Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 2

Street EpistemologyIn the last part of our new series, we looked at ‘The Purpose of Street Epistemology’ and ‘How Street Epistemology Works.’ Based on the stated purpose of street epistemology — ‘talking people out of their faith,’ — we looked at the key terms of  ‘talking’ .. ‘people’ .. ‘out of’ .. ‘their faith.’

One of the keys to ‘how street epistemology works’ is the process of ‘interventions,’ which street epistemologists view as ‘liberating people of faith from their ignorance.’

I recently experienced an ‘intervention’ of sorts and would like to share it with you as an example of how it works.

Dr. Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists and a primary mentor for street epistemologists, tweeted about an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

“These attempts to discourage people from being honest, less dogmatic, & more humble, will fail. http://
faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/18/breaking-down-street-epistemology/

Boghossian’s tweet led hundreds of atheists and street epistemologists to my article and many of them participated in an ‘intervention’ for me. First, let’s look at the published techniques for a ‘faith intervention,’ then see how street epistemologists used those techniques in communicating with me.

This first list is from the website streetepistemology.com. The subject is ‘Opening Windows: How to Aerate Closed Minds.’ The author(s) state the mission of street epistemology:

  • Meet him (person of ‘faith’) at his window
  • Speak softly, in a non-threatening fashion
  • Make him talk about the reasons why he believes faith is the pathway to truth

Street epistemologists are taught that if the ‘person of faith’ has not opened his or her heart to them, they should do these three specific things:

  1. Active Listening: Listen to his side and make him aware you’re listening
  2. Manifest Empathy: Get an understanding of where he’s coming from and how feels. Tell him you know he wants to be decent person, as everybody else, you included.
  3. Establish a Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when he feels it back. He starts to trust you.

Street epistemologists are told that ‘Only then you’ve earned the right to proceed with the next steps of the invention. Don’t hurry him. Don’t skip any steps. Be confident that the time will come when he will feel the need to not have that piece of glass between him and you.’

That leads to the next steps in the street epistemology system:

  1. Preach by example
  2. Mirror his (person of faith) speech
  3. Use the Socratic method

With those points in mind, here are some examples from comments street epistemologists shared with me immediately after Peter Boghossian tweeted about my first article. Look for how they use some of these techniques. Keep in mind that what we’re doing now is looking at ‘method,’ not ‘content.’ We will look at content later, but first we want to grasp the street epistemologist’s ‘methodology.’

________________

“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.”

______________

“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?”

_____________

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

_____________

“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”.

____________

“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.”

______________

“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.”

_____________

These were some of the first comments to reach my article. What do you see here? What about method and technique? Based on what street epistemology trainers are trying to do in preparing thousands of street epistemologists to talk theists ‘out of their faith,’ how do you think they did? How would you respond to similar comments about what you believe about God and Christianity?

We’ll look even deeper next time in Street Epistemologists – On Guard.

____________

http://www.creatingatheists.com/

http://www.creatingatheists.com/2013/10/20/uncreate-atheist/

https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/a-response-to-peter-boghossians-manuel-for-creating-atheists/

____________

Faith&SelfDefense

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4 thoughts on “Street Epistemologists – On Guard 2

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

  2. Well, the one thing that interested me, was that not one piece of evidence (for or against the existence of God) was mentioned. Also, the false definition of “faith” as believing something with no evidence or even against the evidence was implied a few times. Instead, every time you read a scientific article and _believe_ the results that it reported is true, without actually repeating the research experiment yourself to test it, you show your _faith_ in the authors, _believing_ that their report is true.

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