Another Flimsy Disclaimer

In his syllabus for his course on Atheism, Peter Boghossian includes a second disclaimer:

Just as the purpose of religious studies is not to convert students to a particular faith tradition, this course is not about “converting” students to atheism.


First, here are the religious studies courses offered by Portland State University.  I see no class entitled “Christianity” taught by a Christian apologist who uses his own book, “Manual for Creating Christians” as a required text.  Sorry, but Boghossian’s syllabus doesn’t read like any religious studies syllabus from a public university that I have seen.  If it did, it would explore and describe the different types of atheism around the world (materialists, idealists, buddhists, communists, humanists, etc). But judging from his syllabus, Boghossian’s course is about viewing the world as an atheist.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the required text for the course.  Boghossian tells us “this course is not about “converting” students to atheism” yet this is contradicted by the title of the required textbook, “A Manual for Creating Atheists.”

The contents of the required textbook also contradict the disclaimer:

A Manual for Creating Atheists is a step beyond Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett. A Manual for Creating Atheists offers practical solutions to the problems of faith and religion through the creation of Street Epistemologists—legions of people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith.

And if that wasn’t clear enough:

This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith. You’ll learn how to engage the faithful in conversations that help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their beliefs, and mistrust their faith. I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, Street Epistemology. The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community-into any and every place the faithful reside – and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.

 Jerry Coyne promoted this book as “telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with the skills to attack religion” and John Loftus promoted as “There is nothing else on the market like this book that helps atheists talk believers out of their faith.”  The foreword by Michael Shermer is entitled “Born-Again Atheist” and boasts, “If I started reading A Manual for Creating Atheists as a Christian I would have been an atheist by the time I finished it.”  And the book also comes with this blurb:

“Since atheism is truly Good News, it should not be hidden under a bushel. Peter Boghossian shows us how to take it to the highways and the byways. I love it!” —Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Given the purpose of Boghossian’s book is to convert people to atheism, and given the book is a required text in his course, where he spends 3-4 weeks going through the book, the disclaimer about the course not trying to convert people to atheism doesn’t sound very convincing.  Even less so once you consider that Boghossian has publicly advocated that “professors should have a primary goal of changing students beliefs if those beliefs are false and seek to replace those beliefs with true ones.


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

3 Responses to Another Flimsy Disclaimer

  1. Alex Black says:

    Sounds more like a course in New Atheism than atheism. As a religious atheist, I find this disappointing. I do think there is a need for education about atheism, but I find it aggravating when proselytizing is disguised as education.

  2. Allallt says:

    Just popping by to say I agree. That doesn’t happen often.

  3. Doug says:

    Most Christians who have ever had an internet “conversation” with a New Atheist are astonished at how quickly they are accused of “dishonesty” (typically without basis). Yet here we see a leading New Atheist either being dishonest or ridiculously unaware of the double standard he’s using. Either way, he’s not exactly setting a particularly credible standard.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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.