I was listening to a podcast about talking people out of their faith, with Dr. Peter Boghossian. He made a really good case for how he approaches people about it. Of course, kindness and sincere interest goes a long way, and the main thing is that debate and confrontation especially in regards to *what* they believe, is actually completely useless and will only drive them deeper into their pathological beliefs. The idea would be not to criticize the beliefs their faith leads to but, rather, use the Socratic Method to get people to question faith itself.
Striking up conversations with people out of genuine curiosity is the most effective way to communicate, not directly questioning what they believe or debating, but sincere inquiry. Speak from the heart, people can tell when you're being sincere.
People too often are infantalized and they're not treated like adults, and we need to treat these people like adults. When you see someone somewhere and they cross themselves or something, if interested, you could sincerely ask, "Why did you cross yourself?" And ask them to tell you about it. "How long have you had this belief? Why do you believe this?"
The way to keep it from becoming a debate is to have the right mindset. The mindset is that this is an intervention. You are a street epistemologist. Like a clinician who sees a problem in someone else, you have an oppurtunity. This person is not well, their cognition has been damaged. How do you facilitate belief change and help these people?
Some people, no matter what, are gonna be offended. We can't worry about everybody who is going to be offended.
Keep in mind what the goal is. The thing to go after is faith, that's the thing that's not possible to defend. People ignore that and instead go after God or particular beliefs within the faith, that's a mistake. In all of these discussions, never bring in facts. Facts are a complete waste of time, especially the more fundamentalist they are. People don't get themselves into cognitive sinkholes because they believed on the basis of evidence and facts to begin with. No amount of that will do any good. Instead focus on epistemology.
Focus on how someone knows. Systematically look at those claims and give them a Socratic treatment(ie questioning if their views make sense). It's suprising how many people will say "oh, well jeez, actually you're right I don't think that makes sense, but..." And the but will mean, "I want to hold it anyway." This will make a distinction between holding a belief because it's true and holding a belief because it's socially useful. You are to an extent getting them to question their faith.
Then there's the idea that the universe could have always existed. All someone has to do is admit that that's posssible. The moment that somebody admits that that's possible, that has created a moment of openness in their belief system. That has undermined their faith, because then they can't claim to know something. The moment that someone in a sense says "well, maybe, I suppose it's possible", that means they have to become less sure of their own faith.
So how do we help people to live a life of reason? How do we help people when they lose their faith? Because, when faith falls, it can lead them to run right back to their community where someone will invariably say "just pray on it". So a type of confirmation bias comes into play where they put beliefs ahead of everything. Literature on cults suggest that this is how they get dragged back in.
How do we help believers to be more comfortable with not knowing?
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