids need to believe those things. The strength in any truth lies in its robustness.

      1. Investigating the world is a process of learning that includes observation and reason as opposed to indoctrination and authority.
      2. This is not the right space for your question. Besides, there is no single correct process. The only commonality between processes is that anyone engaging in that process must realise that no absolute truths can be attained, and that doubt and humility hold the strongest place in any enquiry. There is no “Truth” with a capital letter T.
      3. This question makes no sense to me.
      4. Please refer to (2). There are many things parents can do but instilling epistemic humility and a desire to learn and question would be enough. Telling them what to believe is antithetical to that and immoral.
      5. The same as (3) I guess. This still does not make sense.

    • Hi, Tjaart. I’ll certainly revise any statement I’ve made that needs revision. Am I correct that this is the paragraph you would like me to revise?

      “Tell your young people that today. They need to know that the atheist world is coming for them and will use any trick they can find to deceive them to the point of questioning what they believe. Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.”

      Journalists have four basic decisions to make about any story they report: stand by the story, clarify the story, revise the story, or correct the story. You are asking me to revise the last paragraph of my story, which is basically a conclusion and call to action based on the findings of the investigation.

      Investigative purpose and process should lead to and support investigative conclusion. That’s why I asked you five questions about how to conduct a proper investigation. Here are your responses:

      “1. Investigating the world is a process of learning that includes observation and reason as opposed to indoctrination and authority.
      2. This is not the right space for your question. Besides, there is no single correct process. The only commonality between processes is that anyone engaging in that process must realise that no absolute truths can be attained, and that doubt and humility hold the strongest place in any enquiry. There is no “Truth” with a capital letter T.
      3. This question makes no sense to me.
      4. Please refer to (2). There are many things parents can do but instilling epistemic humility and a desire to learn and question would be enough. Telling them what to believe is antithetical to that and immoral.
      5. The same as (3) I guess. This still does not make sense.”

      1. The investigative process is complex and takes a long time to develop, but here are some basic steps. Investigation includes observation, gather evidence, find eye witnesses, ask witnesses questions, challenge the answers that conflict with other witness testimony, authenticate opposing truth claims, find reasons for and answers to doubts that arise during the investigative process, analyze data, combine, compare and corroborate data, draw a conclusion based on facts, evidence and reason. As for your comment about indoctrination and authority … Indoctrination means “to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments” (Merriam-Webster). Authority means “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior; freedom granted by one in authority; persons in command.” Parents and teachers are examples of people who are in a position to instruct children in fundamentals and rudiments. They also are people who are in positions of authority with children. Parents and teachers should use the investigative process to draw the correct conclusions in their position of instructing their children.

      2. Quoting you now – “anyone engaging in that process must realise that no absolute truths can be attained, and that doubt and humility hold the strongest place in any enquiry.” Is that true? Do you know that no absolute truths can be attained is a statement of truth? If no absolute truths can be attained, then you are left with, as you say, “doubt.” So, if there is no absolute truth, and doubt and humility hold the strongest place in any enquiry, then what does a parent teach their children? Doubt? Is that the answer to every question a child asks? Does a parent have no truth to tell their children? Do you doubt everything? Is there nothing in this world that you believe is true? If you believe that no absolute truths can be attained (your words), then the only thing you can talk about with your children is your doubt about everything. By the way, the “Truth” with the capital letter “T” is for Jesus Christ who said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. “Truth” is personalized in Christ.

      3. I understand why my question 3 makes no sense to you since you don’t believe truth can be attained. My question was – “What is the proper response to arriving at truth derived from following the proper investigative process?” An investigative reporter believes that following the investigative process leads to a conclusion about the truth of a story. An investigative detective believes that following the investigative process leads to a conclusion about the truth of a crime. An investigative scientist believes that following the investigative process leads to a conclusion about the truth of a research project. An investigative engineer believes that following the investigative process leads to a conclusion about the truth of a solution to problems with a design. An investigative medical researcher believes that following the investigative process leads to a conclusion about the truth of a solution to a medical problem. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are solving problems, discovering answers and drawing proper conclusions about the truth of matters through the investigative process every day.

      4. “There are many things parents can do but instilling epistemic humility and a desire to learn and question would be enough. Telling them what to believe is antithetical to that and immoral.” I understand what you’re saying since you don’t believe truth can be attained. In light of your belief that absolute truth cannot be attained, why should parents bother instilling in their children a desire to learn and question when they’ll never come to the truth? If truth does not exist, why bother searching for the truth? If truth can be discovered through the investigative process, which I believe is possible, then anyone who comes to an understanding of truth should share their findings with others who are searching for truth. To say that parents are responsible to raise their children to the best of their abilities is a truth claim, but it is a truth I believe is true. I have no doubt about the importance of parents taking seriously their responsibility to raise their children to become all they can be and to do right things. Do you really believe that a parent who sets their child on a path to doubt is doing “enough” for their child? Isn’t there more to being a parent than that? Parents should teach their children how to think critically, but thinking critically does not lead to doubt. It leads to conclusions. Critical thinking is defined as “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment” (Oxford Dictionary). Notice the words “objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” That’s another way of describing the investigative process.

      5. “This still does not make sense.” I understand why my question does not make sense to you since you don’t believe that an investigation will lead to objective truth. My question to you was – “How should parents teach their children to respond to the truth they arrive at through their proper investigation of the world?” I gave you my thoughts in the answer to number 4. I believe parents have a responsibility to teach their children truth that comes from “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” (critical thinking)

      You wrote that “The strength in any truth lies in its robustness.” ‘Robustness’ defines as “having or exhibiting strength or vigorous health; having or showing vigor, strength, or firmness; strongly formed or constructed; capable or performing without failure under a wide range of conditions” (Merriam-Webster). I agree that robustness is an element of truth, but would add that correctness is required as the foundation to that robustness. Robustness built on doubt instead of truth is not healthy.

      At this moment I stand by the last paragraph of my article – “”Tell your young people that today. They need to know that the atheist world is coming for them and will use any trick they can find to deceive them to the point of questioning what they believe. Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.” Let me know if there’s something about my statement that needs clarification, revision or correction and I will respond to your concerns.

      Thanks! Mark

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  15. Hi, Brett. Had to start a new thread again. Here’s your last comment –

    “Thanks for that example Mark, but I am curious how would anyone know that the bones in question actually belonged to Jesus?”

    Good question. I don’t know how scientists or historians would determine that now, but I would certainly follow any evidence they presented to a conclusion based on that evidence.

    Jesus knew how incredible His resurrection would be to His disciples and other human beings who would hear about the resurrection, so He gave them the evidence atheists and other non-Christians are asking for today – He physically appeared to them, talked with them, ate with them, lived life with them for several weeks. It was the physical appearance of Jesus, after His death and resurrection, that convinced His disciples to preach His Gospel and be persecuted for doing it.

    Jesus was crucified once and rose from the grave once. It’s not an historical event that will be repeated. So, we can believe the evidence we have or not. That’s the decision each of us has to make. Based on the evidence you’ve seen, what do you think?

    • Bret on said:

      That’s interesting Mark, thanks! What do I think? I think I am an evidentialist like you are, but instead of requiring extraordinary evidence to raise a little reasonable doubt and healthy skepticism, I am looking for extraordinary evidence to corroborate some of the most extraordinary claims ever made in Earth’s History – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into Heaven, Mohammed’s ascension to Heaven on a winged horse and Heracles ascending to Mount Olympus upon his death. With regards to Jesus, I think a textual narrative about an empty tomb ought not be considered as valid archaeological evidence. I think so-called testimony, written decades after an alleged event supposedly took place, by mostly anonymous witnesses is not reliable or credible. I think the personal and subjective experience of a ‘Holy Spirit’ which can’t be tested or verified in any way whatsoever, is not reliable or credible, and is actually on par with other pseudo-scientific claims by others like new age gurus, spirit mediums and alien abductees. I think the vast majority of people in this world believe what they were originally brought up to believe and some of them pretend to know things they couldn’t possibly know. I think a lot of people are beginning to question not only the contents of their beliefs but also how they arrived at them in the first place, and I think this is a good thing. Thanks for a great discussion and I wish you all the best.

    • Thank you, Brett. I hope you’ll visit here again one day so we can continue our discussion.

  16. Hi, Brett. Starting a new thread to continue our conversation. I also appreciate the cordial nature of our discussion.

    You asked if I ‘know’ that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven because I had read it in a book. I’m assuming by ‘book’ that you mean the Bible. The answer is a definite ‘no.’ Atheists don’t believe the Bible is true for many reasons, especially the supernatural parts. I didn’t even believe the Bible was historically accurate.

    I ‘know’ Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven based on the external witnesses of history, archaeology and other considerations. I was surprised by how much data there was for the historicity of the Old and New Testaments. I experienced the internal witness of the Holy Spirit after becoming a Christian. That is a supernatural relationship with God that I would not have believed existed prior to becoming a Christian.

    My training and experience as an investigative journalist helps me place personal biases to the side while I look into a variety of truth claims. While your having a 1999 Honda in your garage would seem more plausible than the invisible dragon or the nuclear weapon, I might look into those claims if there were other concerns or evidences pointing to the possibility they existed (e.g. neighbors looking through a window and seeing what appeared to be a nuclear device, seeing items in your garage flying around with no visual means of cause, etc). My personal bias might be that invisible dragons don’t exist and there’s no way someone would have a nuclear device in their garage, but the investigative process is to place biases to the side and seek the truth.

    You mentioned how the ‘scientific method’ has revealed errors in our understanding of the ‘Natural Universe’ and of ourselves and our psychological makeup. What do you mean by the ‘scientific method’ and how has it revealed errors in our understanding of the universe and ourselves?

    You mentioned that C.S. Lewis did not understand the ‘atheistic position.’ What do believe is the ‘atheistic position’ and do all atheists hold to that same position?

    Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Good day Mark,

      I can only speak for myself, but I define the a-theistic position as being without belief in the existence of God or gods. I assume that you have no belief in Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Is this correct? It is the same for me, but with regards to ALL Gods and supernatural beings. This is primarily due to a lack of credible or supporting evidence for any such entities.

      I would say there isn’t really ONE scientific method, but in its simplest form, it is used to formulate answers to specific questions through an iterative, collaborative and repeatable process of research, observation, experimentation and analysis. We have obviously progressed as a species, by leaps and bounds, through the adoption, implementation and systematic refinement and improvement of this process, and one of the things we have uncovered, among other fallacies, is something known as confirmation bias, also called myside bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs.

      Lets see if we can actually use this process to reveal what we know is true from what we would consider fallacious.

      You said “I ‘know’ Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven based on the external witnesses of history, archaeology and other considerations.”

      What external witnesses of history?
      I understand there may be historical facts associated with the stories, but what archaeology demonstrates Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven?
      What other considerations demonstrate Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven?

      You said “I experienced the internal witness of the Holy Spirit after becoming a Christian.”

      How do you know the Holy Spirit exists in the first place? How do you know what you experienced was the Holy Spirit? Are there other more plausible explanations? How would you go about demonstrating the existence of this Holy Spirit to others? How would you go about falsifying the existence of this Holy Spirit to yourself?

      You said “That is a supernatural relationship with God that I would not have believed existed prior to becoming a Christian.”

      How do you know God exists in the first place? How do you know what you experienced is a supernatural relationship with God? Are there other more plausible explanations? How would you go about demonstrating the existence of a supernatural relationship with God to others? How would you go about falsifying the existence of a supernatural relationship with God to yourself?

      If someone or something was able to demonstrate to you that what you believe you know to be true is mistaken would you accept it?

      Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. I asked you about the ‘scientific method’ because you seem to place a great deal of faith in it. That method has brought about many improvements in life, but has also caused many problems. It’s also an unreliable method in many situations. I have sat through many trials where the prosecution and defense presented expert scientific witnesses who observed the same evidence but disagreed with each other based on who was paying them.

      I understand what you’re saying about ‘confirmation bias.’ John P.A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and Health Research and Policy at Stanford School of Medicine, wrote a paper published in PLOS Medicine titled ‘Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.’ Here’s what he said about bias among scientists:

      ‘There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.’

      Even if the ‘scientific method’ was not scarred by bias, there is the serious question about what aspects of life the method can and cannot test (e.g. emotions, morality, the mind, historical data, etc).

      Your questions and my answers are circling around again about external and internal witnesses. I followed the external evidences to the conclusion that God exists and that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. The internal witness is the Holy Spirit who has proven Himself to me through many years of this life. I understand an atheist not believing the Holy Spirit is real since He is supernatural. That is why I spend most of my time talking with atheists about the external evidences.

      God has many ways of showing Himself to people. He used external evidence with me that can be followed and tested through a variety of methods (including historical and scientific). Other people tell of God using a more supernatural internal evidence with them.

      As for archaeological proof for the resurrection of Christ, we have the empty tomb. If Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, it would have been easy for the Roman and Jewish authorities to produce the body and put an end to the resurrection claims. The body of Christ was not in the tomb. Hundreds of disciples saw and spoke with the risen Christ and were willing to die for what they had witnessed. They had ‘faith’ in what they knew to be true because they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. They used the ‘scientific method’ of their time to observe, test and analyze. They were able to ‘repeat’ the test for more than a month after the resurrection. The result was always the same: Jesus was alive, He had risen from the dead.

    • Bret on said:

      Hi Mark,

      It appears that evidence is very important to you with regards to your conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. If evidence was uncovered that falsified your position would you change your mind?

      Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. You are correct that evidence is very important to me. As the Apostle Paul wrote concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ – “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) Paul could say that because he had seen the risen Christ, as did hundreds of other people.

      Evidentialists, like journalists and other investigators, follow the evidence wherever it takes them. Do you know of any evidence that would prove Jesus did not rise from the dead? If so, please let me know so I can investigate. Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Hi Mark,

      I have some questions and issues I am currently exploring and would like to share, but I am trying to determine if you are even open to the possibility of evidence or reasoning affecting your apparent, absolute certitude, at least somewhat, and if so what that might need to look like? Otherwise, I think both of us are simply wasting our time and I will bid you farewell.

      Thanks!

    • Thanks, Brett. Because I became a Christian through evidence, have investigated more evidence during the past 44 years and have experienced the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, your evidence and reasoning would have to be extraordinary. I’ve enjoyed our discussions and hope to continue, but certainly understand if you choose to move on.

    • Bret on said:

      Yes Mark, I appreciate the discussion too, but what exactly do you mean by “extraordinary evidence”? Are you able to provide me with an example of what you mean by that? Thanks!

    • An example of extraordinary evidence would be the bones of Jesus’ body confirmed through some scientific/historical method. I would think that any such evidence would have already been discovered and used to debunk the resurrection by now, but that’s an example.

    • Bret on said:

      Thanks for that example Mark, but I am curious how would anyone know that the bones in question actually belonged to Jesus?

  17. Hi, Brett. Our thread has become too small to continue, so I’m starting this new thread so that we can keep the conversation going. Here’s your last comment:

    “Hi Mark, what would be the point in trying to dispute what you say? Your mind is clearly made up. To be honest, despite all of your *evidence* I still have no way of knowing (justified true belief) if Jesus actually rose from the dead. It all comes down to accepting personal testimonies, mostly anonymous, written decades after the event allegedly occurred. I, personally, don’t view this as being very reliable or credible, especially considering the superstitious bias of the time. Anyway, none of this, I don’t believe, would be admissible in a court of law today, and therefore is unwarranted, imo. Thanks for your time!”

    Brett, you are correct that my mind is ‘clearly made up.’ I would never have left atheism for theism if the evidence wasn’t clear. Theism is a much more difficult life to live than atheism because of the accountability to our Creator. However, theism has something far better than atheism and that’s relationship to our Creator. The combination of relationship and accountability is wonderful because it is with our Creator.

    As for ‘justified true belief,’ P is true based on overwhelming evidence. S believes that P is true based on both evidence and experience, so S is justified in believing that P is true.

    When I was investigating theism as an atheist I looked for ‘evidence’ through natural processes and found it. When I became a theist/Christian I ‘experienced’ a relationship with our Creator through supernatural processes and have enjoyed it for decades.

    Based on your reasoning I find it hard to understand how you can ‘know’ (justified true belief) anything that happened before you were born. What knowledge you think you ‘know’ about history prior to your life is based largely on personal testimonies and materials written after the events. That’s why I asked you earlier (and you still haven’t answered : ) ) to explain what methods you have used to determine that other 1st century BC/AD individuals did or did not exist or perform the actions attributed to them by historians. The historical method for determining that information about anyone is also the same method I and many other former atheists have used to determine that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again.

    Much of the New Testament was written much closer to the resurrection of Christ than you think. James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the Apostle Paul began writing letters less than 20 years from the resurrection of Christ. Luke wrote a Gospel and the Acts about 30 years after the resurrection of Christ and most of what he wrote about the life of Christ and the early Church was based on dozens of eye-witness accounts from people who knew Jesus personally before and after the resurrection.

    Even someone who is not depending on the Holy Spirit to supernaturally help them remember events from years earlier can write with great detail after 60 years and longer from life-changing events. Veterans and survivors of wars have an amazing ability to explain much of their experience in great detail even 70-80 years after the events they describe. They can remember colors, sounds, smells and feelings (touch and emotions) with uncanny accuracy to the testimonies of other people including journalists who wrote stories about the wars and recorded sound and shot film during and after the fighting. That is not unlike the vivid memories of people who saw someone they loved (Jesus) brutally tortured and murdered, then buried, and then to see that person alive after being dead for three days and to spend weeks talking with Him before He ascended into Heaven surrounded by angels. That’s not something you forget.

    As for the writings of the New Testament being ‘anonymous,’ that doesn’t work well since Christians during the 1st century and early part of the 2nd century AD wrote letters naming the people who wrote the New Testament Books.

    Many legal experts through the years would disagree with you about the admissibility of eyewitness testimony in the New Testament. Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of the Harvard Law school and a world-renowned expert on evidence, was an agnostic. One of Greenleaf’s students challenged him to consider the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Greenleaf said he determined to disprove it, but ended up concluding based on the New Testament evidence that the resurrection was true. Greenleaf became a Christian. You may find two of his writings important to see how a legal expert and professor at Harvard Law viewed the New Testament evidence: “The Testimony of the Evangelists” and “Treatise on Evidence.”

    Mark Lanier, one of our country’s leading trial lawyers, recently wrote a book titled “Christianity On Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.” I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to know how a leading legal expert of the 20th and 21st centuries views the New Testament evidence.

    As for saying that the ancients had a ‘superstitious bias,’ that’s painting everyone with the same brush. If you are going to paint beliefs and worldviews of the 1st century people as being biased because of superstition, then what information can you trust from that time? Millions of people today could be called ‘superstitious,’ but I wouldn’t think of not believing anything that people said or wrote now because of that. Each writing, each testimony, each evidence needs to be judged on its own merits. I am not finding your logic logical or your reasons reasonable in these areas.

    Thank you for your time and I hope we will continue to share with each other about such important matters.

    • Bret on said:

      Hi Mark, with all humility, I am not making any claims to knowledge here, and I am definitely not claiming to know what happened or did not happen 2000+ years ago. You are the one claiming to *know* these things, and I am trying to understand how it is that you have come to know these things. It is clear that you are relying on the word or testimony of others. Is this really a reliable method especially when we are discussing such extraordinary claims? Do you believe Heracles existed and did everything written about him? What about Krishna or Mohammed? Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. I have come to ‘know’ these things about Jesus Christ through external and internal witnesses. The external witness is that which anyone, Christian or non-Christian, can investigate and confirm or deny via the historical method. That is the method I used to confirm the existence of Jesus Christ and the extraordinary claims concerning His life, death and resurrection. The internal witness is that which only true Christians, those saved by God’s grace through faith, can experience. The Holy Spirit is the internal ‘Witness’ who confirms the truth of God’s Word (which the Holy Spirit inspired).

      As an atheist I had only the external witness to investigate – evidences concerning the existence of God, reliability of the Bible and reality of the information about the life of Jesus Christ. I am writing a detailed journal of that investigation on this website (https://faithandselfdefense.com/2015/05/06/convince-me-theres-a-god-archaeology-23/). I’m coming toward the end of the Old Testament and will soon begin sharing the New Testament evidence concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      Brett, you are making ‘knowledge’ claims. You claim there is no ‘proof’ of God’s existence and that has led you to believe God does not exist or at least that there is no way of knowing whether He existed. The evidences for the life of Jesus Christ are available in the historical method and I would appreciate knowing if you have used the historical evidence in determining that Jesus Christ did not live, die or rise from the grave. If you have used the historical method and determined from your investigation that Jesus Christ did not live, die or rise from the grave, I would like to know what other historical figures of a similar time period to Christ you have investigated using the historical method and the results of your investigation.

      I’ll be glad to address your questions about Hercules, Krishna and Mohammed after you respond to my question about the historical method (since I’ve been asking you about that for awhile). Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Hello Mark, just to be clear, I am not asserting that a God does not exist. I simply do not believe the claims asserting that He does. If there was actually ‘proof’ for God’s existence then there would be no doubt and I would believe, but I don’t consider amazing stories and fantastic tales about extraordinary events in actual places to be credible or reliable enough evidence. There is no method, historical or otherwise, to determine, for a fact, that Jesus actually rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. Nor would you be able to falsify that Heracles rose to Mt. Olympus or that Mohammed flew to Heaven on a winged horse. Thanks!

    • Brett, you say that you are not asserting that ‘a God does not exist.’ You are further along than I was as an atheist. I ridiculed Christians through a mock challenge to God to prove Himself to me by appearing on my radio show and giving me an exclusive interview. He didn’t appear on my show, but He did send someone to me within a year who introduced me to evidence that I decided to investigate. That investigation led me to believe in His existence and sending His Son to die for my sins. If you are interested in knowing God, ask Him to prove Himself to you. Please let me know what happens. Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Hello Mark, you appear to be a very sincere person, and I have no doubt that you truly believe these things, that you want to believe these things, and I apologize for sounding like a broken record, but HOW do you know God sent someone to you? How do you know Jesus died for your sins? What exactly is sin and why does it take a human sacrifice to eradicate it? I know that answers to these questions can be gleaned from the Bible, but again, please bear with me, HOW do you know that what is written in the Bible is true? Please just really let these questions sink in for a period of time and let me know what happens. Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. I think we’re both sounding like broken records : )

      I say ‘I know’ .. you say ‘I don’t know.’ I say I know based on external (historical method) and internal witnesses (the Holy Spirit). You say there is no method to determine ‘for a fact’ that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. If you do not believe there is any method to determine any remarkable past event prior to your birth, then you cannot be sure of much. Would you agree?

      The biblical definition of ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark set by God.’ For those who don’t believe in God or the Bible, the definition of ‘sin’ is more difficult to explain because of a lack of authoritative standard. As an atheist I didn’t believe anything was ‘sin’ in the sense of being wrong instead of right. What was right or wrong was based on what I believed was right and wrong. When what I believed was right and wrong clashed with what someone else thought was right and wrong, there was conflict. That included societal practices and laws. However, despite conflicts with individuals, groups or society at large, I didn’t view any of it as ‘sin.’

      As a theist, specifically a Christian theist, I believe that God created the universe and everything in it and established the working order for His creation. Following God’s order was good (right), not following God’s order was bad (wrong) – thus ‘good and evil.’ God also established an orderly process for dealing with evil that included sacrifice and forgiveness for the human race. Human sacrifice was never part of God’s plan because sinful humans did not have the ability to make the payment God required. That’s why God introduced animal sacrifice rather than human sacrifice. The sacrifice of animals looked forward toward the day when God would provide Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross, sacrificing His body and shedding His life blood for humanity.

      That is an extraordinary story. It is either true or it is false. If it is true, then you have a decision to make. If it is false, then there is no decision. I believe it is true, thus the decision I made 44 years ago. If it is not true, then … what?

      The resurrection of Jesus Christ is far more than just a man coming to life after being murdered. That would be remarkable enough in itself, but that’s not what makes the resurrection of Christ extraordinary and a true miracle. Here’s how Oxford scholar and former atheist C.S. Lewis viewed it:

      “I heard a man say, ‘The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.’ On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s ease we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into ‘ghost’ and ‘corpse’. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?
      The question is, I suppose, whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis. That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe, down to manhood—and come up again, pulling it up with Him. The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost. It is either lunacy or lies. Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.” (C.S. Lewis, ‘What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?’, 1950)

    • Bret on said:

      Hello Mark, I really appreciate the cordial nature of our conversation, but I am not saying ‘you don’t know’. I was asking HOW you know that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. Because you read it in a book? Would you believe me if I told you that I had an invisible dragon in my garage? How about a nuclear weapon? How about a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO? And finally, how about a 1999 Honda Accord? Which of these things do you believe is more likely for me to possess and keep in my garage? And you could actually empirically verify all but the invisible dragon if you were to just come over and take a look. There are many remarkable events that I think actually happened prior to my birth, but none of them require belief in fantastic claims about supernatural agents, defying the laws of Nature, and all of them have contemporaneous, corroborating evidence to help support them. However, I would change my thinking in an instant if it could be reasonably, rationally, logically and empirically demonstrated that I am mistaken or in error.

      I agree with you that these are extraordinary stories, and much of it appears to be pure fantasy and wishful thinking. Stories conceived and brought to life within our incredibly fertile human imagination. They may contain some human truths, wisdom and incorporate some historical facts, but I don’t think that they literally describe or explain True Reality as it is. I think they are highly creative human fabrications, inventions, and rationalizations, and they indicate our infinite capacity for incredible flights of fancy and the capacity to deceive ourselves. But the scientific method has revealed to us the errors in our understanding of the Natural Universe, and of ourselves, and our psychological makeup too.

      Nature offers no compelling evidence for the existence of God, ghosts, souls or of a new mode of being. I wish it were true, but unfortunately hoping and wishing do not make things true. I personally want to think as many true things as possible and discard as many false beliefs as possible.

      C.S. Lewis was a very creative and imaginative writer, as evidenced by all of his fantasy and fiction, but in the end he was clearly a man of ‘faith’. And he obviously misunderstood the atheistic position with contradictory thinking when he wrote that he was “angry with God for not existing”.

      Hope you have a great day, and try just sitting with the question, without seeking to find an answer, How do I know what I believe I know is true?, and see what happens.

  18. Bret on said:

    So Mark, it sounds as though you are CERTAIN that the Judeo/Christian God exists. Is that correct? If so, how do you KNOW this? Please provide or point to the very best evidence or example you can think of to verify or substantiate the claim. I really would love to see/hear it. Thanks!

    • Hi, Bret. I’ve addressed the question about the ‘very best evidence’ on this page. Please refer to my responses for substantiation.

      As for your question about being ‘certain’ and how I ‘know,’ please define each term so I understand how you view each idea.

      Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      I appreciate your accepting my queries.

      Mark said: “I’ve addressed the question about the ‘very best evidence’”

      As far as I have been able to ascertain, reading your blogs and comments, you believe the death and resurrection of Jesus is *the very best evidence* for the existence of the Judeo/Christian God. Is this correct?

      I would define being certain of something as knowing or being aware of a fact that is definitively true. In other words, knowing something for certain would entail zero doubt and 100% certitude.

      I assume you are aware of at least one example of something that could be considered an indisputable fact every sane person, on earth, ought to recognize and agree upon?

      Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘certainty’ is – ‘Firm conviction that something is the case, The quality of being reliably true.’ I do have a firm conviction that Jesus rose from the dead and believe it is reliably true.

      Are you confusing mathematical certainty with historical certainty when you speak of zero doubt and 100% certitude?

    • Bret on said:

      No Mark, I am not talking about mathematical certainty. For example, I have no doubt that I exist in this moment. I am 100% certain of this fact. This is what I mean.

      I will agree to use the Oxford Dictionary as a reference, but please keep in mind that all dictionaries are basically self-referential and therefore may cause us to “chase our tails” so to speak.

      A ‘conviction’ IS a firmly held belief or opinion, and so you have a firmly, firm belief or opinion regarding Jesus’ resurrection, but this would not be considered fact or knowledge. Would you agree or no?

      Basically, I am trying to ascertain if you would agree that there is room for doubt regarding the stories surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. Would you agree to this or not?

      Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. I chose the Oxford Dictionary because of its acceptance within academia, but we can look at other dictionaries as well.

      I looked at historical data available in 1971 concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and compared that data with similar data available for other individuals living within the same time frame. Using the test for historical certainty used for people from 1st century BC/AD (historical method), I determined that the historical information about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was accurate and true.

      That was 44 years ago. I’ve continued to investigate new historical information since 1971 and believe that the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is solid and should be accepted as factual.

      I don’t want to make assumptions about your beliefs concerning the historical data concerning Jesus Christ, so please share whether you believe if the historical method confirms or denies the existence of Jesus Christ as well as His death and resurrection. If you do not believe that Jesus existed or that He died or that He rose from the dead, please share your reasons why and how you have used those same reasons (methods) to determine that other 1st century BC/AD individuals from history did or did not exist or perform the actions attributed to them by historians.

      Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Hi Mark,

      I believe the stories concerning Jesus’ life, death and resurrection exist in the form of the NT, but I don’t know if they are true or not. I am interested in learning the method for how you know Jesus resurrected from the dead for a fact?

      Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. The historical method is a process of looking at all available sources and determining textual reliability (authenticity, credibility, competence) along with verifiable eyewitness testimony, archaeological findings (e.g. artifacts, relics, remains, original documents, extant copies) etc. I’ve written about the evidences across this website and http://gracelifethoughts.com, so please check out what information is available on the sites and let met know how you think the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ compares to any other historical figure of the same era.

      Proving anything with historical certainty usually comes down to eyewitness accounts and recorded documentation that are verifiable. Did anyone see the event? Are they credible witnesses? Did anyone record the event so that others would know what happened? Are the recordings credible? Is it reasonable to believe the event occurred as described?

      The Apostle Paul, who was an avowed enemy of Christianity before his conversion, wrote this about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ:

      “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

      Paul said there were credible documents (the Scriptures) and credible witnesses (Peter, all of the Apostles, more than 500 people at once, the Lord’s half brother James, and Paul) to the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Critics of the Lord’s Resurrection often say only a handful of people saw Jesus alive after His Crucifixion, but the Apostle Paul put the number at more than 500 people. That was more than sufficient to prove with certainty that Jesus rose from the dead at a time when most of the witnesses could come forward to refute Paul’s claims. They didn’t because what Paul said was true. They had seen the Risen Christ! Convincing proof that Jesus rose from the dead.

      To that, critics will say Jesus didn’t die on the Cross – that He fainted from exhaustion and the people around Him were mistaken about His condition when they took Him down from the Cross and that He awoke and was revived later by friends. Some say that Jesus faked His Death on the Cross and presented Himself as risen.

      To understand the physical condition of Jesus, we need to look at the results of the Roman beating on His Body. If someone in the Lord’s condition after the beating was rushed to a hospital, they would be pronounced DOA at the hospital or admitted in extremely critical condition. The beatings would have cut through flesh so severely that people would be able to see bones, tendons, ligaments, veins, and internal organs. Nerves would be slashed to the point that some bodily functions would be greatly disrupted. The amount of blood loss would place the cardiovascular system in shock and the heart would pump at an accelerated rate to try to meet the need for new blood to keep vital physical functions moving. The body would be fighting for its very life!

      The physical and mental shock of having giant nails driven through the hands and feet would have been extreme torture. In fact, the Latin word for torture is excrucio – “out of the cross.” We get our English word “excruciating” from it. The shoulders would come out of the socket because of the positioning of the arms nailed to the cross trying to hold up the weight of the body. The person being crucified would sink into a permanent position of inhale, so the only way to exhale was to use the feet and legs to push the body up long enough to exhale. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood would be poison the body. Many would die from asphyxiation as the feet and legs could no longer push the body up to exhale. After many hours or even days on the cross, soldiers would sometimes break the legs of people being crucified so they would die within a few minutes.

      The Gospel accounts of the Lord’s Crucifixion are quite clear about the fact that Jesus was dead when Roman soldiers ran a spear into the Lord’s Body, took His Body off the Cross by pulling nails out of His Hands and Feet, checked for signs of life, then gave His Body to two Jewish leaders to be buried. Crucifixion was a common means of killing the enemies of Rome, so the soldiers were very familiar with death. They killed tens of thousands of men throughout the Roman Empire every year. It’s estimated that 30,000 Jewish men were crucified during the time that Jesus ministered in Israel. The soldiers who daily crucified these men knew a dead body when they saw it. The also knew they would be killed if they didn’t carry out their responsibility. No enemy of Rome was to be left alive after their crucifixion. Forensic medical experts say that the mixture of water and blood that came out of Jesus’ side when the spear was removed from it is proof that Jesus was dead and that He died of a ruptured heart. Convincing proof that Jesus died on the Cross.

      To that, critics will say the Lord’s disciples removed His Body from the grave, buried it elsewhere and made up the Resurrection story so they could keep the Messianic hope alive for Israel.

      The Gospel accounts record that Roman soldiers were commanded to keep watch around the tomb if anyone tried to steal the Body of Christ. The tomb was sealed to make sure nobody could get inside without the soldiers knowing it. The soldiers were well armed and able to carry out their duty. The soldiers could have easily defeated the disciples. They told the chief priests about the great earthquake and the angel rolling back the stone in front of the tomb. The priests bribed the guards and told them to say that Christ’s disciples came at night and stole His Body while the guards slept. The guards took the money and did as they were instructed. Matthew wrote that the guards’ story was commonly reported among the Jews. More convincing proof that Jesus rose from the dead.

      For those who say that the women went to the wrong tomb and the disciples only thought Jesus was raised from the dead because they couldn’t find the body – the chief priests would have paraded Jesus’ body through the streets of Jerusalem to show that He was still dead and that the disciples were mistaken. That didn’t happen because the women and the disciples went to the correct tomb and the Lord’s Body wasn’t there because He was Alive!

      Another convincing truth is that while people will die for something they believe to be true – they will not die for a lie. Most of the apostles and many disciples died as martyrs saying they had seen Jesus Christ alive after His Crucifixion. They would not have died for something they knew to be untrue. We learn in the Book of Acts that Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples after His Crucifixion, teaching them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). This is certainly strong evidence that proves the disciples did not hallucinate or see an apparition or a ghost. They spent 40 days (996 hours) with Jesus and knew Jesus was alive. They touched Him and He touched them. They ate together, talked together, and walked together. As Jesus said to them during His first meeting with them – “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39) Again, proof that Jesus was alive and not a ghostly spiritual image floating around the disciples.

      To that, critics will say the Gospels were not written in the 1st century by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but by unknown people in the 2nd century who copied stories from pagan religions to bolster the claims of Christianity.

      None of the Gospels mention the destruction of the Temple – which was a major prophecy of Jesus during His Ministry. The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. If the Gospels were written before 70 A.D., then it is probable that the Lord’s apostles would still be alive. Luke wrote the Book of Acts after he wrote his Gospel account and Acts also does not mention the destruction of the Temple and speaks of Peter, Paul and other apostles as still alive at the time of its writing. The Apostle Paul – the most prolific writer of the New Testament – gave support in his writings to the Lord’s apostles. Mark and Luke traveled with Paul and Peter and some of what they wrote in their Gospel and Acts accounts would have come from the Apostles. An early copy of a portion of John’s Gospel – called The John Rylands papyrus fragment 52 – is dated about 125 A.D. Since it was a copy, John would have to have written the original prior to that. Most scholars date the original to the late 1st century. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri – dated from the middle of the 2nd century – includes sayings of Jesus which have parallels from all the Gospels. Those passages were most likely copied from manuscripts from the early 2nd century. Post-apostolic leaders of the Church at the end of the 1st century and during the 2nd century – often called the Apostolic Fathers – quoted from the Gospel accounts and other New Testament writings. Polycarp – a student of the Apostle John – quoted from New Testament writings in the early 2nd century. Ignatius – another student of the Apostle John – quoted from Matthew’s Gospel at the end of the 1st or beginning of the 2nd century. Clement – thought to be a student of Peter and Paul – quoted from New Testament writings at the end of the 1st century. Justin Martyr quoted from the Apostles’ writings by the mid 2nd century. The Christian historian Papias – believed to be a student of John the Apostle – lived during the 2nd century and attributed Matthew’s Gospel to the Apostle Matthew. Irenaeus was another prominent pastor and Church historian during the 2nd century and supported the early authorship of the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Tertullian – Christian author and apologist of the 2nd century – stated that by the middle of the 2nd century the Church in Rome had the same list of the New Testament Books that we have today. The Muratonian Canon Fragment of 170 A.D. lists the same New Testament we use. Convincing proof that the Gospel accounts and Book of Acts were written before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. More support of the credibility of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      We also have the writings of non-Christians from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD:

      1. Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 AD), known as the greatest historian of ancient Rome, was not a Christian. Here’s what he wrote about Jesus.

      “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

      2. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69-140 AD) was another well-known Roman historian who lived during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and was not a Christian. Here’s what he wrote about Jesus.

      “He banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.”

      3. Flavius Josephus (37-97 AD), a Jewish historian of the 1st century AD who became court historian for Roman Emperor Vespasian, was not a Christian. Here’s what he wrote about Jesus.

      “Now there arose at this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works, a teacher of men who gladly welcome strange things. He led away many Jews, and also many of the Gentiles. He was the so-called Christ. When Pilate, acting on information supplied by the chief men around us, condemned him to the cross, those who had attached themselves to him at first did not cease to cause trouble, and the tribe of Christians, which has taken this name from him is not extinct even today.”

      4. The Jewish Talmud was compiled between 70 and 200 AD. Here’s what it states about Jesus.

      “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”

      5. Lucian was a second century Greek satirist who was not a Christian. Here’s what he wrote about Jesus.

      “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account … You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”

      6. Pliny the Younger (61-112 AD) was the provincial governor of Pontus and Bithynia. He wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan about how to deal with the Christians who worship Christ instead of Trajan. Pliny was not a Christian. Here’s what he wrote about Jesus.

      “Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ — none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do — these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.”

      7. Mara Bar-Serapion of Syria, who was not a Christian, wrote a letter from prison sometime between 70 and 200 AD to motivate his son to emulate wise teachers of the past.

      “What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burying Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”

      There are 17 known non-Christian sources who lived within 50-150 years of Jesus’ Life. 12 of them wrote about His death and half of them wrote that people believed Jesus was deity. If you piece together what the 10 primary non-Christian references say about Jesus, we learn this:

      1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.

      2. Jesus lived a virtuous life.

      3. Jesus was a wonder-worker.

      4. Jesus had a brother named James.

      5. Jesus was acclaimed to be the Messiah.

      6. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

      7. Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.

      8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when He died.

      9. Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead.

      10. Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for their belief.

      11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.

      12. Jesus’ disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Christ as God.

      In light of these non-Christian references, the theory that Jesus never existed is clearly unreasonable. In fact, the writings of these non-Christians actually support the primary claims of the New Testament.

      Hope this helps.

    • Bret on said:

      Hello Mark, is there anything that would cause you to change your mind with regards to your belief that Jesus’ rose from the dead? Thanks!

    • Hi, Brett. Your approach is a good example of what I’ve been writing about in this series. You have not responded to the evidence or my questions. You are sticking to the SE playbook. I know that street epistemologists are trained to stay away from evidence and facts, but I would like you to address the evidence presented so we can have a reasonable and logical exchange of ideas. Thanks!

    • Bret on said:

      Hi Mark, what would be the point in trying to dispute what you say? Your mind is clearly made up. To be honest, despite all of your *evidence* I still have no way of knowing (justified true belief) if Jesus actually rose from the dead. It all comes down to accepting personal testimonies, mostly anonymous, written decades after the event allegedly occurred. I, personally, don’t view this as being very reliable or credible, especially considering the superstitious bias of the time. Anyway, none of this, I don’t believe, would be admissible in a court of law today, and therefore is unwarranted, imo. Thanks for your time!

  19. I enjoyed watching Anthony Magnabosco’s Street Epistemology series. There is nothing condescending or scary about it. “Atheists aren’t coming to get your children( as if you had any respect for your children’s choice of religion)

    https://www.youtube.com/user/magnabosco210

    • Thank you for responding. I understand your perspective, but respectfully disagree. The goal of ‘street epistemology’ is to talk theists out of their belief in God. That has deep ramifications spiritually and should be something that concerns Christian parents deeply. Here’s a quote from the book ‘A Manual For Creating Atheists.’

      “This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith. You’ll learn how to engage the faithful in conversations that help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their beliefs, and mistrust their faith. I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, ‘Street Epistemology.’ The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, and the community–into any and every place the faithful reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.” (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter I, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013)

      Atheists are ‘coming to get’ our children. Street epistemology is an ‘activist approach.’ I don’t have to invent something here, the words of street epistemologists speak for themselves. They are intent on leading Christian young people to ‘abandon their faith.’ As for embracing ‘reason,’ that is debatable as to the reality of reason in the world views of theists and atheists.

      Again, thank you for responding. I look forward to more discussion with you about this important topic.

  20. Pingback: On A Manual for Creating Arheists – How Street Epistemology Works | The Isaiah 53:5 Project

  21. Hi, Aaron. First, your comment, then my reply.

    “One of the many reasons why non belief makes me so happy is because it allows my search for truth to be an ongoing one.

    I view truth as dynamic and alive, and not a static, crenated place to be arrived at. This is why I’m unable to separate happiness from the search for truth, and why this state of inquiry makes me feel so alive.This doesn’t mean that the truth always feels good to find out, but it does mean that the search for it is far more fulfilling than arriving at even the very best of conclusions.

    Am I correct in taking your reply as an agreement to explore how you’ve determined faith to be reliable in this search for truth?
    I’m more than willing to share this journey with you, but will need you to meet me at the crossroads of uncertainty in order to proceed.

    It is my understanding that by our very nature, human beings are fallible and imperfect. Can you think of anything that this doesn’t apply to?
    I’d greatly appreciate you taking the time to consider my questions before answering, and will make every attempt to do the same. I feel this will make for a much better exchange.

    Thanks,
    Aaron”

    ____________

    Thank you for sharing, Aaron. I also have found happiness in the continual search for truth. However, my search is based on the Truth of Jesus Christ and not on something that is not known. Basing one’s life on truth creates an exciting foundation for discovering more truth at a deeper level. As Jesus said, ‘you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ I have found great freedom in knowing the truth. It has opened a vast gold mine of knowledge and wisdom to investigate. As the Bible says, ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.’ The combination of ‘deep diving’ the well of God’s Word and investigating the life we are living is a wonderful classroom and laboratory.

    You asked me to meet you at the crossroads of uncertainty in order to proceed. I am very interested in continuing our conversation. However, I cannot pretend not to know something I know. I cannot be uncertain about what I am certain. I can move forward with you from my certainty to explore evidence, but not uncertainty. Is that acceptable to you? Thanks!

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      Thank you for sharing, Aaron. I also have found happiness in the continual search for truth. However, my search is based on the Truth of Jesus Christ and not on something that is not known. Basing one’s life on truth creates an exciting foundation for discovering more truth at a deeper level. As Jesus said, ‘you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ I have found great freedom in knowing the truth. It has opened a vast gold mine of knowledge and wisdom to investigate. As the Bible says, ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.’ The combination of ‘deep diving’ the well of God’s Word and investigating the life we are living is a wonderful classroom and laboratory.

      You asked me to meet you at the crossroads of uncertainty in order to proceed. I am very interested in continuing our conversation. However, I cannot pretend not to know something I know. I cannot be uncertain about what I am certain. I can move forward with you from my certainty to explore evidence, but not uncertainty. Is that acceptable to you? Thanks!

      Hello Mark, I must admit I’m having trouble deciphering what you’re saying here. On the one hand you say that you are continually searching for truth, yet on the other you claim to have found it in Jesus. I may be mistaken, but have never met someone who says that they’ve found something who is continuing to look for it. Please explain.

      Also, I’m not asking that you pretend not to know something you feel you know, only that you agree that it’s possible to be mistaken about something one thinks one knows.
      In the absence of a response to my previous question about the fallible nature of human beings, I’ll assume your answer to be sunshine and proceed accordingly.
      Assuming that humans are by their very nature fallible and imperfect, how might you go about determining if you were mistaken?
      It has been said that the most potent truths are vulnerable to disproof, yet not disproven. How is your belief in God vulnerable to disproof?

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      Replace sunshine with affirmative.

    • Hi, Aaron. Discovering truth in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean the ‘truth’ journey is finished. In fact, it’s just begun.

      Example: as children we learn the ‘truth’ about the number 1. 1 apple, 1 mother, 1 father, 1 sister, 1 house, 1 car, etc. We learn that adding two 1’s together (1+1) gives us 2 things (1+1=2). We learn another truth that if you have 2 things and remove 1 of the things (2-1), you are left with 1 thing. The number 1 is foundational to adding and subtracting. Denial of the number 1 will not help us better understand numbers since it is the foundation of the numerical system.

      Believing that Jesus Christ is ‘truth’ is the foundation of spiritual knowledge. Denial of Jesus Christ will not help us better understand the spiritual world since He is the foundation of the spiritual world.

      Yes, human beings are fallible. Thus, the need for disciplines and systems that help us overcome fallibility to grasp infallibility. Searching for ‘infallibility’ (the inability to be wrong) in the physical world doesn’t lead to a ‘find’ of anything infallible. If nothing in the physical world is infallible, then everything and anyone can be wrong. If we are surrounded by nothing but ‘fallibility,’ then how do we know when something is right? If anything could be wrong, then how do we recognize ‘right?’

      Even as I would not deny the number 1 being necessary to an understanding of numbers, I would not deny Jesus Christ as being necessary to an understanding of truth. Having been an atheist, I understand how that sounds to atheists and why we often have difficulty finding common ground to discuss what is true.

      Who said that ‘the most potent truths are vulnerable to disproof’ and what was the context? It’s interesting that you believe a ‘truth’ could be disproved. Truth is what is true, so how can what is true be proved to be untrue? By what criteria? Do you have an absolute measure for what is true? Can what is true become ‘untrue?’ If so, how? Thanks!

    • Mark, I’m interested to explore your comparison of belief in Jesus Christ with math. In what way does the belief have a way of checking your work?
      Let’s say for instance that two different people are using the same method of adding one plus one and are coming up with two different answers, how could we go about determining which one of them is using the correct method?
      Many different people are using the same method of faith and coming up with very different results. These people are absolutely confident that they are correct.
      When it comes to faith, does one plus one really always equal two?

      Also, if I’m reading the Bible correctly Jesus says, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life”. If a person claims to have found THE truth, how could they then be still searching for it?Is truth a fixed place that can be arrived at?

      ” If we are surrounded by nothing but ‘fallibility,’ then how do we know when something is right?”
      This is an interesting question Mark. How does a person determine that their faith is not another part of their inherent fallibility? You have stated that we need systems to help us overcome fallibility, how effective might faith be at performing this function?Are not millions of people using it to reach very different conclusions?

      If you were mistaken In believing in God as a result of the human fallibility that you and I have agreed is inherent, how would you go about discovering this?
      How are you and I to check our math and eliminate mistakes using faith?

    • Hi, Aaron. I used the math example as a demonstration of how we build on truth discovered. Once I know about the number 1 being part of the foundational structure of addition and subtraction, I don’t need to regularly return to that truth to determine whether it is still true. Once we know that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we don’t need to regularly return to that truth to determine whether it is still true.

      “Let’s say for instance that two different people are using the same method of adding one plus one and are coming up with two different answers, how could we go about determining which one of them is using the correct method?”

      If two different people are using the ‘same’ method of adding one plus one, how would they come up with two different answers? I would think that one of them was using a ‘different’ method or had ‘redefined’ the terminology.

      “Many different people are using the same method of faith and coming up with very different results.”

      Please give me examples of different people using the ‘same’ method of ‘faith’ who are coming up with ‘very different’ results? I think what we’ll find is that the people used ‘different’ methods or ‘redefined’ terminology, but I’d like to see your examples to know for sure.

      “Also, if I’m reading the Bible correctly Jesus says, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. If a person claims to have found THE truth, how could they then be still searching for it?Is truth a fixed place that can be arrived at?”

      You are reading the Bible correctly. That is what Jesus said. People who believe what Jesus claimed about Himself, that He is THE truth, are not searching for ‘another’ truth or a ‘different’ truth. Jesus is THE truth. Just like the math example of building numerical knowledge based on the foundation of the ‘number 1,’ people who believe Jesus Christ is THE truth build on that foundation to discover more about truth. If I want to know the answer to 50+50, I’m not turning my back on the foundation of the number 1. In fact, I’m using that foundation to help answer my question about 50+50.

      I believe ‘truth’ is a fixed place at which people can arrive. The number 1 is a foundational truth of mathematics. Jesus Christ is foundational truth of life. Both are truths in a ‘fixed’ place. We build on those foundations to learn more truth.

      “How does a person determine that their faith is not another part of their inherent fallibility? You have stated that we need systems to help us overcome fallibility, how effective might faith be at performing this function?Are not millions of people using it to reach very different conclusions?”

      People first must know that their system for discovering truth works (e.g. truth is discovered). If their system does not work, then they are wasting their time trying to discover truth. They need to analyze their system (systems analysis) to make sure their system works as intended. That means taking their system apart and putting it back together. It’s a basic principle of investigative journalism and many other disciplines.

      Based on the way you have postulated your questions concerning ‘faith,’ it appears you think that everyone who believes in ‘God’ used the same method to come to that conclusion. Is that correct?

      Thanks!

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      Mark, I think I’m understanding you better in regards to how you view truth.
      Would it be safe to say by now that you view truth to be a fixed, static, non moving place that can be arrived at?
      If so, is this place that does not move alive? Can you name anything off hand that is alive that never moves?Could it be that this fixed, static, non moving place of truth is dead?

      You’ve made an interesting observation about your analogy involving math. I would have to agree, and would add that if two people came up with two different results to a math problem using the same method, that they are likely using something more closely resembling faith than math.

      What example might you be able to give that a Muslim, Hindu, or Mormon would not be able to give for why your method of faith is different?

      I’m struggling to understand here Mark, on the one hand you agree that humans are by our very nature fallible and imperfect, yet on the other hand you seem to feel you have escaped this universal fact in regards to believing in God.
      How could we go about checking this belief for human errors in the way we would check a math problem for common mistakes without starting from belief itself?

  22. Hello, Vincent. I’d like to address any of your concerns about Street Epistemology when you have the chance. If you are unable to contact me, then I’d respectfully ask you watch the current Intro Video on my YouTube Channel, which addresses many of the concerns you raised here. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon. – Anthony Magnabosco

  23. Tee Jones on said:

    “Strong confidence based on evidence,” is not faith. If you had evidence to increase a confidence level of anything, you can believe in it. I will say, however, that it also depends on the significance of the matter. For example, I have have confidence that evolution is a fact. I don’t claim to be 100%, because that would be difficult to prove, but every additional piece of evidence increases my understanding of how evolution works. Science also makes predictions of what should be next, but most importantly, how new data could falsify the theory. Can the existence of God do that? If so, please show me.

    To be clear, I didn’t just find your blog. I only just stumbled on the SE article and found it interesting. I haven’t read every word of your work, but I have looked at every article, skimmed the content and looked for evidence. Again, without a basic “start with God’s existence” and then work backward, I don’t see anything new. Also, that is a biased approach I think we can all agree on.

    I have listened to a large number of debates between apologists and scientists/philosophers, (the ones you refer to a bullies) and each time leave thinking…why didn’t the apologist pull out the evidence and show everyone? Using the bible to defend the bible doesn’t work. Accurate historical accounts in a bible or sacred text doesn’t make it all true.

    I have not read every sacred text to come to the conclusion that all credible evidence for the existence of God has been refuted. That would be silly. I made an absolute statement based on this conclusion.

    Imagine if your assertion in confidence in evidence being the bases for faith. I don’t call that faith, I call that justified belief…I can’t justify throwing evidence in there because it weakens the argument. So, if you did have evidence that would prove the existence of God, to everyone on earth, without having to believe first, that would be AMAZING. Don’t you think so? If not, you don’t think God is as important as I do. His existence would change the world. You couldn’t keep it to yourself.

    Now, lets also assume, God was Jesus. Everyone else that doesn’t believe in him is wrong, and you need to have the most powerful nation on earth come together to show the world that we are correct. “Here is the evidence” we would all say. They might not come willingly, but through the scripture and evidence based epistemology, they really wouldn’t have a choice in what is true. We would know true things, and just try to show them. Also, WE WOULDN’T NEED FAITH. You might scream “HALLELUJAH” and I might too.

    Again, let us see the evidence, pretty please.

    Lastly, I will visit your blog. I don’t have one. I am a father of two young children, a USAF Officer, Pilot, Leader, and Humanist. I have little time left at the end of the day.

    Can you give us a link to some of your previous radio shows?

    • Tee Jones on said:

      I have another comment to add. I do not argue that there might be a God that is both spaceless and timeless. If there is this God, what is the evidence that you claim to know that the God of the bible is true and not one of the thousands of other gods throughout history. Secondly, how is consistent accounts in the bible different from historical accounts in any other sacred text. Christianity claims to be the one true religion, but so does every other religion. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey supports historical facts, but we aren’t searching for a petrified Medusa, mermaids, or praying to Zeus. I would venture that the belief in Christianity comes from the claim that Jesus existed, did miracles and was resurrected. The problem I have is that it has as much believability as the accounts of Muhammad and the winged horse, or Joseph Smith’s golden tablets. each of these examples are INTERNALLY coherent, in that they can explain themselves within the belief system, however, their foundation rests on faith (belief without evidence).

      How do we jump from confidence to truth? I can be highly confident in something that is completely untrue. How do you know you are not mistaken? If I am mistaken, I would like to revise my beliefs. I don’t claim to know there isn’t a god, I don’t have sufficient evidence to support the claim for any god.

    • Hi, Tee. I remember sitting at the large RCA console in the radio studio and telling my audience that I was going to challenge God to prove Himself to be real by sitting in a chair across from me and answer my questions. I waited several seconds (dead air on radio feels like forever), then told the audience that God had not shown up and that He must be on vacation or under the weather. I laughed and opened the phone lines to a mob of people who wanted to tell me I was going to burn in hell for what I had just done. What I didn’t expect was for God to send someone to be a guest on my show a year later who would begin the process of presenting evidence that would lead to my quest for the truth about the existence of God. I wish I still had a tape of that show and others I did as an atheist.

      I was skeptical during my investigation into the evidence for theism and Christianity because I didn’t believe in the supernatural. I looked at all the evidence I could find and asked every question I could think of to get to the truth, but I didn’t let go of my disbelief in the supernatural. That was my presupposition and as an investigative reporter I knew that presuppositions were dangerous to discovering the truth. I had to be open to the possibility that the supernatural existed. I didn’t believe it existed, so that was something I had to struggle with during the investigation.

      The journey I’m writing about in ‘Convince Me There’s A God’ is a look at the investigative process that led me to believe in God’s existence. Because of my presupposition that the supernatural didn’t exist, I looked at the evidence from a skeptical perspective. What I found through the study of archaeology and history was that the Bible was a credible compilation of ancient documents. That brought me to the life of Jesus Christ. Even though the ancient records indicated that a man named Jesus lived in Israel during the 1st century AD, I didn’t believe He did anything supernatural. It was after following the various biblical and extra-biblical historical evidences concerning Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that the real possibility of the supernatural began to take shape. If Jesus rose from the dead, the other miracles attributed to Him were not out of the realm of possibility. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then, as Paul wrote, the Christian worldview fails.

    • Have you read and examined the quaran and the hadiths and the evidence that they are the final revealed word of god?

    • I have. I first wrote about Islam in a 2007 book titled ‘A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality’ (Fifth Estate Publishing). I spent three years reading the sacred texts of all the ancient and modern religions available in print and online. After reading through the Qur’an twice and many of the Hadiths and Sufi texts and a number of historical books written by Muslim scholars, I wrote about the religion of Islam. You can order a copy of the book on Amazon.com if you’d like to read more about it. You can also look at a 3-part blog series I wrote about Islam beginning with part one here – https://faithandselfdefense.com/2012/04/29/defending-christmas-in-an-unbelieving-world-islam-part-1/ .

      Other parts of the Islam series are found here, https://faithandselfdefense.com/2012/05/20/defending-christmas-in-an-unbelieving-world-islam-part-2/ , and here, https://faithandselfdefense.com/2012/06/03/defending-christmas-in-an-unbelieving-world-islam-part-3/ .

      You may also find the book ‘Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus’ by former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi helpful – http://www.amazon.com/Seeking-Allah-Finding-Jesus-Christianity/dp/0310515025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427385415&sr=1-1&keywords=seeking+allah+finding+jesus

      Thanks!

    • Stryker on said:

      The evidence you seek is the same evidence you have likely already seen (as it pertains to God existing). We all, theists and non-theists, have the same “bag of evidence”. However, we bring our presuppositions to this evidence party and interpret said evidence differently. The cosmological, teleological, and ontological philosophical argments (to name a few) are all evidence for God’s existence, in my opinion.

      The existence of Laws of Nature, Laws of Logic, and absolutes (primarily morality) further demonstrate God’s existence. Now, you won’t likely study those subjects and see it the same way that I would, and that is because we bring our presuppositions with us.

      Therefore, I would ask why you care what anyone else believes? What in the atheistic Worldview accounts for that? Second, you reference “truth and “fact” above. How does your Worldview account for truth claims? How do you know that you can trust anything?

      – Stryker

  24. Aaron Ferguson on said:

    There are two major questions I would like to ask if I might. The first pertains to the starting point.
    Was the starting point for your faith saying “I don’t know”, or was it saying “I know”?
    To start from “I don’t know” would require separating personal preference from the mission at hand.
    If the mission at hand is to find out what is really true is it more reliable to say “I don’t know” and go where the evidence leads, or is it more reliable to say “I know” and then call that knowing evidence?
    This is the fundamental difference between faith and the scientific method. Faith requires the starting point of belief. How is a belief justified when the starting point is the belief itself?

    My second question regarding your previously commented definition of faith is this.
    By conflating faith with trust, are you claiming to use the same process to determine that the person standing in front of you exists, as you would to determine that a man who lived two thousand years ago walked on water?

    • Hi, Aaron. The starting point for my belief was when all my questions were answered. I started months earlier from the position of ‘I don’t believe.’ It later became ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ as my investigation continued.

      One of the people to whom I asked many questions about evidence asked me if there was any ‘reason’ why I shouldn’t believe in Jesus Christ. I thought about that for a bit and realized I could not think of any ‘reason’ not to do just that. The answers I had received to my investigative questions were reasonable and that started my trust in the evidence I had seen.

      The process I use to determine that the person standing in front of me exists is to believe my eyes. The process I use to determine that a man who lived two thousand years ago walked on water is to believe the evidence. If a man who lived two thousand years ago and claimed to be the Son of God was raised from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses before ascending into the sky, then something like walking on water would certainly be in the realm of possibilities.

    • Thank you for taking the time to think about my question.
      I must admit I’m a bit unclear as to what you are stating here, are you saying that simply having no reason not to believe something is a good enough reason to believe it?
      I’m also unclear as to whether you are saying that believing your eyes and having evidence for something are one and the same thing.
      Are you saying that the same amount of evidence exists to support the fact that your eyes can see, as there is to support the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead?I would be interested to examine this new method of examining ancient history that is as reliable as human sight.

      Imagine being ready to start from” I don’t know” at any given time.
      This is what is required by the scientific method. At any given time something we consider fact could be disproved and we would have to start over from square one.
      Would you be willing to explore this state of being with me?

      I have a proposition for you that I wonder if you might find interest in. Could we both start from the same place in the search of truth? Might we both start by saying “I don’t know” and see what we discover?
      I will say “I don’t know that God doesn’t exist” and you say “I don’t know that God exists” and we’ll go where the evidence leads us.
      How does this sound to you? Thanks.

    • Hi, Aaron. Why would I want to say I don’t know something that I know? Your proposition isn’t reasonable because it requires a person to deny knowledge they have.

      I did not say that “the same amount of evidence exists to support the fact that your eyes can see, as there is to support the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.” Here’s what I wrote:

      “The process I use to determine that the person standing in front of me exists is to believe my eyes. The process I use to determine that a man who lived two thousand years ago walked on water is to believe the evidence. If a man who lived two thousand years ago and claimed to be the Son of God was raised from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses before ascending into the sky, then something like walking on water would certainly be in the realm of possibilities.”

      The processes are different because the ways of knowing are different. Thanks!

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      I wonder if you might be willing to consider a time when you’ve changed your mind about something.
      Was it really such an unreasonable thing to do?
      If there is indeed so much evidence to support the existence of God, what’s the harm in starting from square one? Would not the facts unequivocally lead to the same conclusion?
      It was not my intention to be unreasonable with my request, merely to ask of you what I myself would be willing to give.
      If the truth is really on your side, you have nothing to fear, and a quick dip in the sea of inquiry with me would do nothing but bolster your position.
      I’m not asking that you forget everything you know, just that you be willing to change your mind as I’m sure you’ve done before.
      I’m asking if you’ll meet me in the middle to see what we might find out.
      Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back again.

    • Hi, Aaron. I’m trying to see the logic or reasonableness of changing one’s mind about something one has already investigated and discovered to be true. The reason I’m writing an in-depth series about my investigation into why I ‘changed my mind’ 44 years ago (atheism to theism) is to answer questions of atheists I’ve met through the years. You can link to the first part of the series here – https://faithandselfdefense.com/2012/10/06/convince-me-theres-a-god/ . I am still sharing investigations into the Old Testament, so the New Testament evidence will follow. Thanks!

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      Hi Mark, thanks for making an effort here. I’m assuming that coming to believe required you to change your mind about some things you thought you already knew?
      What would it be like for you to do this again?
      What might be some of the benefits of maintaining the status quo, and what would be some of the more difficult aspects of changing your mind again?

      I only ask because I’ve personally had some beliefs in the past that I thought I had a great deal of evidence for, only to discover that I was mistaken. I’ll admit it was quite painful to change, but looking back I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It caused me to value openness in a way I never could have otherwise. I’d like to give you this same opportunity if I could Mark. I understand you feel very confident in your position and that’s ok, confidence is a good thing. But what’s even more important than confidence is growth, and growth requires change.

      What if I told you that one moment of reason makes me happier than ten years of prayer, bible study, mission work and seeking God’s will ever could?
      I’m curious to know how you’ve determined faith to be so reliable, aren’t you curious to know why not believing makes me so happy?

    • Yes, please tell me why ‘not believing’ makes you so happy. Also, explain the part ‘happiness’ plays in the truth of your worldview. Thanks!

    • Aaron Ferguson on said:

      Mark, I appreciate your curiosity, it is a trait I’ve found to be indispensable to both the search for truth, and to the pursuit of happiness.

      One of the many reasons why non belief makes me so happy is because it allows my search for truth to be an ongoing one.
      I view truth as dynamic and alive, and not a static, crenated place to be arrived at. This is why I’m unable to separate happiness from the search for truth, and why this state of inquiry makes me feel so alive.This doesn’t mean that the truth always feels good to find out, but it does mean that the search for it is far more fulfilling than arriving at even the very best of conclusions.

      Am I correct in taking your reply as an agreement to explore how you’ve determined faith to be reliable in this search for truth?
      I’m more than willing to share this journey with you, but will need you to meet me at the crossroads of uncertainty in order to proceed.

      It is my understanding that by our very nature, human beings are fallible and imperfect. Can you think of anything that this doesn’t apply to?
      I’d greatly appreciate you taking the time to consider my questions before answering, and will make every attempt to do the same. I feel this will make for a much better exchange.

      Thanks,
      Aaron

    • Hi, Aaron. This thread is getting too thin to read well, so I’ll start a new thread to reply.

  25. Lynnsy on said:

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to all of the comments. Your critique of Street Epistemology has attracted quite a bit of attention. Dialogue is important.

    My question is: Do you apply the same critical lens to the tactics you and other apologists employ when you attempt to disabuse people of reason, in favor of faith?

    • Hi, Lynnsy. I must make a slight adjustment to your question in order to answer it. I do not attempt to ‘disabuse people of reason, in favor of faith.’ I want people to use reason, logic and evidence during our discussions because ‘faith’ is confidence in reason, logic and evidence. I do attempt to apply the same critical lens to the tactics (methods) I employ when ‘talking with people about their belief in God.’

      As for other Christian apologists, I know many who apply the same critical lens to the tactics they employ when talking with people about their belief in God. I encourage all Christian apologists to do that. Thanks!

    • Lynnsy on said:

      Confidence in reason, logic, and evidence is knowledge. If you have evidence that withstands scrutiny, you don’t need to use faith to believe it. Where did you learn your definition of faith?

    • I have a lifelong interest in the meaning of words. Started as a young child with mother and grandmother who worked in public education and continued through a 40+ year career as a journalist.

      ‘Faith’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something.’ ‘Knowledge’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.’ ‘Evidence’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.’

      One of the words for ‘faith’ in Latin is fides and has the meaning of ‘trust, confidence.’ One of the primary words for ‘faith’ in Hebrew is ’emuwn and has the meaning of ‘faithfulness.’ Another word, ’emuwnah, means ‘firmness, steadfastness.’ One of the primary words for ‘faith’ in ancient Greek is pistes and means ‘conviction of the truth of anything, belief.’ Thanks!

    • Lynnsy on said:

      In the interest of advancing the conversation, I’ve been reading much of your blog history, and I acknowledge your thorough citation of various dictionary definitions of the word faith in several posts. Using the definition of faith as “confidence in reason, logic, and evidence” what is your best example of evidence that gives you this confidence? You acknowledge that what it comes down to is relative confidence in the accuracy of the evidence under scrutiny, and your high level of confidence is faith, correct?

      I’ve read a lot on your blog about archeological evidence that aligns with historical accounts in the Bible. I don’t dispute that the Bible provides a fascinating and sometimes accurate account of historical events. I’m asking about the single best evidence for any of the supernatural events that are claimed to be true by Christians.

      Thanks in advance. I’m really enjoying this conversation because I don’t know any professional apologists in real life.

    • The single best evidence for Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God and predicted His death and resurrection to His followers, did rise from the dead, then any other miracles described and witnessed for Jesus are certainly within the realm of possibility. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the Christian worldview fails.

    • Lynnsy on said:

      Thank you, I appreciate you continuing this conversation. Obviously, the question of whether the supernatural claims of Christianity are true is of utmost importance to both of us. I understand that you have said the claim of Jesus’ resurrection is the best example of evidence that Christianity is true. May I ask then, how do you know this claim of the resurrection is true? In other words, how do you differentiate this knowledge claim from any other resurrection claim that has passed the lips of the followers of other religious figures (Osiris, Achilles, Bodhidharma, etc)?

    • Hi, Lynnsy. Good question. Before I answer, please let me know what you already know about the claims of the followers of other religious figures. I don’t want to address things with which you are already familiar. Thanks!

    • Lynnsy on said:

      Sorry, I was typing my reply above as you posted. I acknowledge your education and and qualification to discuss the meaning of words, whether by definition or practical usage, which I’m sure you know sometimes differ.

      In addition to my question about your best evidence for supernatural events from the Bible, I’m curious to know how you would describe the difference between knowledge and belief?

    • Knowledge is the combination of facts and information we acquire through the process of learning. Belief is confidence in what we’ve learned.

    • Lynnsy on said:

      That’s very informative to understanding your point of view. From what you’ve said, it appears that knowledge is based on how much confidence one has in the facts and information (other than facts?) they claim to have learned. Is this your position?

    • Knowledge includes confidence in the facts a person has discovered during the learning process. We say that we ‘know’ something when we are personally convinced of the truth of something. Learning does not end once we ‘know’ something because new facts offer new opportunities for gaining more knowledge and better understanding of a subject.

  26. Tee Jones on said:

    Do you believe that faith is a reliable method to come to know what is true?

    • How do you define ‘faith?’ How do you define ‘true?’ Thanks!

    • Tee Jones on said:

      Faith is believing in something without evidence. Truth being in accord with fact or reality. It is something that cannot be false. A triangle has three sides is a true statement. If you immediately ask what reality is, it is what our senses reliably sense.

      Faith can also be pretending to know something you don’t know. I think that seems to some up some of the statements you have given in reference to evidence. I said before that every theistic claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted. The reason I make this claim isn’t out of ignorance, it is out of reading and studying all the claims to find out which one is true.

      I have found that every time evidence is provided it always requires a belief first to “see” or “find” the evidence.

      Also, SE doesn’t want to harm Christians. We don’t even care about which religion a person of faith has, necessarily. It is the method that they came to this knowledge that we want to discuss. If is true, we want to know it. Without condition though…I don’t think I should have to open my heart for Jesus in order to see evidence. That is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      Next, you have said that you have evidence. I have read your blog from start to finish and don’t see it? Can you point me to evidence that can be scrutinized? I really want to see it because if God exists I want to spread the world.

      If you have justified true belief in something, does that make it true? I say, not without evidence. Evidence is what fills the gap between belief and knowledge. When evidence lacks, sometimes the gaps are filled with God. That doesn’t make it true.

      Lastly, these discussions are great and I am sure we all enjoy our search for the truth. Again, if you have evidence, please we all need it to justify to our families why Jesus Christ is the one true God.

    • Thank you, Tee. Using ‘your’ definition of faith (believing in something without evidence), I don’t believe that kind of faith is a reliable method to come to know what is true. If we use the definition from multiple dictionaries and usages from multiple languages over a period of several thousand years, I think that kind of faith (strong confidence based on evidence) is a reliable method to come to know what is true. I also don’t see that ‘pretending to know something you don’t know’ is a good definition of faith. I understand that it is becoming the preferred definition by an increasing number of atheists who used to prefer defining faith as ‘belief without evidence,’ but that still doesn’t make it a good definition in the sense of communicating the reality of meaning.

      I understand that you believe ‘every theistic claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted.’ Theistic claims to evidence that God exists have been used throughout known history, so your claim to know that every theistic claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted is remarkable. I wrote a book several years ago about the History of Man’s Quest for Immortality and spent months reading all of the sacred texts available in print or online. Based on your claim to know that every theistic claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted, you must have done something similar. Please tell me about your experience in reading every sacred text available in print and online and how you know every claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted.

      I don’t believe street epistemologists want to harm Christians, yet. I think for now they want to talk Christians out of their faith and, as Jerry Coyne is quoted on Peter Boghossian’s home page – “Peter Boghossian fills that gap, telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with the skills to attack religion at its weakest point: its reliance on faith rather than evidence. This book is essential for nonbelievers who want to do more than just carp about religion, but want to weaken its odious grasp on the world.”

      The reason I said that I don’t believe street epistemologists want to harm Christians ‘yet’ is because of something Peter Boghossian wrote in his book:

      “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).”

      This has the haunting sound of severe government persecution against Christians, Jews and other religious groups similar to what we read about in both recent and deep history. If Christians or other religious people were to say anything remotely close to what Boghossian said, they would be charged with hate speech. The fact that this is being written about and said in public venues and no one is calling foul says a great deal about what is happening in our society and where it is headed.

      I listened to an excellent debate between Peter Boghossian and Tim McGrew. McGrew is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Teaching at Western Michigan University. Dr. McGrew specializes in epistemology and the history and philosophy of science. The moderator of the debate, Justin Brierly, asked Dr. Boghossian to explain his belief that faith should be seen as a mental illness, complete with entire institutions devoted to treating faith as a disease and working towards ‘interventions’ to move people away from faith. Here was Boghossian’s response:

      “It is very unfair to say that I target the Christian faith. I am deeply hostile to all faiths… My attempt isn’t to demean anybody. Religions should be seen as possible mental illness, and to exclude faith from treatment as a mental illness is hampering science. Faith hijacks the thinking process… We need to help people through these delusions they have.”

      That is why I said ‘yet.’ I believe we will see a rapidly increasing movement toward passing laws in the United States and through international organizations that place ‘people of faith’ (religious) in mental disease categories for the purpose of eradicating belief in God through governmental enforcement power.

      You mentioned that you read my blog ‘from start to finish’ and didn’t see any evidence for belief in God. I admire your ability to read an entire blog of more than 220 articles in such a short time. Since you read so quickly and are able to grasp the full understanding of what is and is not evidence, please read my other blog with close to 400 articles and let me know if you find any evidence there. http://gracelifethoughts.com If you read 600 articles and do not find any evidence in any of them, then one of us has a serious problem in understanding what evidence is and isn’t.

      Because of both having been an atheist with a radio talk show to attack Christians 4 hours a day and having discussed theism with atheists for the past 44 years, I understand much of what is being shared with me by you and others. I realize that we don’t agree on definitions of important words and ideas. I realize that the evidence I investigated as an atheist that led me to theism is not evidence that you and most other atheists will agree to being evidence. How many times have atheists told me that ‘there is no evidence for the existence of God.’ My usual response is to discuss the use of the term evidence from a legal/judicial perspective, but even that doesn’t lead to any admission by atheists that Christianity has some evidence for the existence of God, even if they don’t believe it. Comments like ‘there is no evidence for the existence of God’ and ‘every theistic claim to evidence that God exists has been refuted’ bring any reasonable, logical, evidence-based discussion to a close.

      One of the nice things about talking with atheists at work is that when we come to an impasse about evidence for the existence of God, we can talk about work or family or mutual interest. It’s more difficult to do online.

      Please let me know where I can visit your website or blog to learn more about you and your interests. One of the things I love about being a journalist is meeting new people and learning about them. Thanks!

  27. I think that you would agree that many Christians use faith as a belief without evidence. I know that is the concern of many Christian apologist like JP Moreland and Greg Koukl. Koukl has a similar book out titled “Tactics” where he shows Christians how to have conversations with non-believers using what he calls the Columbo Tactic in order to convert them. Street Epistemology has a different goal than Koukl which is to challenge people to base their belief on evidence rather than on blind faith. I would think this is what you are interested in doing as well. It is true that most Street Epistemologist are non-believers but the conversation should lead to a better epistemology. I think Peter’s book is mis titled( so the publisher can sell some books) which leads to wrong assumptions about his book. If you watch enough videos you will see that Anthony has conversations with atheists, gun owners, etc, on their evidence for their belief so the main focus is not on de-converting Christians but on using better epistemology to come to ones belief. If you define faith as trust then you do not see faith as a good epistemology, do you? If faith is just “trust ” then it is not an epistemology. So when Peter says he is trying to “disavow someone of faith” he is talking about epistemology and not trust. I think you would have to agree with that.

    • Hi, Joe. I think many Christians don’t understand the evidence that is foundational to their Faith. We do not believe that faith is ‘a belief without evidence.’ I’m familiar with Greg Koukl’s book. If you’re saying that the goal of street epistemology is to ‘challenge people to base their belief on evidence rather than on blind faith,’ then our basic goal is similar. I define faith as strong confidence in evidence. I agree with you that ‘trusting’ in something that’s not true is not good epistemology. We should all ‘trust’ in what’s true. Thanks!

    • So if I understand you correctly, faith is confidence in evidence, right? Great! I’m eager to hear this evidence so I might have faith too.

    • Hi, Carolyn. I’ve addressed the evidence issue in responses to several other comments. Please take a look at those and let me know what question I can answer. Thanks!

  28. Tim York on said:

    You state that the questions street epistemologists ask are often unreasonable. Do you consider it unreasonable to ask someone how they arrived at their belief in God?

    • Hi, Tim. Asking how someone arrived at their belief in God is certainly a ‘reasonable’ question. That’s similar to my asking if you believe in God. If you answered that you do not believe in God, I would ask why. Those are reasonable questions.

      I listed some of the unreasonable questions presented by street epistemologists: ‘What if that hadn’t happened to you? Would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ And so on. ‘What if’ questions are not based in evidence. They are not reasonable, rational arguments. They are not logical. They are just ‘what if’ questions used as a tactic to confuse and mislead. Thanks!

    • stephen on said:

      For the sake of clarification are What if questions always a tactic to confuse and mislead or did I misread you.

    • Hi, Stephen. Questions are both a ‘tool’ and ‘skill’ in communication. Street epistemologists have admitted in their writings and videos that they use questions as a tactic. Here is an example of what I mean taken from http://www.streetepistemology.com/ . As you will see the ‘purpose’ of asking questions is to persuade. It is about conversion, not conversation. That’s what makes it tactical.

      ‘Don’t debate his faith-derived conclusions. Instead, interview him about why he thinks faith is pertinent to obtain reliable conclusions. Make him talk. Ask him questions taken from the following categories:

      Conceptual clarification questions

      Get him to think more about what exactly he is thinking about. Prove the concepts behind his argument. Use basic ‘tell me more’ questions that get him to go deeper.

      Why are you saying that?
      What exactly does this mean?
      How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
      What is the nature of …?
      What do we already know about this?
      Can you give me an example?
      Are you saying … or … ?
      Can you rephrase that, please?
      Probing assumptions

      Probing his assumptions makes him think about the presuppositions and unquestioned beliefs on which he is founding his faith. This is shaking the bedrock and should get him really going!

      What else could we assume?
      You seem to be assuming … ?
      How did you choose those assumptions?
      Please explain why/how … ?
      How can you verify or disprove that assumption?
      What would happen if … ?
      Do you agree or disagree with … ?
      Probing rationale, reasons and evidence

      When he gives a rationale for his arguments, dig into that reasoning rather than assuming it is a given. People often use un-thought-through or weakly-understood supports for their arguments.

      Why is that happening?
      How do you know this?
      Show me … ?
      Can you give me an example of that?
      What do you think causes … ?
      What is the nature of this?
      Are these reasons good enough?
      Would it stand up in court?
      How might it be refuted?
      How can I be sure of what you are saying?
      Why is … happening?
      Why? (keep asking it — you’ll never get past a few times)
      What evidence is there to support what you are saying?
      On what authority are you basing your argument?
      Questioning viewpoints and perspectives

      Most arguments are given from a particular position. Show that there are other, equally valid or contradictory, viewpoints.

      Another way of looking at this is …, does this seem reasonable?
      What alternative ways of looking at this are there?
      Why it is … necessary?
      Who benefits from this?
      What is the difference between… and…?
      Why is it better than …?
      What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
      How are … and … similar?
      What would … say about it?
      What if you compared … and … ?
      How could you look another way at this?
      Probe implications and consequences

      The argument that he gives may have logical implications that can be forecast. Do these make sense? Are they desirable?

      Then what would happen?
      What are the consequences of that assumption?
      How could … be used to … ?
      What are the implications of … ?
      How does … affect … ?
      How does … fit with what we learned before?
      Why is … important?
      What is the best … ? Why?
      Questions about the question

      And you can also get reflexive about the whole thing, turning the question in on itself. Use his arguments against themselves. Bounce the ball back into his court, etc.

      What was the point of asking that question?
      Why do you think I asked this question?
      Am I making sense? Why not?
      What else might I ask?
      What does that mean?

      If you remain focused on faith and never succumb to the temptation of hurrying the process by trying to win the argument in an adversarial fashion, you will see him suddenly struck by doubt. The window will be wide open for a microsecond. Say nothing. Allow his brain take in a breath of fresh air. Your job is (almost) done. The seed of doubt and reason has been sown in his brain.’

      As to your question about ‘What if questions always a tactic to confuse and mislead,’ I was addressing the ‘what if’ questions street epistemologists use. ‘What if that hadn’t happened to you? Would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ And so on.

      The ‘what if’ questions are not based in evidence. They are not reasonable, rational arguments. They are not logical. They are just ‘what if’ questions used as a tactic to confuse and mislead. Questions about evidence are reasonable and should not lead to confusion ‘if’ people know ‘why’ they believe ‘what’ they believe. Thanks!

    • Tee Jones on said:

      I am glad you wrote this article, because I think you can be more accurate. I suggest a book by Dr. Peter Boghossian titled, A Manual for Creating Atheists. It will correct some of the inaccuracies in total, but I will help.

      1. “Hundreds of Videos on the internet”? I wish there were. But alas, the only really thought provoking videos I have found are from Anthony Magnabosco. He has a great youTube channel, but you quoted him in the article, so I think you have found it.

      2. The questions are not “reasonable”. They are not reasonable because they don’t rely on evidence? The questions are reasonable because the claims themselves not rely of evidence. It is a easier way to discuss correlation and causation. Just because you prayed and a person was healed, doesn’t mean godditit, or medical science shouldn’t get credit. If a person can cure cancer with prayer…let me know, because I will join in. The truth is important to me, and if true, I want to know.

      3. The street epistemologist used his judgement to arrive at whether or not the person arrived at their God belief using reliable methods. Not at all. The SE asks questions to find how they came to that belief and if reliable, use the same method. Culture and evidence can play a big part, but if faith is used, the SE is interested in how.

      4. SE must “claim to know the reliable method for determining if there is a God.” I don’t think you understand the point of SE. The point isn’t to prove God doesn’t exist, but discover if the methods used to believe in God are reliable. That is it. Simple. If they are reliable, the SE wants to know and revise their beliefs.

      5. A cleaver “trick”. The SE is not a trickster, but a person who wants to “believe true things.” If things are true, how do we know. If evidence is required, are we willing to revise our beliefs when new evidence is presented?

      6. The scale of belief is demonstrative of belief itself. Can we truly know it 100%? I can be 100% sure of true things, like a the fact that a triangle has three sides, but can I be sure that my belief is 100% true. If so, how can I be that sure. That is not a fancy ploy or argument starter, it is a honest way to start the conversation. Also, interrupting someones thought by offering numbers is not intended to confuse, it is often just an example to explain what the question is asking.

      7. The “what if” question. These type of questions are rational because they ask for honest thought about the claim. Have you considered any other possibility? If not, how can you know if you are wrong? Again, it is seeking the truth. If the person said, because I have evidence and here it is, that would be amazing! I also don’t think you understand the implications of the question. It is to get people to think…not just accept.

      8. Questions about why a person believes what they believe is not illogical or unreasonable. The method SE use, is not aimed a confusing, but aimed at being honest and open in the discussion on how someone came to their God belief. If they have a reasonable method, the SE wants to find it. Also, if a person of faith is not truly sure why they believe in something, isn’t it important for them to find out? Also, if the only method for retaining faith is not to question it, I don’t think people are being honest to themselves or their community.

      9. The SE wants the same thing as the Christian in a sense. “We (both) need the help…(each other)…become strong by listening, asking, answering, and providing evidence that will help overcome obstacles to trust.” Trust is important. Honestly is important. Evidence is important.

      10. Swarm attacks. I think this comment is interesting, because if you watch some of the videos, especially with street preachers, you will see the swarm attack of scripture evidence in action.

      11. Conversation is defined, like you say, as “the informal exchange of ideas orally.” The SE uses conversation to understand how a person came to their belief. Most often, culture and evidence have an influence. SE also finds that people use faith. There are many definitions of faith people use, even sometimes the one in the bible. SE use “belief without evidence.” If the person has a reliable method for their God belief, through evidence, the SE only wants to find it. Also, if the person must believe in something before they can come to see it is true, SE want to discover if that is a worthwhile method. Again, if it is, SE want to know.

      12. Although the above can be summed up by a misunderstanding in the few (or hundreds of) YouTube videos you may have seen. It doesn’t speak the truth. The most disturbing part of your blog, however is in its ending. You say “teach your children what to believe, and why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.” Children can not understand the difference between claims of evidence with true evidence. Every claim for the existence in God has been refuted. The only way you can make children believe in your God is through faith. They must believe because you said so and not question. That is the true danger, and a shame.

      Tee

    • Hi, Tee. I am familiar with Dr. Boghossian’s book and videos as well as the writings and videos of other atheists who promote street epistemology. Accuracy is vital, so thank you for your response to my article. I’ll address each of your points.

      1. “Hundreds of Videos on the internet”? I wish there were. But alas, the only really thought provoking videos I have found are from Anthony Magnabosco. He has a great youTube channel, but you quoted him in the article, so I think you have found it.

      Searching Google for ‘street epistemology’ brings up 15,900 videos. I’ve watched a lot of them, which gave me some insight to the process. I’ve also watched many videos by Peter Boghossian about street epistemology, practical strategies to combat faith, faith being a barrier to rational thought, faith being pretending to know things you don’t know, Jesus being a fairy tale, etc. I’m a journalist by trade, so I do a lot of research before writing an article. Information about street epistemology includes more than 500,000 results in a Google search for web pages that address it.

      2. The questions are not “reasonable”. They are not reasonable because they don’t rely on evidence? The questions are reasonable because the claims themselves not rely of evidence. It is a easier way to discuss correlation and causation. Just because you prayed and a person was healed, doesn’t mean godditit, or medical science shouldn’t get credit. If a person can cure cancer with prayer…let me know, because I will join in. The truth is important to me, and if true, I want to know.

      I agree with you that just because you pray and a person is healed, it doesn’t mean that God did it or that medical science shouldn’t get credit. It also doesn’t mean that God did not do it.

      The unreasonableness of questions, in my view, is when they are not based on evidence or logic. The ‘what if’ questions I used as examples are not based on any evidence or logic. How is ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ based on evidence or logic? How is ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ based on evidence or logic? They are emotional questions rather than evidential because the Bible does not promise that God will heal every person every time everyone prays and asks for healing. The Bible does not promise that every Christian will ‘feel’ good after every church service. The questions are not based in evidence, logic or reason and are therefore unreasonable.

      3. The street epistemologist used his judgement to arrive at whether or not the person arrived at their God belief using reliable methods. Not at all. The SE asks questions to find how they came to that belief and if reliable, use the same method. Culture and evidence can play a big part, but if faith is used, the SE is interested in how.

      I haven’t read any articles or watched any videos by street epistemologists who approach the conversation in the way you described. Please send me any links you have.

      4. SE must “claim to know the reliable method for determining if there is a God.” I don’t think you understand the point of SE. The point isn’t to prove God doesn’t exist, but discover if the methods used to believe in God are reliable. That is it. Simple. If they are reliable, the SE wants to know and revise their beliefs.

      The stated purpose of Peter Boghossian, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and all of the street epistemologists I have read and watched is to ‘talk people out of their faith.’ They believe that what’s reliable is what they believe and that what Christians believe is wrong. Here is the promotional writeup on Amazon.com for ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists.’

      ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith–but for talking them out of it. Peter Boghossian draws on the tools he has developed and used for more than twenty years as a philosopher and educator to teach how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.’

      Jerry Coyne is quoted on Peter Boghossian’s front page – http://peterboghossian.com/

      ‘Up to now, most atheists have simply criticized religion in various ways, but the point is to dispel it. In A Manual For Creating Atheists, “Peter Boghossian fills that gap, telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with the skills to attack religion at its weakest point: its reliance on faith rather than evidence. This book is essential for nonbelievers who want to do more than just carp about religion, but want to weaken its odious grasp on the world.’

      The stated purpose of street epistemology, according to Coyne and apparently confirmed by Boghossian since he placed it on his home page, is to ‘attack religion at its weakest point’ and ‘weaken its odious grasp on the world.’ That sounds nothing like a street epistemologist who is searching for truth and open to ‘know and revise their beliefs.’

      5. A cleaver “trick”. The SE is not a trickster, but a person who wants to “believe true things.” If things are true, how do we know. If evidence is required, are we willing to revise our beliefs when new evidence is presented?

      I respectfully disagree based on my own training as an atheist, the hundreds of atheists I’ve communicated with since becoming a Christian, and all of the atheist books, articles and videos I’ve read and watched. I have known some atheists who have revised their beliefs when new evidence was presented (I am one of them), but most atheists do not seem interested in considering the evidence of theism.

      6. The scale of belief is demonstrative of belief itself. Can we truly know it 100%? I can be 100% sure of true things, like a the fact that a triangle has three sides, but can I be sure that my belief is 100% true. If so, how can I be that sure. That is not a fancy ploy or argument starter, it is a honest way to start the conversation. Also, interrupting someones thought by offering numbers is not intended to confuse, it is often just an example to explain what the question is asking.

      Placing a number on a belief can be a tactic from either side, theist or atheist. I believe that’s misleading because anything other than 100% is looked at as doubt. I think a better measure is ‘certainty.’ That’s a firm conviction that something is the case, the quality or state of being certain especially on the basis of evidence. Are you certain about what you believe? If so, why? I think those are fair questions.

      7. The “what if” question. These type of questions are rational because they ask for honest thought about the claim. Have you considered any other possibility? If not, how can you know if you are wrong? Again, it is seeking the truth. If the person said, because I have evidence and here it is, that would be amazing! I also don’t think you understand the implications of the question. It is to get people to think…not just accept.

      I don’t think ‘what if’ questions are based on logic and reason, but a Christian who knows ‘why’ they believe ‘what’ they believe should be able to address the questions similarly to how I answered your second question.

      8. Questions about why a person believes what they believe is not illogical or unreasonable. The method SE use, is not aimed a confusing, but aimed at being honest and open in the discussion on how someone came to their God belief. If they have a reasonable method, the SE wants to find it. Also, if a person of faith is not truly sure why they believe in something, isn’t it important for them to find out? Also, if the only method for retaining faith is not to question it, I don’t think people are being honest to themselves or their community.

      Based on what leaders in street epistemology have written and said, I don’t believe their aim is to be honest and open in the discussion about how someone came to their belief in God. As I answered in your fourth question, the stated purpose of street epistemology is to attack religion and weaken it grasp on the world.

      9. The SE wants the same thing as the Christian in a sense. “We (both) need the help…(each other)…become strong by listening, asking, answering, and providing evidence that will help overcome obstacles to trust.” Trust is important. Honestly is important. Evidence is important.

      That has a nice ring to it and I wish it was so, but that’s not evidenced by what street epistemologists have written and said.

      10. Swarm attacks. I think this comment is interesting, because if you watch some of the videos, especially with street preachers, you will see the swarm attack of scripture evidence in action.

      My problem with swarm attacking is that it doesn’t allow for conversation. If a question is worth asking, it’s also worth answering. The process of conversational questioning includes time for answers and follow-up questions. Swarming is a process of attempting to overwhelm someone to the degree that they don’t have time to think or answer.

      11. Conversation is defined, like you say, as “the informal exchange of ideas orally.” The SE uses conversation to understand how a person came to their belief. Most often, culture and evidence have an influence. SE also finds that people use faith. There are many definitions of faith people use, even sometimes the one in the bible. SE use “belief without evidence.” If the person has a reliable method for their God belief, through evidence, the SE only wants to find it. Also, if the person must believe in something before they can come to see it is true, SE want to discover if that is a worthwhile method. Again, if it is, SE want to know.

      This will be difficult even when a theist presents strong evidence and logic because there is a fundamental difference in what the theist and the atheist want to accomplish in this kind of conversation. Jesus Christ told His disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey Him. Atheist leaders tell their followers to attack Christianity and ‘weaken its odious grasp on the world.’ Those are parallel lines that will not intersect.

      12. Although the above can be summed up by a misunderstanding in the few (or hundreds of) YouTube videos you may have seen. It doesn’t speak the truth. The most disturbing part of your blog, however is in its ending. You say “teach your children what to believe, and why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.” Children can not understand the difference between claims of evidence with true evidence. Every claim for the existence in God has been refuted. The only way you can make children believe in your God is through faith. They must believe because you said so and not question. That is the true danger, and a shame.

      I respectfully disagree that I have misunderstood the hundreds of articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched about street epistemology. Boghossian, Harris, Coyne and others are very clear about their purpose.

      I understand why you are concerned about how I ended my article based on your view of theism. You wrote – “Children can not understand the difference between claims of evidence with true evidence. Every claim for the existence in God has been refuted. The only way you can make children believe in your God is through faith. They must believe because you said so and not question. That is the true danger, and a shame.”

      Really? Every claim for the existence in God has been refuted? I appreciate your sharing your true belief with me because it goes to the point I’ve been making that at the root of street epistemology is the belief that ‘every claim for the existence in God has been refuted.’ Street epistemologists cannot be open to an ‘honest’ conversation with theists because they are not open to believing in the existence in God. They have closed their minds to that possibility.

      I respectfully disagree that children must believe ‘because you said so and not question.’ That is the wrong way to teach truth to a child or anyone. We should encourage children to wonder and question about God. That is our opportunity to point them to the evidence about the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The shame would be in not giving children freedom to question and not pointing them to the evidence.

      I appreciate your spending time to write me and hope these answers are helpful.

  29. This article seems to miss the point that street epistemology isn’t about debating, arguments, or facts. It is simply trying to get to the root of what originally caused the individual believer to believe. If it really was evidence that led them there or if there was some faith involved, and to get the believer themselves after they go away and think about it, to realise that having faith that something is true does not make it so, and that faith can be an unreliable way to come to the truth.

    Street epistemology is just about having a chat about how you come to know something is true. Some people are better at conversation than others. What makes faith a reliable way to know something is true? If you do not believe in God by faith, but through evidence then your belief in God will stay intact. It is a matter of being honest with yourself.

    • Hi, Jamie. I agree with you that if a person believes in God ‘through evidence,’ then their belief in God will ‘stay intact.’ I appreciate your help in emphasizing that point. Christians need to know ‘why’ they believe ‘what’ they believe.

      I respectfully disagree that ‘Street epistemology is just about having a chat about how you come to know something is true.’ Peter Boghossian and other street epistemologists admit that their reason for talking with people is to ‘talk them out of their faith.’ Their intent is not to ‘chat’ but to persuade. I want Christians to understand that when they meet street epistemologists, they are meeting someone who wants to talk them out of their belief in God. It’s not a chat. Thanks!

    • Indoctrinate your children? on said:

      Right. We want to talk you out of your belief that faith is useful to know God. We really want to talk you out of your belief in God, but if we say that, we might scare you away.

      But you still have avoided the question. What makes faith useful? You have not provided an answer, just chipped away at how questioning faith is somehow bad? How is it bad? If you use faith to arrive at different conclusions, then it is unreliable. If we want to live in a rational society, we should not encourage faith. Otherwise every rumor will be true, every UFO sighting will cause terror, every miracle cure will sell like wildfire…and none of it would be true.

      Please explain to the Street Epistemologists here how having faith (pretending to know something you don’t know) is useful, and is a virtue, otherwise, you’re just deflecting the question.

    • I don’t know about you personally, but I have listed the names and quotes from many of the leaders of street epistemology and they do want to talk Christians out of their faith. That is the stated goal of the leaders of the movement.

      What makes ‘strong confidence in evidence’ (faith) useful is that if the evidence points to the existence of a God who created the universe, it would be helpful to know what God wants from us.

      I respectfully submit to you that we will not be able to come to any mutual conclusion as long as you continue to insist that the definition of faith is ‘pretending to know something you don’t know.’ I watched Dr. Boghossian on video as he introduced the new definition to humanist groups and heard their laughter at the new definition. I get it. I used to mock Christians and making fun of them was, well, fun. However, mocking doesn’t equal truth. Truth is based on evidence. If God exists and Jesus Christ rose from the grave, then responding to what God wants from us is quite useful. If God doesn’t exist and Jesus Christ didn’t rise from the grave, then why do you care what Christians believe?

  30. Marty L on said:

    Good article, but I have a question. Your last paragraph states we need to “teach our children what to believe”. I have read and studied both the quaran and the bible. Both make competing, contradictory claims. Which of these documents do I teach my child to believe is correct?

    • Hi, Marty. My full quote from the article is – ‘Teach your children what to believe ‘and’ why they can be confident that what they believe is the Truth based on truth and reason.’ Christians need to do a better job teaching their children ‘why’ they believe ‘what’ they believe and why they can have confidence in the evidence.

      I agree with you about the Bible and Qur’an. They do ‘make competing, contradictory claims.’ Both of them cannot be true. Either one of them is true or neither is true. Which do you believe to be true based on your study? That’s what you would teach to your child.

    • Marty on said:

      So would you say truth is just relative? Since, as you say, they can’t both be correct, what if what I believe is wrong and teach that to my child? Is there a risk that can be mitigated so I am not in danger of believing and teaching the wrong one?

    • I do not believe that ‘truth’ is ‘just relative.’ That would lead to truth relativism (subjective relativism, cultural relativism). I believe truth does exist and that there are absolute truths and reality.

      Parents must do their homework about truth and reality. Believing the wrong thing could be devastating. A risk mitigation would be to investigate every aspect of a truth claim/world view and make sure it met all the criteria for truth. Once you are certain about what you believe, teach that to your children. Your children will need to do the same thing that you did – investigate every aspect of a truth claim/world view and make sure it meets all the criteria for truth. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your response. Follow up question?

      Since we both agree that truth is not relative, what process do we use to make certain any claim meets all the criteria for truth? Is there a standard process we can use to all arrive at what is actually true?

      I completly agree with you that believing the wrong thing could have devastating consequences; the world is full of examples of that phenomenon.

      Thanks again for your response and time.
      Marty

    • I used the investigative journalism method to search through the available evidence. The Internet, smartphones, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist in 1971, so we investigated things old school. We physically went to places and talked with people in person. Be curious and skeptical. Ask every question you can think of, look at every piece of available evidence, ask more questions, get the best expert advice possible for each stage of the investigation, ask more questions. Develop sources who can help you get to hidden information. Stay curious and skeptical. Don’t miss any clues. Ask more questions. Once you finish that process you are ready to write your story. After you write and report your story look for follow-ups to your story. Continue to be curious and skeptical. Continue to ask questions. Continue to build sources and find new sources.

      That’s what I knew how to do and it served me well in going through the available evidence. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your response.

      It seems we both use the same process you describe. We gather evidence, look at all the evidence, ask many questions, and remain skeptical. If we are using the same epistemic tools, how can we arrive at differing truths? Since we both agree that truth is not relative, and we seem to both be using the same tools, why do we arrive at different conclusions? I don’t know, but I suspect either our epistemic tools are different, or the evidence is not reliable enough to draw any conclusion from that leads us closer to truth.

      Am I missing something?

    • Good question, Marty. If we have looked at all of the same evidence, have similar investigative skills, and used the same investigative tools, one would think that we would arrive at similar results. I managed reporters and investigative teams for decades and have seen this very process repeated in every investigation. The team approach is helpful in that each member of an investigative team brings a unique perspective on evidence and the investigative process. What one team member misses another team member discovers.

  31. Tavis H. on said:

    i don’t get what the isse is? If our faith has any merit, shouldn’t we be engaging more with atheists? Faith is a dialogue anyways.

    • Indoctrinate your children? on said:

      Does your faith have any merit? What is it? Give us a good case about why it is useful to have faith in God. Or better yet, faith in anything.

    • Stryker on said:

      Why do you care about those things? I’m unsure of what your exact Worldview is, but it seems that it is non-theistic (please correct me if I am wrong). That being said, most atheists I’ve met believe that we are simply chemical accidents made up of distant stardust. I don’t want to imply I know what you believe, but if that is true, why does anyone who holds those beliefs care what another grouping of chemical accidents inside of stardust believes and or does? I have yet to truly understand the reasoning for that in the atheist’s Worldview.

      – Stryker

    • Lynnsy on said:

      This is in reply to Stryker, as it appears one cannot reply to a third-level comment on this blog format. I can’t speak for other atheists (as the only thing we all agree on is there is insufficient evidence to believe in any of the thousands of gods ever conceived throughout human history), but I can explain why the worldview of another person matters to me…

      Religious faith is a knowledge claim about critical facets of the reality we all inhabit. Knowledge informs actions, and actions have consequences that affect other people in this world. Individuals are responsible for the consequences of their actions, and thus have a responsibility to use reliable ways of knowing what is true.

      If you lived in a society where most people believed (without reliable justification) that the tooth fairy was real, gifted us with teeth, meticulously tracked the health of our teeth, and judged us for eternity after death based on the state of our dental hygiene and how much we worshipped the tooth fairy, this would greatly affect how we formed our societies, what we spent societal/government resources on, and how we looked upon one another as fellow beings. This is why it’s important to me to believe in things that are true.

    • Stryker on said:

      Lynnsy, your reply interesting. You seem to be saying that another individual’s Worldvew is important because if it is wrong it may affect others in society based on the actions that those individuals may take. Do I understand that correctly?

      I am still not understanding why that matters. Are you claiming that there is a right and wrong way of organizing society? How do you account for such absolutes? Where do your definitions of what is “right” or “wrong” come from? Are these not subjective claims within your Worldview?

      Finally, your statement regarding “This is why it’s important to me to believe in things that are true” is interesting as well. Can you explain, in your Worldview, how you come to a truth claim? What do you base your truths on? If it is based upon logic and reason, how do you account for logic and reason?

      – Stryker

    • Lynnsy on said:

      Thank you for repeating my explanation as you understand it, as it provides me the opportunity to clarify for myself and for you. I do not claim that any worldview is absolutely “right”. A person’s worldview is a result of genetic predisposition, sensorial experience, and the interaction of one’s cognitive faculties with both former inputs. I simply see no reliable evidence for the supernatural truth claims of Christianity (or any other religion I have studied, though I humbly admit my exposure to world religions is limited by both geography and time).

      In the absence of reliable evidence for an absolute “right” worldview, or way of organizing society, what do we do? We look for evidence of what actions seem to either improve or harm society as we know it. During the first century roman empire, the charismatic teachings of Jesus may have improved society for a great number of people in the area. This does not mean that his claims withstand time, other natural forces, or the wondrous achievements of subsequent great minds.

      I propose (unoriginally) that we can imagine the “most wrong” position (which would be exhibited in ultimate suffering), and then use experience to determine what is a “better” position. What constitutes a better position for any individual versus local society and versus global society is ripe for study, debate, and justification. This process does not necessitate a supernatural authority, nor does it benefit from one, as it is evident that supernatural claims by nature cannot be justified amongst each other.

      Does this clarify my limited claim? I’m open to new reliable evidence and justified ways of thinking. Are you?

    • Marty on said:

      I suspect that your statement “I’m open to new reliable evidence” is at the heart of the discussion here. I cannot honestly say I know the truth of any faith-based claim. What I can say is that I am in search of the truth. What raises a “red flag” for me is someone who claims they know the truth and are more than willing to demonstrate why their particular brand of truth is the “right” truth. This is probably nothing more than confirmation bias. Again, I am open to reliable evidence to change my mind.

    • Stryker on said:

      Thank you for expanding on your original post. You continue to use words such as “wrong”, “ultimate”, “better”, “improve”, “harm”, etc., and I do not see where you answered my question regarding this language, so I’ll ask again. How do you account for such absolutes? Where do your definitions of what is “right”, “wrong”, “better”, etc. come from? Are these not subjective claims (opinion) within your Worldview?

      I will also ask again my question for you about truth claims. Can you explain, in your Worldview, how you come to a truth claim? What do you base your truths on? What do you use to base a truth claim on?

      Third, you mention “natural forces” in the most recent post. In your Worldview, can you explain to me how you account for these natural forces? Also, would you describe the natural forces you are referring to when you explain how you account for them? Thank you.

      – Stryker

    • Lynnsy on said:

      Stryker – Do I really need to type out a long list of definitions for every word that I use? This post is about Street Epistemology and Faith. Whether you and I agree on the definition of the word “wrong” is irrelevant. It has no bearing on the knowledge claim by Christians that Christian dogma is TRUE, while employing special pleading for every attempt to ask how they know it is true (based on widely accepted standards of evidence in every other facet of life). Illuminating the difficulty of negotiating morality in the absence of unjustified truth claims does not justify the truth claims!

      The difference between an SE and someone who employs faith to make truth claims about reality is that the SE is willing to say I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers, but I think we should encourage people to stop pretending to know things they don’t. It’s distracting the rest of humanity from working through the hard questions about human morality because so many people think they already have the perfect answer.

    • Stryker on said:

      Lynnsy, I see that you will not answer the questions that I posed to you, which is too bad. I was hoping to gain a further insight into your Worldview. If you do decide to further the discussion, I will leave the three questions here one last time.

      1) How do you account for absolute statements, especially regarding morality?
      2) Can you explain how you determine a truth claim?
      3) How do you account for the natural forces that you describe?

      Take care,

      – Stryker

    • Lynnsy on said:

      I responded to your initial question as to why an atheist might care what a Christian believes in, and then I further explained it based on your attempted re-statement. If you want to continue the conversation, in the spirit of fair play, I ask that you first answer your own questions from your point of view. Then I will be glad to re-engage. Thanks for your time.

    • Hi, Tavis. Truth is truth and can be defended by those who understand it. Christians should engage with atheist and other non-Christians on a regular basis. The issue is that many, many Christians do not understand what they believe and are therefore unprepared to dialog with atheists and other non-Christians effectively. That responsibility, I believe, falls at the feet of Christian parents and church leaders. There is a great need for Christians to prepare believers to understand both what they believe and why they believe ‘and’ be able to communicate that knowledge clearly and effectively.

  32. Shelley on said:

    ISIS followers have a very very strong faith. Do you encourage them to guard there faith against atheists as well?

    • Hi, Shelley. I encourage only Christians in matters of faith. What is the point of your question? Thanks!

    • Indoctrinate your children? on said:

      Shelley’s point is that faith can lead to different conclusions, so obviously you shouldn’t use it because you cannot trust that it will lead to the right conclusion, in your case: Christianity.

      What makes Christians any more special than the rest of us? Is pretending to know something a virtue? How can someone be a Christian without first having faith? If you don’t have faith, you cannot ever be a Christian, so it seems like encouraging only Christians to have it is a bubble effect. Sure they’ll agree with you that its helpful, but no one else will.

    • Hi, Indoctrinate. I respectfully disagree with your definition of ‘faith.’ ‘Pretending to know something’ is not a definition of faith that is reasonable or logical.

      Christians are not ‘any more special’ than other people. The Bible is clear that ‘God created man in His own image.’ That means every person is special with a unique purpose. The Bible is also clear that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Every person has the same problem. That’s the ‘conflict’ part of the story. The ‘resolution’ part is that anyone can be ‘justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ Christians are simply people who have been justified by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Everyone has access to that same offer from God.

    • Stryker on said:

      Indoctrinate, please explain to me how you determine what “right” is in your Worldview. Do you believe in absolutes? If so, how do you account for these absolutes. Thank you.

      – Stryker

    • Shelley on said:

      Because ISIS followers have used the same method of “knowledge” development …..based on faith, “evidence” from ancient text, etc…..as you have. Should ISIS followers guard against secularist examining their conclusion based on faith like you are recomending to Chritians? If your method is a useful method to reach truth, why do you limit it to Christians?

    • ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) claims to be following the religion of Islam. Islam is not a branch of Christianity. Muslims have their own apologists, so you might contact one of them about how they came to believe what they believe and how they respond to the arguments of secularists.

    • Shelley on said:

      Perhaps start with where Islam and Christianity start to differ in their truth claims and where Christianity has evidence to be correct. Of course, you will be actually starting where Jew and Muslim differ. They are both Abrahamic religions….perhaps provide the evidence for which son did Abraham bring to sacrifice. Was is Isaiah or Ischmael? Apparently makes a big difference in determining which is true.

    • sorry, *isaac*

    • Stryker on said:

      Shelley, how do you know that ISIS followers have used the same method? Did you interview these members, determine their method, and then determine the methods used by the writer of this blog and compare and contrast the two methods?

      – Stryker

    • Stryker,

      I did not interview these members, etc. but similar to studying medicine/science, one can evaluate their argument by their written and verbal arguments. They report faith in their sacred texts. They espouse that there is clear evidence for the truth in the Quran very similar to what Mark is describing for Christianity. But I do believe you are dodging the question.

      Perhaps you could clarify the evidence of Abraham bringing Isaiah to sacrifice vs Ischmael. Or since you likely did not interview the ISIS followers, perhaps just state the evidence for Isaiah.

  33. Yes, thanks so much for spreading the message! As a Christian for 20 years, simply reading the arguments presented in the book A Manual for Creating Atheists gave me two choices: (1) be honest with myself about why I believed in God or (2) ignore the arguments from atheists so I could retain my faith. I chose to look into Christian apologetics and compare that with the arguments presented by atheists, and as a result, I had no choice but to join their ranks.

    Again, thanks for spreading this message of Street Epistemology. I honesty hope this blog post engenders a curiosity in Christians so they read the arguments presented and think critically about their beliefs.

  34. “The atheist is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, which means he or she is claiming to know the reliable method to determine belief in God.”

    This is an absurd statement. You do not need to know anything to point out a flaw in an argument. By this logic, mathematical proofs could never be evaluated unless there was already an accepted proof.

    • I understand your point about pointing out flaws in an argument, but how is the statement absurd? If someone is looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine belief in God, does that not mean they know the reliable method to determine belief in God? If we are discussing how to add numbers and you are looking for possibly unreliable methods to determine my understanding the process of addition, is it not necessary that you know the process of addition?

      I don’t think atheists know a reliable method to determine belief in God. I think they believe they know a reliable method to determine God does not exist. If a supernatural God does exist, would it not be possible for that supernatural God to use supernatural methods to reveal His existence? If so, how would an atheist know reliable methods to determine belief in God if they didn’t know the supernatural method God used?

      It’s important to note that the supernatural God uses both natural and supernatural methods to reveal Himself to people. God chose to reveal Himself to me through the natural process of evidential investigation. He may choose to reveal Himself to someone else through a supernatural method. If a supernatural God exists and created the natural world, then He has a variety of both supernatural and natural methods available to reveal Himself to His creation.

    • Would a reliable method to determine that God exists be different from a reliable method to determine the truth of other claims?

    • Hi, Walter. Nice to hear from you and look forward to discussing this with you. What are some examples of “the truth of other claims”? That way I can see if we can compare reliable methods.

      Thanks! Mark

    • Stryker on said:

      Ben, you state that “You do not need to know anything to point out a flaw in an argument.” I would argue that you need to know language, reason, logic, communication skills, etc. (just to name a few). Also, when you state there may be a “flaw”, how do you determine what is a flaw and what is not. Are you stating that you are able to determine what is truth? If so, how do you account for truth claims in your Worldview? Thanks

      – Stryker

  35. Gump Worsley on said:

    1. It’s actually ‘disabuse themselves of their faith’ and not ‘disabuse their faith’. 2. How are the SE questions ‘unreasonable’? That’s kind of the point of critical thinking, to explain how you come to conclusions, not just spew ‘because I (or my minister) say so’ dogma! 3. Yes, “atheists don’t believe there is a reliable method to believe in God” because they have concluded through reason and evidence that such a proposition is untenable. So they’re not going to offer answers in this regard. One would think that a theist should easily be able to explain just what method they used but not one has so far in the videos I have seen. 4. As for “swarming” with “unreasonable questions” (there they are again!), and unwillingness to engage in a true “conversation”, it seems to me that the SE person is usually quite willing to listen & respond to most of his interlocutor’s comments, even waiting patiently for the person to find thoughts that are often emerging after being coaxed out for the the first time.

    If asking someone to use the same reasoning about their god belief that they would use to assess other processes, conditions & situations in life is “unreasonable” then please tell me what is “reasonable”.

    • Hi, Gump. Thank you for the correction about the ‘disabuse’ quote. I’ll update that in the article.

      The SE questions that are unreasonable include ‘what if’ questions – ‘What if that hadn’t happened to you? Would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if your grandmother didn’t get better after you prayed, would you still believe in God?’ ‘What if the feelings you have after a church service are bad instead of good, does that mean you would feel differently about God?’ And so on. ‘What if’ questions are not based in evidence. They are not reasonable, rational arguments. They are not logical. They are just ‘what if’ questions used as a tactic to confuse and mislead.

      I agree with you that – ‘One would think that a theist should easily be able to explain just what method they used but not one has so far in the videos I have seen.’ They should. That is a big problem that Christian parents and church leaders must address. People who say they are Christians should know ‘why’ they are Christians. They should be able to answer questions about ‘why’ they believe ‘what’ they believe and what method they used to become confident in what they believe.

      The ‘patience’ you speak of about how the SE person communicates with someone who believes in God is relatively new. I used the ‘swarm’ technique when I was an atheist and have experienced that used by most atheists since I became a Christian. The tactics SE’s are now using are new in the sense that they’ve been using them for a short time. I think the best conversations are those that are thoughtful and respectful and based on evidence for one’s beliefs. Thanks!

    • I don’t understand your ” ‘What if’ questions are unreasonable” argument. The “What If” questions are designed to discover the reason a person believes the things they believe. If a person claims to believe in God because X happened to them, but they say they would still believe in God if X had not happened, then they do not really believe in God because X happened. They believe for some other reason. How is pointing that out misleading and illogical?

    • Hi, Ben. Reasonable questions could include what someone believes, why they believe it and how they know it to be true. Unreasonable questions could include if someone would believe something different if they had a different experience with people (e.g. grandmother doesn’t heal, feelings are hurt by people in church). I would recommend that people not answer those questions, but instead try to help the person asking the question to find a way to restate the question in a reasonable/logical way or point out to them that their question was unreasonable.

    • Gump Worsley on said:

      I can’t see how a “what if” question is unreasonable. Hypothesizing is again part of critical thinking. Can you perhaps give me an example of what you would consider a reasonable question? You often mention you used to be atheist. What led you to embrace that outlook in the first place? How did you decide the reasoning for that conclusion was ultimately not sufficient? (And “I found Jesus” or “I let Jesus in my heart” are not good explanations of reasoning for moving away from that position.)

    • Reasonable questions could include what someone believes, why they believe it and how they know it to be true. Unreasonable questions could include if someone would believe something different if they had a different experience with people (e.g. grandmother doesn’t heal, feelings are hurt by people in church).

      I became an atheist through a process of searching for a philosophy that was better than the type of religious philosophy I knew as a child. I became involved in martial arts and spent time studying Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, and Buddhism. I also studied the writings of several atheists. In the first semester of my freshman year in college, I had an atheist professor. What he said fit well with everything I was studying at the time. I studied for a career in radio and television and became a news reporter and talk show host. Talking with people live on the radio often led to discussions about the problems with religion. I had many atheists and religious leaders on my show as guests. One of my guests was a science professor who believed that God created the universe. I began an investigation into his claims and met another professor who introduced me to biblical archaeology. At the end of my investigation I became a Christian based on the results of the investigation into the evidence.

      If you’re interested to learn more about how and why I left atheism for theism, you can read through hundreds of my blog posts at faithandselfdefense.com and gracelifethoughts.com and 30 of my eBooks at gracelifethoughts.com/gracelife-bible-study-ebooks/ . I also wrote one book about the History of Man’s Quest for Immortality and another about what led me to Christianity (GraceLife) You can order through fifthestatepub.com/tag/mark-mcgee/.

  36. Street epistemology is about teaching someone to figure out how they believe ANYTHING, not just in god. The same critical thinking skills can be applied to anything; politics, biology, economics, and god. The point of Street epistemology is to get a person to question how they come to know things. If you read up on the Socratic method, or Socratic pedagogy, you’ll see the same skills can be applied to figuring out.

    The fact of the matter is that most Christians have never really inspected their beliefs, but instead take much of what they believe for granted, never having really, REALLY thought through the claims made by their spiritual leaders. This makes the discussion of faith-based beliefs fertile ground for teaching the method to someone, with a topic they THINK they understand, but very often have only a cursory understanding of.

    If you believe in God, and in the tenets of your specific faith/religion, then it should be easy to inspect the basis for those beliefs. In a country that’s 78% Christian (http://religions.pewforum.org/reports), the discussion of faith in the Christian God just happens to be a statistically consistent topic for discussion that a Street Epistemologist can strike up with almost anyone on the street.

    The impact of this can’t be minimized. Poor thinking skills affect a person’s ability to make their way through life. It affects the way you vote, the way you process what your doctor tells you, the manner in which you complete your work, and the methods you use to raise your children. If your worldview is flawed, and your thinking skills are incomplete/ineffective, then you aren’t living the life you could be.

    A discussion of faith between a believer and a Street Epistemologist doesn’t have to be an argument. In fact, most of the SEs I know don’t take a confrontational approach to their conversations with others. They are respectful, courteous, and always willing to listen. After all, the goal of SE is to find truth, wherever it may reveal itself. This benefits both participants.

    A person has nothing to lose in a conversation with an SE, and possibly may learn new ways of thinking that lead to actual knowledge, not just uncritical acceptance of information handed down from others.

    Now, with all that said, I don’t actually know which books/videos you’ve seen, so for all I know, the ones you’ve reviewed were actually of SEs who took a predatory approach I’m unfamiliar with. I don’t dismiss the possibility that you’ve seen/spoken with SEs who aren’t actually interested in hearing what you have to say, but I’m not that type of SE. If you are in possession of information that can increase my understanding of how the world works, then I’d love to hear it and consider it. I’d also be interested in sharing my own opinions, if you wanted to make it a two-way conversation. But in lieu of such an exchange, I would only request that you tell me which videos you’ve seen and books you’ve read, so I can reach out to them and help them better understand the true goal/nature of SE. After all, I’d hate to see a good skillset go to waste.

    Thanks..!

    • Hi, espinga. I agree with you that many Christians have not ‘inspected’ their beliefs. They know ‘what’ spiritual leaders have told them, but often don’t know ‘why’ they should believe them. I am a critic of a lot of spiritual teaching today and in the past. Some of what presents itself as ‘Christian’ teaching is not Christian in the sense that it does not follow the Bible’s teachings accurately. Church leaders have a lot of work to do to help Christians understand why they believe what they believe.

      I agree with you that – ‘If your worldview is flawed, and your thinking skills are incomplete/ineffective, then you aren’t living the life you could be.’ As a former atheist, I found that my worldview was flawed and that my thinking skills were incomplete/ineffective. As I learned, the life I was living as an atheist was not all it could be. I found abundant and robust life in Christ.

      I respectfully disagree that the goal of SE is ‘to find truth, where it may reveal itself.’ Peter Boghossian, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and other atheist leaders have made it clear that their primary goal is to talk people out of faith. Sam Harris interviewed Boghossian and asked him what his goal was in writing ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists.’ Boghossian’s answer was – “My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.” Boghossian’s view of ‘reason’ is not necessarily the ‘truth.’ It’s ‘his’ belief about what’s true. A theist has a different perspective on ‘truth’ based on investigating evidence and using logic and reason to conclude what is truthful.

      Christian parents and church leaders need to focus more of their attention on equipping children, youth and adults to know what they believe and ‘why’ they believe it.

    • Carl Myers on said:

      Some apologists state their goal is to “convert people to christianity”, others state their goal is “to teach people the truth” (which they believe is christianity). Does that mean apologetics is dishonest? or merely that some people have dishonest goals? Can that affect *all* apologetics?

    • The mission Jesus Christ gave His disciples is to ‘make disciples’ and teach them to obey Him. That is the mission of Christian apologists as well. We love God and people and want to help them know and love God who loves them.

      What is the ‘that’ in ‘does that mean apologetics is dishonest?’ I want to be clear before answering. Thanks!

  37. Indoctrinate your children? on said:

    There is no reliable way to find God, and if you use faith, then you can land in very different faiths (Christianity or Islam or anything else). Faith is simply unreliable. That’s the point. If you use faith to believe in God, then you’re just gullible and prone to irrational thinking. Sorry, but this article is laughable.

    -An atheist

    • Hi, Indoctrinate. I respectfully disagree with your opinion. Investigating the evidence is a reliable way to find God. Faith is being confident in the evidence investigated and confirmed. Investigating the evidence of various worldviews can lead a person to being confident in what they have discovered to be true to the evidence. Investigating and trusting evidence is not being gullible or prone to irrational thinking. Thanks!

      -A former atheist

    • Indoctrinate your children? on said:

      Surely you have written a book about how any rational person could follow the evidence and become a Christian. What is the name of this book? Why isn’t it provided in schools? Such an important thing as the salvation of the human race isn’t something you should keep to yourself. Please, show us the evidence…

    • I have written about 600 posts and 30 eBooks addressing evidences, becoming a Christian, etc. You’ll find them at faithandselfdefense.com and gracelifethoughts.com. thanks!

  38. Jeremiah on said:

    I find this pretty misleading. I believe the writer is referencing Anthony Magnabosco and his YouTube videos for most of his examples. I recommend readers of this post to watch those videos before taking this author at his word. Also- both Magnabosco and author Peter Boghossian both maintain a pretty steady presence on social media where they seem to be open to discussion with people from all points on the spectrum.

    • Hi, Jeremiah. Richard Dawkins website recommends Magnabosco’s videos – https://richarddawkins.net/2014/12/street-epistemology-tutorial-5-when-to-bail-on-believers/ and I can see why. It’s tactical in nature and works well with what Peter Boghossian has been doing for some time. Boghossian, Magnabosco and other atheists involved in street epistemology use a variety of techniques. The question is why. Why do atheists want to talk people out of their belief in God?

      Sam Harris interviewed Boghossian and asked him what his goal was in writing ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists.’ Boghossian’s answer was – “My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.” Boghossian believes that people who believe in God have no ‘reason’ or ‘evidence’ for believing in God. From the same interview with Harris, Boghossian said – “Almost everyone can relate to having had conversations with friends, family, coworkers, where you are left shaking your head and wondering how in the world they can believe what they believe—conversations where they fully and uniformly dismiss every fact and piece of evidence presented to them. So the core piece of advice I give may at first sound counterintuitive, but it is simple: When speaking with people who hold beliefs based on faith, don’t get into a debate about facts or evidence or even their specific beliefs. Rather, get them to question the manner in which they’ve reached their beliefs—that is, get them to question the value of faith in appraising the world. Once they question the value of faith, all the unevidenced and unreasoned beliefs will inevitably collapse on their own.’

      I think one reason Boghossian wants to change the way atheists approach Christians is because discussions ‘about facts or evidence or even their specific beliefs’ doesn’t lead to talking someone out of their beliefs. What Boghossian has discovered is that questioning ‘the value of faith in appraising the world’ seems to have worked better. It’s a strategic decision to change during battle that leads to a change in tactics.

      Jerry Coyne has written that the weakest point of people who believe in God is ‘its reliance on faith rather than evidence.’ That’s interesting in that the first definition of faith in many dictionaries is ‘complete trust or confidence or something.’ The ancient concept of ‘faith’ is trusting in something or someone because of the evidence someone has to believe it. Christianity is a worldview based on evidence that calls people to ‘believe’ the evidence.

      I’ve watched many, many atheist videos online and have talked with atheists for more than 40 years (I’m a former atheist). I have not found the majority of atheists to be open to discussion with people from all points on the spectrum. However, that is changing. Many atheists are adopting the techniques that Boghossian and others are recommending and are using better methods of communication. Some of those include – active listening, manifest empathy, establish a rapport, preach by example, mirror his speech, use conceptual clarification questions, use probing assumptions, use probing rationale, reasons and evidence, questioning viewpoints and perspectives, probe implications and consequences, questions about the question. Here’s a quote from street epistemology.com about atheists talking with theists.

      “If you remain focused on faith and never succumb to the temptation of hurrying the process by trying to win the argument in an adversarial fashion, you will see him suddenly struck by doubt. The window will be wide open for a microsecond. Say nothing. Allow his brain take in a breath of fresh air. Your job is (almost) done. The seed of doubt and reason has been sown in his brain. Now, it is up to him to decide how he wants to react to the embarrassment of being wrong. If he asks for help, help him. Otherwise, share an anecdote where you surmounted the awkward feeling of realizing a mistake. Whatever happens, successful or not, always end the intervention on a positive note. Thank him for allowing you to revise your belief system and/or learn something new.”

      This is a big change in the way atheists have talked with theists, but it doesn’t change the fact that theists can have confidence in the evidence for belief in God. I left atheism for theism and Christianity because of the ‘evidence’ I investigated. The process included logic and reason. Unfortunately, many people who say they believe in God do not know ‘why’ they believe in God and are thus open to someone talking them out of their beliefs.

    • Indoctrinate your children? on said:

      Still wondering what this evidence is. Please describe it so we can make sure you didn’t break any logical fallacies.

    • I’ve written about 600 articles on faithandselfdefense.com and gracelifethoughts.com, so you will find some of the evidence there.

      One of the most-asked questions I’ve heard from atheists through the years is why I left atheism for theism and what convinced me to do so. I decided to write an in-depth response to address the evidences that convinced me about the existence of God. The series is called ‘Convince Me There’s A God’ and it’s on the faithandselfdefense.com blog. The only evidence I’m presenting in that series is what was available to me in the first several months of 1971. I’ll write about the evidences I discovered after becoming a Christian once the first series is complete. Thanks!

    • I read all these comments hoping to find evidence of god. Didn’t happen. You asked, “Why do atheists want to talk people out of their belief in God?”

      I think atheists are trying to make the world a better place, free of all the harm being done in the name of religion. Surely, an intelligent person like you can see all the death and destruction fueled, directly and indirectly, by religions, so I won’t detail it here.

    • Hi, Carolyn. I’ve addressed the evidence question in several other replies, so please read those and let me know if there’s any other questions about evidence that I can answer.

      I agree with you that many atheists view religion as causing a lot of harm in the world. I thought the same thing as an atheist. Death and destruction have been fueled by many things through the ages, including jealousy, greed and pride. A person doesn’t have to believe in God to be harmful to other people because of their jealousy, greed and pride. Live long enough and you see that people of all kinds of theistic, agnostic and atheistic world views cause death and destruction.

      Christians believe something else is at play in the world, but it deals with the supernatural and atheists do not believe in the supernatural. We are also concerned about the harm people do to people. I’ve taught martial arts and self defense to children and adults for 50 years because of my concern for their safety. I taught as an atheist and continued to teach as a Christian. Thousands of Christian martial arts instructors around the world are teaching people how to defend themselves and others against harm. That’s one small example of how theists are involved in making the world a safer place. I hope that helps you see that many people who believe in God also believe in promoting the safety of all people on the planet.

    • Stryker on said:

      Carolyn, when you say “better place, free of all the harm being done in the name of religion”, can you explain how you determine what is “better” or what constitutes “harm” in your Worldview? Are you using these words in an absolute sense or are these subjective terms? If you believe these are used in an absolute sense, can you further explain how you account for absolutes in your Worldview? Thank you

      – Stryker

    • Jeremiah on said:

      Alright, so if you believe there is evidence, then why not thank Boghossian and Magnabosco for asking theists the questions that will lead them to that evidence?
      Also- as a theist don’t you want to talk people into yr belief? Why do you make it sound like a terrible thing for an atheist to do the same?

    • My comments are addressed primarily at Christians so they will know about street epistemologists. Boghossian, Harris, Coyne, Dawkins and other atheists who are guiding street epistemologists have no interest in ‘asking theists the questions that will lead them to that evidence.’ They have made it clear that their sole intention is to talk theists out of believing in God. I’ve listed quotes from their books, articles, videos and debates in response to other comments and questions here. That’s the reason I wrote the article, so Christians would understand the purpose of street epistemology. Atheists are doing what they believe is the right thing to do, just as I did when I was an atheist.

      One difference that I’ve noticed in watching street epistemologists is that they don’t reveal who they are until later in the conversation. Telling people I was an atheist was one of the first things I told people. However, my goal was not to talk theists out of their belief in God. I just wanted to argue and mock them. The tactics of street epistemologists are more polished and effective than what I and other atheists did years ago. A good example of that is found in an article titled ‘Opening Windows: How to Aerate Closed Minds.’ http://www.streetepistemology.com/opening-windows-how-to-aerate-closed-minds/ My goal in writing this article was to report about it so Christians would be aware.

      As a theist I do not want to talk people into ‘my’ belief. I want to help them through their investigative process of looking at the evidence and making a choice based on the evidence. I traveled that road decades ago and now offer to help them search for answers to their questions.

    • Jeremiah on said:

      I’m sorry- one more question, could you point to one of Magnabosco’s videos where evidence for theism is presented and is disregarded by the interviewer? Thanks!

    • Jeremiah on said:

      ‘I want to help them through their investigative process of looking at the evidence and making a choice based on the evidence.’

      But you have a belief you claim that evidence leads to. So how is that different from SE? The interviewer has an idea where he/she thinks the evidence points but a big focus in SE is on sincerity in your interviewing. Don’t ask questions you don’t care about the answers, don’t engage people if you only want to preach. So Boghossian sees the evidence leading to atheism, but the process isn’t a conversion to atheism, I’m assuming almost exactly like you claim you don’t do. The process is asking how people got to their belief with sincerity, honesty, and authenticity. So what harm do you see coming from this? It seems you think Christians SHOULD know the answers to these questions, so why do they need to be WARNED about SE?
      Have you found a Magnabosco video where a theist presents evidence that is disregarded by the interviewer?

    • The main difference I’ve seen so far by watching some SE videos is that the SE doesn’t explain who they are or what they’re doing. I think it’s good to introduce myself to people as a Christian at the beginning so they know who I am. If they tell me they are an atheist, I tell them I’m a former atheist. I like to keep everything as honest as possible.

      I disagree that the purpose of the SE process is not to convert people to atheism. Boghossian, Harris, Coyne and others who promote street epistemology have been clear that the purpose of SE is to talk people out of their faith. I’ve listed numerous quotes from them in reply to other comments.

      The fact that street epistemologists are able to talk people out of their belief in God demonstrates, I believe, a weakness in how theists have been taught about their belief. They know ‘what’ they believe (to a lesser degree than they should), but they don’t know ‘why’ they believe.

      The result of this emphasis by Boghossian and other atheists, I hope, will be that Christian leaders will focus more attention on apologetics (faith defense) which will eventually strengthen the Church to do what God has called it to do.

    • At the risk of throwing gasoline on fire, I really think you need to watch some of the Street Epistemology Tutorials that I assembled (particularly my first three), which address all of this and more: http://www.tinyurl.com/se-bd-tutorials – Anthony Magnabosco
      P.S. Would you be open to give me a phone call tonight or this weekend?

    • Hi, Anthony. I’ve seen one or two of your tutorials and will watch the rest as soon as I can. I look forward to talking with you after I’ve seen them. Thanks!

  39. I think you meant “StreetEpistemology.com” instead of “StreetEpistemoloy.com” Thanks for the warning. As if campuses and new books aren’t enough ground for the atheists to cover. Please continue to spread the word and equip believers.

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