When it comes to irritants, religious recruiters rank two steps lower than telemarketers on my tolerance scale. Making assumptions about anyone’s spiritual condition is not only presumptuous, but is borderline dangerous, as proselytizers have no way of judging the mental state of those they approach. In a multicultural society, discussions of religion are more complicated than ever as Christianity is no longer the only game in town. In fact, it never was.

The number of people who have no religious affiliation in the United States reached more than 80 million adults in 2008. Evangelical research organizations like the conservative Barna Research Group acknowledge that people are leaving the Christian church in record numbers and the well-respected National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago notes, “Since colonial times the United States has been a Protestant nation. But perhaps as early as this year (2004), the country will for the first time no longer have a Protestant majority.” Since that time, nine years have passed and today Protestants have slipped well past the halfway point.

Catholicism, the second largest faith group behind Protestants is also shrinking, while evangelical Christianity grew percentage-wise, it gathered in less than 350,000 adherents. Protestant and Catholics lost only a small percentage, but the body count was nearly 7 million. Of the losses, most went into the “no religion” category.

Interestingly, research from a variety of faith-based groups consistently overlooks religion as the genesis of the decline. Religions throughout the ages have typical highs and lows, but in this instance, traditional religion runs against the reality of the modern world. So far, adjustments to make it fit either ask for the willing suspension of disbelief, as in fiction, or resort to outright lies such as the spurious science of creationism.

Most research by religious entities focus on how to get more converts and attract people to church rather than asking why attendance is in decline. The “independents” or those who choose not to be part of any organized religion make it very clear that standard faith offerings do not fit their spiritual needs. Despite this clear departure message, it seems that no one sees it.

Instead, there is more talk of recruiting procedures and techniques, addition of more entertainment and even design of new churches as ways of attracting more people to religious services. Currently, women provide the backbone of Christianity supplying well over 60% of membership, yet, represents a distinct and often designated minority among church leadership.

Islam is a growing faith in the United States as is the Hindu faith, but the fastest growing segment in the United States is those “independent” of organized religion, which is expected to hit 25% within the next decade. Also known as the “unchurched,” part of their disenchantment with organized religion comes from its push in politics and uninvited role as moral spokesmen for the country.

Religious recruiting is what it always was, an intrusion to those who are not concerned with organized faith. There is no shortage of churches anywhere in the United States, especially in the South. Those that feel the need for organized religion are already in the pews by faith or order of their parents. Meanwhile, “independents” or the “unchurched,” just want to be left alone.

Views: 263

Tags: Church, Independents, Privacy, Proselytizing, Protestant, Unchurched

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Comment by Street Epistemology on December 3, 2013 at 10:12am

However, he adopted this technique from other contexts

More than the examples from the prisons, I think the literature from Cult and Sects exiting strategies is more important to reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit_counseling

Please have a look at some of the resources available from this field

Comment by Donald R Barbera on December 3, 2013 at 8:27am
I try not to assume anything. That's why probative questions are in order to know with whom you are speaking, an idiot or a scholar. That is the whole point of the exercise. Information is being disseminated duplex manner, it is not a one-sided conversation or monologue. No matter what the subject, making assumptions about another persons knowledge or lack thereof, is intellectual bigotry. It is a conversation. An exchange of information. Nothing more. Proselytizing is a one way speech.
Comment by Luara on December 3, 2013 at 8:04am

People don't buy if they don't have a need. In this case knowledge is the need.

Boghossian says it's a common assumption of nonreligious people that the religious are lacking in knowledge. 

However, religious people don't come to their conclusions because of a lack of knowledge, but rather because of a faulty way of deciding what is true, that involves a lot of wishful thinking. 

This may not always be true.  A few months ago I got into a conversation with a religious person who brought up the fine-tuning argument and intelligent design as arguments for God.  I told him of scientific alternative explanations. 

If a religious person brings up bad arguments for religious belief, rebutting them seems appropriate, because they do seem to be supporting their belief with those arguments.

People you are selling things to, aren't necessarilly using bad standards for truth. 

Comment by Luara on December 3, 2013 at 7:42am

I think having metrics of success or failure is very important.

Peter Boghossian mentions that his technique has not been rigorously tested. This is because the review board for scientific studies considers it abusive and unethical to try to deconvert religious people.

However, he adopted this technique from other contexts, like working with prisoners to make it less likely they will commit crimes once they're released - and perhaps it has been validated in those other contexts. 

Comment by Luara on December 3, 2013 at 7:34am

From Wikipedia on Josephus on Jesus,

The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to Christian interpolation.

Modern scholarship has largely acknowledged the authenticity of the reference of the Antiquities to "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James" and considers it as having the highest level of authenticity among the references of Josephus to Christianity.

Comment by Street Epistemology on December 3, 2013 at 7:31am

There are many ways to talk. I used Josephus as an example. Most Christians don't know Josephus, so, it makes for an interesting story without mentioning that the story has been debunked.

”The core of the intervention is not about changing peoples beliefs.

It's about changing the way people form beliefs, hence the term “epistemologist”. 

Donald this method might work on some people who's convictions is not strong, there are a 5 stages of change:

Pre-contemplation,

Contemplation,

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Perhaps the people who you have spoken with are a Preparation or Action stage of change. Of great importance is also to ask the person what is their level of conviction of {X}. X could be the moon landing, the resurrection of Jesus Nazareth or vaccines cause autism...

Bringing facts into the discussion when someone is pre-contemplative...only pre-contemplative, first stage of change, is the wrong way to conceptualize the problem.

People do not dig themselves into cognitive sinkholes because they believe in the basis of evidence.

They have these problems because they don't believe in the basis of evidence. 

Facts of any kind should not be brought into the conversation until the person you are speaking to agrees even hypothetically that reason and evidence is a better way to learn.

I never mention all the information I revealed to you because to do not only raises the question, but answers it too. In my case, I call it "leading the witness" because I don't want show what I know, but to raise questions. In sales we called it "information gathering questions." The next phase, we called "problem" questions, which was a way to uncover potential issues my product could resolve. Of course, in this case the product is actually the question. The next questions had to do with building the problem. In this case, the desired state is to gently wonder or think about it. There are two steps in the final resolution, but in this unnecessary. All I do is try to make people wonder. I've been doing it so long that is almost second nature. People don't buy if they don't have a need. In this case knowledge is the need. Needs, wants desires, wishes, greed, ego, etc qualify. Some people just want have something that others don't have. The key thing to remember is that it isn't an interrogation, just a subtle probe to determine interest and level of interest. To do any of this is to understand the method is not a hammer and chisel approach. It is more the jeweler's craft in that it is precise, measured, but unobtrusive as few ever know the jewel,but they know his work. All I am doing is introducing topics.

Donald you are definitely on the right track with your questioning technique derived from sales methods. One question though...How are you measuring your effectiveness.? I think having metrics of success or failure is very important. By subtly asking the person what their level of conviction on a scale from 1 to 100 or 1 to 10 you get an idea of where they are at. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on December 3, 2013 at 7:13am
There are many ways to talk. I used Josephus as an example. Most Christians don't know Josephus, so, it makes for an interesting story without mentioning that the story has been debunked. I never mention all the information I revealed to you because to do not only raises the question, but answers it too. In my case, I call it "leading the witness" because I don't want show what I know, but to raise questions. In sales we called it "information gathering questions." The next phase, we called "problem" questions, which was a way to uncover potential issues my product could resolve. Of course, in this case the product is actually the question. The next questions had to do with building the problem. In this case, the desired state is to gently wonder or think about it. There are two steps in the final resolution, but in this unnecessary. All I do is try to make people wonder. I've been doing it so long that is almost second nature. People don't buy if they don't have a need. In this case knowledge is the need. Needs, wants desires, wishes, greed, ego, etc qualify. Some people just want have something that others don't have. The key thing to remember is that it isn't an interrogation, just a subtle probe to determine interest and level of interest. To do any of this is to understand the method is not a hammer and chisel approach. It is more the jeweler's craft in that it is precise, measured, but unobtrusive as few ever know the jewel,but they know his work. All I am doing is introducing topics.
Comment by Luara on December 3, 2013 at 6:05am

have been using Boghossian's method to speak to help people to have more reliable ways to come to knowledge.

Probably there are many more nonreligious people who want to have a good way to respond to their religious friends, acquaintances, and people met in casual conversation, than people who actively wish to deconvert the religious.
So while Boghossian presents his Socratic approach as anti-theism, its actual mainstream appeal may be more as a way of providing nonreligious people with a good interface to the religious - a way to interact that respects them as people, yet reveals the nakedness of their Emperor, religion - and other unreasonable beliefs.
I like Boghossian's approach because it's gentle yet confronts people with honesty. It would be a success simply to get a religious person to say, and keep it in their head, that they don't know there is a God with supernatural attributes, even if they stay with their religious support system. Thinking religious people often do say this anyway.
Also, you often encounter people with nonreligious but unreliable belief systems, and it's been an ongoing question for me, what one can say to them. Boghossian gives an example of dealing with an acupuncturist at the health food store, who inquired about his hearing loss and tried to sell him her acupuncture services for it. Where I live that sort of thing is much more common than religious proselytizing.
It seems like doing a favor to religious people, to question their beliefs. Often because of the taboo against doing this, religious people are left to flounder.
It might work better for a person to simply tell proselytizers to go away - one doesn't necessarily want to engage with religious people.

Comment by Street Epistemology on December 3, 2013 at 5:37am

I have been using Boghossian's method to speak to help people to have more reliable ways to come to knowledge. I have been doing this for 9 months. I have had hundreds of conversations. 
The book is just the beginning, because change happens in peoples minds after you ask the questions described in the book, the street epistemologist has to stop and let the other person evaluate ( in their minds ) what the answer is....
This is not a normal conversation method. When we speak we usually start speaking immediately after the other person stops...
This is just one of many issues that the street epistemologist faces when having conversations.
IF you have any questions please, contact me here or our website streetepistemology.com

Comment by Luara on December 3, 2013 at 5:12am

Also, the story of Jesus makes sense - it can be rationalized as a story about a real person.
Jim Jones had a lot of similarities with Jesus. The miracles that are attributed to Jesus make sense as conjuring tricks. Jim Jones' group did similar faked healings. Jesus sounds like he had a similar personality to Jim Jones, only he was crucified before his idealism turned into corruption and paranoia. Being crucified was essential to his importance in our society.

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