Is Peter Boghossian’s Book a Joke?

Here’s an amazon review of Peter Boghossian’s lame book that nails some of the core problems:

I had very mixed feelings about this book. I liked Boghossian’s idea that the way to help people escape from nutty religious belief is to help them think through what they believe and why they believe it, and to show respect. That’s a good idea. The problem is that Peter Boghossian has an intense and often annoying knowitall attitude: On the one hand, he insists that his socratic ‘interventions’ are respectful of others and that he has an open mind to the possibility that faithful believers may know things that he himself doesn’t know — but on the other hand he also insists that faith is a faulty epistemology, that the Bible is a book of nonsense, and that its believers are suffering from a virus-like delusion. I don’t really believe that you can simultaneously have deep personal respect for your interlocutor and also hold a mocking and disparaging attitude towards his/her beliefs.


Further, his definition of faith as ‘pretending to know things you don’t know’ is deliberately provocative but probably doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. For example, a person who pretends to know things he doesn’t know is usually not articulating faith. Rather he is usually delivering what we call bullsh*t (which is the topic of a much better book by Harry G. Frankfurt). It’s not the same thing. In any case, people who have faith in God rely on evidence that they consider reliable, and so it is not entirely accurate to say that they hold beliefs based on no evidence – it’s more accurate to say that skeptics or atheists question that evidence.

I listened to the Audible version of this book, which probably gives a very different experience than the print version. An unintentionally comic experience at times … Peter Boghossian is the narrator of the audiobook, and he has a slightly unusual voice (not like an actor) and that makes the book sound a little odd and quirky. This lends a comic effect at times, as when he rants about his absurdly medicalized view of faith, e.g. about how each socratic treatment of the patient will help to immunize that patient with rationality and block progression of the faith disease. It gets a bit ridiculous and at times I wondered if the whole thing was just a big joke.

Which raises the question of whether Peter Boghossian is just kidding. Should we believe any of this? Is he really this obnoxious to total strangers? Does he really choose his seat on an airplane so that he can sit next to someone reading a Christian book? Is there any evidence at all that his socratic interventions can actually cure people of doxastic closure? How many atheists has Boghossian created? He says he has conducted numerous socratic interventions. But I listened to the entire book waiting for Boghossian to give one single example of a ‘patient’ whom he had ‘cured’ with his prescribed treatment, and I did not hear a single example given. What is the evidence that his method actually works? Are we supposed to take it on faith?

This entry was posted in New Atheism, Peter Boghossian and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.