Mormon Stories is excited to be joined in studio each day this week by Anthony Magnabosco for an exciting introduction into the world of Street Epistemology!

In part 1, airing live, Carah and John play clips from Anthony’s well-known YouTube channel where he practices Street Epistemology to give Mormon Stories listeners a feel for the technique Anthony, and others like him with “Street Epistemology International”, use in conversations with various random people on the street to find out if they have good reasons to believe their claims.

In part 2, we talk with Anthony Magnabosco about his Catholic background, development of the Street Epistemology interviewing technique, and a discussion about the atheist community at large. We hope you enjoy this first-of-its-kind interview to get to know Anthony better and continue to join us all week long as we dive into the world of Street Epistemology!

For our third interview, we will be discussing the fundamentals of Street Epistemology! We go over what people tend to say to believers that isn’t helpful, the ethical framework of SE such as informed content, and address criticisms of the method. We hope you enjoy this fascinating discussion and give us feedback if you decide to dive into learning Street Epistemology yourself!

Street Epistemology week continues with Anthony Magnabosco and special guest exMormon Christian pastor Shawn McCraney. After building the foundation of SE with episodes 1-3, in part 4, Shawn is kind enough to play our interlocutor as Anthony questions him about the roots of his religious beliefs. You’ll likely be very surprised with the way this interview progresses as Anthony does his best to display Street Epistemology in the Mormon Stories studio!

Anthony Magnabosco has been such a good sport all week taking us into the world of Street Epistemology and we are so thankful to our dedicated Mormon Stories listeners going on this journey with us! In this final interview, Carah and John decide to roleplay as believing Mormon parents and let Anthony play the part of the son who has lost their faith as he utilizes SE techniques in a way that helps soften the blow.


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Show Notes:

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Part 3:

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Part 4:

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Part 5:

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  1. D December 6, 2021 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to all 4 parts of this . His interaction with the missionaries was thoughtful and kind but I felt like his conclusions lacked depth. Essentially he says he’s not interested in the book unless they can give him a compelling reason for why it could be true. The missionaries did an adequate job of applying Alma 32 (without ever mentioning Alma 32) as their answer. To acquire a spiritual witness you must be willing to conduct a test (the spiritual version of the scientific method). If you conduct the test on the truth claim and it bears fruit (i.e. your life improves, “your heart swells within you”) then you continue to test additional truth claims by the same means and build your spiritual base line upon line. Some claims will pass your “spiritual method” test and others won’t. That’s why faith is such a personal and unique journey. Christ said the same thing in the New Testament. “If any many will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (or something like that. It’s been awhile). In other words, don’t take anyone’s word for it, live it and apply it and see if it “enlarges your soul”. I can tell you that a fitness program will improve your health and make you feel better all I want. You have to then test my claims by following the fitness program in a sustained way. It’s easy to jog around the block and say “see?. Nothing! Your claim is false”. If you honestly applied the fitness program over a several month period though, it would produce evidence (fruit) that the fitness program is based on truth.

    Bottom line is it’s pretty easy for the agnostic/atheist to rain on any believer’s (of any faith) parade by simply saying you can’t tangibly prove it so I dismiss it as false. In my opinion that’s too simple of a rebuttal. It’s like the person saying I don’t want to invest in your six month fitness program to see if the principles you claim are true. Faith and “things of the spirit” are earned so as to have “sealing effect” on your soul. It’s an eternal principle that applies to all aspects of life. Effort and struggle are rewarded in time. And make no mistake, it’s hard! Christ himself seemingly lost his faith momentarily when he questioned God the Father in the garden (“Where are you? Why have you forsaken me?) Christ and the other spiritual masters always taught “process” over “instant success or knowledge”. (with some exceptions like Paul in the New Testament). It just feels to me like because God (or whatever title is preferred) did not make a relationship with him obvious and easy, the agnostic or atheist isn’t willing to “play the game” (which I get and which is completely their right).

    The faith game is hard. By design. We all get confused. We all get injured. We all get tired. We all get angry. Then we either give up on the game (whether briefly or permanently) or we continue the game because we know in our soul that ultimately we have to keep playing to get to the next level that we somehow know is there. Absolutely no judgement here on either of those paths (I have and continue to be on both paths at any given time in my life).

    Much respect for Anthony as long as his intentions are good at their core. I’m not familiar enough with him yet to make that call. There’s an element of “kill them with kindness” to his methods but at the same time it’s a refreshing and effective way to create dialogue.rather than contention which I have respect for.

    As always, good work John. You (and Mormon Stories) have evolved into something completely new and different than your original claims and intent, but who hasn’t done the same in their journey over the last 15 years. God bless (or not if that’s nonsense to you :). Peace and progress to all in their personal puzzle solving.

    • Jay G December 7, 2021 at 10:06 am - Reply

      I would suggest that correlation (“look, I followed this path and I felt better”) is less important to skeptics than causation (“I felt better ONLY because I followed this path”).

      • d December 9, 2021 at 2:45 pm - Reply

        Totally agree Jay. Street epistemology has its roots in Atheism (as I understand it anyway). Atheism pretty readily dismisses correlation as a legitimate reason for belief. I was trying to create understanding for why the correlation exists and makes sense to believers (of any faith) by way of conducting experiments of a spiritual nature in a way similar to how secularists conclude things by the scientific method. I still think “feelings” are a key component/tool for navigating life. Take “feeling” out of the equation as a tool for navigating what is a good path in life and we become pretty robotic. It’s far too simple (border line lazy) to simply attach “elevation emotion” as an explanation of a persons spiritual experiences. Most of us, John included I would guess, have had experiences of a spiritual nature that can’t be explained in a way that science would accept it. It’s fine to attach a scientific label to it and dismiss it, but those who have experienced these manifestations can’t deny the connection to something far bigger than an endorphin release.

        Love this stuff. Very thought provoking.

        • Jay G December 10, 2021 at 2:42 pm - Reply

          Maybe volunteer for Carah to do an epistemological interview with you?

          I think a critical point that was made in this week’s podcast is that skeptics like me who focus on epistemology are not asking anyone to prove something to us. Rather, we are asking you to consider whether the basis you use to reach the conclusions you have reached are a sufficient and appropriate basis for those conclusions. For example, exploring how a feeling is a sufficient basis for a conclusion that is a tenet of how you live or ask others to live. I’m not starting that discussion btw, but would encourage you to reach out to someone who practices the technique if you wish to do so.

  2. Jay G December 6, 2021 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    The motivation and respect that Anthony Magnabosco models in SE go hand in hand with the principles that cult expert Steve Hassan discussed with you, John Dehlin, for addressing a loved one’s belief in cults or conspiracy theories.

    From Mormon Stories 1400 with Steve Hassan:

    “The best technique is asking a good question with respect and being quiet and really waiting a long time for the person to think of an answer, and then following up with that answer till you enter into their model of reality–into how they view the world–because, ultimately, they’re the ones who will know how to help themselves as opposed to you rescuing them or you persuading them that they’re wrong and you’re right.” [at 40m40s]

    “Take the frame of ‘Hey, you’re intelligent, you believe this and, if it’s true, I need to believe what you believe. So please persuade me…Help me understand why you think this is true or this is real. I don’t see it but maybe I’m missing something.'” [at 41m38s]

    “Be curious. Ask questions. Learn to listen. Pay attention.” [at 41m15s]

  3. Bill McClymonds December 8, 2021 at 4:25 am - Reply

    Based on the interviews Mr. Magnabosco has done and what he has said, the foundation of a belief system seems to be very important to him. I agree. The following information and questions are intended for anyone who believes that no God exists or that God is unlikely to exist. The information is intended to allow the reader to decide for her or himself what he or she thinks is true about the foundation of a belief that excludes God.

    For those who are not already aware, I have confidence that mainstream Christianity is more reasonable than a belief that no God exists. My confidence starts with a fundamental belief that I need a foundational source of intelligence in order to expect my world view to be reasonable and rational. As always, I try to write with gentleness and respect because of my care about and deep respect for those in the active Latter-day Saint faith and those in the post Mormon community.

    John, Carah, Anthony and many in the post Mormon community seem to hold a very different belief. A belief that no God exists or that it is unlikely that God exists. My difficulty is in understanding how such an intelligent group of people foundationally ground their intelligence and rationality. That is why I have provided the following information.

    PhD philosopher Joshua Rasmussen has written that the foundation of all existence is also the foundation of reason. What I am asking those who believe God does not exist to do, is to explore what they think the foundation of all existence is on this planet . . . in order to decide if they think it is adequate to provide a foundation for reason.

    According to a Google search on Wikipedia for “Formation of the planets”, the various planets are thought to have formed from the solar nebula. The solar nebula is described as the disc-shaped cloud of gas and dust left over after the formation of the Sun.

    You can read the rest of the information on Wikipedia if you like but for a person who believes in a naturalistic (atheistic) formation of planet Earth, the initial conditions are a cloud of dust and gas that remained after the Sun was formed. From the starting point of a cloud of dust and gas, the Earth was eventually formed by what Wikipedia called accretion.

    My personal understanding of a cosmic dust cloud is that it was basically swirling particles of cosmic debris and gas. In other words, the Earth was an accumulation or accretion of the material particles of cosmic debris that initially composed the cloud. As far as I can tell, there was no foundational intelligence present. In other words, the intellectual starting point for a naturalistic (atheistic) formation of the Earth appears to have been zero intelligence.

    I think foundational positions are extremely important. If you start with cosmic debris and zero intelligence, I think it is difficult to envision a mechanistic pathway for a rational human brain and mind to eventually emerge from those initial conditions.

    You might have an alternative position if you believe no God exists or that it is unlikely God exists. You might believe in a multiverse or in space aliens instead. As I understand the multiverse, the scenario is so deterministic that there would be no point in anyone who believed in the multiverse participating in this discussion or making any comment. If the multiverse is true, nothing written or said will change anything. Everyone will do exactly what the multiverse has programmed them to do.

    You could choose space aliens as your source of initial or foundational intelligence but it seems to me that you still end up being an intellectually advanced form of cosmic debris that has received its intelligence from space aliens who are also an intellectually advanced form of cosmic debris. Does that make sense to you?

    In my opinion, the supreme intelligence of God makes the most sense as an initial or foundational source of intelligence. I’m sure a lot of those who read these words will not agree. For that reason, I’ve provided some questions for you to consider. Hopefully, answering the questions will help you to decide for yourself what you think is most rational when it comes to foundational and advanced intelligence.

    How do you think the Earth was formed?

    What do you think was the material composition of the Earth as it formed?

    How much intelligence do you think existed on the early Earth before any life form existed?

    What do you think is the foundational intellectual starting point for the atheist or naturalist position?

    What intellectual presupposition undergirds or foundationally supports the atheist or naturalist position?

    Do you think there were any naturally occurring codes on the early Earth prior to the first living organism capable of reproduction?

    Is it reasonable to think the DNA code in the first reproductive bacterial organism originated from initial conditions of zero intelligence and cosmic debris?

    Is it reasonable to think life, consciousness and rationality emerged from nonliving systems of physics and chemistry?

    How likely do you think it is that chemistry and physics . . . without the aid of natural selection, random mutation or genetic drift (none of those was present prior to first life) . . . produced the most brilliant coding system we know about in the universe (DNA) . . . within a living, reproducing cell that is one of the most complex structures we know about in the universe?

    Do you think life has any meaning, purpose or value other than what intellectually advanced, biologically encapsulated, conscious cosmic debris (humankind) has assigned?

    If naturalism (atheism) is true, do you think an intellectually advanced, biologically encapsulated form of cosmic debris could assign any real meaning, purpose or value?

    Is it more logical to think that a supreme intelligence created the brilliance of the first reproductive cell, or do you think it is more reasonable to think that life created itself from initial conditions of zero intelligence and cosmic debris?

    All scientific research is absolutely dependent upon knowing what is true. True beliefs are foundational to good science. Do you think it is reasonable to think that true beliefs would develop from initial conditions of cosmic debris and zero intelligence in a world that is primarily oriented toward survival and reproduction?

    Do you think it is rational to think that initial conditions of cosmic debris and zero intelligence driven by a most basic instinct for survival and reproduction … if life originated naturalistically . . . would produce a logical, truthful human brain?

    Do you think your life really has meaning purpose and value, or do you think it is all a delusion brought about by emergence from initial conditions of cosmic debris and zero intelligence?

    From the perspective of a naturalistic or atheistic origin of life, love is simply a pleasant delusion produced by chemical reactions in an approximately three-pound hunk of meat we call the brain. It is a trick our brains are playing on us. Do you think your love for your husband, wife, children, parents, significant other, pets, and other people is simply a pleasant delusion . . . or . . . do you think you have real love for those people and pets?

    Do you think you really have free will, or do you think free will is another delusion?

    Do you think cosmic debris and zero intelligence is at the foundation of all human rationality and reason?

    Once you decide what you think is true about the questions I have posed, it is important to consider why you chose to give the answer you gave and what method you used to come to the conclusion that particular answer was true. After you have done those things, you should have a better idea of what you think is true about the foundation of your belief . . . if you choose to believe there is no God.

    • Jay G December 8, 2021 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Maybe volunteer for Carah to do an epistemological interview with you?

      • Bill McClymonds December 9, 2021 at 8:05 am - Reply

        Thanks for the suggestion, Jay.

        I really enjoy Carah and her comments. When she first appeared on the program, I wrote in the comments that she was a breath of fresh air. In a personal one on one conversation, it would be a pleasure to speak with her. Her comment that even though she is an atheist, she doesn’t eat babies, cracked me up.

        When I have a conversation with someone, I’m interested in an honest, open dialog. I’ve had great conversations with Active Latter-day Saints and with those who identify as post Mormons. I have learned a great deal from those conversations.

        It is my personal opinion that the SE technique, as used by Mr. Magnabosco, is disingenuous. As he clearly stated, the technique originated with a book called A Manual for Creating Atheists. To me, that makes it pretty clear what his underlying motivation is. I’m not saying the method can’t be used during open discussions, but when used as a one way street (pun intended), it seems manipulative.

        During the interview, Carah gave a big thumbs up to nihilism. That’s part of why I appreciate her so much. She cut right to the chase. It is exactly what I would expect of a consistent atheist view of life. In the end, everything is meaningless.

        To this point, I have only watched the majority of the first three parts. For me, one of the most interesting discussions of the conversation started at about the 2:20:45 time stamp of part two. During the conversation, John summed up that one of Anthony’s core pillars of meaning and purpose is family, which is based on love, which is based on a feeling. Anthony agreed. John went on to say “which doesn’t really sit on any logical foundation” (check out the look on John’s face at this point in the interview . . . it is priceless at 2:24:09 part 2).

        Continuing the interview, Anthony went on to say: “Well, I mean, the feelings I’m experiencing are real to me. ” John followed up with “But, feelings get people into trouble”. Anthony went on to explain that he didn’t really know if his family loved him, but he thought that they did. If he is a consistent atheist, he would have to admit that feelings, like love, are simply delusions produced by chemicals in his brain, since they are not material. Years ago, I heard Richard Dawkins admit exactly that when asked about his love for his wife. To the best of my recollection, he said love was simply a pleasant delusion.

        What I have always wondered is if someone like Anthony would be willing to be completely honest with his wife. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this. “Honey, I have said that I love you, but I never told you what I mean by the word. I don’t think I really love you in the way people commonly use the word. What I really mean is that the chemical reactions occurring in my brain are resulting in a delusional feeling that is producing a sensation in me to cause me to tell you that I love you. What I am really interested in is in passing along my genetics to the next generation. Would you like to join me tonight in pursuing that goal.” Perhaps Anthony’s wife would understand. On the other hand, honesty could result in a lot of “couch time” and severely restrict his ability to pass on his genes.

        At another point in the conversation, John said he liked to think he had free will. I think he said he liked to think he was in control. Anthony thought he could possibly deconstruct that belief. I agree that he probably could, if John has an atheist worldview.

        So, what I was hearing was that Anthony had a core belief based on a feeling, John had a belief that he had free will and that Carah was a nihilist. It seemed to me that Carah was the only one who was really getting it. I completely agree with Carah. On a consistent atheist worldview, I think both free will and real love, as it is commonly understood by most people, are difficult to justify. If we are simply material objects, it is the continuous series of chemical reactions in our brain that trick us into thinking we really love someone or that we have free will. For anyone who thinks they really have free will or that they truly love someone, I think a world view reevaluation is in order . . . if that worldview is atheism.

        As I begin to conclude this comment, I will tell you that my life has not always been easy. I have dealt with a chronic medical condition for almost 40 years. I have also shared on this site that my wife died five years ago. It was shortly after that when the first Latter-day Saint missionaries knocked on my door and I began my journey into trying to truly understand what they believed and why they believed it. That eventually led me to the Mormon Stories Podcast and many conversations online and by email with former Mormons. Through my many conversations I have come to have a strong Christian love for the Latter-day Saint people, both in and out of the Church.

        Let’s get back to your suggestion that I have an epistemological interview with Carah. Better yet, let’s go back 40 years to when my medical issues first hit and let’s transport Carah, in a time travel scenario, to interview me. Let’s also assume Carah could deconstruct my belief in God by using the street epistemology technique. I am very serious in saying that, at that time, I would have simply pulled out a gun and shot myself in the head if I was convinced atheism, with its implications of nihilism, was true. It is my faith in God that has sustained me through many years of hardship and difficulty.

        Don’t get me wrong on this point. Many people have had a much more difficult life than I have had. One of the people I admire the most is Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni has had quadriplegia for more than 50 years and has a Christian ministry to others with disabilities. I’m sure there are also many in the post Mormon community who have had more difficult lives than I have had. I’m just saying that I, personally, would not get much comfort out of a belief that there is no God.

        If you are a former Mormon, Jay, I know things have not been easy for you. I have previously commented on this site that I would probably be a very angry atheist myself if I had been convinced of a belief that I later found out was not true . . . and as a result felt betrayed and deceived. Fortunately, that has not been the case for me. On the other hand, when my difficulties first started, I wanted to know if what I believed was true. I spent a lot of time investigating other beliefs and other worldview claims. It would take hours of one on one time to go over why I believe what I believe, but let me conclude by giving you a few of the sources I think are reasonably reliable.

        The first source would be Mike Winger. He is a fairly humble, young Bible teaching pastor on YouTube. His theology pretty much lines up with mine. In addition to Mike, Gary Habermas and Mike Licona are good people to check out about the resurrection. If you want an evidence based case for Christianity, check out former cold case detective, J. Warner Wallace. As a cold case detective, Jim is pretty good at evaluating evidence. In addition, I think there is strong evidence from science that involves the complexity of life. Perhaps that could be the subject for another comment.

        Thanks once again, Jay. I wish you the very best in life.


  4. Bill McClymonds December 10, 2021 at 8:50 am - Reply

    At the end of my last comment, I mentioned to Jay that evidence from the complexity of life might be a possibility for another comment. I’m following up on that by providing this comment.

    There will be a little bit of technical information to start, but please don’t get bogged down in the numbers. After the technical information, I will try to explain things in a more simple manner.

    According to an article from Max Planck Institute for Brain Research that I will link below, neurons have about 50 billion proteins.

    According to a Harvard database on useful numbers that I will also link below, there are about 50 times 10^6, or about 50 million proteins in a yeast cell.

    The reason I have provided the figures for the number of proteins in a yeast cell and the number of proteins in a neuron is because of an article that was linked by synthetic organic chemist Dr. James Tour during one of his YouTube video lectures. The authors of the article he linked listed the number of possible or potential ways that proteins could interact with one another in a yeast cell as approximately ten to the power of seventy nine billion (10^79,000,000,000). You may not be impressed with that number until you realize that a common estimate for all the particles (protons, electrons, neutrons etc.) in the universe is only ten to the power of ninety (10^90) or less. The number ten to the power of 79 billion is insanely large. I will link that article below for reference. It is only intended for skeptics who want confirmation of the numbers I have given.

    I know there are people who do not have a science background who are reading this comment so I’m going to try to put things in terms that a person without a science background can understand. To begin with, it should be very obvious from the initial information that the cells in your brain, called neurons, are considerably more complex than yeast cells, since they have far more proteins than yeast cells. The linked information indicated approximately 50 million proteins in a yeast cell and approximately 50 billion proteins in a neuron.

    As you read this sentence, the proteins in every neuron in your brain (approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain) are interacting with each other. To make it very simple, imagine a ballet performance with 50 billion people performing on a huge stage. One person represents one protein in only one neuron in your brain. In addition to the ballet performers, we also need a huge orchestra for that many people.

    Think of the planning and choreography that had to go into the event. With a ballet production that big, it would take a small army to organize things because the stage only has enough room for the individuals to move in their assigned areas. If they start wandering into the wrong spots, it could result in a domino effect during the production and the whole cast of individuals could get tripped up and start a cascade of falling bodies. In this analogy, the cascade of falling bodies represents the death of the cell due to incorrect interactions of the proteins in the cell.

    My analogy is extremely oversimplified but I hope you get the idea that the interactions between proteins in a single brain cell, called a neuron, are pretty complicated. What I hope to convey is that neurons are unimaginably complex structures. My analogy illustrated only one single neuron out of approximately 86 billion of them in your brain.

    After I saw the ten to the power of 79 billion number for the number of protein-protein interactions in a yeast cell, I emailed a number of individuals and organizations to try to find that same number for a neuron. I have not been successful in finding the number, but simple logic would tell us that the number is significantly greater than the number of possible or potential protein-protein interactions in a yeast cell. According to the authors of the linked article, there would be an exponential increase in the number of possible or potential protein-protein interactions in a cell with more proteins than a yeast cell.

    Here’s one main point. The ballet performance I used as an analogy is going on in each one of the approximately 86 billion neurons in your brain as you read this comment. Do you think it is reasonable to believe a process without intelligence (naturalistic /atheistic evolution) was able to both construct the neuron during a long evolutionary process and also to control that process as you read this sentence in the present?

    Additionally, protein-protein interactions are only one part of what is going on in a neuron. There are many more “dances” going on in the neuron that involve other components of the cell. Carbohydrates (sugars), lipids (fats) and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) are also “dancing” (interacting with each other and with the proteins). All this is happening in real time as you read the comment.

    Here’s another main point. Ask yourself if you think it is reasonable for that type of complexity to both develop and occur in the present if you start with initial conditions of cosmic debris and zero intelligence on the early Earth . . . as it was forming. My vote is for an intelligent source for the process. In my opinion, that intelligent source is God.

    Here’s a concluding point. A single neuron is only the beginning of the complexity in your brain. After starting with the interactions in a single neuron (the interactome) . . . that we have explored in a very basic manner . . . we also need additional complexity. The brain has to be wired (the connectome). The neurons have to be connected (the synaptome). After that, there is the overall communication within the entire brain that is necessary to keep the individual components functioning properly.

    I’ve given you the evidence. It’s up to you as an individual to decide. Was your brain cobbled together by a process without intelligence or direction . . . or . . . do you think some external source of brilliant intelligence was and is necessary for the development and continuous function of your brain?

  5. D December 10, 2021 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    McCraney inadvertently poked a million holes in SE with intelligence, testimony, and sincerity. It left Anthony frozen and with no option but to tap out for fear of modeling SE completely useless in the face of someone who’s thoughts and experiences exceed the depth of most. The fight analogy is a poor one too, because that’s not what Shawn was trying to do. Shawn just illustrated so beautifully why spiritual things are of the spirit and there is no sense trying to attach science to it.

    The biggest lesson in this segment was taught be Shawn and it was taught to believers. Lose the smugness believers. Lose the false humility believers. Lose the self righteousness believers.

    And to the Athiests……. We get it! You have the no proof card. Stop overplaying it. Of course we can’t prove it. Of course it’s hope and faith and feelings we are staking our bet on. We ALL do that in life. Every relationship you have is an exercise in feelings and faith. There’s no proof that love is real by any scientific measurement. Still, we all know it is real because we feel it and we bask in it and it motivates us and we seek it when it’s absent etc. So we are all operating on a quest for something that science would dismiss as non existent because its not testable.

    Thanks to Anthony and Shawn. Much respect for both of them. Shawn is a complex and fascinating dude. Anthony I think ran into a friendly buzz saw that rendered SE irrelevant in this case. I’m sure it’s pretty effective as a conversational ice breaker (and maybe that’s all it’s intended for), but anything deeper than that it seems to fizzle pretty fast in the face of someone like Shawn who simply isn’t swayed by the obvious and age old ammo of atheism that calls for proof. Sorry Atheists. We can’t dial up God to come and appear before us to settle this thing. You can look around though and try to honestly admit that this was some “zero intelligence” accident that perfectly aligned to produce very real intelligence.

    I hate dogmatic and self righteous belief as much as anyone. Shawn gave a clinic tonight in how to bear powerful testimony of belief without stepping on toes.

    Good work John. Epic week of material.

    In the spirit of SE I’ll stop there because I’m starting to try to convince people and that’s not what this is about. I echo Shawn’s plea for everyone to stop with the tension and smugness and just love and respect each others journey. The offenders are pretty equal from both sides.

  6. Erik Jorgensen December 10, 2021 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    I was a bit shocked to hear Anthony say he might not do street interviews anymore. I hope he will reconsider. I believe he has a unique talent for communicating with people and leading them through their reasoning while maintaining a friendly rapport. Although others can be trained to perform SE, I doubt anyone will arise who does it better than he. Sometimes a person with a rare talent comes along who finds what they do better than any other. I think Carl Sagan’s ability to teach a grand vision of science to the public has seen no equal. There have been no nature documentarians to match David Attenborough. Imagine if George Carlin had stopped doing standup comedy in the 1970’s. Anthony has a special talent working directly with people. I think it would be a shame if he consigned his role to just organizing and training others to do SE.

  7. Bill McClymonds December 11, 2021 at 10:55 am - Reply

    I would like to ask a question of everyone with this comment. If you are going to use street epistemology, what is your primary motivation? In other words, what is at the core of your desire to use the tool?

    The second question I would ask relates to whether you have taken a really deep look at your own worldview using street epistemology before using it on others. Hopefully, the questions I provided in a prior comment will give you a starting point to begin a thorough self evaluation of your own worldview while using the SE method.

    I hope we can all agree, true love and concern for another person should be at the core of whatever we do. Love is a complex emotion, but I hope we can all agree that the first principal of love is to do no harm to the other person.

    After watching John and Carah play mom and dad, I have a fairly high degree of confidence that what they want to accomplish with street epistemology is to find better ways to communicate with family and friends in order to help restore and maintain relationships. I find that very commendable.

    I heard Mr. Magnabosco tell Matt Dilahunty the following during a YouTube discussion about starting to use the street epistemology technique. “I want to do something atheist related. Something for the movement.” Having heard that statement and having watched some of his training videos for atheists has given me much less confidence that his motivations come from a truly loving perspective.

    Those things and the fact that he was initially attracted to, and still references, the book called A Manual for Creating Atheists . . . that he used as a foundation for his technique . . . gives me cause for concern. Perhaps he has changed and softened his approach, but I am less than convinced that his motivations have love as a central tenant. Perhaps his actions in the future can raise my confidence levels that his motivations are out of a true love for the person on whom he is practicing the technique. I sincerely hope that will be the case.

    Another thing I was concerned about was that Anthony kept talking about stopping the technique in a number of different situations. He seemed to say the technique could harm people. I can relate that to my earlier comment about Carah interviewing me 40 years ago. I wrote that I would have ended my life if I became convinced atheism, with its implications of nihilism, was true.

    An additional question at this point becomes the question that follows. Do you have a worldview that will provide comfort and a “safe landing” if you end up deconstructing the worldview of someone you love (which should be everyone)? In other words, why “kick the crutch” out from under the worldview of someone if you don’t have something better to offer. Sure, you might get them to see “your truth” but how will that help them in the long run if you don’t have something better to offer?

    If Carah had “kicked the crutch” out from under my worldview 40 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today writing this comment. None of you can even begin to imagine how serious I am about that statement. It was only my faith in God that kept me from taking my own life at that time.

    My point is this. If you can’t provide a worldview that has some semblance of hope, true love, and real meaning in life, be very careful how you use the tool. If the words of Jesus are true, there are eternal consequences for our actions. Please make your choices of how and when to use the technique wisely.

  8. Erik Jorgensen December 11, 2021 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Anthony made the right call to end the session with Shawn McCraney when it became clear that his was a case of abnormal psychology. For the majority of people who are psychologically healthy, it is of great benefit to learn how to critically examine their own beliefs, even at the risk of loosing some poorly founded ones. Most people have an innate sense of ethics and empathy that keeps them socially adjusted regardless of religious belief or unbelief. Shawn has or had disorder, a sociopathy, which left him lacking that natural sense. It may have been that he was born with this condition or it may have been caused by an injury of some kind. It’s possible that his brain healed and his natural sense of empathy returned. In any case, he now associates his religious belief to be the foundation of his sense of empathy and why he behaves ethically. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t mess with it!

  9. Bill McClymonds December 15, 2021 at 5:31 am - Reply

    I read Erik’s comment that he thinks Shawn has a disorder that Erik termed a sociopathy. I am not qualified to classify Shawn in any category. If any of you reading this comment recall Steve Martin, I would just say Shawn is kind of a “wild and crazy guy”. He certainly doesn’t represent mainstream Christianity, but I like his honesty and openness about his belief.

    As I thought about sociopathy, a YouTube video I watched several years ago came to mind. It is a video about a former atheist named David Wood. David is a very intelligent man, but he is also a self admitted sociopath. Even though he couldn’t think of anything his father had done to hurt him, David decided his father had to die. His description of that attempted murder is quite graphic. If you decide to watch the video, please be sure no younger children are present. David is quite graphic in describing that act and several other situations.

    While in prison (only because his father survived), David met a Christian who gave him reasons to begin thinking about why Christianity was true. I’m sure some of you could challenge some of the reasons David gave at that time for eventually becoming a Christian. David is now a much more mature Christian and has even better reason for his belief, but that is not my point. My point is that David saw good reasons for acting differently if Christianity was true.

    I clearly understand that most of those in the post Mormon community are nothing like David Wood. Most of you have been raised in homes with good, basic Judeo-Christian values and are not sociopathic. My question for you is this. What you would tell a person like David before he became a Christian? As a person who is following his “selfish genes”, what reasons would you give David for not having an affair with a married woman? As you think about what reasons you would give, also think about why you would give those reasons and what method you used to conclude your reasons were true . . . using only atheistic logic. Remember, David is a sociopath. As an atheist, he didn’t care about how people felt.

    Based on what I heard while watching the video, nothing mattered to the atheist David but himself. For him, having an affair with a married woman would have been simply “dancing to his DNA”. Even “taking” a woman without her permission wouldn’t have bothered him if he didn’t get caught. With atheism as his foundational belief, he could see no good reason for not doing whatever made him feel most fulfilled at that particular time. The old David would have told you that people are only insignificant specks of cosmic debris. He would have asked why he should care if someone else didn’t approved of what he did or why he should care if someone else got hurt.

    According to what David said in the video, one of the things that eventually brought him to a Christian belief was his belief that he himself was a great person. He wondered how he could think extremely highly of himself if he thought everyone else was just a meaningless speck of cosmic debris in a vast universe.

    I’m not going to link the video because of its graphic descriptions, but I’m sure you can easily find it online. It is not that atheists cannot behave in a very socially acceptable manner, it is what I would call a difficulty in justifying why someone with an atheist worldview SHOULD behave that way.

    What I personally consider true morality is the following statement by Jesus. It is found in Matthew 22:36-40. The quote is from the KJV. “36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

    I think those in the post Mormon community and who believe no god exists can sometimes do a better job than mainstream Christians of fulfilling the second commandment. On the other hand, I see no way for them to fulfill the first and greatest commandment.

    Socially acceptable morality might be possible for a person with a belief that no god exists, but, in my opinion, it is impossible for that person to have what I would call true morality based on good Christian values . . . if they are not even trying to fulfill the first and greatest commandment of Jesus. Sure, Christians also fall short, but at least they are making an attempt to follow both commandments.

    While some atheists might do a great job of fulfilling the second commandment, I think the old David Wood might not think that he had any obligation to follow those “suggestions” . . . if he still held an atheist worldview.

  10. Cory December 22, 2021 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    First, I love Mormon Stories and I love Shawn McCraney. However, I did not like this episode (I only listened to the episode with Shawn in it). Anthony sounded so condescending that it was hard to listen to. I will definitely not listen to the rest of these episodes (but will, of course, cheerfully continue to listen to Mormon Stories!).

    I want to be clear that I do not think Anthony actually looks down on Shawn, but not wanting to “destroy his belief,” and not therefore being willing to continue the conversation really seemed highly patronizing.

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