Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, with an academic focus on atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, and skepticism, is best known for a “hoax” that he and two other professors pulled off when they published a number of fake research papers in peer-reviewed academic journals papers. They claimed they pulled this hoax to demonstrate that it was possible to get anything published under “grievance studies” as long as it was politically correct. Seems they were right!

Now whether Professor Boghossian’s book, A Manuel for Creating Atheists, falls within the same category as his fake research papers actually depends, I guess, on who is reading it.

The book is an “urgently needed guide,” according to the professor, “to counter the traditions of religious evangelism,” for bringing them to their senses by “casting doubt on their beliefs” and forcing them to “ultimately embrace reason.”

“Faith taints or at worst removes our curiosity about the world, what we should value, and what type of life we should lead. Faith replaces wonder with epistemological arrogance disguised as false humility. Faith immutably alters the starting conditions for inquiry by uprooting a hunger to know and sowing a warrantless confidence.”

Faith he writes offers vague definitions which he calls “deepities, a statement that looks profound but is not; that appears true on one level but on all other levels is meaningless. Faith is a “leap over the probabilities, the word one uses when one does not have enough evidence to justify holding a belief.” It is a “virus of the mind…to be contained and eradicated.”  It is “pretending” to know something you don’t really know because if you “had sufficient evidence to warrant belief you wouldn’t need faith.”

In order for atheists to attack religious beliefs Boghossian says they must “avoid facts” because that seldom persuades anyone.  Instead he writes they must get people of faith to question why they believe which eventually will lead them to re-evaluate their beliefs.  They must also “avoid” showing frustration because “de-conversion” takes longer than conversion and requires patience.   Always, he writes, “view the faithful’s conversation as an incredible and foolish joke from the outset of the conversation.”  Specifically don’t let people of faith “sit at the Adult Table. Those at the Kid’s Table can talk about anything they’d like, but they have no adult responsibilities and no voice in public policy.”  

All I can is if this insignificant “manual” could turn people of faith into atheists they weren’t people of faith to begin with.   Why would anyone want to believe that the universe is a cosmic accident or that life is meaningless?

Thomas Nagel, a philosopher and atheist, who embraces the implication of meaninglessness, writes in his book What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy “…there seems to be no point to it at all.  Looking at it from the outside, it wouldn’t matter if you had never existed.” Atheist Richard Dawkins also embraces this meaninglessness.  “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

It is as William Lane Craig writes in Reasonable Faith, in an atheistic world “we as human beings are simply Johnny-come-lately biological accidents on an insignificant speck of dust we call Earth which is hurtling through empty space in a meaningless and random universe that will eventually die a cold death. In the big scheme of things, we are no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes. In a universe where there is no God and no afterlife, our actions are meaningless and serve no final end because ultimately each one of us, along with everyone we know and influence, will die and enter oblivion. There is no difference between living the life of a saint or a sociopath, no difference between a Mother Theresa and an Adolf Hitler. Mention of objective, morality, meaning, purpose, or value is simply incoherent babbling.” How depressing!

If there is no God, then the implication that life ultimately has no real meaning cannot be denied. Knowing, however, that humans have an innate sense that their lives have meaning and need to have a purpose, atheism is burdened with the unenviable task of manufacturing meaning other than what they create in their lives which much lead to a very sad existence.

To preach skepticism to us as a duty until “sufficient evidence” for religion be found, is tantamount therefore to telling us, when in presence of the religious hypothesis, that to yield to our fear of its being error is wiser and better than to yield to our hope that it may be true. It is not intellect against all passions, then; it is only intellect with one passion laying down its law. And by what … is the supreme wisdom of this passion warranted? Dupery for dupery, what proof is there that dupery through hope is so much worse than dupery through fear?”  William James, The Will to Believe

Sources: The Despair of Atheism  by Kyle Butt, M.Div. ; Review: Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists by Tom Gilson, the Thinking Christian

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