Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Following Boghossian

I'm British, and we Brits have a resistance to motivational speaking. We would rather people didn't make a fuss.  So when I first saw a video of Peter Boghossian talking about faith I was discouraged because it left me with the impression of someone with a 'preachy' style, which would be, for me at least, a barrier to getting the message - if someone gets preachy my reaction is that they are trying to bullshit me.  

After a while I gave Peter another chance and watched a talk he gave on the importance of authenticity.  I was blown away.  What I saw was someone with an honest message and clear thinking, and a really fresh and inspiring approach to challenging ideas.  Dealing with irrationality can be frustrating and draining, but Peter explained clearly why we should do it and how we could be effective.  It was a reminder to me of what the point of argument really is, a point that can easily get lost.

I then read Peter's book "A Manual for Creating Atheists", which I think is misleadingly titled (sorry Peter,) as it's really about practical application of the Socratic Method ('street epistemology'), and it's full of great advice about how to achieve the most important goal for supporters of rationality - getting people to think: far more valuable that any 'leap to atheism'.

I don't mean to sound like some sort of convert, because I am always cautious, and I'm not entirely in agreement with Peter's definition of faith ('pretending to know things you don't know'), but I now always try to follow his advice about authenticity - for example I always make sure I'm not making claims beyond my knowledge, not even as a debate ploy.  

So thanks to Peter, and to others - whatever your beliefs, follow what he does.  You won't be disappointed, and you might even be inspired and encouraged. I was.

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