Answering Peter Boghossian – Atheist Hate & the Definition of Faith.


The atheist Peter Boghossian authored a book called A Manual for Creating Atheists that attempts to assist his fellow atheists in conversing with religious believers. The goal is to hopefully end up converting them to atheism – in other words this is atheistic evangelism 101.

However, at one part in his book he redefines faith to be “pretending to know things that you don’t know” and “belief without evidence” (1). He even goes beyond this to actually define faith as being a “virus” and thus he makes it his goal to “ultimately eradicate faith.”

Hate Speech & Defamation.

I consider Boghossian’s view to be bordering on hate speech. It’s not simply Boghossian’s redefinition of a word that appears hateful but it is the implications it has when it comes to human beings – since many (read, not all) religious people do in fact match Boghossian’s  definition of faith. In other words, history well tells us that it is an incredibly dangerous thing to single out a people or a group in such a way as to ostracize and demonize them. That is what it would appear Boghossian is doing here. It’s indeed a tactic somewhat dangerously similar to the method utilized by some of humanity’s worst despots, and of a similar view Schumaker believes that “Boghossian’s incendiary language is very dangerous and can easily be classified as hate speech. History is replete with examples of various atheist regimes “eradicating” faith by eradicating the people who held that faith” (2).

I also feel that Boghossian is slandering & damaging the reputation of the many good religious people in the world. It is quite one thing to disagree with fellow people who hold beliefs that are contrary to one’s own, however, Boghossian has gone far beyond simply claiming religious people to be delusional & irrational. Claiming that religious people possess faith that ultimately needs to be eradicated comes over as extremely militant, dangerous and hateful. It’s such a view espoused here that has so fueled the bloody machine of atheistic despotism within the 20th century.

How Boghossian Actually Helps the Other Side.

Although he has authored a book with the intention of converting alleged virus infected unbelievers to his cause he, at the same time, also shows the world the true colours of atheistic fundamentalism. Though Boghossian will receive ample attention from religion hating extremists out there, it is actually true that far more people in the world are appalled by such behaviour that manifests in hateful attacks on ordinary religious people. This would be my hunch that, apart from other insurmountable logical incoherencies & undesirable truths on an atheistic worldview, that atheism remains large a minority worldview even though it has grown in the West. Most people in the world don’t want to be associated with hateful bigots like Boghossian, and such feelings extend to other atheists who can easily smell a bad egg in their ranks.

Where Boghossian Gets it Wrong.

It really just comes down to how he defines faith. He defines it as “pretending to know things that you don’t know.”

Well that is certainly not what I, along with most other critical Christian thinkers, mean by faith. In fact, I believe that my faith is evidence based upon what I believe is rational to hold. In truth Christians shouldn’t want to believe in a lie (which is what Christianity essentially is if Jesus was not resurrected form the dead) or something that is perceived to be evidentially weak. I may be wrong in my beliefs, but I certainly don’t want to hold to something that I know is a wrong interpretation of reality. So, the Christian wouldn’t be wrong to dismiss Boghossian’s strawman caricature of faith. However, there is more to consider here.

Evidence Based Faith.

The problem with atheists like Boghossian is that they seem to willfully misunderstand the nature of faith. Indeed, there is something known as blind faith of which many religious people (as well as many atheists) hold to. This is what Boghossian, and other atheists, mean by the word “faith.” Which is ultimately to believe based  on insufficient evidence or in the face of powerful contradicting evidence.

However, there is also evidence based faith. This is faith that, although goes beyond what one can prove, is reasonable to hold based on what we already do know. When I board a flight to a holiday destination a level of faith is immediately involved. I have faith that the plane is durable enough to withstand the elements, I have faith that the pilot is well trained enough to fly the airliner; I have faith that I will arrive at my destination after considering the latest flight statistics. In other words, I cannot prove for absolute certainty that I will arrive at my destination alive, but I can be extremely confident that I will. If I knew that the probabilities were not in my favour and that my certainties were outweighed by the uncertainties (in other words, if I thought I’d have a 40% chance to arrive safely at my destination) then I would not take the flight. However, if I know that I have a 99.99% chance at arriving safely at my destination then I can fly confidently.

This applies to a Christians definition of faith. For example, the Christian cannot “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead. However, the Christian can believe his faith is rational when considering historical data. Thus making sense of data such as Jesus’ empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, the radical transformations of Paul, James & the disciples etc. can be used to support the case of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In other words the Christians is able to show that his faith in the truth of Christianity is evidence based & not wishful thinking. But the faith element remains since no-one can prove with absolute certainty that Jesus was really resurrected. It is this kind of faith that all human beings, including atheists, have.

For, example Boghossian uses faith in his life all of the time. If he, hypothetically speaking, discusses private business decisions with a friend, someone he knows well and who he believes he can confide in, he has faith that they will not talk behind his back or use such information in a belligerent way. When Boghossian takes a pill that the doctor prescribes him he has faith that the doctor’s diagnosis is accurate and that the medicine will help. Boghossian has faith that his friends and partner loves him; he can’t prove that they do. This could be multiplied many times over in just some of the most ordinary daily tasks, however, I am doubtful that Boghossian would classify such faith as a “virus” for then he would himself become susceptible to his own imaginary disease.

The Biblical Definition of Faith.

The critic should try to understand what Christians mean by faith. The critic should understand the basic biblical theology behind a Christian’s definition lest, as in Boghossian’s case, he constructs a strawman definition.

Biblical theology, the Christian can show, does not instruct Christians to believe blindly, in fact scripture instructs Christians to be able to give reasons for why they believe what they do (1 Peter 3:15). Likewise, key events in the Bible demonstrate that people are not to have blind faith. Surely God’s miraculous interventions (whether that be dividing a sea, or a non-perishing bush etc.) were not missed or unconvincing to those who witnessed such things. Jesus himself via his deity, teachings, miracles and resurrection also well tells us that the Christian faith is not blind but is based upon real acts in history. In fact, Christianity opens itself to being falsified & where corroborating evidence can be found it supports the biblical record. Philosopher William Craig articulates this for us:

“But in addition, I think that the example of Jesus and the apostles confirms the validity of such an [apologetic] approach. Jesus appealed to miracles and to fulfilled prophecy to prove that his claims were true (Luke 24:25–27; John 14:11).  What about the apostles? In dealing with Jews, they appealed to fulfilled  prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, and especially Jesus’ resurrection. A model apologetic for Jews is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. In verse 22 he appeals to Jesus’ miracles. In verses 25–31 he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In verse 32 he appeals to Christ’s resurrection. By means of these arguments the apostles sought to show Jews that Christianity is true. In dealing with non-Jews, the apostles sought to show the existence of  God through his handiwork in nature (Acts 14:17). In Romans 1, Paul says  that from nature alone all men can know that God exists (Rom. 1:20)” (4). 

So no-one can accuse Christianity of teaching its followers to have blind faith & I think that should be enough to dismiss Boghossian’s strawman caricature.

Atheistic Naturalism as a Faith Based Position.

Although I have not read Boghossian’s book, and probably don’t intend to, my goal for this article is to answer his faulty definition of faith – so I am not absolutely sure if Boghossian is a naturalist, a nihilist, humanist or of any other denomination of atheism (although I have been informed that he is a naturalist). So, I shall briefly focus on naturalism.

Contrary to popular atheistic belief, atheists also have faith. Naturalism, the worldview that most atheists hold to, contains many faith based assumptions. The naturalist can’t prove that the natural world is all that exists since to assume such goes beyond the available evidence. The same naturalist has to have faith that his cognitive faculties are reliable in interpreting data from the natural world so that he can make sense of it. The same naturalist has to assume that biological life originated from inorganic material, that in the universe order can come from chaos, and that consciousness and rationality can come from unconscious and non-rational forces of nature. He also has to hold that no supernatural reality exists & that all religions are man made thus false. These, and many more, are all faith based positions that the atheist naturalist has to maintain in order to believe in his naturalism. As fellow apologist Tyler Vela informs us:

“Even though “atheism” may technically amount to simply a lack of belief in a deity, the fact that atheists commonly label themselves “atheists”, (and ascribe attributes to such a label, such as rationalism, empirical validity, etc.) reveals that functionally speaking “atheism” may in fact actually be what people say that it isn’t – a belief; a system of thought” (3).

So, if we were to apply Boghossian’s faulty definition of faith (which is “pretending to know what you don’t know”) to his fellow atheists and their naturalism would it suggest that they suffer from the same virus as do religious people?


I think that Boghossian’s definition of faith falls flat in at least two areas. Firstly, he doesn’t take into account faith that is built upon facts and knowledge from the world, in other words, faith that is evidence based. He also misconstrues the biblical definition of faith so that he merely constructs & demolishes a strawman. Yet the ultimate irony is that atheists themselves have faith in their naturalism & Boghossian is certainly no exception to the rule. It is also unfortunate that Boghossian is so disrespectful to ordinary religious people by telling them that they have a virus that needs to be eradicated. But on the other hand Boghossian shows us what he, and his New Atheist movement, really stand for – a group of dogmatic, fundamentalist atheists positioned in movement that is ultimately built upon a foundation of hate.


1. Boghossian, P. 2013. A Manual for Creating Atheists. Available.

2. Schumacher, R. 2014. Peter Boghossian and the Atheist Definition of Faith. Available.

3. Vela, T. 2011. Is Atheism a Belief? Available.

4. Craig, W. Reasonable Faith. p. 86 – 87 (Scribd ebook format).


145 responses to “Answering Peter Boghossian – Atheist Hate & the Definition of Faith.

  1. For the complete throughout definition of Faith that includes your airplane analogy plus the other 2 definitions, please watch the first 20 minutes of this talk

      • Similar to how you have no interest in reading an entire book before writing a fluff piece about it? Laughable.

          • How do you not fear yourself to be an utter fool for saying this? You would sooner double down on an empty excuse not to read the book that you judge than just own up to this fair point and go read the damn thing?

            I’d be ashamed of my lack of integrity if I were to do the same. Why is it that such zealous Christians as yourself exist if your beliefs hold any virtue. Even the few values that a secular perspective would agree on, such as here, where you supposedly should be pulling a log out of your own eye before bothering Peter about a speck in his, such a plausible rule of thumb fails to take any hold in the beloever. This is typical. Not really laughable, I agree. Just sad.

              • It’s interesting how you take exception to Boghossian’s definition and then you proceed to do exactly that, pretend to know what you don’t know. A handful of a-contemporaneous hearsay sources is hardly evidence of a supernatural event. Religious faith is in no way like the “faith” a plane won’t crash – you’re equivocating falsifiable (i.e. testable), evidence-based, provisional conclusions (i.e. open to changing one’s conclusion should new evidence arise) with what is by definition the least probable explanation of what is not an evidence-based, unfalsifiable event which is not provisional at all according to believers.

                How is saying “faith is pretending to know what you don’t know” hate speech? Especially given that your own definition of faith commits logical fallacies? That’s one heck of a stretch on your part.

      • Are you concerned that watching the video might disconfirm your current opinions about Boghossian?
        If not, why not find out more about what Boghossian actually means?

        • I’ve listened to debates with Boghoassian, and discussions & articles on those debates. I know how he defines faith & I needn’t have to watch another clip on it.

  2. It seems to me that you are not facing the issue of faith, and it’s definition on a theological issue, truthfully.You are attempting, in my view, to conflate reasonable certainty, to faith. Even if that was a given, you further try to equate taking a flight, with accepting the writings of unknown authors about events that contradict all natural laws, as if they are one and the same thing.

    It would appear that even in the Christian writings that you refer to, the eye witnesses to the parting of the sea etc, we’re not convinced themselves. After all, did not this same group begin to idol a false golden god, even though they had supposedly had demonstration of a powerful god?

    Religious bodies and groups of religious people often actively seek to convert, and bring to their fold, believers of other faiths and non religious alike.

    How is this any different in its approach, to how the subject of your writings has acted?

  3. To have this discussion, the concept of “strong belief on insufficient evidence” requires a name. Any modern dictionary uses the word “faith” as the label of this concept. This is not a redefinition. It is the most commonly accepted definition.

    But I understand that you also want a term for beliefs for which you cannot prove, but that, based on the evidence we do have, the things we do know, are reasonable to hold. Or as you call it: “evidence based faith.”

    But the word “faith” here just becomes superfluous. The scientific attitude does not require you “prove” every belief, only that you have good reasons to believe it–the evidence we do have and the things we do know. We work in certainties. On the evidence, we can be highly certain on the theory of gravity.

    And in this way, we look at your analogy. We don’t board airplanes with “faith” that the plane is durable enough to withstand the elements, and that the pilot is well trained. We’d be suicidal lunatics to do so. We board with strong certainty and confidence based on evidence. We see planes fly with our own eyes, we can read if the rigour of material manufacturing, safety tests, pilot training. Conceptually, on the engineering and on the laws of physics, it’s plausible. Over 100,000 flights a day occur safely. Now, this does not amount to “proof” nor 100% certainty. It amounts to very good evidence, very strong certainty, and thus good reasons to believe the plane will fly safely.

    Teetering off a mountain in a cardboard box you believe will fly you to London safely would be an example of faith. We do not have evidence or good reasons for believing such.

    And it would also be “faith” to believe that cardboard boxes will fly because somebody wrote a book a couple thousand years ago that claimed cardboard boxes fly.

    It would still be faith even if you really, really, really felt like when you sat in a cardboard box that you were indeed flying. This is not good evidence of the boxes capacity for flight. It is evidence for how you think you feel.

    And finally, just conceptually, the idea of a cardboard box, by itself, carrying you through the air, flying, would require the suspension of the laws of physics. Once those stakes are raised, this is now an extraordinary claim and now requires extraordinary evidence to be accepted. “Because someone said so” or “because someone once said they saw it happen” is not remotely enough.

    The only way one could hold the belief that a cardboard box can fly you to London is on faith.

  4. Let’s just say that your conclusion based on the evidence you accept (from the Bible & other “historical data”) that Jesus rode from the dead is correct. Can you explain how that proves Jesus was a god, or son of the “one true God”? The Bible also says that other people rose from the dead. How do you distinguish in that case what qualifies those risen from the dead as a savior or not?

    • The Bible makes it clear that on Jesus underwent bodily resurrection. The other people that rose from the dead (Lazarus etc.) were not resurrections, but resuscitation (meaning that they were revived into the same body that would still die). And then we would need to look at Jesus’ self-concept & he clearly believed himself to be equal to god (as in his Son of Man sayings).

      • if Jesus underwent bodily resurrection, are you saying he literally levitated into the air and went into space? Was he actually alive? Did he become like Superman? Does he breathe oxygen in space? If his body did resurrect, what does that mean in terms of where or what Heaven is? Is heaven like 40 miles above the earth? Maybe its 200? Is it on the far side of the moon? If he rose and flew to space, it stands to reason that his body would freeze due to the cold vacuum of space, so would his Godliness provide warmth and air? How many physical laws must we break in order to make this idea plausible?

        And what came first? That you had faith in Jesus’ bodily resurrection, or that you thought bodily resurrection was plausible and that convinced you to have faith?

          • Surely you know what heaven is, since you’re so sure it exists? Please tell us. I’m not the one who is convinced it exists because I realize it doesn’t make sense literally or figuratively. I sure don’t know what a soul is.

            • So sure? Well, I am certain based on other things that it exists (Jesus’ resurrection, for example). In other words, I have evidence based faith that it exists.

              • Sounds like you’re pretending to know that Heaven exists because you you’re pretending to know that Jesus existed. Sounds plausible. Who taught you that having faith was a good idea? The Bible? Circular argument isn’t circular?

              • There are many religions that claim to know there is a soul, and know what happens to it after we die. They all have evidence just as strong as yours, (none) and they all contradict each other. Hinu’s are just as strong in their faith that they will be reincarnated. Faith is not based on evidence. The Bible is no more evidence than a Spiderman comic is evidence for there being an real life Spiderman superhero.

                If you want to see real hate speech look in almost every church. Look at their sermons on homosexuality and single mothers.

            • To understand what the Bible actually is (which, judging by just about all your comments) – particularly as historical documents renders your accusation of my faith being based on a “Circular argument” false. I shouldn’t need to say much more than that.

      • I note you fail to address the critics who say religions convert people to their faith. Are you unable to provide an argument, or are you too cowardly to even consider it?

        Your essay is a prime example of the problem of religion, faith, and the hatred religion engenders from it’s followers.

        • Jerry, I am only interested in my religion’s version of faith, not what other religions hold it to be. I am also not cowardly, if I was I wouldn’t have written an article on this.

          And it would also be false that my essay is a prime example of hate that religion causes for its followers. I don’t hate anyone, I simply disagree with something and feel the need to write a response to it. If anything the hate is clearly coming from Boghossian, not me or the Christian who stirs the pot in a soup kitchen.

  5. Hi,
    I think it is very important, where possible, to remain civil in one’s response to contrary views and to be as open for discussion as one can be. I also appreciate that (new) atheists can come across as neither when strong in espousing their views,
    Saying that, I’d like to address a couple of things-
    When atheists talk of “eradicating” a “virus”, such as they believe religion to be, they don’t mean in the religious sense i.e. to kill the offending people and indoctrinate from the infant stages. They are referring to secular societies and educating the young and old (including understanding religion). Whereas you may take offence to this, to call it hateful is more a personal take than an objective position.Look at the world and observe where the murderous rage is coming from-you will quickly find a pattern.
    Allowing for your definition of faith to include evidence, it would then seem rather odd to give examples re science and religion that are incomparable. Airplanes go up and down safely in their thousands every hour – we are still awaiting the second coming. The trouble with your evidence based faith is that the evidence is usually in very poor accounts, often orally related by ill-educated people (Abrahamic) or charlatans (Smith and Hubbard). This unfortunately leaves you back where you started as it is not really any evidence at all. This is the “lie”.
    As for your evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, well I unfortunately find it incredulous that a person would say that this is evidence of anything. Yet you do and I don’t doubt your sincerity. For this we need to look at cognitive biases, The thing is that the scientific approach is not a belief but a (being of human construct-flawed) means of obtaining the truth. Religion is about already knowing the truth (or your definition of it).
    Lastly and most importantly, you make the link between atheism and rationality and empirical data. Whereas not mutually exclusive there is likely much crossover. However, to make leaps from “system of thought” to “belief” to “pretending to know…is egregious. Rationalism, empirical data and scientific method are means to finding the truth.It is called the Theory of Evolution for a reason. Despite it being “fact”in any real terms the scientific understanding is such that it will only remain fact until it is disproved but also explains so much about our world. The real harm about religion is that it stifles such searching because “God did it” answers everything.

    We have had a long time of religious oppression and we are still seeing it’s affects globally-atheists are angry and speak out vociferously to be heard as a minority. The real test is when (soon) we are the majority, will we treat the religious with respect. I suspect we will as by general affiliation atheists align with secular values that espouse inclusion. To reaffirm, the eradication of religion is in the sense of education and giving kids a chance to choose their own worldview. I imagine all atheists would be quite confident that this would do the trick-we see it happening. The next and equally disturbing obstacle to removing ingroup/outgroup fighting is nationalism. Once religion is under control that needs to be n

    • Well done! A balanced and respectful attempt to engage in an honest discussion. Unfortunately, sometimes the seeds of well-intentioned thought can fall on barren ground. It’s often been said that the exit door from religious delusion opens from within. Perhaps one day James will find his own way out.

  6. Good grief, could you possibly fail any harder? When Peter defines faith as “pretending to know what you don’t know,” he doesn’t ever mean to imply that this is literally how Christians define the word. He is only implying that this is a functionally equivalent definition, minus all the nebulous Christian happy talk. He derives that definition directly from the implications of the Bible itself (Hebrews 11:1, for example), as well as many common Christian uses of the term in popular culture. For crying out loud, learn read between the lines.

      • Do you seriously not understand the difference between the literal, verbatim definition of a word, and it’s practical, functional meaning in context? Christians define faith in their own ways, which are obviously different from how Peter says it is defined. Peter’s primary point, however, is that in practice, the meaning of “faith” has only ever been used to imply a strong conviction in the absence of rigorous, empirical data to justify it. I.E., “pretending to know what you don’t know.” It’s right there in Hebrews 11:1.

        Again, you are completely oblivious to the obvious point being made.

        • It misrepresents a biblical understanding of the word, as well as what myself & other apologists mean by the word. Before you champion a cherrypicked Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith I would recommend you read 1 Peter 3:15.

      • No, actually the definition of faith is spot on. There is no actual evidence that what the Bible says is true, and it even recommends believers to have faith in its claims.

        When confronted with this definition, your cognitive dissonance kicks in and write this article trying to explain how your faith is something different.

  7. How exactly are the claims of Christianity falsifiable? If we are to take the book that is the source of the extraordinary claim as evidence, are we equally justified to do the same for the evidence to the contrary?

    Are we allowed to criticise bad ideas? If the ideas are sound then they should be easy to defend and will ultimately survive our scroutiny. In fact this is how science works.

    • It’s falsifiable in the sense that the Bible makes objective truth claims about reality. Genesis tells us that the universe begun to exist, which is consistent with what we know from the universe. Likewise, Jesus is said to have been resurrected from the dead. If his tomb with his bones inside were found then that would falsify Christianity. Archaeology and extra-biblical history has confirmed biblical narratives and locale. So, clearly Christianity is falsifiable.

      • Genesis also said that God created light before he created the sun. How does that make any sense?

        It also says that God made animals in kinds and that is clearly not how evolution works.

        If Jesus never existed, then his tomb would be empty as well. Did you factor that into the equation?

        Is faith falsifiable?

      • What hypothetical evidence would then falsify the claim? What would be your best example of something that if we come to know would force you to change your position?

        Are there any other hypotheses that we could come up with that would satisfy what we assert to be true (i.e. that we did not find any bones)?

        • Finding Jesus’ bones. Historical evidence negating Jesus’ resurrection, miracles, deity (evidence that would come from the same period shortly after Jesus lived & when the gospels were written – thankfully all the evidence is in agreement of the major points in his life), discovering that it was a conspiracy (which is absurd), that Jesus never died on the cross etc.
          Maybe discovering that the universe is eternal would impact my belief in God.

          • If Jesus never existed, how could we find his bones?

            Are all religions conspiracies or do they just abuse our ability to use faith to claim they are true? Pretty sure it’s the latter.

          • “Finding Jesus’ bones.”

            In what logical universe could I ever convince you that any particular pile of bones happened to belong to the literal, Biblical Jesus? You say you are open to being proved wrong, but then you prop up an impossible standard of evidence that you would never accept under any conditions. That’s called “lying” James.

            • Because if we found Jesus bones they would be stacked in a boxlike ossuary with the name: “Jesus of Nazareth.”

              Besides, I have other ways you could undermine Christianity that doesn’t provide an impossible standard of evidence, but you are only focusing on Jesus’ bones.

              • How can you know that this is the necessarily singular eternal state of a particular person’s bones?

      • The bible makes objective truth claims about reality that are false beyond any reasonable doubt. When confronted with this, apologist either turn the bible into metaphor or they pretend the evidence doesn’t exist. You’re also establishing an absurd standard of falsifiability – I challenge you to follow your own advice. Locate the bones of August Caesar to prove he didn’t ascend into heaven, as the Romans claimed.

  8. James, you say that faith is based on “facts and knowledge from the world.” Would you say that the Muslim belief that Mohamed was ascended to the Islamic heaven to receive the Koran is based on fact/knowledge from the world?

    • If the Muslim had strong apologetic arguments in other places (other than Muhammad’s ascension to heaven – are you sure that he ascended to heave? I am pretty sure Islamic theology says that Gabriel was sent by Allah to dictate the words of the koran to him. But besides that) then I’d say he can make a case that his faith in such an event is well founded.

      Likewise in Christianity a strong can be made for Jesus’ resurrection on basic historical facts from his ministry and passion.

      • What you need to think about is that the Muslim believes it with 100% conviction. The Hindu believes with 100% conviction. The Mormon, the Scientologist, the Baptist, the Catholic. All these people are absolutely sure. When we ask how they are sure, they don’t give us complicated apologetics. They start with ‘faith’. So if you can explain how these people have the wrong faith and you have the right faith without resorting to apologetics (which we all know make little sense anyway), then we can make some progress.

        • No one is ever absolutely sure. Part of Christian apologetics is to explain why they are wrong. We also needn’t make progress (as you would define it) because I am quite happy going my own way.

            • You have a funny habit of asking people questions of which you answer yourself (so, you’re assuming things about me). No, what billions of people believe isn’t a determining factor for me.

            • Just false bro. I’m with James here. For myself, coming to Christ wasn’t through a means such as, “Oh, all these people are Christians, that means it’s right!” We searched and studied the evidence and found it to be the truth through our own means.

              • Baloney. You were not compelled by any evidence, but by the warm fuzzies of “the spirit.”

              • James, the warm fuzzies of the Spirit had nothing to do it. This quote by J. Warner Wallace best sums up my own (and a lot of other thinking Christians) reasons pertaining to what we believe.
                “I’m not a Christian because it “works” for me. I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy. I’m a Christian because it is true. I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth. I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.”

          • Why isn’t part of Christian apologetics, “apply the same ruthless skepticism we apply to other religions to our own?”

          • James, many people around the world have claimed to have supernatural experiences. Should we believe them all? If not, what sets apart fact from fiction?

            • In my opinion, yes, I think anyone who seriously claims to have a supernatural experience has indeed undergone some otherworldly experience, however that doesn’t mean every experience is an act of Christ.

            • No, but well documented ones are worth believing (see Craig Keener’s 2 volume book: ‘Miracles’).
              That other people have had supernatural experiences makes sense via a Christian lens that claims that Satan can deceive people. On the other hand it makes atheism look explanatory deficient.

              • James, you mentioned Satan. Now, the Bible and other writings mention such a figure, but how can any person know whether Satan actually exists and isn’t just a mythical being, a literary device used to explain much (if not all) human and animal suffering?

            • “James, you mentioned Satan. Now, the Bible and other writings mention such a figure, but how can any person know whether Satan actually exists and isn’t just a mythical being, a literary device used to explain much (if not all) human and animal suffering?”

              Precisely on evidential grounds in studying the ministry of Jesus. I’ve interviewed several people who have had experiences with demonic entities. For more on the supernatural I’d recommend Keener’s 2 vol analysis on it.

      • Hi James, “I’d say he can make a case that his faith in such an event is well founded.” But then how could you be sure that your religion was not correct, maybe all religions are valid?. Just believing in it does not make it true. On the other hand the undercarriage of aeroplanes are tested to breaking point….many times.

        • Hi Brian.

          All religions (if we are to hold that Christianity is false) cannot all be valid since they clearly make incompatible objective truth claims about reality. Buddhism & Eastern thought says the world is an illusion, Islam doesn’t. Islam says Allah will judge people based off good vs. bad deeds – New Age religion doesn’t.

          They can’t all be true.

          I also fear that you emphasis on the plane misses the point of my analogy. I was arguing that flying illustrates evidence based faith because I cannot guarantee a safe flight, but that I am reasonable to hold that i will make it to my destination in one piece.

          • OK, following your plane analogy, it’s reasonable to assume we’ll make it to our destination because so many prior flights have ended safely, right? Are you saying we can be confident Jesus was resurrected because we have good evidence of many other people who have also been resurrected?

            • We have good evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, yes. However, I was not equating certainties between these two events (Jesus’ resurrection & safe flying in a plane). I was simply illustrating what Christians mean by “evidence based faith.”

  9. You equate this as hate speech because he is critical of your deeply held religious views. Scrutiny of religious ideas and beliefs are not hate speech. They are simply scrutiny and it’s disingenuous to equate his position with hate becuase you disagree with him

    • That’s not true, kso. I am well accustomed to being accused of a great many things because of my religious views. That’s not the issue here, though. The fact that Boghossian would say that religious people possess faith that needs to be eradicated clearly comes over as hate speech against people. Imagine the consequences if Boghossian made such a charge against homosexuals or feminists.

      • Yeah, but homosexuals didn’t choose to be gay. You choose to accept faith as a reliable way to know objective reality. When questioned about this, you regress and yell hate speech. If you really thought faith was useful, we could use faith to conclude Islam is true and there is nothing you could do to argue it.

        • Well, firstly that is a faulty conclusion of my position. Secondly, feminists choose to be feminists. Would it be right for Boghossian to accuse them of having virus that needs to be eradicated?

            • Well. Technically all over the place, just as everyone uses faith. Feminists might have faith in the reliability of statistics on women abuse, women rights per country etc. The feminist has to believe that her cognitive faculties are reliable in making sense of that information & the external world.

              Again, you simply keep asking questions of which you answer yourself (why ask then in the first place…)

          • It would not be hate speech to say that feminists base their arguments on bad ideas, and that those bad ideas need to be eradicated.

            Of course Peter hasn’t said feminism needs to be eradicated, so let’s return to the topic at hand — saying that Christianity as an idea needs to be eradicated is not hate speech.

              • Because killing people is much more acceptable than asking how they know something to be true? We’re not advocating killing Christians, we’re advocating killing the idea that faith is a reliable method to understand an objective reality. How would you convince an ISIS terrorist that he was wrong?

            • If Christians refused to give up faith while Peter argued with them, would Peter just say, “Ok, that’s all good my friend”? If not, then I’m pretty sure at least some form of hate lies beneath his words. If not, it’ll first be frustration with the person that would eventually lead to hate.

      • But PB identifies the simple observation that having faith about something does not make it true. In fact, having faith has no bearing on truth whatsoever. Having faith means you will believe it whether or not it’s true. How is faith in believing things only crazy would accept as true helping unify humanity?

        You have faith the a ressurection happened because the bible says so. Are we to assume the absurd notion of Matthew 27:52 “all the tombs broke open” and 100’s of Old Testament saints walked around throwing a post mortem mardi gras like a ripoff of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video simply because someone wrote a narrative about it during the most superstitious period in history? How is it this FANTASTICAL even is documented by one measly line in the entire bible, and no other contemporary anywhere, ever, wrote about this FANTASTIC event? Mostly likely because mythology just like the ressurection. How about the part where the plants are put on earth before the sun is created on the 4th day. Wow. i wonder how people saw and wrote about this cosmological event without actually being present…

  10. I honestly stopped reading after the first few points because they didn’t make sense.

    And by “didn’t make sense” I don’t mean that I disagreed with James. I mean that his syntax errors and grammatical errors were overpowering. I honestly could not make out what he was trying to say.

    I’m confident that if his English did make sense, his arguments probably would not have.

    I guess you could call that faith.

  11. It appears that you have redefined the terms “evidence” and “fact” and erected a strawman of your own. The comparison of the airplane ride and religious faith is obviously absurd. That planes fly safely everyday is easy to prove. People coming back to life after being dead three days, not so much. Similarly, naturalism does not need “faith’ as you assert. It’s not philosophy, it’s empirically based science that is continually revised in accordance with verifiable evidence.

    From the article: “I believe that my faith is evidence based upon what I believe is rational to hold.” Surely, you must recognize this statement to be nonsensical. Simply put, it means that your standard of “evidence” is utterly arbitrary without a concern for whether or not it is reliably true. Thus, your argument can be dismissed out of hand.

    Your article seems consistent with the currently popular christian persecution theme. That the christian worldview should not be critiqued or disrespected. If it is, christians feel they being “attacked.” Perhaps that is what’s really rankling you.

  12. In England, we have a word to describe claims like yours.

    That word is ‘codswallop’ which means total rubbish.

    So, is this what you faith heads are reduced to is it? Accusing anyone who disagrees with you and your completely wrong ideas of ‘hate speech’?

    Well, remember sunny Jim, it works both ways. Next time I hear a faith head describing me as inadequate because I don’t pretend to know what I don’t know, I will set the thought police on them.

    Who knows, I might even hire one of those no-win-no-fee lawyers and claim damages as well.

    • That’s not a true diagnosis of the situation here. I am well accustomed to being accused of a great many things because of my religious views. That’s not the issue here, though. The fact that Boghossian would say that religious people possess faith that needs to be eradicated clearly comes over as hate speech against people. Imagine the consequences if Boghossian made such a charge against homosexuals or feminists.

  13. “Firstly, he doesn’t take into account faith that is built upon facts and knowledge from the world, in other words, faith that is evidence based.”

    Well, if it was ‘evidence based’ it would not be faith would it!

    • Faith can be evidenced based. Such faith is simply drawing conclusions above what current evidence allows, but not in spite of supporting evidence. I have faith in Jesus’ resurrection because it cannot be proved absolutely, but that faith is built upon sound historical evidence (the empty tomb, postmortem appearances etc)

      • Faith you to do confirmation bias. You think that an empty tomb is proof that Jesus rose from the dead, when it could simply be made up in the Bible, or it could mean that no Jesus ever existed. Postmortem appearances only make sense to those that already believe in Jesus. We know witness testimony isn’t reliable.

        It cannot be proved absolutely – so you cannot be 100% convinced it’s true.

        • You clearly grossly misinformed – that’s why I write on my blog – to help people basic stuff.

          Just to show were your are incorrect – are you really going to go with a Jesus mythicist theory, for one? Are you serious in saying Paul & James were predisposed to believe in Jesus’ resurrection? Are you really arguing that pious orthodox Jesus (Jesus’ disciples) would come up with an anti-Jewish proclamation of a resurrected Messiah in the middle of history? Are you seriously going to undermine eyewitness testimony without considering it (I wonder if you’d think you could ever make a court case)?

          • Are you seriously going to ignore the thousands of religions that all use confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, resistance to rational thinking, and faith-based claims to conclude their religion is true? Yes, you are. I think the mysticism theory is far more plausible than the resurrection…you know, because it could actually be true.

              • Are you seriously going to ignore the thousands of religions that all use confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, resistance to rational thinking, and faith-based claims to conclude their religion is true?

                Can you please answer this.

      • Post-mortem appearances–seriously? It isn’t unusual for bereaved people to think they are experiencing visions of their recently deceased loved ones. Does this mean they are truly seeing ghosts? Why don’t the rest of us see them too? Which is more likely–that Jesus’s followers experienced hallucinations or that they saw a real ghost?

        As for the empty tomb–and really the gospels in general–why should we assume these stories to be factual? After all, millions of Jews who were there at the time rejected these stories, and they had better access to the evidence than we will ever have.

  14. I’m going to sum up your article:

    “I have a beautiful convertible that I really love! I love this convertible so much that it bothers me when people point out the problems with it. In fact the other day there was this man named Peter Boghossian who pointed out that the tires were bald, and that it was rusted out on the inside, the tail lights were out, and that in fact it doesn’t have any seats and the engine explodes upon ignition.

    “I would like to maintain that this car is beautiful and that is how I am defining it. But then these hateful people come along and start pointing out the obvious and that makes me very very angry.”

    This is the argument that you just made.

  15. You wrote: “Although I have not read Boghossian’s book.” You can’t possibly have an honest argument against a point (his definition of faith) without having read his point to begin with. Read his book, and at least attempt to understand his premises and arguments. It sounds like right now you’re putting all your “faith” in other peoples’ interpretations of his book, rather than the man’s words themselves.

    • That did come to mind, however, his (strawman) definition is quite easy to understand, after all, I needn’t read his whole book to know what “pretending to know things that you don’t know” and “belief without evidence” means.

      • I need not read the whole Bible after it said that magic exists to know it was asking people to pretend to know it was true.

          • Lol. Yes, because you can differentiate that the Holy Bible is Holy, whereas the Holy Qur’an is not holy because you were taught that the Holy Bible is Holy.

            When you read the Resurrection, you didn’t stop and go “this shit is cray” because I sure did. Maybe you can accuse me of being rational. Damn.

              • Let’s see which of these claims we can all agree on:
                1. The current capital city of Canada is Ottawa.
                2. Drinking hydrochloric acid is harmful to your health.
                3. Invisible pigs are flying around us at all times.
                4. Saying “Miva, Miva, bomokupaliva” to the fairy queen Miva 23 times a day will bring you good fortune.
                If I can’t agree with 3 and 4 because I don’t think there’s reliable evidence of either of these claims, do I have a cognitive bias against supernaturalism?

            • “Yes, because you can differentiate that the Holy Bible is Holy, whereas the Holy Qur’an is not holy because you were taught that the Holy Bible is Holy.” How do you know James didn’t study the Qur’an? You’re making claims with no evidence.

              • Lucas, what does it mean to say that something is “holy”? Can the painting of the Mona Lisa be holy? If not, why not?

          • Hateful atheist propaganda? Wow. All we are saying is that faith is unreliable. And yet you can’t even see through your cognitive dissonance to see how other religions abuse faith.

      • Dear James You have taken one sentence out of his book… “pretending to know………. you would think ill of me if I did the same to your book. For example….“Whoever curses father or mother shall die”

  16. I have to say that you are wrong about Boghossian, his positions and your positions on a number of accounts. 1) I highly doubt that anyone who’s view border on hate speech would actually invite theists into their classroom and allow those people to give their perspectives on religion and faith. Boghossian is not hateful in anymore sense than Christians are with their evangelicalism. After all, is it not true that Christians view atheism as something “to be eradicated”? You write, ” Most people in the world don’t want to be associated with hateful bigots like Boghossian,” apparently oblivious to the history of your own religion. Sorry, but that’s the kettle calling the pot black. 2) Your defense of evidence-based faith is utterly lacking. You wrte, “I cannot “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead. Yet I can believe that he did is a rational position based off of historical data. I believe that making sense of data such as Jesus’ empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, the radical transformations of Paul, James & the disciples etc.” Given that you were not there and there are no accurate records from the time in question (the Bible itself cannot be used to prove assertions that it holds; that is circular reasoning) you really don’t have much reason to believe “the evidence.” You don’t even have a modern day equivalent for Jesus’ resurrection, so your “evidence” really amounts to pretending to know something you don’t know. [Your airplane analogy is terrible, btw.] 3) While I agree that there come sometimes be a small amount of faith in the interpretations of scientific data, scientific data itself – when properly conducted – makes it difficult not to draw certain conclusions from. The scientific – or naturalistic – worldview also invites corrections which is something people who pretend to know things will not do with their beliefs. PS – Atheists, at least philosophical atheists and most scientists, do not assume “the natural world is all that exists” based on available evidence.” Theoretical physicists assert things without evidence all the time. The point is, they at least go looking for evidence to prove their assertions. There is always more evidence to consider. Faith is something that prevents revisions to belief.

  17. Thank you James Bishop for this blog and your comment replies. You have provided a masterful example of cognitive dissonance, circular logic and confirmation bias. Aka ‘James claiming to know things that he doesn’t know’.
    Thanks to the rest of you for writing the things that I didn’t have time to write 🙂
    Oh and I confidently got on and off of yet another plane last week, and all without invoking ‘faith’ to help it fly.

  18. Doesn’t that take Boghossian out of control text? Doesn’t Boghossian also differentiate between ideas and people, making sure that those who follow the methods are on their best behavior when speaking with believers?

    That’s what I got out of the book. There was zero talk about hating or wanting to hurt anyone. What Boghossian does is similar to how psychologists talk about how to rid people of delusions without any harm to the person. Primum non nocere (first, do no harm) is a primary principle of Street Epistemology.

  19. Goodness me. This is embarrassing. You have not understood the rationale for the definition you have tried to address. The aeroplane analogy? Boghossian discusses this in his discussion of the different uses of the word faith & issues a challenge to anyone wanting to refute it. At least familiarise yourself with it before addressing a completely different meaning of the word faith which he has explicitly stated he is NOT discussing.

  20. The title is a bait and switch. The point is not really to deconvert. You should read things before criticizing them. I’ve no need to read further than this evidence you’ve left that you haven’t actually read Peter’s book.

      • You didn’t address Philosophist’s point. He claimed Peter’s book was not about, as you so adeptly put it, “reconverting religions people [sic].” I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment, but you didn’t acknowledge if you had or not. The fact that other books by atheists may have that intention says nothing about the particular book in question.

  21. You have made a fancy speech full of hate. You have tried to besmirch a good man’s name and you should be ashamed of yourself. You are the one who has been indoctrinated. It is time to grow up.

    • Indoctrinated? The last time I looked I came to Christianity via my own volition.

      Hate? No, but I do disagree (which is not hate).

      Besmirch? No, but provide a guide for where a “good man” has made an error.

      Grow up? Do you mean me or the guy telling people that they have faith (which is a strawman definition) that needs some eradicating.

      • How is it a “strawman [sic] definition” when that is how Hebrews 1 defines it and you yourself agreed that “many religious people do in fact match Boghossian’s definition of faith”?

        And how is what you are saying not hate if what Boghossian is saying (disagreeing with your characterization of faith) is hate? I think neither are hate speech, but you need to at least be internally consistent, please.

  22. Pingback: Peter Boghossian accused of hate speech for correcting defining “faith” « Why Evolution Is True·

  23. Wait… The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

    That’s exactly as Peter Boghossian puts it, “belief without evidence.”

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • That’s clearly not the only biblical definition of faith, Jacob.

      1 Peter 3:15: ” always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

      Both biblical definitions apply to Christian believers, they’re not mutually exclusive.

      And, that is exactly what Peter Boghossian does not mean.

      • So believing without evidence and believing because of evidence are not contradictory? Fascinating…

        But this isn’t the only example of Biblical contradictions, so I can’t say I’m surprised.

        Also, don’t forget to put 1 Peter 3 into context! That chapter starts out telling wives to submit to husbands, not to wear gold, or braid their hair, and calling women the weaker vessel.

      • James, if, by “faith,” you simply mean “hope,” then epistemologically, that’s just fine. So, if you say, “I _hope_ Jesus was resurrected and will return soon,” that’s not a problem from an epistemological standpoint. But if you claim to _know_ he will return based on your faith (i.e, your belief that he will do so), then that just doesn’t work.

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  25. as most theists, you seems to confuse faith and trust. Trust is earned, supported by evidence. Faith demands it is given without intellect and consideration, to be blindly accepted.

    You are indeed an apologist. You have no evidence and must make excuse after excuse, never able to show you version of your religion is true. As every other theist, you have no more evidence than the next and make the argument for atheism even stronger.

    • Um that is incorrect Club. Let me explain. The latin root for trust is fides, which means, to have faith in. James is correct in his assumption. Next time study up on etymology before making incorrect assumptions.

      • You are quite correct, the basis for trust is indeed “fides”, but it is not what trust can mean now. We do not speak Latin anymore; we do speak English (at least American English for me). So trust and faith do not mean the same thing, though they are cognates. You may wish to consider etymology (the study of the origins of words) a little less and the actual definition of words more.

        Faith: per your own bible, the belief in things that have no evidence. “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” . It can be used to mean trust but context is what is the key, that thing that so many theists complain about but don’t pay attention to if inconvenient.

        Trust: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

        For example, your bible says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” There is no evidence that support s that your god exists, or that it is the creator.

        Compare this to “I trust that my car will start in the morning because I understand how internal combustion works, the laws of physics are supported by evidence, and it is a repeatable occurrence. ” One can indeed replace trust with faith in this sentence but the definition of the word change with context. One is based on blind belief, one is based on knowledge.

        Also consider, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” where the bible goes out of its way to point out that trust requires evidence, not blind faith, since God is giving evidence, not depending on the Israelites having “faith” in Moses.

        With the evidence above, it does indeed seem that Bishop does confuse faith and trust, either intentionally or ignorantly.

  26. “This clearly applies to Christianity. For example, I cannot “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead. Yet I can believe that he did is a rational position based off of historical data. I believe that making sense of data such as Jesus’ empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, the radical transformations of Paul, James & the disciples etc. can be used to support the case of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.”

    This is a classic WLC claim and the problem is that there is no tomb so claiming that it is empty is and thus is “evidence” is rather silly. Christians do not agree where any tomb is, which is very odd that they lost the most important site for their religion. There is no evidence of any post mortem appearances other than in the bible, which disagrees on when and how and where, so that’s a bit silly. too.

    And if you are siting changes in people as evidence, that would mean that the People’s Temple and Jim Jones were just as valid as your religion, the Heaven’s Gate believers, and any suicide bomber, that has had “radical transformations”.

    In summary, there is no evidence to support the “bodily resurrection of Jesus” at all. Only baseless claims, as baseless as the claims of many other religions. One may as well make the argument that the existence of the stone in Mecca, the supposed footprints on the temple mount, etc are evidence to support the claim that Mohammed was God’s prophet and that one should believe in Islam.

  27. So you assume that the \buy bull is true. |That’s your first fail. Why should we believe what the buy bull is saying?

  28. In my experience, discussing religion, faith & belief, with others that do believe in a god – it seems to me that “faith” is a mixture, (in varying degrees & elements) of many things:
    Emotional wishful thinking/needs
    A love of authority
    Deliberate denial of fact
    Confirmation bias
    Cherry picking from the holy text of choice
    The need for the absolute.

    I’ve never doubted that some sincerely & wholeheartedly believe that there is a god(s). But from the earliest forms of religion, they’ve all been worshipping at the altar of, “gaps”, with those gaps getting smaller all the time.
    Religion, it’s claims and religious folk – have been rewriting themselves for centuries. I’ve no doubt that it will continue to do so, as those elements have to readjust to changes, in order to remain, “viable”. Yet, with each change and minus any sense of irony, (let alone self awareness or brutal honesty), it still considers itself to be some kind of universal, untouchable, truth.

    There was a time where Ken Ham, would have been considered an “average” person of faith, for his view of the Bible and a time where because of John Spong’s views, he would have been immediately put to death by others that shared the same god as he.

    Xtianity, has had over two thousand years, in which to fully substantiate it’s ever reducing claims.

    It hasn’t.

    And that’s the thing with making claims, (especially the larger, “meaning of life is..” ones) you should expect to be challenged, and you should be able to fully justify and demonstrate your claims.

    Probably doesn’t help that you’ve so many varying factions, with varying beliefs, (some in complete opposition to others) and faith in those beliefs – but hey, what do I know?

    I’m just happy to be made from star stuff.

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  32. So, if I understand you correctly, from your post and the replies to this piece, you are confident that what you believe is true. This confidence you label as faith.
    In percentage terms, how confident are you that the resurection is true?
    What criteria do you use to establish this percentage?
    Can the same criteria then be used to ascertain confidence in opposing religious views?
    Other than a personal choice, how would anyone not adhering to your belief structure, using your criteria, arrive at the same confidence level, and have an equal measure of faith as you?

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