Atheos: The Atheist Proselytization App

 

It won’t be much longer until the street appistemologists (HT: Dhay) receive some much needed aid to better proselytize for atheism.  It’s the phone app “Atheos” from Peter Boghossian (the philosopher who insists all religious people are infected with a dangerous faith virus and need to be cured) that challenges you to become “Reason’s Champion.”

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The app is apparently going to be marketed as if it is for everyone.  From the official webpage:

The goal is to help people become more thoughtful and more reflective about their faith-based beliefs.—Peter Boghossian

Can you support your positions about God, religion or the supernatural?

Atheos is an app being developed by Dr. Peter Boghossian and his team that helps people have non-confrontational discussions about gods, religion, faith, and superstition. It will show you how to gently explore a person’s strongest beliefs.

Atheos will provide you with the skills you’ll need to spot flaws in weak statements and use reason to politely help people understand why they may not be correct.

It’s the perfect app for atheists, agnostics, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers, and even believers who want to find out how best to engage in religious discussions.

Yet as Boghossian himself admits, it’s just a proselytizing tool for atheists that relies on the renowned  genius of the [cough] internet atheist community:

 

You can see a tutorial of the app in the video below.  Apparently it’s designed so atheists can argue with it so the app can tell the street appistemologists what to think (they actually earn points for picking the “right” answers – Go Champion, Go!).

The app even comes with its own commercial.

It’s laughably bad, but worth watching for a few minutes to give you insight into the what it is that intellectually stimulates the Gnu atheist.  For the record, I could only take about 3 minutes of it before my eardrums started to bleed:

Christians everywhere should be trembling.  Here’s a sample of the overwhelming power the app will bring to the intervention:

[The faith infected are supposed to say]

“If people abandon belief in God, they’ll become like Hitler.”

[And the app gives you four choices]

I’d love to understand exactly how you drew that conclusion.

Actually, no.

Golly, you’re right! What was I thinking?

You mean, they’ll sprout a combover & an awkward little moustache?

Damn!  There goes my favorite Hitler argument!  When the street appistemologists get a hold of me, I’m done for.  What am I going to do?

But wait.  Have any of you Christians out there ever told an atheist “If people abandon belief in God, they’ll become like Hitler?”  I’ve never seen this.  We’re told these claims were made by real Christians and given the heavy involvement of the internet atheist community, could it be possible, just possible, that the street appistemologists will be sharpening their minds by arguing with…..Poes?

Anyway, we all know those faith infected people are likely to get riled up good if  your intervention takes away their favorite Hitler argument.  So Boghossian and developers have an important disclaimer and warning for those who download the app in hope of spreading The Cure:

Seek help immediately if:

THREATS ARE MADE BY ANYONE INVOLVED INCLUDING ANY OBSERVING AUDIENCE MEMBERS. ANY OF THE DISCUSSION PARTICIPANTS SHOW ANY SIGNS OF INITIATING PHYSICAL ACTIONS AGAINST ANY PARTICIPANTS OR OBSERVERS.

Peter Boghossian, LLC, its employees, officers and any persons involved in the concept, creation, development, production, testing, promotion, distribution, selling, funding or input towards same, of the Atheos app assumes no liability, whatsoever, for any inquiry, damage or loss of property resulting from the suggested methods for engaging in conversation, debate or other interactions with another person or persons. Your accepting this agreement acknowledges this.

Stay alert and aware of any escalation of tensions or emotions during the course of the interaction and be prepared to disengage and leave at any time. Acceptance of these Terms and Conditions means the user also agrees to all parts of this disclaimer.

Yikes.  Seek help.  Stay alert.  Get ready to run.  Nothing more dangerous that confronting the faith infected with the Might of Atheos.  I’m just wondering why the app doesn’t have a button that allows the brave street appistemologist to speed dial 911.

One question remains.  When the street appistemologists show up at your door holding their phones, will they be wearing their uniform?

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It would help to know this so I can hide if they come knocking.

Seriously, years ago, I would not have agreed that atheism is a religion.  But with the Gnu atheist movement, and now this tool for proselytization to “cure” the infected, and its marketing, it’s hard to deny the expanding religious dimension to modern day atheism.  I wonder what the app would say?

At the very least, the Atheos app is useful as a window into the mind of the Gnu atheist.  What we see is intellectual insecurity.  It’s just not the need for an app to guide them through a discussion, it’s the app’s reliance on stereotypes (beware of provoking physical violence from those crazy religious people) and low-hanging fruit (the Hitler argument).   Imagine a Gnu spending hours pecking away at this app.  And it’s almost as if Boghossian, and his team, view their atheist customers as children who need to have their hands held.

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25 Responses to Atheos: The Atheist Proselytization App

  1. Andrew says:

    Personally, I’m curious as to why “reason vs faith” is “the eternal struggle”. For example, they managed to play nice together for several millennia. And there’s no particular reason (pun not intended) to think that atheism is more than a brief blip on world history.

  2. Kevin says:

    Reason and faith are at odds in the same way that a fork and a toilet are at odds. Properly employed, one leads to the other, but it can sure be a mess the other way around. That of course would be fideism, which Boghossian the Philosopher apparently isn’t educated in his own field enough to note the difference between it and faith.

  3. Dhay says:

    On the ‘Atheos App’ facebook page at 29 October 2015 I find screenshots including:

    In the eternal struggle between Dogma & Reason, goals seldom materialize on their own. Socrates has chosen YOU to be his Champion of Reason. Earn these by engaging in Atheos dialogs.

    Strange capitalisation. Reading this, it looks to me like the intro to a computer game — “In the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, your targets appear unexpectedly. The Jedi have chosen YOU to be their Champion of Good. Earn points by engaging in Starfighter Battles.”

    Underneath, it continues to be a computer game pastiche, with the various continuation options being headed by “Cave Level 5”. Looks like the app is written to be easy to take the piss out of, or to appeal to a certain type of (probably young and spotty?) game addict.

    > Seek help immediately if:

    THREATS ARE MADE BY ANYONE INVOLVED INCLUDING ANY OBSERVING AUDIENCE MEMBERS. ANY OF THE DISCUSSION PARTICIPANTS SHOW ANY SIGNS OF INITIATING PHYSICAL ACTIONS AGAINST ANY PARTICIPANTS OR OBSERVERS.

    Cave Level? Ah yes, this is a reference to Plato’s Republic, where the deluded cave-prisoners of Plato’s fantasy, used only to seeing distorted shadows, “… if they were able, would therefore reach out and kill anyone who attempted to drag them out of the cave.” (Wiki — Allegory of the Cave)

    If Peter Boghossian is aiming at spotty gamers, he’s forgotten what Plato’s Republic says: “Until age 18, would-be guardians should be engaged in basic intellectual study and physical training, followed by two years of military training. Next, they receive ten years of mathematics until age 30, and then five years of dialectic training. Guardians then spend the next 15 years as leaders, trying to “lead people from the cave”. Upon reaching 50, they are fully aware of the form of good, and totally mature and ready to lead.” (Wiki — Republic (Plato))

    I also find Wiki quoting the Republic, “Book II … This begins a discussion concerning the type of education that ought to be given to these guardians in their early years, including the topic of what kind of stories are appropriate. They conclude that stories that ascribe evil to the gods are untrue and should not be taught.”

    There you are, Boghossian, there you are, appistemologists: your epitome of rationality, Socrates, the source and exemplary practitioner of the Method you so much admire, says not to repeat arguments that the God of the OT is evil; I assume the argument-from-evil against a God because evil exists in the world and amputees don’t regrow legs, also goes down the pan.

    Not that we should admire Socrates (“Socrates” is anyway the literary equivalent of a ventriloquist’s doll, speaking Plato’s words and ideas for him). The Socratic Method leads us (in the Republic) to a rigid hereditary four-caste system with the “guardians” on top — note that “Socrates'” desired “guardians”, argued for using the all-conquering and, er, infallible Socratic Method, would be hereditary aristocrats with extensive expensive training in how to think and argue, very different from any modern app-game-trained lower-caste appistemologists; and Plato’s “Forms” — let’s see, ah yes, earthly tables (etc) are mere pale unreal shadows (the cave analogy, again) of the real Form of a table, which real Form exists in what sounds suspiciously like a supernatural realm — were derived by using the Socratic Method.

    Boghossian, as a professional philosopher, should know this; evidently he prefers to mis-sell Socrates, the Socratic Methods, and the results of the Socratic Method, because the advertising image is so much better than the reality; but that amounts to intellectual and professional dishonesty, doesn’t it.

  4. Dhay says:

    > The app even comes with its own commercial. It’s laughably bad, but worth watching for a few minutes to give you insight into the what it is that intellectually stimulates the Gnu atheist. For the record, I could only take about 3 minutes of it before my eardrums started to bleed.

    Heavy-beat Rap. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I’d say the commercial is definitely aimed at a rather young audience.

    It’s also a rather ignorant audience: it perpetuates the myth that people used to think the world was flat — I doubt that sea-farers throughout the ages ever thought that, and as for the rest, if they considered the matter at all, they only had to take a stroll to discover that the world is plainly not flat but (with rare exceptions) all up and down. The real myth is that there was a flat-Earth myth in the first place — but that is the ignorant (or cynically deceptive) commercial-commissioner’s myth. Whoever swallows the myth that people used to think the world was flat is themself ignorant and deceived.

    Did you notice the unintentional irony — for a commercial allegedly promoting reason and combating superstition — that the babies are brought by storks.

  5. FZM says:

    Michael,

    Seriously, years ago, I would not have agreed that atheism is a religion. But with the Gnu atheist movement, and now this tool for proselytization to “cure” the infected, and its marketing, it’s hard to deny the expanding religious dimension to modern day atheism.

    I think some types of atheism have always had a tendency to drift towards the religious, especially when it is connected to or arises from some kind of secular belief system or ideology. This app and the marketing looks like a new manifestation of this.

    I don’t know if the app’s main purpose is going to be to ‘de-convert’ people and spread atheism or just as a way for already convinced atheists to reinforce and mythologise their own beliefs and convictions via structured repetition and confirmation.

  6. Dhay says:

    @ FZM

    I suspect, it will have an additional purpose, that of of being a publicity and profile-raising promotion, especially the launch — whatever use it turns out to be for them in the street or on the doorstep, and even if it turns out to be unusable rubbish.

    But I suspect it is not meant to be used on the street in practice. I understand that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, before being sent out, are given extensive drilling in the usual questions and objections they will encounter, and in the counter-questions and counter-replies to give back; probably this will function in the same way, preparing the Street Appistemologist equivalent of a JW to come straight back with a hopefully appropriate response.

    In a previous thread I joked that the Appistemologists should learn from the JW’s. I now think they have already done so.

    But I reckon it will end up that there will be a lot more apps out there than Appistemologists. I foretell that many a young atheist will get the app to test their atheist virtuosity against this catechism.

    @ Michael

    For a moment I wondered why they don’t just recommend going round in pairs, for safety. But with (still, I see) only 66 of them in the world, I don’t suppose they can.

  7. SteveK says:

    Oh, my. The “Athens and the Wheel of Faith” video is horrible.

  8. Dhay says:

    > “Atheos is an app being developed by Dr. Peter Boghossian and his team that helps people have non-confrontational discussions about gods, religion, faith, and superstition. It will show you how to gently explore a person’s strongest beliefs.

    “Atheos will provide you with the skills you’ll need to spot flaws in weak statements and use reason to politely help people understand why they may not be correct.”

    “… non-confrontational … gently … politely …”? But just look at that first picture, which clearly depicts the Atheost Appistemologist engaging in warfare.

  9. Dhay says:

    One problem with trying to reason with people on the street is that people cannot reason on the street. Here’s Allallt describing an encounter with a questioner on the street answering questions he is well capable of answering correctly:

    I was asked to complete a survey on the street a few years back that was full of scientific claims all written out in long hand. One of them was something like this: Which of the following sentences best describes …

    But the person who read these out to me read them out fast and pressured me into a speedy answer. That means I will have been attempting to answer these questions semantically, not from my understanding. What that means is that I will have been trying to select the answer that has the sounds that are the most familiar, instead of trying to articulate my understanding. …

    Another question was … Again, I was under pressure and robbed of the time to recall if it was … or … Under pressure, this can be confusing. I know the answer to both these questions, and did at the time, but I reckon I got them wrong because of the environment I was asked and because of the way they were presented.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/one-in-four-americans-believe-the-sun-revolves-around-the-earth-oh-no/#comment-7292

    That is, the person the Atheost Appistemologist accosts is going to be flustered rather than clear-thinking, and answering not from System 2 type rational thinking but from System 1 type intuitive recall-the-answer-NOW non-rational thinking. (I wonder whether the Appistemologist, also under pressure, would be thinking rationally, either — hence the app.)

    Written in longhand? Reading between the lines, that would be a schoolchild, sent out to collect supposedly “realistic” data to crunch to learn about polling and statistics. They’re the only pollsters or stoppers-in-the-street that I ever bother with, and that’s out of kindness; and it’s quite probable that Allallt, too, wouldn’t give time of day to anybody who tries to stop him to engage him on the street.

    > “If people abandon belief in God, they’ll become like Hitler.”

    That’s an answer the Atheost Appistemologists would like to get. But just a few threads back, Allallt as Hotel Epistemologist was complaining that British Christians generally do not engage in argument with him, but instead politely dismiss him with a “I just believe” (backed up with a little anger when he won’t go — why his “Why?” should be the app’s ideal first choice of response is evident only to Allallt.)

    So I reckon the most frequent “answers” British Appistemologists are likely to get are variations on:
    “No thanks.”
    “Sorry, I’m busy.”
    “Not today, thanks.”
    “Got a booklet with it in?”
    Silent avoidance of eye-contact while walking past.
    “I have to collect the kids from school. Some other time.”

    Can the Appistemologists expect to get a different type of response in that part of the world which is not British?

  10. Dhay says:

    With Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists such a prominent part of his courses that I am sure it must feature heavily on the app, budding Appistemologists might like to practice their skills by rehearsing answering the criticisms of the book and its ideas — Boghossian’s ideas — which have been presented by Randal Rauser:

    http://randalrauser.com/tag/a-manual-for-creating-atheists/

    (Searching on the tag “Peter Boghossian” brings up yet more criticisms of interest — there’s three pages of index.)

    Or budding Appistemologists might like to practice their skills by rehearsing answering those criticisms of the book and its ideas — Boghossian’s ideas — which have been presented by aRemonstrant:

    https://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/category/street-epistemology/

    Do click on [Older Posts] at the bottom to see further pages to view all relevant posts; and do look at the one entitled “Boghossian lacks critics?”, which quotes Boghossian in 2012 as claiming:

    “Very rarely, in fact I would even go beyond that, never, never has somebody said to me: “Your argument is wrong and here’s why…” Not even one time.”

    He’s not the respectful and attentive listener he claims to be, is he. I link in another thread to how in 2011 two of his colleagues jumped very hard on his claim that it was OK to try to indoctrinate one of his female students out of her religious beliefs, and presented their “Your argument is wrong and here’s why…” counter-arguments. He’s evidently somewhat forgetful, or only counts occasions when he actually changed his beliefs in response to “Your argument is wrong and here’s why…” arguments — apparently that’s never; which sounds rather like he himself suffers from what he calls (and denigrates as) “doxastic closure”.

    Again, the “Peter Boghossian” tag (and [Older Posts]) brings up much more material for the Appistemologist to consider and practice on; surely much more fun for you to play with than the app’s equivalent of a half-dead mouse.

  11. JunkChuck says:

    I didn’t read all the posts, so maybe I’m stepping on someone’s toes, but for me the adversarial postures between reason and superstition come down to the simple fact that the “faith folks” aggressively insist on screwing with my life, whether by accosting me on screen corners, or through solemn prayers before events like sporting contests and local government meetings or, most insidiously, pressing to incorporate their religion into legislative processes. They seek to interfere with the arts I enjoy, stifle the voices I want to hear, and thwart the happiness of millions, and that doesn’t even count those killed through inter-religious violence.

  12. Michael says:

    JunkChuck,

    Do you live in some small, Bible-belt town? The reality you describe sounds like something from the 1950s and not the USA of 2016.

  13. TFBW says:

    I’m sure it still seems like that from the perspective of a hair-trigger militant secularist.

  14. Kevin says:

    I live in a small Bible belt town and have never once been accosted on a street corner.

    Incorporating religious beliefs into legislation is no worse for you than me, a conservative / libertarian, being forced to endure the Obama administration with its astoundingly irrational positions it has taken. I reject that argument.

    Interfering with arts people enjoy? The political left. Stifling voices people want to hear? The political left. Those killed by the political left outnumbers those killed by religions.

    What’s good for the goose…

  15. FZM says:

    Kevin,
    Interfering with arts people enjoy? The political left. Stifling voices people want to hear? The political left. Those killed by the political left outnumbers those killed by religions.

    I tend to think that ‘religion’, when it is defined broadly is neither necessarily good or bad, it depends on the actual content of the specific example. But as you say, the political left has produced a range of belief systems involving militant secularism which are hard to separate from religion (they are probably religioid) and which, as you say, lead to interfering with arts people want to enjoy, stifling voices people want to hear, killing people who disagree with the ideology they are trying to impose…

    What’s interesting is that adherents of these ideological/religioid belief systems may hold to them and seek to have them imposed in the way that people they would probably classify as religious extremists or fanatics seek to impose a single particular religious faith on everyone.

  16. SteveK says:

    “most insidiously, pressing to incorporate their religion into legislative processes.”

    I don’t know of anyone that is pressing RELIGION into law. Are you confusing religion with a person’s moral views? Everyone has a moral view and attempts to press some of those views into law. It’s an equal opportunity process that is available to both the religious and the non-religious. If you’re upset that religious people do this, you should also be upset that non-religious people do it but I’m going to guess that you aren’t.

  17. Kevin says:

    From what I’ve gathered, the stupidity, baselessness, or ill effects of a belief don’t matter so long as the belief is secular in nature – it’s okay to vote based on those beliefs.

    Conversely, it doesn’t matter how sensible, evidence-backed, or benevolent a belief remotely associated with Christianity is, New Atheists will argue it should not be in politics.

    How often have you heard the idiotic assertion that even if a religious idea or act is good, it’s still flawed because there are “better reasons” to do those good things? Thats the irrational hole hate and bigotry will leave you in.

  18. dognillo says:

    Kevin, if it makes you feel any better, I’m even worse off than you. I’m what would be called a radical libertarian. That means that I’m disgusted by just about everything proposed by both conservatives and progressives. This election cycle just boggles my mind. The two very worst presidential candidates are going to square off against each other in November (barring a miracle by Sanders). It’s sickening..

  19. Kevin says:

    Agreed. I am more libertarian than conservative, since certain segments of that group can be equally authoritarian as any progressive. Small efficient government politically, maximum freedom for everyone socially (up to the point it interferes with others’ rights).

    I was a Rand Paul guy as much as I could be for someone this cycle. Now I’m just a horrified guy 🙂

  20. Let me see if understand you here. You played it for 3 mins?
    Would you consider a critic’s review of book if she only read the first 3 pages?
    How did you come to your position if you didn’t complete the game?

  21. Dhay says:

    The Atheist Savant > … you didn’t complete the game

    Game? There is no game involved, not then, not even now.

    You certainly don’t understand. Had you used better reading comprehension you would have realised it was the commercial that Michael (thread owner) looked at and struggled to listen to.

    And had you used your brain a little you would have realised that the App — is that what you mean by “game”? — hadn’t been released at the time of the OP.

  22. Kevin says:

    I’ve done several sections of it, and so far it is rather pathetic. But maybe it gets a little more challenging farther in.

  23. Doug says:

    @The Atheist Savant,

    Corey — why haven’t you signed up here:
    They need you, bro’!

  24. Dhay says:

    @Doug: Looks like ‘The Atheist Savant’ can’t recognise a piss-take any better than he can recognise a commercial. On the evidence of his showing here, his joining the Street Epistemology list is a triumph of hubris over ability.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/street-epistemologists-get-their-needed-crutch/#comment-14176

  25. Pingback: Professor’s new app helps atheists debate with believers: ‘Can you support your positions about God?’

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