- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Pitchstone Publishing (11 January 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1939578094
- ISBN-13: 978-1939578099
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Manual for Creating Atheists Paperback – 11 Jan 2013
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"Boghossian has provided an indispensible chart book for all of us who must navigate the rising sea of magical thinking that is inundating America today." --Victor Stenger, Ph.D., author of God: The Failed Hypothesis and God and the Atom
"If we want to live in world that is safer and more rational for all, then this is the guidebook we have been waiting for. Relying on extensive experience and a deep concern for humanity, Peter Boghossian has produced a game changer. This is not a book to read while relaxing in a hammock on a sunny afternoon. This is the how-to manual to take into the trenches of everyday life where minds are won and lost in the struggle between reason and madness." --Guy P. Harrison, author of 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian and Race and Reality
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I subtracted a star because I felt the title was needlessly inflammatory. The book is about epistemology, and belief is God is a tangential issue. Yes, belief in God is much less tenable if you take away faith, but to me the critical issue is faith. The author could have almost taken God out of the picture altogether and just addressed the viability of faith as a route to knowledge. If you knock that down, then faith in God will be weakened without you needing to address it explicitly. Putting "atheism" right in the title makes prospective readers think you're attacking their religion, something the author warns against explicitly. I don't know if the title was from the author or from the publisher, but I feel it detracts from the focus of the book.
However, I think the author makes and sustains a great point throughout the book, that our focus should be on the inadequacy of faith as an epistemology. It's a given that some will say "you're attacking God!" but it's faith as a route to knowledge, not the existence or intervention of God, that he is writing about. If faith is a good route to knowledge, then it would be so even in areas not touching on God or religion. If faith isn't a good source of knowledge in other areas, why pretend that it suddenly becomes competent just because we're talking about religion?
For example, some of the faithful claim that the universe is only 6,000 years old, because the Bible says so. When confronted with reproducible independently verifiable evidence (using scientific measurements of very distant stars) that the universe is actually about 13.8 billion years old, the faithful simply resort to their "trump card" that God used His divine magical powers to teleport instantly that distant starlight to the Earth, thus violating the universal constant of the speed of light. That is a claim about reality that has no reproducible independently verifiable evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Example, if Noah saved all of the animals from extinction in a Great Flood that covered the entire Earth, then how did he save the Koala Bears that are indigenous to Australia? In reality, the story of Noah is copied from a fable that originated about 1,000 years earlier from the Epic of Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia.
Boghossian points out that such examples when posed as debating points cause adverse emotional reactions that impel the afflicted faithful into further self-delusion. This is the "faith virus" trying to protect itself from eradication. Critical Thinking can cure the "faith virus" through the Socratic Method of analyzing how a person is reasoning. It is not about the reasons, but about the *method* of reasoning, the "epistemology", that a person uses to "know" reality.
Using the Socratic Method avoids debate by asking simple questions about the faith-based claims to help the afflicted faithful to see how they are reasoning about the real world. By clearing the fog of flawed epistemology, the afflicted are better able to see the real world. The afflicted are then free to use Critical Thinking to arrive at their own reasoned conclusions about the difference between faith and reality.
Boghossian goes on to describe how faith and organized religion have infected society through governmental institutions, tax exemptions, preferential laws and regulations, thus causing more real suffering to the general population. The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM) specifically excludes religious faith as a mental disorder, even though religious faith satisfies the definition of mental delusion: "A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary."
"A Manual for Creating Atheists" is a very good step in the right direction for training "Street Epistemologists". In my humble opinion, more formalized training is needed, starting with peaceful parenting (not spanking or threatening children with eternal torment for not believing in God), Critical Thinking in all school grades and colleges, and especially in removing preferences for religious faith from secular government ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof").
I highly recommend this book.
(I'm 73 and have seven shelves of books on religion.) The author, a university philosophy professor suggests focusing not on the existence of God, or on the truth of a religion, but on faith which is defined--when used in a religious context--as as "belief on insufficient evidence" or as "pretending to know things you don't know." Otherwise, it wouldn't be faith.
He suggests not moving on to another faith-based claim until your theist admits that a particular claim is not justified by faith alone. He suggests asking questions of a theist is most effective. First question might be “What would convince you that your belief in God is mistaken?” If the answer is “nothing,” then “How is your belief different from a delusion?” If you plan to argue religion one-on-one, then this book will tell you how to be more effective. Highly recommended.
In teaching you how to more effectively nudge religious people to see the validity of a rational/secular approach, the book also teaches you how to genuinely be a better listener and I might even say a better person, in a sense. So please don't think of it as "How to evilly manipulate people." (And if you're a religious person thinking that, I hope you feel the same way about evangelizing, though you probably don't!) It could just as well be titled "How to have more productive discussions with people about your differences" Or "How to make people think more." I think about the advice in this book all the time, and I'd say that about 80% of the instances in which I think about it and try to apply it are not about religion, and sometimes not even about a disagreement.