By Christine Vigeant
Christine Vigeant is a mother of two young children and a secular activist. She is currently working towards an MA in German Studies at the University of Oregon where she teaches German to undergraduates. Christine is a Ronald E. McNair scholar, has worked with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and serves as public relations manager for Atheos App. You can find her on Twitter @cveeg, Facebook, and on Medium @csaveeg.
Last summer the philosopher Dr. Peter Boghossian (@peterboghossian), author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, in conjunction with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science , released Atheos App. Atheos is an incredible tool for anyone who would like to learn how to reason better, and for those who strive to have non-confrontational, productive conversations with people holding a wide range of beliefs. It’s easily the most comprehensive critical thinking and skeptical tool ever developed, guiding users through thousands of fields with questions related to gods, superstition, metaphysics, and religion.
The app has ten levels progressively increasing in difficulty. Throughout gameplay, the user is prompted with various statements and a variety of possible responses. Upon selecting a reply, the user is given immediate feedback specifically tailored to the chosen response. The goal is to pick the response that effectively examines the faith-based statement, without putting the interlocutor on the defensive.
Within a few weeks the app reached over ten thousand downloads. Reception of the app has been overwhelmingly positive, especially among freethinkers, skeptics and non-believers. While claims regarding the supernatural feature prominently, the app does not limit itself to these topics. Users can find various sections covering alternative medicine, logical fallacies, evolution, morality, and more. Each block of questions is specifically designed to teach users how to interrupt cognitive patterns and short-circuit defensive mechanisms developed by believers. I use the term “believers” loosely here, not just in a religious sense, but anyone who holds views that are not sufficiently supported by evidence. In a world where information grows at an exponential rate, this applies to everyone.
Atheos is often touted as a tool for learning how to help others live lives free of delusion, but what I personally find most valuable about the app is how it helps me to challenge my own thinking. As I progress through the game I frequently encounter ideas and arguments that I had not yet considered. The breadth of arguments presented in the app allows me to engage with my own beliefs, as well as with those held by others.
The app’s techniques can be applied to any knowledge claim, even those unrelated to matters of faith. I think of it as carrying a digital version of Socrates in my pocket – a tiny philosopher who reminds me to practice epistemic humility and to question even those beliefs I hold most dear. Cultivating the ability to evaluate one’s beliefs, to provide space for doubt, and to resist dogmatic thinking is essential, if one desires to hold true beliefs. While epistemological perfection is not a requirement to help others break through dogmatism, practicing epistemological hygiene models the behavior skeptics would like to see in others.
Another wonderful aspect of Atheos is that it encourages users to listen before responding to an argument. Attentive listening requires practice and discipline, especially during difficult conversations. Many conversations run off track as participants respond to what they think they heard, rather than what was actually being said. Atheos gently trains users to clarify positions before challenging them.
Atheos is an indispensable resource for anyone wanting to help others break through dogmatic thinking. In order to solve the problems we are facing in today’s society, we must encourage each other to have difficult conversations and help each other distinguish fact from fiction. Atheos aims to equip users with the tools to do exactly that, and it accomplishes this goal exceedingly well. It is available for download on iTunes and Google Play. For more information go here.