We are continuing to report about HOW atheist street epistemologists do what they do.
If this is the first time you’ve read anything in this series, we invite you to read these articles when you have time. You may find the background helpful –
You may also find it helpful to read about the history of atheist street epistemology in our free Ebook, Street Epistemologists ‘On Guard’.
I’m using four primary sources for this part of our report –
- A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian
- Complete Street Epistemology Guide: How to Talk About Beliefs (Last Update: 10 May 2016)
- Street Epistemology videos
We are currently looking at Section 2.4 from the Complete Street Epistemology Guide (CSEG). That’s the section titled When to use it –
“You can use Street Epistemology whenever a truth claim is being made. However it is most useful for extraordinary claims, such as miracles and supernatural phenomena, including:
● Existence of one or more gods or immaterial persons (theism).
● Phenomena that violate or suspend the operation of natural laws (supernaturalism,paranormal and psychic phenomena, miracles, karma).
● Biological death does not end one’s existence as a conscious being (afterlife,reincarnation, resurrection).
● The effectiveness of healing modalities that science based medicine rejects asunproven or ineffective (quackery).
● The scientific validity of an idea or system which has never been adequatelyresearched or fails under scientific testing (pseudosciences).
● A covert but powerful force/group is responsible for certain events or situations,where evidence of that force/group is lacking (conspiracy theories). In such cases, we often encounter the following justifications, and the Street Epistemologistasks whether they are sufficiently reliable to warrant belief in the claim.
We addressed the issue of “extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims” in a previous part of this series (click here to read). There is no reason to throw the belief in the existence of God into an unnecessary category for evidence (e.g. extraordinary evidence) when available evidence will support the investigation. It’s a smokescreen atheists and agnostics use to try to control the discussion about God’s existence. Don’t fall for it.
Our Response to Tactics
First – don’t allow atheist street epistemologists to take control of the discussion. That’s a primary tactic of street epistemology. They use techniques to control the conversation. Don’t let them do it.
Atheist street epistemologists are taught to “strive to ‘sow seeds of doubt that will blossom into ever-expanding moments of doxastic openness.” (The Complete Street Epistemology Guide How to Talk About Beliefs, 3.1.5, Know what success looks like)
That echoes beautifully the stated purpose of street epistemology as explained by the founder of SE –
“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)”
Remember that when you meet an atheist street epistemologist. They may talk to you in a way that might make you think they want to have an open and equal conversation about how we know what we know. However, according to the founder of street epistemology and the training manuals used for street epistemologists, that is not the reason at all. Their stated/published reason is to cast doubt on your beliefs, cause you to mistrust your faith, and talk you out of your faith. That’s what street epistemology is really about. Anyone who denies that is either not telling you the truth or they haven’t gone through the training to be a street epistemologist.
Christians have no reason to be defensive about their beliefs. Evidence is on our side. We can take the discussion to the atheist based on the evidence. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what the apostles did. That’s what the early Christians did. That’s what Christians have done for centuries. They turned communities upside down with their evidence for the existence of God, reliability of Scripture, and reality of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to take the truth of the Gospel to every nation and make disciples.
Does that mean we shouldn’t talk to an atheist street epistemologist? Not at all. What it means is we should take control of the conversation. How do we do that?
Knowledge of how atheists will try to control the conversation will help you determine what to do. The following quotes are taken directly from the Complete Street Epistemology Guide (CSEG), 3.2 & 3.3 –
“Bring writing materials such as a whiteboard and marker , or clipboard and pad of paper . Dialogues wander, and writing down the interlocutor’s key points helps bring structure and focus, helps to avoid talking in circles, and enables you to illustrate epistemology with diagrams. Being prepared also shows that you are not a random passer-by but someone who is approaching people for a reason: namely to hold dialogues with the public about how they form beliefs. Bring a timer or use the timer on your phone to limit the length of the dialogue. The timer helps to focus the dialogue and shows that you respect/value their time. When the time expires, it gives both of you an opportunity to exit the dialogue. You can always continue if both parties are comfortable doing so. If you have trouble with dialogues running on, try setting a backup timer and when it goes off tell the interlocutor that you have to leave right now and suggest following up at another time. Consider bringing contact cards or providing contact information to facilitate follow-up dialogues. Consider recording your dialogues in order to monitor and improve your own performance, solicit constructive feedback, and demonstrate your techniques to others. Another option is broadcasting your dialogues using live-streaming technologies, like Periscope.”
What do we learn from the CSEG? Atheist street epistemologists are prepared to “school” Christians in epistemology and record it for the world to watch.
Face-to-face encounters are their favorite way to communicate –
“Face-to-face is simply the highest-bandwidth communication medium possible between two people.” (CSEG 3.4 Choosing the medium)
Face-to-face is one way they can record their “conversations” with Christians in order to show other atheists what they did.
Atheist street epistemologists also use other ways to talk Christians out of their faith (these are also from CSEG 3.4 Choosing the medium) –
- Video calls/conferencing
- Audio only
- Real time text chat
- Email / Comment Threads
Atheist street epistemologists are taught specific tactics to use while talking with Christians. This information is directly from the CSEG that you can read here –
“After getting someone’s attention, get right to the point with a polite and simple question, such as, “Do you have five minutes to chat about how you arrived at your god belief?” , or a similar question about any other belief. A question like this is non-intrusive and interesting. Smile and look people in the eye when you ask. When a person declines your request simply wish them a nice day, and move on. Accept that the choice to decline is a perfectly valid and normal response to a request. When a person accepts your request, thank them and greet them, and try to make them as comfortable as possible. Ask their first name and provide yours, using their name throughout the dialogue.
As mentioned in ” Preparing useful materials “, set a time limit on the interview. Ideally between 5 and 15 minutes. Avoid talking for more than 1 hour. It is difficult to maintain focus for much longer and you’ll end up talking in circles. You also want your dialogue to be memorable, and it’s very difficult to remember and reflect on all the topics covered in a marathon session.” CSEG 4.2, Initiating the dialogue
It’s important we recognize that this is a “tactic.” The atheist street epistemologist is not trying to become your new friend. They’re not interested in having an honest and open conversation with you. They want to “talk you out of your faith.” Remember what we read earlier from Peter Boghossian?
“This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith … 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.” A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013
Training Our Children
Even as atheist Peter Boghossian is training his atheist street epistemologists tactics for talking Christians out of their faith, Christian parents need to train their children how to deal with those atheists and their tactics. It is not a safe place for Christian. It is a battleground.
Christian parents spend almost two decades raising their children to believe in God. Atheist street epistemologists have been trained to lead children and young people to doubt their belief in five to fifteen minutes. Think about that. That is not a safe conversation. That is an attack on our children.
The fact that some Christian young people can be talked out of their faith, or at least have serious doubts about the existence of God, in a matter of minutes may say more about their Christian training than the atheist street epistemologists’ training. What do I mean by that?
I have taught self defense for 54 years and have seen how well children and young people can defend themselves if they’re well-trained. The opposite is true as well. I’ve seen how poorly children and young people defend themselves if they are not well-trained.
The same is true for faith defense. Children and young people who are trained well in Christian apologetics are better able to deal with atheists (and others) who attempt to talk them out of their faith in Christ. Even as I recommend self-defense training for children and youth, I “highly” recommend faith-defense training.
Teach your children not to engage with atheist street epistemologists until they train in faith defense. This is similar to the advice I give young people in self-defense classes. Walk or run away from people who can harm you. If you can’t get away –
- Escape and run
- Stun and run
- Fight and run
The priority in self defense is escaping danger. Faith defense is different. That’s because Jesus Christ wants us to go into every part of the world and preach the Gospel to the lost. He wants us to go into dangerous territory and tell people the truth about sin and salvation. Jesus sends us out with a warning –
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.” Matthew 10:16-17
Faith defense means we need to develop “wisdom” in how we talk with people since we are in a position of being “sheep in the midst of wolves.” To send Christian children and young people into the world without helping them develop wisdom first is like sending someone into war with no defensive training or weapons. Any army that would send its soldiers into battle with no training or weapons is extremely foolish. Those soldiers would be slaughtered in the first fire fight.
Are we doing the same thing when we send our children into the world without training them in faith defense?
Whose job is it to train children to be have spiritual “wisdom”?
- Extended family
- Teachers (e.g. church, school)
- Youth leaders
Unfortunately, many parents don’t see themselves as being involved in training their children to have spiritual “wisdom” to deal with the “wolves” in the world who will attack their children. They look to teachers, youth leaders and pastors to do that work. However, that’s not how God designed children to learn.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9
Proverbs is an excellent example of how parents should train their children. King Solomon used the term “my son” more than 20 times in his wisdom writings. Here are some examples of what Solomon taught his son – great advice for us in training our children to have spiritual wisdom.
“My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.” Proverbs 1:10
“My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path; For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood.” Proverbs 1:15-16
“My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.” Proverbs 2:1-9
“My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.” Proverbs 3:1-2
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
“My son, let them not depart from your eyes—Keep sound wisdom and discretion; So they will be life to your soul And grace to your neck.” Proverbs 3:21-22
In the next part of our series we’ll look at Defense #2 in preparing your children to talk with atheist street epistemologists.
Please remember Defense #1 for now – “Teach your children not to engage with atheist street epistemologists until they train in faith defense.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.