A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

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A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby wizi » Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:15 pm

Has anyone read the manual yet?
Would like to know how this manual can affect the faith and beliefs of buddhist practitioners?
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:45 pm

Dear wizi,

I haven't read it but I've heard and read much of what Mr. Shermer and his ilk have to say. I wish them the best, but I have no wish to spend time reading more of what they have to say.

And if I did read it, it wouldn't shake my faith. Someone could torture me in horrific fashion and it wouldn't shake my faith. I might break the precept of lying and say: "I don't believe in the Buddha's enlightenment and kamma and rebirth and all that!" in the hope that they would stop torturing me, but my mind would remain firm in faith. How much less are words?

The only thing that could shake my faith are those things out of my control like brain damage from Alzheimer's. And in that case, it's the result of bad kamma. :tongue:

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:31 pm

wizi wrote:Has anyone read the manual yet?
Would like to know how this manual can affect the faith and beliefs of buddhist practitioners?

I don't know it and I'm not likely to read it. How about a summary?

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:16 pm

I haven't read it, but I read "A Demon Haunted World", by Carl Sagan. I assume that the subject is about the same.

It had an impact in my faith. It forced me to be honest with myself. I realised that I don't believe in rebirth, or devas, etc. I just wish they are true and find it plausible. But in all honesty I can't say I really believe it. And I suspect this is the case with everybody. It's not by chance that one of the 10 fetters is doubt. That means that, even though we wish certain things are true, we have doubts in our minds. A paralel can be established with understanding anatta intelectualy and actualy experiencing it.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby manas » Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:44 am

I tried to download it, but only the first few pages seem to come through. If someone could kindly just cut and paste the relevant sections that might challenge Buddhist faith, I would be interested to read that. However, Buddhism being the most rational of all faiths (perhaps the only rational faith?), I don't see how a skeptical point of view could shake my already skeptical, yet committed Buddhist, point of view.

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:22 pm

Would like to know how this manual can affect the faith and beliefs of buddhist practitioners?


There are almost as many types of faith and belief as there are individual practitioners, so it is likely that reading the manual would have different effects on different individuals. In each case, there's only one way to find out, isn't there?
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby wizi » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:48 pm

Manas, u need to download the manual in order to read the pdf version of the book. Just click on the book, and the "arrow" at bottom right of the page for downloading to take place. I have downloaded the book and it's safe and free from virus on my MacBook.

Kim, you can also read Sam Harris' interview with the author Peter Boghossian at his blog here. I think it's quite succinct in summarizing the aim of the manual, but I also quote Jerry Coyne's foreword on this book:

Up to now, most atheists have simply criticized religion in various ways, but the point is to dispel it. In A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian fills that gap, telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with the skills to attack religion at its weakest point: its reliance on faith rather than evidence. This book is essential for nonbelievers who want to do more than just carp about religion, but want to weaken its odious grasp on the world.
—Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True - See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/stre ... 8oOQu.dpuf


I am just curious to see how the epistemologist strategy can be used in the context of questioning a buddhist's faith in the Triple Gems? Particularly as there are no grand deity and fantastical stories of creation to buttress a buddhist's faith in the Triple Gems. I would also be curious to see how this Socratic method can be used to upbraid beliefs in devas, realms, kamma, rebirth.. I have before read Christian and Muslim condemnation of rebirth as a false doctrine using anecdotal NDEs. I also would like to see how epistemological questioning can undo the conclusions of these NDE sufferers.. :)
Last edited by wizi on Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:06 pm

Here is an interview with the author, on YouTube via The Thinking Atheist.

---

Ultimately the author is setting up the Socratic Method for showing people who make religious claims that those claims might not actually have any foundation apart from preference, habit, and/or upbringing (e.g. tradition, etc.).

The Buddha discussed this here.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby wizi » Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:34 pm

daverupa wrote:Here is an interview with the author, on YouTube via The Thinking Atheist.

---

Ultimately the author is setting up the Socratic Method for showing people who make religious claims that those claims might not actually have any foundation apart from preference, habit, and/or upbringing (e.g. tradition, etc.).

The Buddha discussed this here.


Thank u for that sutta.

The sutta was discussed here in this secularbuddhism.org. I am certain this must have been discussed ad nauseum in other threads, but I find it skillful to conclude that :

"the methodology outlined by the Buddha in the Cankī Sutta does not guarantee to preserve truth, the correct attitude of the practitioner must remain one of open skepticism. This is not to say one cannot accept much of the dhamma with a high level of confidence. What it means is that one must always weigh the dhamma against the sciences, since the sciences are a more epistemically secure foundation for knowledge: they do not involve faith in a single teacher, nor the assumption that a teacher who is well-behaved is thereby in possession of the truth, nor the worry that we as imperfect judges may not be prepared to determine the worthiness of our teacher."
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:24 pm

Dear wizi,

Having faith in the Buddha's supreme enlightenment is the cornerstone of being a Buddhist. Without that, I would argue you are not a Buddhist but are rather the kind of person described in MN 22.

The Water-Snake Simile

"Monks, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions [the earliest classifications of the Buddha's teachings]. Having studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the meaning (or: the purpose) of those Dhammas [5] with their discernment. Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don't come to an agreement through pondering. They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate. They don't reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.

"Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake. He would see a large water-snake and grasp it by the coils or by the tail. The water-snake, turning around, would bite him on the hand, on the arm, or on one of his limbs, and from that cause he would suffer death or death-like suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the water-snake. In the same way, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma... Having studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment. Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don't come to an agreement through pondering. They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate. They don't reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.


And later in the sutta:

"In the Dhamma thus well-proclaimed by me — clear, open, evident, stripped of rags — those monks who are Dhamma-followers and conviction-followers [18] are all headed for self-awakening. This is how the Dhamma well-proclaimed by me is clear, open, evident, stripped of rags.

"In the Dhamma thus well-proclaimed by me — clear, open, evident, stripped of rags — those monks who have a [sufficient] measure of conviction in me, a [sufficient] measure of love for me, are all headed for heaven. This is how the Dhamma well-proclaimed by me is clear, open, evident, stripped of rags."


Those who think faith/conviction/confidence has no place in Buddhism are, I think, to be pitied.


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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby waterchan » Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:18 am

wizi wrote: "...the sciences are a more epistemically secure foundation for knowledge...

If one seeks knowledge of this world then by all means ignore Buddhism and spend more time in libraries and laboratories.

In studying and practicing the Dhamma we seek wisdom. :)
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:38 am

Thanks to all who provided (links to) summaries.
It looks like a book that is good at what it sets out to do - kudos to the author - but what it sets out to do, as per ...
What was your goal in writing A Manual for Creating Atheists?
My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.
- See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/stre ... a079W.dpuf

... was primarily aimed at Christians - naturally enough, since he's an American writing for Americans and pushing Dawkins' agenda.
The strategies lose a lot of their force when applied to Buddhism, simply because Buddhism relies far more on reason and experience, and far less on faith, than Christianity. That said, there's a range of beliefs amongst Buddhists (as we've seen in responses on this thread, in fact) and some are more faith-based than others.
My own position is that science must be accepted in areas in which its methods work best, but that science has no wisdom and very little insight into our subjective and spiritual experiences so there is still a very important place for Buddhism. That makes me totally impervious to rationalist attacks, since I'm a rationalist myself. :tongue:
I'm still a Buddhist, of course - call me me a Secular Buddhist if you like, although the label doesn't quite fit - but my "faith" in Buddha is more like my "faith" in Charles Darwin than my friend's "faith" in Jesus.

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby wizi » Fri Jan 03, 2014 6:38 am

Mkoli, it's quite true that 'saddha' in the Triple Gems is a pre-condition in following the Buddha's teaching. But i think this manual is targeting 'blind faith' rather than the sort of 'reasoned faith' the Buddha taught. Kim, your 'faith' in Darwinism is 'reasoned faith' based on evidence which can be discerned through our own faculties. It's distinct from 'blind faith'. :tongue:

I certainly don't have 'blind faith' in the Triple Gems. The Buddha warned against that already. I have a kind of faith in the Triple Gems that I am cultivating like a seedling which becomes firmer and more confident as I see the benefits of meditation practice and deepen my understanding of the path to liberation. :)

The manual is interesting because of the author's intention to stigmatise faith based claims and empower the younger generation to be blunt and direct when demanding evidence for faith based claims from their priests, clerics, chaplains, pastors, rabbis, ministers, imams, mullahs, shamans, witch doctors etc. It's like he hopes to start a civil rights movement in cultures and societies where faith claims go unchallenged regularly. The continued failure to produce evidence should be met with, "You are pretending to know things you don't know."

I hope none of us develops an aversion to this political agenda, it warrants a read by anyone who is interested in the struggle against certainty, dogmatism, superstition, pseudoscience and blind faith.

Another interesting study on the "systemic features of contemporary Christianity that create an almost invisible class of non-believing clergy, ensnared in their ministries by a web of obligations, constraints, comforts, and community" can also be found in this study Preachers Who Are Not Believers by another philosopher scientist, Dan Dennett and LaScola.

:anjali:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:38 pm

wizi wrote:I certainly don't have 'blind faith' in the Triple Gems. The Buddha warned against that already. I have a kind of faith in the Triple Gems that I am cultivating like a seedling which becomes firmer and more confident as I see the benefits of meditation practice and deepen my understanding of the path to liberation. :)


Dear wizi,

Very true and well said.

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby kmath » Sat Jan 04, 2014 5:46 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:I haven't read it, but I read "A Demon Haunted World", by Carl Sagan. I assume that the subject is about the same.

It had an impact in my faith. It forced me to be honest with myself. I realised that I don't believe in rebirth, or devas, etc. I just wish they are true and find it plausible. But in all honesty I can't say I really believe it. And I suspect this is the case with everybody. It's not by chance that one of the 10 fetters is doubt. That means that, even though we wish certain things are true, we have doubts in our minds. A paralel can be established with understanding anatta intelectualy and actualy experiencing it.


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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 04, 2014 7:21 am

We need to think carefully about "knowledge" and "belief" and the difference between them. The only legitimate difference I can see between them is that "knowledge", in its strict sense, is always backed up by personal observation or consensus reality or both, whereas "belief" isn't necessarily supported in this way (although it can be, since if I "know" that my dog is black I also "believe" that my dog is black).
So ...
I know that my dog is black.
I believe that the Aussies will beat the English in their current cricket series (but I'm prepared to learn otherwise, I'm not 100% sure, so I can't say I know).
I believe that I will live at least another five years (burt I can't possibly know it).

What can I say about the Buddha's previous lives? I can only say what I believe, because there is no way for anyone to know.
What can I say about the Buddha's teachings? I can say what I know through personal experience and what I believe without personal experience. Am I always clear about which is which?

What can I say about my own previous lives? If I have personal observations of them, I can say I know but no-one else can say that they know - they can only say they believe me or not, because there is no way for anyone else to share my observations. And if I happen to be mistaken about my observations, I still "know" but my knowledge is incorrect.

...and so on.

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:44 am

Kim OHara wrote:We need to think carefully about "knowledge" and "belief" and the difference between them. The only legitimate difference I can see between them is that "knowledge", in its strict sense, is always backed up by personal observation or consensus reality or both, whereas "belief" isn't necessarily supported in this way (although it can be, since if I "know" that my dog is black I also "believe" that my dog is black).
So ...
I know that my dog is black.
I believe that the Aussies will beat the English in their current cricket series (but I'm prepared to learn otherwise, I'm not 100% sure, so I can't say I know).
I believe that I will live at least another five years (burt I can't possibly know it).

What can I say about the Buddha's previous lives? I can only say what I believe, because there is no way for anyone to know.
What can I say about the Buddha's teachings? I can say what I know through personal experience and what I believe without personal experience. Am I always clear about which is which?

What can I say about my own previous lives? If I have personal observations of them, I can say I know but no-one else can say that they know - they can only say they believe me or not, because there is no way for anyone else to share my observations. And if I happen to be mistaken about my observations, I still "know" but my knowledge is incorrect.

...and so on.

:reading:
Kim


This is an interesting subject. Breaking "belief" into its compnents, makes it clear that it's not the thing I initialy thought it was. For me, if I believe in something, in the sense of having faith in something, that means that I both find it plausible and I wish it is true, because I like the idea. Your phrase that I put in bold is an example of that. You find it plausible that you live 5 more years; and you wish you have 5 more years. I don't think there's more to it.

This is again one of those situations where we're influenced by a catholic/christian society, even if we have atheist parents, like me. Faith is praised like a wonderful and pure quality. After reexamining it, I haven't found that.

There is the type of dhamma follower called the "faith follower" who attains the sottapana path through faith. So it would be foolish to say it's not useful. It's just not my inclination, I guess.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:05 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:There is the type of dhamma follower called the "faith follower" who attains the sottapana path through faith. So it would be foolish to say it's not useful. It's just not my inclination, I guess.

There's a Hindu tradition which says that people approach the holy life through head or heart or hands according to their disposition - that is, through intellectual efforts, through faith/love, or through service/good works/charity. For me, I know, "head" dominates; for one of my friends it's "heart" and "hands".
I think a balance of the three is better than too much of a focus on any of them, but one aspect or the other does usually tend to take over.

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Re: A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

Postby Mkoll » Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:52 pm

Kim OHara wrote:I think a balance of the three is better than too much of a focus on any of them, but one aspect or the other does usually tend to take over.

Dear Kim,

I don't think one has much choice in the matter of whether one is a "Dhamma-follower" or "faith-follower" because, as you said, one aspect becomes dominant. I think it's akin to the prow of one of those giant icebreaking ships: it's what goes in first.

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