One indefatigable participant in the admirable goal of separating people from the delusion of faith is philosopher Peter Boghossian, who describes faith as a cognitive sickness. So far this year, the controversial Portland State University professor has delivered speeches (see here and here), given interviews (see here, here, and here), and participated in a podcast detailing the flaws of faith.
It seems that I’m constantly receiving news that he’s involved in yet another project designed to eradicate faith. I don’t know how he accomplishes his prolific output – I’m mystified and amazed. But since I share the desire to rid our world of this particular malady, I’m grateful.
Now he’s done it, again. He recently participated in yet another podcast with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society last week. Does the man ever sleep? During the conversation with host Justin Vacula, Boghossian said that while curing people of the faith virus seems difficult, it’s not impossible. Anyone, regardless of ability, can contribute to this important goal. Even if you feel you’re too shy, or need to learn more, or are too busy (and need to sleep, like me), you can still contribute. According to Boghossian,
You can read, you can write, you can talk, you can run for public office, you can support candidates. There’s just a never-ending supply of things that you can do. And you have to know that each of those things you do, no matter how small it seems to you, makes a difference. You’re making a contribution to a mutual problem that affects us all.
Boghossian said he views every daily interaction as an opportunity to help believers lose their faith. Not everyone should engage theists, due desire and ability, but if one decides to engage, one should get plenty of practice.
I do this pretty much every day, for, without exaggeration, 10-12 hours every single day for the past 20 or 22 years. So, I’ve just done this so much it’s just not even second nature, it’s just interwoven into who I am.
Boghossian’s best advice involves first seeking to genuinely understand believers. Ask many questions and listen intently, he said. Once you realize why someone believes what they do, then you can create the best strategy for intervention.
Modeling the behavior you desire in others is paramount in these interactions, Boghossian said. All the characteristics you desire in your interlocutor you should display in your own actions: attentive listening, the openness to revise beliefs, respect, and patience, among others. This will lead to more honest and genuine conversations. According to Boghossian,
Those sorts of authentic interactions, that’s when you have the possibility to make change. When you yourself are willing to make changes in yourself. And hey, look, you should always be open to the idea that someone knows something you don’t know. That’s what epistemic humility is. That’s just what being humble is.
Boghossian offered several ideas and dispensed other good advice in this great podcast, which lasts approximaely an hour. It’s a great listen. I downloaded the mp3 file and listened to it on my iPod, the perfect solution for the busy skeptic with a family, job and a demanding schedule. How does Boghossian produce such a demanding and impressive output? I wish I knew. But, I’m not able to solve that mystery right now, because I’m tired, and it’s bedtime.