I admit having changed my opinion on how to approach belief and non-belief.
I have also been more measured in my issue with the word “Faith”.
— Basically, I am drifting away from debating beliefs to an approach towards understanding them—although I still occasionally argue passionately against bad epistemology.
In my opinion, Street Epistemology (SE) is the best approach to understanding other’s journey, without forcibly accepting them.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be
able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
If you are interested in this rather new approach, I would invite you to check out the YouTube channels of these two champions of the genre:
Anthony Magnabosco & Reid Nicewonder. There are more, but I will leave it up to you to Google them.
—Basically, this is known as the “Socratic Method”.
Personally, although I’m a huge fan and practicer, I do find some issues with some current methods of SE, and they are worth addressing.
So here I go…
Most (not all) SE proponents are atheists. So it can be very obvious at times that the questions are leading, pushing the interlocutor to a conclusion born of surprise rather than long reflexion—a bit on the spot and cornered.
The fact that it works does not negate the question of conversational ethics.
Many use what is called the “Confidence Scale” (usually 1 – 100).
This bothers me when the line between “belief” and “confidence” is blurred.
My point being that “Belief” is always 100%, otherwise, it’s just a hunch with a degree of confidence. Belief is not quantifiable. Hunches and gut-feelings are.
My understanding so far is that belief is “what we think is the case”, like Truth, who would also fit this definition.
We either believe, or not believe—the third option is “not knowing”—which can give birth to what can be considered “probable”. The scale of confidence is justified in the case of probabilities, not in the case of Belief.
If the goal is to destabilize people’s Faith, I’m not game.
Kicking the delicate balance of hope and the need for a Higher Power can push to suicide at worse, or confuse and hurt people with addictions that have been helped by their Faith.
Certainty is not Knowledge, yes, but it can be an important emotional and intellectual tutor to balanced self-confidence.
Now, having pointed these issues out, I still think SE is the best way to avoid heated debate and the urge to stay on our little mountain of certitudes. It avoids misunderstanding others.
It’s a work in progress.
In my opinion, It is advantageous to go into SE with the sole objective to trigger good epistemology.
I would rather put aside particular beliefs altogether, and concentrate on HOW we get where we get in general.
I’m getting some good vibes when the interlocutor doesn’t feel I question his or her beliefs, but how they think critically in general. I often admit to my own flaws in thinking to favour common ground.
— One method is to ask the interlocutor what percentage (scale) they feel their confidence level is about their own judgements in general, hindsight, taking into account the times they made mistakes and the times they made the right decisions.
I doubt I will ever meet someone that never made a mistake in judgment.
The percentage then, is NOT about their beliefs, but about their confidence in their own judgments in general.
I sometimes ask if they feel that most of their mistakes were led emotionally rather than by reason, to which they generally answer “yes”—and again—I will include myself, as this is the case for me too. Always establish common ground.
If the convenient time comes to talk about beliefs, the person will be faced with the fact that their beliefs are dependent on their capacity to judge ideas well.
The “belief” itself may never come up, I will even avoid it if I can, unless they really need to voice their belief.
Finally, the goal is for that person to leave with something to think about; an epistemic seed for reasoning more deeply; how they know what they know; how and why they defend what they believe, and what questions they need to address.
Now, I understand that SE was born of the idea to make people question their beliefs, and lead them to Reason rather that Religious Faith. I may be going in another direction that deserves its own criticism—but SE does stand for “Street Epistemology,” so I don’t feel I’m too far off the subject.
Open to discussion, as always.