So here I am reading Peter Boghossian’s Manual for Creating Atheists, marking pages where he’s built his position on straw-man versions of faith, contradicted himself, and committed a host of other sins against his own chosen profession of philosophy. Actually in spite of that there are some things I like about him, which I’ll write up when I actually review the book. I haven’t finished it, so it would be premature now. But I just ran across a scene that wouldn’t let me go until I said something about it here.
He tells about a conversation with a “nicely groomed” young man he ran into during one of his rare visits to a church. He asked the man to tell him what he would do if he became convinced God told him to kill all the left-handed people in the world. The young man resisted the question wisely, and repeatedly, with his conviction that God wouldn’t do that. Boghossian pressed him: “But what if….” Finally the man accepted the premise of the question: “Yes, if I were convinced God told me to do it, then I would do it.”
Quite manifestly, what he was saying was, “If I were convinced God told me to do it [which I know would never happen[, then [in that impossible situation] I would do it [yet—although I’m humoring you on your question—I know that God wouldn’t say that].”
Then he asks, “What’s your point?” Dr. Boghossian replies, “I don’t really have a point. I’m just trying to figure out the limits of your faith. It seems to me your faith is limitless. You’d do anything you think God wanted you to do, including murder innocents.”
Which is absolutely outrageous.
The contrafactual, hypothetical position he badgered the man into adopting for the sake of argument was outside the limits of the man’s faith throughout the whole conversation. Boghossian wasn’t testing the limits of anything; the man had already established his limits. Instead he set up a pretend thought-game and then acted as if its results represented something real about the man’s beliefs. He acted, in fact, as if by pretending this he had learned something: which is perilously close to “pretending to know things you don’t know,” his (mis)definition of faith.
You’ll find this on pages 89 through 92. There’s more to be said about the book, but that’s enough for now. It’s totally in keeping with the manipulativeness I’ve identified in Boghossian earlier in this series.
P.S. I can’t help pointing out that on page 32 he pronounced his support for “international family planning organizations”—which is to say, abortion providers. So much for his judgmentalism concerning the murder of innocents.