It’s no secret that I am not a Peter Boghossian fan. As I’ve written several times, he tends to say asinine things on Twitter and then cry foul whenever he’s criticized. He also loves to strawman feminists and social justice activists as dogmatists who think all straight white cis men are bad. Yet the whole street epistemology thing intrigues me. I never liked the whole “You’re an idiot because you believe in a magical sky daddy” approach to debating religion because, let’s face it, it doesn’t work. It only makes believers push us away even more. With street epistemology, though, it’s a conversation where, instead of strawmanning the other person, you simply ask what a person believes and how they arrived at that belief. You don’t always have to be in your face in order to get people to think.
Which is why, despite my criticisms of Boghossian, I downloaded the Atheos App the other day. And it’s actually pretty good!
The Atheos App is divided into ten levels based on Plato’s cave analogy, from “The journey begins” to “Freed from delusion.” Each level contains a series of arguments believers make to justify their beliefs, and you have to choose the best way to respond. (Hint: it’s always the question that asks the believer how they reached that conclusion.) These multiple choice questions help the budding Street Epistemologist ask the questions that get believers to think about why they believe in what they believe.
One of the first categories is “Time to flee,” which tackles the best way to respond to extremely emotional situations by backing off. For example, if someone says, “I was just diagnosed with cancer, but I know God will heal me,” DO NOT respond with, “Didn’t God give you cancer to begin with?” Instead, you should respond with, “I’m sorry you’re sick. Is there something I can do to help?” Being diagnosed with cancer is scary enough without adding a faith crisis on top of things!
The only drawback is that to unlock premium content, you need to pay $4.99. You get the first level for free, but the second level requires money. Hopefully that’s the only time you have to pay (I’m on Level 2 now, so I don’t know).
Overall, though, the Atheos App is a great way to teach you how to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you without having it turn into a shitstorm. I recommend it!