Thursday, June 24, 2010

Steve Lovell comments on the Outsider Test for Faith

SL: I followed some links on your recent thread to do some reading on this. I find myself very much in agreement with your approach. Loftus wants to restrict the test to only religious matters, but this seems completely arbitrary. Moral beliefs would surely fail this test too. Or would they (I have chapter 3 of the Abolition of Man in mind)? If they wouldn’t we have a first premise of the moral argument.



Like you I also think it’s very unclear what the test really is and that Loftus seems to have a pre-theoretic commitment to the outcome. Unfortunately for Loftus I think he’s on very dodgy ground historically and sociologically. I assume he thinks atheism survives such a test? But atheists make up a very narrow slice of the population both currently and historically. If Loftus had been born 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago ... or in another culture etc, etc. Being such a narrow subset of the global-historical population it seems much more likely that these atheistic beliefs are a product of cultural oddities. Theistic views have flourished in many cultures in many epochs, and therefore don’t seem especially tied to cultural mores.



Now what I do think is that our normal idea of knowledge is that it should be something which “tracks” the truth; It should be in some way sensitive to the facts. (I think these ways of putting it are Nozik’s.) The outsider test doesn’t provide a reason to think belief is not sensitive to the facts ... the basis of our beliefs would be different / non-existent were the central tenets of Christianity false, and then we wouldn’t hold the belief. This is the line I take when I defend the AfD from the genetic fallacy. If God didn’t exist, we wouldn’t desire him, and wouldn’t believe in him. That is true and relevant even if we don’t reason from the desire to God, but the desire is merely an occasion for the belief. At least, if we accept some appropriate form of reliabilism/proper-function account.



A rational system of belief must be able to account for the existence of its adherents in a way that positively relates the truth and the belief. Similarly it must be able to account for the existence of its detractors without requiring such a positive relation to the content of their beliefs. The OTF brings attention to the possibility that this positive relationship may not exist. Fine. We can doubt that, but when we investigate the relevant evidence, it looks good to us ... what else are we being asked to do?



Only my first thoughts. If I have any more, I’ll let you know.

179 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Hi Steve, I think I've answered all of your objections in my book, The Christian Delusion. Check it out. Did you also see this link?

The question is whether the OTF is a good standard that minimizes the cultural and emotional factors as best as any person can possibly do, not whether it can do this perfectly.

If someone refuses to take the OTF I merely ask them why they have such a double standard.

Since most Christians realize very quickly that by taking the test their faith fails they are forced into arguing for one of two things: (a) they do not have a double standard after all (that is they can step outside their cultural upbringing and weigh the alternatives dispassionately), or (b) such a standard as the OTF is flawed at some important point.

To defend (a) seems incredibly unlikely and implausible, while defending (b) is a clear sign of cognitive dissonance reduction as the defender must kick against the goads of what is a powerful argument.

I'm claiming that we instinctively know that if there is a conflict of interest we cannot be impartial when deciding between the religious faiths available to us, given as they are in distinct geographical locations and learned in their respective cultures.

Look at it this way. A judge must recuse himself from judging a case if there is a known conflict of interest. If he doesn't he would face the of judicial oversight and censure.

So why wouldn't it be wise in the interests of truth to be just as disinterested when examining one's religious faith? Why not?

What better way to approach this standard but the OTF even if enculturated people cannot be like the hypothetical Spock. In fact, it's precisely because we are not Spock-like we should place ourselves as best as possible in the a disinterested neutral position as we can. And the OTF helps us do this...helps us see this...helps us better evaluate the faith given to us.

More later...

John W. Loftus said...

Steve says "Moral beliefs would surely fail this test too. Or would they (I have chapter 3 of the Abolition of Man in mind)? If they wouldn’t we have a first premise of the moral argument."

Moral beliefs evolve within cultures just as religions do. And they are intertwined with each other. Subject your religious beliefs to the OTF and your moral/political beliefs will change too. Most people who are evangelicals, for instance, are right wingers. Most deconverts however support Obama. There must be a reason why they switch their ethics/politics when they abandon their religious beliefs, and I know why. They go hand in hand.

I do not have a pretherotical commitment at all. I'm offering a reasonable fair and objective test for religious faiths. It's not the fault of the OTF if no religion can pass the test. I grant that a religion could pass the test. It's just that none do. The reason why is because there is no truth to religion.

John W. Loftus said...

In one of the posts above I said:

"(that is they can step outside their cultural upbringing and weigh the alternatives dispassionately),"

And

"I'm claiming that we instinctively know that if there is a conflict of interest we cannot be impartial when deciding between the religious faiths available to us,"

There is no discrepancy when I later said:

"So why wouldn't it be wise in the interests of truth to be just as disinterested when examining one's religious faith? Why not?"

What I meant is that we do not dispassionately weigh OUR OWN culturally inherited faith. When I ask that we weigh our own faith dispassionately in deciding between the alternatives I mean that our own faith should be merely one of the alternatives like the others and that we examine them all the same, dispassionately.

Cheers

Steve said...

John,

The reason I think you have a pretheoretic commitment to the outcome is that when you seem very convinced that anyone who remains religious has clearly not taken the test.

I hadn't seen the link, but happily went for a read. When we assume our religion is false, then we'll reject it ... it's false. I think you mean that we should imagine what it would be like to suspend belief in our religion.

But what does that amount to? My religious beliefs are well thought through and therefore deeply embedded in my "web of beliefs".

If I were to isolate and remove the clearly religous beliefs, then they would quickly reappear in something close to their original form.

If I suspend belief in all those things which "I wouldn't believe if I weren't a Christian" then since I'll be left with almost nothing, I probably won't find myself returning to Christianity ... or to much else. What does that show?

I'm still not clear what you are saying about the morality version of the OT. Do they fail or pass the test on your view?

Steve

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, just because I conclude no religion passes the standard of the OTF does not entail I have any pretheoretic commitment as to the outcome just as any scientist doesn't have a pretheoretic commitment to the outcome of an experiment when he conducts it dispassionately according to acceptable procedures.

Is it true that when we assume something is false we will reject it? I think not. Many people are convinced every day when the evidence suggests otherwise. My wife and I had a disagreement the other day and she simply showed me the evidence.

So I do not mean we should merely suspend judgment unless that is how you treat the other religions you reject. Do you? Have you ever seriously considered Scientology or, say Mormonism? My claim is that whatever level of skepticism you apply to the religions you reject should be applied to your own culturally inherited faith and if not, then defend your double standard.

Your web of beliefs are deeply embedded not because you have thought deeply about them, although you have, it's because you swim in cultural waters and cannot see the water. Ask a Mormon or a Muslim and they will say the same thing you just did. (I actually talked with a scholarly Mormon at last years SBL and that was a real trip).

Steve said: "If I suspend belief in all those things which "I wouldn't believe if I weren't a Christian" then...I'll be left with almost nothing..."

What? Are you kidding me? Am I to take this seriously? Look around you. See the people. Many of them do not believe in Christianity. Do they believe in nothing? What's that even supposed to mean? This is clearly indicative of the fact that you cannot see culture...you see WITH culture so much so you cannot see anything else.

As to morality, I dealt with that objection in "The Christian Delusion." David Eller's chapter in that book spells this out clearly: Morality evolves.

Once we take the OTF for religion then our morality changes afterward. And the OTF is specifically for people who have faith that's why it's called what it is. Faith fails. That's the subtitle to the book.

Steve said...

John,

I haven't read all of your post (I'm at work). I'll have another look later. In the meantime ...

If you assume something is false, then you are assuming it is not true. From the fact it is not true, it follows that you shouldn't believe it. Apply the outsider test to atheism. To do so, according to your rules, you must begin with the assumption that atheism is false, which is to say you must begin with the assumption that God exists. Do you really mean this?

Steve

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Obviously, reasonable people will conclude that their particular faith passes the outsider test (to the extent that it is a well-defined or psychologically implementable test). Rather than a devastating argument with a clear conclusion, it seems more a well-trod methodology with an unclear conclusion.

However, it could be a useful tool for the skeptic to bring up. There are certainly tons of people that haven't questioned their original religious beliefs.

I say it 'could' be useful because my hunch is there are better ways to make the same point. We inherit culturally biased worldviews with many false beliefs. Yep, I took philosophy 101, so no surprise.

My concern, for the skeptics out there, is that there are much better ways to get the point across. E.g., Dawkins great quip that we are all atheists about some Gods, such as Zeus, that he just believes in one less God than you. See also the quotes below. Loftus manages to turn what is a simple claim into a rather ponderous set of writings, somehow sucking the life and rhetorical force out of the original quip (and thereby making the targets less likely to even listen).

The basic point is easy to make, and to make quickly. No need to belabor it.

Loftus comes off as someone holding an old slingshot trying to convince us it is a shiny new nuclear weapon.

-----------------

Some of my favorite quotes...

Descartes (meditations): "Several years have now elapsed since I first became aware that I had accepted, even from my youth, many false opinions for true, and that consequently what I afterward based on such principles was highly doubtful"

Huxely [source?]: "Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abyss Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing."

Hume (Natural history of religion): "But whoever thinks that [monotheism] has owed its success to the prevalent force
of those invincible reasons, on which it is undoubtedly founded,
would show himself little acquainted with the ignorance and
stupidity of the people, and their incurable prejudices in favour of
their particular superstitions."

Nobody can compete with Hume when it comes to skepticism.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

BDK writes admiringly about
"Dawkins great quip that we are all atheists about some Gods, such as Zeus, that he just believes in one less God than you."
I've never understood why atheists think this is such a zinger. As a Catholic Christian, I most definitely believe in Zeus (and Aphrodite, Ra, Allah, Krishna, etc.), and am not at all an atheist when it comes to them. They are all imperfect human understandings of the one-and-the-same God (just as my own understanding of Him will one day, after my death, undoubtedly seem comically imperfect). We'll all have a good laugh at our misconceptions when the time comes.

This IN NO WAY should be taken to imply that I hold to the ridiculous idea that "all religions are the same". I simply believe that none of them are totally false (well, maybe a few are, but that's a subject for a different posting). Whatever truths they share are the same truths. St. Paul apparently believed the same, as evidenced by his sppech in Athens, when he said "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."

Blue Devil Knight said...

I said:
The basic point is easy to make, and to make quickly. No need to belabor it.

This was a bit unfair. Just because it is easy to make a point quickly, that doesn't mean it doesn't deserve some expansion, elaboration, supporting data, examples. It is easy to make the point that George Washington was the first president, but that doesn't mean someone shouldn't write a book about it.

Anonymous said...

Bob again here:

Sorry about the typo!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob it's a zinger, not an argument. In practice, I find it universally helpful for people who claim to not be able to even comprehend how I could be an atheist. After all, most people don't subscribe to your rather unusual treatment of Zeus and Athena (which the Greeks thought were separate gods, after all). :)

John W. Loftus said...

Blue Devil, thanks for the quotes. I appreciate them. Most skeptical arguments originated in Hume. Descartes was looking for certainty though, something that has been completely abandoned in our age, and the OTF does not ask us to give up "every preconceived notion" as Huxley said.

The truth is that every skeptic who has attempted to debunk religion did so as outsiders, and every attack on a different religion by religious people has been done by outsiders. So we have been doing what I'm arguing for since the beginning of skepticism.

Confound those ancients, they've stolen all of our ideas! Is all of Western philosophy merely a footnote to Plato as A.N. Whitehead said? I doubt it, but so what if it is!

The thing about the OTF is that I don't see anywhere in the past where such a standard has been argued before in quite the detail I'm doing. Surely that makes what I'm arguing for new, if newness means anything in this later stage of human history.

What the sciences of psychology, neurology, anthropology and sociology have taught us in recent decades provides powerful evidence that allows me to make this argument with much greater force than ever before.

Steve, I recently wrote about whether atheists should take the OTF. Check it out.

Bangs head against the keyboard saying: *I must do other things now*

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

To BDK: Now that I have demonstrated how hollow the zinger is, one would hope you will never use it again, or at the very least feel some degree of shame when doing so. A person either believes in God, or he doesn't. Once you're a believer, all the dispute over what to call Him, or what attributes should be ascribed to Him, are, so to speak, family quarrels. But in any case it is absurd to call a theist an atheist. I can say to a Hindu, "You, like me, believe in and worship God. We simply disagree about some details." But that doesn't make either of us an "atheist" in respect to the other.

Gandolf said...

Bob Prokop said.."I've never understood why atheists think this is such a zinger. As a Catholic Christian, I most definitely believe in Zeus (and Aphrodite, Ra, Allah, Krishna, etc.), and am not at all an atheist when it comes to them. They are all imperfect human understandings of the one-and-the-same God (just as my own understanding of Him will one day, after my death, undoubtedly seem comically imperfect). We'll all have a good laugh at our misconceptions when the time comes."

This is what i find a little scary about many theists.

They say no worries,minor problems.. its all only just a matter of "They are all imperfect human understandings of the one-and-the-same God "

Just like that woosh ...Made it quite ok that folks got sacrificed burned at stakes wrongly accused of being witches or whatever.

Oh and babies that were once thrown into fires in faith and hope of bringing more fertility ,ooopsee , never mind Jeeves, better luck next time i say old chump .Oh dear me i say how terribly sad,what a stroke of bad luck i say what, them folks "understanding" was just slightly off wasnt it ,ohh ho hum.

Dawkins isnt right about everything,but still personally i sure need to agree with him, about the harsh and callous type attitudes of many faithful with the way they tend to see things.

I wonder if it will "undoubtedly seem comically imperfect" to the dead folks of Jim Jones cult.Can anyone just see them rolling in the sweet smelling grasses of heaven, clapping their wee hands in great laughter!, as they think of the long term pain and life long suffering that engulfed many of their familys they left behind.

Bob Prokop, myself being somebody who also experience the abusive effects of this supposed imperfect understanding of God ,the way you seem to belittle the sad situations that stems from it, seems slightly unfair in the least. And if this is what Christianity is truthfully about, i can only say im still glad i dumped it where it belongs.

Its not nice when hearing governments try to downplay responsibility for pain and suffering caused, like with the long term effects of agent orange on vietnam veterans.But it sounds even worse hearing the faithful try to describe imperfect faiths as being some kind of comedy.

Gandolf said...

Bob Prokop writing:"To BDK: Now that I have demonstrated how hollow the zinger is, one would hope you will never use it again, or at the very least feel some degree of shame when doing so."

Oh i think its a Zinger alright for real Bob ,i suggest there is little doubt about it.

Unless you honestly think its such a hollow thing, all the suffering caused through the many imperfect faiths, which happen to also include Islamist that will turn themselves into Human bombs and kill people.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

I'm confused. "Gandolf" claims to be upset by intolerant and abusive religionists, but then excoriates me for not being so? What gives?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

This being Victor's website, I am inspired to quote C.S. Lewis. In Perelandra, he likens the whole of human history, with all its evils and atrocities, to "when a man lies down to sleep, if he finds a twisted root under his shoulder he will change his place ... Or as a man setting foot on an island, may make a false step. He steadies himself, and after that the journey begins."
Yes, we will indeed laugh at all of our errors, sins, crimes, atrocities, genocides, holocausts, everything. That Day will come.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob: I disagree. It's somewhat odd to say that while they thought they were worshiping multiple gods, they were really just worshiping your God. It's sort of an insult to their rich multifaceted mythology. Besides, most Christians "get" what I am saying, and don't protest that "No, I think in worshiping Zeus, Athena, Poseidon the Greeks were really just worshiping Yahweh." That's a logically possible response, but not very convincing or plausible to me.

It also sort of misses the point of the bumper sticker, which isn't to convince them to give up God, but to help them see how not believing in a god is not all that far fetched. If they believed as you do about the Greeks, they would protest. They never do. They almost always say "Oh, now I get it." They don't go on to agree with me, but they at least get it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

John: good point that you can draw on more modern resources such as anthropology to make these arguments.

Gandolf said...

Anonymous said... "Bob Prokop writing:

I'm confused. "Gandolf" claims to be upset by intolerant and abusive religionists, but then excoriates me for not being so? What gives?"

Bob by your ideas you are also tolerant of the intolerant and abusive and murderers.

Im sorry i really dont see that as such a good thing.

Bob you know with this outsider test of faith thing, the only thing that really seperates you as a Catholic from being a Islamist bomber, might just be a matter of difference in parents and place of birth, and random matters of chance.

Gandolf said...

Bob Prokop writing:.."This being Victor's website, I am inspired to quote C.S. Lewis. In Perelandra, he likens the whole of human history, with all its evils and atrocities, to "when a man lies down to sleep, if he finds a twisted root under his shoulder he will change his place ... Or as a man setting foot on an island, may make a false step. He steadies himself, and after that the journey begins."
Yes, we will indeed laugh at all of our errors, sins, crimes, atrocities, genocides, holocausts, everything. That Day will come."

That day wont come at all Bob, not if that twisted root under mans shoulder, was actually mans worthless faith in non existent Gods! and non existent afterlifes!.

That day wont come at all Bob.

And whats more many folks will have payed a great price for your faith Bob.Their journey will have been wasted,having not even had the chance of living this life here on earth.Their journey could have been wasted by gamblers addicted to living forever,who were willing to gamble with peoples earthly lives, in hope of winning the unproven lotto displayed with Pascals wager.Only a faithful person could make pascal wager sound like maybe there was nothing to lose,after all who care about people lives wasted by faith right? ..Lives on this earth by faith are considdered totally worthless,so it seems according to calculations of a faithful Pascal wager.

Thats right Bob,so far you have no proof of any afterlife.And so far no proof to base Pascals wager on anything more than wishful thinking,wishful thinking that some in this life might very well have also had to pay a very big price for.

Should i expect a Catholic to honestly care about these things?,or do these peoples lives realistically ammount to little more than sexually abused children cared for by priests that Popes then just moved around for many years.Pawns in a game.

The warning signs a plenty are already there Bob.Its become quite obvious some faiths must have been wrong, so how big is the gap between some faiths being wrong, to it being more a matter about all faiths were actually wrong.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

To Gandolf: How big a gap? It's an insurmountable one.

As to proof of an "afterlife" (I don't really like that term - I tend to think of it all as one whole), I actually have five of them (not "proofs", really, but things that settle the issue for me personally). I posted them to this website some weeks ago, but I can't remember on which thread.

Shackleman said...

And here comes Gandolf, presumably an atheist, ironically brandishing his morality hammer, pounding on all religions as being morally monstrous.

Hilarious.

Just where do you think your sense of morality comes from, Gandolf?

Does it just sort of bubble up from your synapses? For if your moral compass comes from within your own mind, then "the only thing that really separates you...from being [the same as Jeffrey Dahmer], might just be a matter of difference in parents and place of birth, and random matters of chance."

Gandolf, I must say that it's quite amusing and ironic how you come off as being so "holier than thou".

Gandolf said...

Shackleman said..."And here comes Gandolf, presumably an atheist, ironically brandishing his morality hammer, pounding on all religions as being morally monstrous.

Hilarious."

Gidday Shackleman sorry if the honesty was a little unsettling for you.No i dont think you can actually point to where i suggested all religions were morally monstrous can you? ...But while we are at it would you like to argue that maybe not many religions really caused human any harm ?.

I would be interested to hear your take on it.It could even be Hilarious ,maybe Hilarious is Hilarious in the eyes of the beholder?.

Shackleman said.."Just where do you think your sense of morality comes from, Gandolf?

Does it just sort of bubble up from your synapses? For if your moral compass comes from within your own mind, then "the only thing that really separates you...from being [the same as Jeffrey Dahmer], might just be a matter of difference in parents and place of birth, and random matters of chance."

Yes Shackleman, indeed babies are not born as Jeffery Dahmers.If they were most likely by now we would be able to do a special test for Jeffery Dahmers at birth.So Jeffery Dahmers learn and experience things that turn them into the Jeffery Dahmers.And its a well known fact that babies surroundings and experiences etc which also happens to include their parents!,do indeed have a very big bearing on who they will become.So when you said .."might just be a matter of difference in parents and place of birth, and random matters of chance" you are not far from the facts of the matter.After all what else do you suggest causes a Muslim child to become a human bomb when you dont happen to become one ?,are you suggesting some God decides to jump into your brain and instill morals, but decides he cant really be bothered implanting morals in Muslim childrens brains?.

That would really be kinda Hilarious , dont you agree?

Shackleman said.."Gandolf, I must say that it's quite amusing and ironic how you come off as being so "holier than thou"."

Shackleman rather than just finding things so amusing and ironic, maybe you might like to please try proving all the things ive said, to be wrong?.

It will maybe even be a little "ironic" if just so happens maybe you cant!?.

Im sorry if me stating exactly what so happens ive experienced and also observed,sounds like its a matter of a holier than thou.

Is it my fault if faith guess work often hasnt really poved itself to really be such a good thing?.Is it my fault if just hearing about it, tends to make many faithful people like you want to squirm and hide and wish people didnt mention these matters?.

Why is simply stating facts ...Automatically considdered a "holier than thou" Shackleman ?.

Paul Manata said...

JL said:

]]]Do you? Have you ever seriously considered Scientology or, say Mormonism? My claim is that whatever level of skepticism you apply to the religions you reject should be applied to your own culturally inherited faith and if not, then defend your double standard.[[[

Steve, in the book Loftus is plugging he responds to the suggestion that he needs to take the OTF for the existence of an external world. His reply is that "it is not probable" that an external world fails to exist, and the mere "possibility" that he's wrong isn't enough to get him to take the OTF for the eternal world.

Clearly, then, Loftus doesn't think these two beliefs:

[1] The external world exists

and

[2] The external world is maya

are equipossible. However (and I'll be arguing for this more fully in my review of his argument), it is clear that he treats the probability of any arbitrarily selected religious belief as equipossible. He asserts that the "probability" that any particular religion is false, is high. He treats the religion you have as gained by chance. He thinks of religions like marbles in an urn that you reach into and pull one out, by "luck" or "chance." However, if one of the marbles was as large as a baseball, would the probability that you pulled it out of the urn be the same as the probabilty that you pulled out any other one? Hardly. Loftus doesn't argue for this key assumption of his. If Loftus won't take the external world OTF because it has not been shown to be probably false, then I refuse to take the OTF for Christianity for the same reason. Now, if Loftus thinks he has an argument that shows that Christianity is "probably false," then guess what, I still don't need to take the OTF for Christianity. If I thought the argument were a good one, then I'd drop Christianity. So either Loftus' argument rests on the "possibility" that Christianity is false--in which case I don't need to take the OTF per his own say-so---or he has a good argument that Christianity is "probably" false---in which case I don't need to take the OTF---and so in either case, I don;t need to take the OTF.

Furthermore, I suggest the quote fropm Loftus above suggests more about what he doesn't know about those religions and Christian apologetics. Loftus is simply taking his old benighted fundamentalism and addressing unthinking Christians in a similar position as he was. For Loftus to weight "scientology" the same as Christianity, such that it isn't obvious to any thinking person that one is far more probable than the other, is simply autobiographical on his end.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note that refusing to take the OT is basically saying you refuse to look at these beliefs critically. That's sort of a strange approach. I think it's better to say, sure I looked at these beliefs critically, and the survived the test so get outta here John :O

Shackleman said...

Poor Gandolf.

You judge religions based on your own sense of morality and bemoan the fact that religious people have at times broken your personal moral code. At the same time you admit that moral codes (including your own, presumably) are simply a matter of culture and/or conditioning. LOL! Do you still not see the irony?

Do tell us why we should bother giving even a moments pause to consider your thoughts on the matter, given the fact that your displeasure at the suffering caused by religious people is just a matter of culture and conditioning.

Shackleman said...

"Note that refusing to take the OT is basically saying you refuse to look at these beliefs critically."

I took the OT and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt.

John W. Loftus said...

In my dealings with Paul Manata I do not think he is intellectually honest with himself, the arguments he espouses, or the way he treats others who merely disagree. Dealing with the likes of him is probably a waste of time. If there was anyone who should take the OTF it is him.

So here he comes claiming he has the ability to rationally decide which religion is probable despite what we know from the human sciences. So he bites the bullet. He's basically claiming he does not have a double standard when examining religious faiths and that he can tell us which one is the most probable one out of them all. Read much of what he writes and it is crystal clear he is so certain and cocksure he's right that he treats everyone, even Vic himself, as if we're all buffoons. What a blinded man he is. He needs to take seriously what Valerie Tarico wrote in her chapter, but he won't.

Is Christianity more probable than Scientology? I'm devoting a series of posts to this question and the answer is a resounding NO!

Tell ya what Paul, tell us your record at convincing a knowledgeable Scientologist that he is wrong and that Christianity is correct. Go convince a Mormon he is wrong while you're at it. While at one time I thought Christianity was more probable than these other faith by far, I no longer think so at all. Remember, for me Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith too, examining it from the faith presumption that Christianity was true, as it's doing with many ex-Christians who post their stories over at ex.christian.net.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

I'll be bold here, and admit that I took the Outsider Test several decades ago (in the 1970s) and failed miserably. Victor will well remember how sometime around 1971 or so I left the Catholic Church for about two years or so, briefly embracing Protestantism. But it wasn't long before everything just seemed "wrong" - I wasn't comfortable with a lot of the doctrines and many intangible cultural aspects of Protestantism. My decision to return to Catholicism after about two years away from it was like taking a huge load off of my back. I swear even my breathing became easier. I never regretted that decision.

So does that make me intellectually dishonest? I don't think so. After all, SOMEBODY has to be right, and everone else (to varying degrees) wrong. Is everyone required to reject everything they were raised to believe, simply on the grounds that they were so raised? what a logical fallacy! I was taught as a child that democracy was superior to totalitarianism. Should I therefore feel compelled to embrace dictatorship simply because that is not how I was raised? Ridiculous! I think the Outsider Test is completely bogus.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob I just think it is a matter of critically examining your beliefs. I'm not sure how anyone would say that is preposterous. Perhaps Loftus oversells the inevitability of the skeptical conclusion, but the methodology seems fine to me.

Blue Devil Knight said...

For instance, I hope a critical examination of democracy would leave it (at least in its Republican forms) intact, not lead you to totalitarianism.

Steve said...

Hi John,

I said: "If I suspend belief in all those things which "I wouldn't believe if I weren't a Christian" then...I'll be left with almost nothing..."

In reply, you said: "What? Are you kidding me? Am I to take this seriously? Look around you. See the people. Many of them do not believe in Christianity. Do they believe in nothing?"

Of course there are many non-Christians out there, who nevertheless have plenty of beliefs. But the vast majority of these haven't seriously thought through their belief systems. Lots of them believe many things which, as I see it, can only be rationally sustained in the context of theism. Now if they thought things through they might either become theists or reject many of those initial beliefs.

Well I’m saying I’d have to reject many of those beliefs. I'd be left a moral relativist, unsure of the existence of persons and flirting with functionalism and eliminativism about the mind, an anti-realist or at least instrumentalist about science, dubious about the reliability of our cognitive aparatus, committed to a relativistic psychologism about logic. If I could seriously live by such a "faith" I'd believe almost nothing. Almost everything I believed would be accepted only for practical purposes, not because I thought it had any real pretentions to truth.

Back to the outsider test for morality: you haven't answered my question directly, but reading between the lines you seem to think that if moral convictions are about objective moral truths then they will fail the test, but conceived as culturally relative those "convictions" are fine. That just sounds like another way of saying that moral beliefs fail the outsider test. So much the worse for the outsider test.

As for atheists taking the test, I went and read the other post you linked to. You seem to be saying that atheists don't need to take the test, or that if they do then the test takes a different form. There you write: “Should they test what they were taught as outsiders? How can they? What is the outside perspective for them? ... Which religious perspective do objectors to the OTF propose we use when being outsiders?”

You say there is no single position which is "non-atheism" but there is also no single position which is "non-Christianity". Yet you continue to say that it is the Christian/Theist who has the double standard. I think the shoe is clearly on the other foot.

Like others here, I think there are good points to be made in this area, but I think they cut both ways and cannot be separated from actually looking at the issues and arguments. The point is that we should be looking at those arguments and trying to figure out not just whether we think they are good or bad but why we think that. We should be open to the possibility of being wrong and acknowledge that influence of our culture upon belief is not always benign. But I repeat, none of this can substitute for actually examining the arguments and issues.

If, when I examine them, trying to put myself in the position of someone outside Christianity but rationally open-minded about it, I find that my faith is reaffirmed, I think I've done everything that can be reasonably asked of me. Now since you clearly believe that all those who take the test find that their faith fails, you would also seem to be committed to saying that either the above is not a sufficient test, or that I haven't really done as I describe above. Your options are limited:

(1) Say that, although I think I've taken the test I haven't really. That would be the pre-theoretic commitment you say you don't have.
(2) Say that some religious belief passes the outsider test after all.
(3) Say that while I've done the above, that isn't all that he test requires. It requires something more stringent.

Your only good option seems to be (3). But then I'm back to my original question: "What else are we being asked to do?"

Steve Lovell

John W. Loftus said...

Steve just a very quick response.

Whether an atheist should take the OTF is not the issue. Because of what I have argued the believer must do so regardless of whether not the atheist does so. You see, even if an atheist should take the test and does not do it that does not relieve believers of their responsibility given what the human sciences teach us. So your argument here is a known fallacy of "you too" (Tu Quoque).

I will argue that any believer who claims to have successfully taken and passed the OTF that he has not done so properly, yes. But whether I can convince him that he didn't is a separate issue that needs to be weighed on its own and therefore not the fault of the OTF. Once someone claims to have taken and passed the test then at that point we have agreed upon the standard of the OTF and said person can no longer punt to faith to defend what he believes after claiming to pass the OTF.

I hope these are relevant comments. I am busy.

Steve said...

John,

On the point of the "tu quoque" response. I agree that if the OTF is something we have to pass for our faith the be rational then it is irrelevant whether atheists take it. The question is what the test amounts to, and depending on what it amounts to whether it really is a test worth taking. What I'm doing in the "tu quoque" is pointing out that you need to play fair with this test and not require of others what you do not require of yourself. If you admit that the OTF is not a test worth taking in relation to atheism, then I can say the same.

I could easily pretend to have the intuition that you hadn't really taken the test, because if you had then your atheism wouldn't have survived. But at that point I'm guessing you'd say that either you had taken the test or that the test was too stringent and set the bar too high. Well that's what I'm worrying when you apply it to Christianity.

I think you should take the outsiders test about the validity of the outsiders test. I'm not convinced it'd pass unless spelled out an awful lot more clearly. And when it gets spelled out more clearly I'm not convinced any plausible adumbration will deliver the conclusions you are looking for. At least not to an "outsider"!

Steve

Paul Manata said...

This will be my last response to Loftus on this issue, he'll need to wait for the review.

Notice that John begins by taking a swipe at me, seeking to poison the well, and making a claim that I am not honest with the evidence. However, this doesn't amount to much since John won't allow anyone to pass the OTF, claiming that everyone who takes it and says they passed was "dishonest with the evidence."

]]]"So here he comes claiming he has the ability to rationally decide which religion is probable despite what we know from the human sciences."[[[

Of course science has shown no such thing, and certainly no contributor to his book showed this. Indeed, John's own statements conclude otherwise. When asked to test his belief in the external world as an outsider, John replies that it is highly probable that the external world exists. So it seems to me that any worldview which denies the reality of the external world (say, popular versions on Sankara's school) is "probably false." So if John can know whether certain religious beliefs are probably false, there seems to be no non-arbitrary reason why I cannot. Another obvious way to judge whether one religion is mofre probable than another is if one asserts a contradiction. If I believe that religion R has a contradiction within its teachings, then I can asign it a probability of 0. Anyway, John offers no probability calculus and treats religions as equipossible. I think this is obviously false and John offers no argument for thinking so.

At any event, when John is asked to take the "outsider test for a mind-independant world", John demands that the challenger show him that belief in the external world is probably false. I ask the same. If John has an argument to that effect, then the conclusion is not to take the outsider test for Christianity, the answer is to withhold belief in Christianity. If I came to believe that Christianity were probably false, I wouldn't "test it" I'd "dop it."

Cont.

Paul Manata said...

Cont.

]]]"He's basically claiming he does not have a double standard when examining religious faiths and that he can tell us which one is the most probable one out of them all."[[[

John's basically claiming I have a double standard when examining religious faiths.

Anyway, when John makes these claims about bias it is clear he's failing to draw the conceptual distinction between psychological and rational objectivity (he also fails to distinguish between local and global skepticism).

]]]"Read much of what he writes and it is crystal clear he is so certain and cocksure he's right that he treats everyone, even Vic himself, as if we're all buffoons. What a blinded man he is. He needs to take seriously what Valerie Tarico wrote in her chapter, but he won't."[[[

This is just posturing and grandstanding. This isn't an argument. I could reflect the same comment back at him. Ad hominems are always reversable.

Moreover, that at times I may have over stated my case, acted like an ass, whatever, doesn't entail that I can't rationaly decide between competing options. Indeed, John's OTF presupposes that I can! John is attempting to persuade me to take the OTF. He's appealing to my ability to rationally "see" that I should take the OTF.

Moreover, I dare say that if one takes a gander at John's blog they will note how "cocksure" he is of all his arguments. He's "cocksure" that no believer will pass the OTF, he's "cocksure" that Christianity is just as probable as the Heaven's Gate Cult, he's "cocksure" that Christianity is false, etc.

]]]"Tell ya what Paul, tell us your record at convincing a knowledgeable Scientologist that he is wrong and that Christianity is correct."]]]

What is this supposed to prove? Certainly not that I cannot decide whether Christianity is more probably true, more rationally supported, etc., than scientology. That someone won't cry unkle doesn't mean that their view is just as probable as your own. At any event, my last time I was in Hollywood I went into a scientology reading room. I engaged their belief system and drew out some pretty problematic consequences, as well as logical contradictions. I was told that logic didn't apply. Seems to me that that's a good reason to withhold belief in scientology. There's also a lot of evidence they can't account for viz., design, the resurrection, moral responsibility, etc.

]]]While at one time I thought Christianity was more probable than these other faith by far, I no longer think so at all.[[[

Of course I'll just wait for the argument, complete with the probability calculus.

So I tried to offer a fair response to John and refrained from any name calling, even though I won't respond again, let's see if he can like up to what he demands of others. In any case, he's response here tells me that I'm on target with my response to his OTF.

John W. Loftus said...

Back to Steve who wrote: "I think you should take the outsiders test about the validity of the outsiders test."

What? I would think that before one tries to critique an argument that has been argued for in my two books that one ought to at least read them before trying to offer a reasonable critique of it, don't you think? At least Paul Manata is doing so.

The OTF is justified independently of any conclusions one might derive from it based upon the results of the human sciences and articulated well enough in chapters 1-3 in part one of my book, which you have not read. The human sciences lead me to propose it along with how believers reject the faiths of others.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But it's based on the sciences and on how believers reject other faiths. That sounds to me as solid as one can get, especially since I have not yet heard anything that shows the standard of the test to be faulty.

John W. Loftus said...

Back to Steve again who previously wrote: "You say there is no single position which is "non-atheism" but there is also no single position which is "non-Christianity". Yet you continue to say that it is the Christian/Theist who has the double standard. I think the shoe is clearly on the other foot."

What? You should not comment any further until you at least read my arguments, not in sound byte forms but as chapters.

Do you disagree with me that there is no outside religious position from which an atheist can stand on to take the OTF? Scientology? Mormonism? Heaven's Gate? Which one is the "outside" position for an atheist? Simply answer the question, okay? It's an easy one. Just say yes or no, and explain why.

And yes, there is no single position which is non-Christianity" too. There is Orthodox Judaism, Jainism, and a multitude of other religions. So what? There IS an outsider position when it comes to religion though, and THAT'S one of my points. It's non-belief making agnosticism the default position.

So tell me why the shoe is on the other foot because of these two recognized facts which we both agree on. I just don't see any connection with what I'm arguing for. if there's no connection then you're offering up a non-sequitur.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Back to Paul who wrote: "Moreover, I dare say that if one takes a gander at John's blog they will note how "cocksure" he is of all his arguments. He's "cocksure" that no believer will pass the OTF, he's "cocksure" that Christianity is just as probable as the Heaven's Gate Cult, he's "cocksure" that Christianity is false, etc."

Yes I am. But Paul, unlike Steve you cannot claim ignorance here since you have read my book, and THAT'S what I mean when I say you are not honest with yourself or the arguments...

I am just as cocksure I am right about your Christian faith as you are in rejecting the Muslim or Jehovah's Witnesses faiths. But that's where our agreed level of confidence ends.

I have repeatedly argued that there is a clearly recognizable huge difference between rejecting an answer and affirming the correct one. We all reject answers as implausible, sometimes without even giving them any considerable attention at all. The rejection is the easy part. There are a gazillion things that did not happen at Custer's Last Stand, to take an ordinary example rather than an extraordinary miraculous one. But when it comes to claiming what DID happen that is the really really dificult thing to do with any measurable semblance of probability. Examples like this are legion. I like expressing it this way: It's easir to smell a rotten egg than it is to lay a good one.

You see I'm an egg smeller kind a feller. Your faith smells rotten. All faiths smell rotten. But when I must meet my own burden of proof to explain the nature and origin of existence at heart I just don't know. That's the far more reasonable position and there isn't anything contradictory or unintelligible or indefensible about it.

Gregory said...

The OTF, itself, is a classic illustration of faith in "first-principles"---i.e. "F.P." qua an object inhabiting a particular spatial vector of the material universe??---and the most glaring example of a philosophical non-starter.

So, what's the "Outsider Test" for the OTF? Or does our skeptic want to appeal to the principle of "philosophical immunity"? Some philosophers call this the "silence" argument.

I think that I've already--inadvertently--answered
Loftus' OTF on other posts I've made here on "skepticism". I believe I have described this kind of situation as being "a pit with no bottom". But I want to highlight an important, positive point in all this:

"Faith" is essential to the knowing process. There are propositions that are taken, and must be taken, as "brute" or "given". Virtually all of the prophets of "New Atheism" fail to acknowledge and appropriate that insight, and the implications it carries for certain strands of anti-religious polemic. OTF is one specific example of this.

Human beings, naturally, are disposed towards belief in their Creator from the things he has given them (Acts 17:22-30). Children who grow up to be "skeptics" have to be taught, either directly or by example, not to believe in God. Without interference...a child will naturally believe in Deity.

It is the Loftus' of the world that come along with speculations which corrupt our natural dispositions. But the Naturalist, more than anyone, ought to be the first to defend the appropriateness of "religion" based on it's natural origins and, consequently, it's historical ubiquity. Instead, he is like the man who disputes the authorship of Middle Earth because "Lord of the Rings" is simply "too fantastical".

But I don't believe humans are clever enough to think of things like "OTF" on their own. Though we like to reckon ourselves as "innovators", we tend to repackage older goods and services. And we especially like to to have our name on the label. So..for Christians with understanding:

Genesis 3:1

Gregory said...

Let me boil down "OTF" to a simple proposition:

Doubt your own faith

That's not an argument. It's an appeal.

Gandolf said...

Shackleman said... "Poor Gandolf.

You judge religions based on your own sense of morality and bemoan the fact that religious people have at times broken your personal moral code. At the same time you admit that moral codes (including your own, presumably) are simply a matter of culture and/or conditioning. LOL! Do you still not see the irony?

Do tell us why we should bother giving even a moments pause to consider your thoughts on the matter, given the fact that your displeasure at the suffering caused by religious people is just a matter of culture and conditioning."

Shackleman yes im using my own sense of morality ive learned .You are using your Catholic learned morality which seems to include not caring less how your moral code has effected others.This seems to be the case when you trivalize the fact that religious moral codes and practices have caused people harm,and when we see you trivalize these matters! it also become obvious how a Pope could also easily see to keep moving child molestors onwards.

You could just as easy be the Pope saying poor sexually molested child bemoaning the fact my Chatholic priests kept molesting children after i the Pope simply kept moving them on.

You just keep on trivalizing problems caused by religion all you like,after all going on the type of moral code publically displayed by your Pope in the recent past, the truth is maybe we really cant honestly expect anything a whole lot different of you here either can we Shackleman.

It is both AMUSING and IRONIC and HILARIOUS it seems the best you could manage to do, was to try poo pooing any harmful effects religion had on our lives.L.o.L

You judge me for what you suggest is use of my "own sense" of morality, which infact is not my own sense of morality but is a human sense of morality that has evolved amongst groups of human over time, at times being amended and changed along the way.Which is how come stoning people is no longer considdered moral among human.So no its not ironic that i see our morals "are simply a matter of culture and/or conditioning".Its just stating a simple fact,is that ironic?

Shackleman if you think i shouldnt use my human evolved moral code,please what other type moral code do you suggest i should use?.

The one from your bible thought up and written by religious "human" Prophets and such like ?,whould you like to explain how these codes are anyless evolved of human being thought, than my moral code are?.

Do you suggest a Prophet or Priest is anyless Human that i?.

Or is it more a matter you argue that you can! be the only one! to pick and choose to put forward moral code of some other human being as being higher?.

Dont you see the utter stupidity! of this silly idea that maybe humans have ever actually used any other moral code, than a human moral code anyway.Do you not see how pointless and circular your amusing ironic and rather hilarious line of "circular" argument actually is!.

Because even the very bible you read Shackleman, displays human moral that are blatantly! seen to be both very "human" and "evolving".How else would you explain the moral of stoning, thats obviously seen to have been found immoral at some stage, and so have need to be ammended! and change!,with some God? that was supposedly meant to be all knowing and the same yesterday today and tomorrow?.

Now can you do any better than simply poke more and more snide remarks at me like so far is all you have managed to do?.

Its your choice Shackleman.To be honest i dont really expect any better of many faithful anymore.I guess its entirely up to you what type attitude you wish to publically display.

Personally i dont really mind snide and uncaring remarks here Shackleman.I take them onboard! like a duck takes to water and also simply shrug them off like water slides off a ducks back too.

Gandolf said...

What OTF of faith is there for a non believer ?.

Let me see, should i compare my non belief! to somebody elses type of non belief! and balance that over against what a whole lot of other non believers believe also.

I most likely already do this figuring out how they might have came to their non belief ....But when all said and done all these people have a common faith....They simply dont believe in Gods.

Sheeze how the heck do faithful folk suggest non believers compare simple non belief.

Its not the same as religion that changes with country and culture is it.

Are non believers in China having any real differnt non belief of Gods than somebody in New Zealand ?.Do we see country and culture make big differences in peoples types of non belief?.

Non belief is simply not effected by difference of country and culture, quite the same like so many religious faiths are.

Cant faithful see this difference?

Gandolf said...

Gregory said... "So, what's the "Outsider Test" for the OTF? Or does our skeptic want to appeal to the principle of "philosophical immunity"? Some philosophers call this the "silence" argument. "

Gregory no, we appeal to some common sense .

What other non belief of Gods is there than a simple Non belief of Gods ?.

Give us some different non beliefs obviously effected by country and culture.

And walla ...You will have made OTF available for non believers also!.

After all its not our problem! non belief so happens to be very much the same! all over the world ..Is it?.

"philosophical immunity -silence argument"

No not at all.Lets atleast be a little honest! and practical here .

What other type of non belief actually exists for us to use, to compare?

Victor Reppert said...

Well, why an outsider test for faith as opposed to an ousider test for world-views.

Imagine growing up on atheism in the Soviet Union. Couldn't I start thinking "You know, if I hadn't grown up an atheist here in Moscow, if I had instead been born in Birmingham, Alabama, I would probably be a Southern Baptist instead of an atheist. How did I get to be so lucky as to realize that religion is the opiate of the masses, as I have been taught since childhood? I could have been born in Mexico as a Catholic or St. Paul as a Lutheran. Or in Mumbai as a Hindu.

On the other hand, he might think, somebody has to grow up believing the truth. Why couldn't it be me?

Gregory said...

The miraculous thing about "skeptics" is their ability to acquiesce the historic reliability of religious atrocities but never religious truths. What's worse is this propositional muddle that some subscribe to:

"Jesus never existed"

and

"Follower of Jesus (i.e. Christians) did atrocious things"

If Jesus never "existed", then there are no "followers of Jesus" (i.e. Christians). People don't "follow" things that don't exist. But they do follow naturalistic paths, unfolding from the providential workings of natural law upon material things. If there had arisen an "idea" about Jesus among "Christians", strictly from the natural order of things, then there must have really been a person to whom Christians name "Jesus Christ", having also appeared physically in like manner (i.e. via natural processes). So, the cause of the Christians belief in Jesus developed out of the historic reality of the person of Jesus by reason of strict, nomological necessity.

But even if we "Christians" are all wrong about this, then who can blame us? Are we not, also, a part of the same spatio-temporal order? Are we not, also, wholly bound by "Nature's Laws"? Why find fault with those whose "mental life" and "beliefs" necessarily supervene upon particular physical states of the brain?

Gandolf said...

Paul Manata said.."What is this supposed to prove? Certainly not that I cannot decide whether Christianity is more probably true, more rationally supported, etc., than scientology. That someone won't cry unkle doesn't mean that their view is just as probable as your own. At any event, my last time I was in Hollywood I went into a scientology reading room. I engaged their belief system and drew out some pretty problematic consequences, as well as logical contradictions. I was told that logic didn't apply. Seems to me that that's a good reason to withhold belief in scientology. There's also a lot of evidence they can't account for viz., design, the resurrection, moral responsibility, etc."

"I was told that logic didn't apply. Seems to me that that's a good reason to withhold belief in scientology"

What?? ...I would have thought you would feel right at home Paul.

I dont know how many times ive heard faithful INCLUDING many Christians...Try suggesting a classical theism ...You know the old tried and trusted endless limitless explaination , that supposedly some understanding of Gods are just to far outside our Human logic and ability of understanding.blah blah wink wink nudge nudge..say no more

Funny enough just like the scientologists ,faithful christians want to be able to pick and choose.When it suits them they will make claims Gods can be understood by Human, and later on again when it so happen to suit them, they also like to try and make claim that certain things about Gods just cannot be understood by Human.

Is this lots like a matter of taking a bet on having it both ways, or what Paul Manata?.Its a Christian slippery way, of simply escaping need of crying unkle too,aint it Paul?.

Hopefully! you do have some other good evidence to still have your Christian faith.

Because i suggest you display poor judgement! if you simply gave up the idea of Scientology, simply because Scientologists happened to tell you much the same type thing, those in your own faith also often do.

Gandolf said...

Gregory said.."But even if we "Christians" are all wrong about this, then who can blame us? Are we not, also, a part of the same spatio-temporal order? Are we not, also, wholly bound by "Nature's Laws"? Why find fault with those whose "mental life" and "beliefs" necessarily supervene upon particular physical states of the brain?"

Who said its about trying to blame anyone.What do you suggest no believers really are wanting to punish and throw all believers in Jails?.

What its about is help in making some much need changes.People are still abused every day through faith some even killed through being falsely accused as witches.And hatered by faith is still a global problem.

Why should it need to be about a matter of finding somebody in particular to blame Gregory.

I dont even blame my own christian cult family for the suicides caused by their faith.I dont persnally blame Jim Jones or even the Pope either.

Facing a ongoing problem and trying to make it change, dont need to be about finding somebody to blame.

I accept these faith atrocities were caused by the "nature" of humans having faith.Rape was caused by natural urges too, but it still dont really make it anymore ok.Does it Gregory?

Gregory said...

Gandalf says:

"What OTF of faith is there for a non believer ?.

Let me see, should i compare my non belief! to somebody elses type of non belief! and balance that over against what a whole lot of other non believers believe also."


Gandalf also says:

'Gregory said... "So, what's the "Outsider Test" for the OTF? Or does our skeptic want to appeal to the principle of "philosophical immunity"? Some philosophers call this the "silence" argument'. "

Gregory no, we appeal to some common sense."


I'm not sure it's even necessary to point out that persons with "non-belief" can't have "common sense". "Common sense", whatever it is, involves "beliefs".

Now, I'm sure Gandalf is going to conjure up a rapprochement to these two contradictory assertions he's made. And I'm going to go further by making a prediction:

Gandalf's attempt at reconciling his own statements, here, is going to appear even more foolish than his original statements!!!

OTF is an appeal. OTF is a peer pressure tactic. OTF is a temptation.

OTF is not an argument. OTF is not linguistically true (i.e. true by definition), nor is it empirically verifiable. It is not an Ethical injunction, nor is it a widely held position in Epistemology (i.e. past and present).

OTF is an appeal...a dare. It's not about telling you to believe something. But it is telling you to do something. I would call this "Secular Voluntarism"....or "Ideological Fideism". Epicurus Van Til.

But OTF is not an argument or inference.

Paul Manata said...

I'd respond to Gandolf, but I just can't make heads or tails of his response to me. I think he said that some Christians told him that they reject logic as well. He then fallaciously concludes that I should not reject scientology for similar reasons. However, from what I could gather, he clearly drew a false dilemma. I reject the expression of scientilogy given to me that day, and I also reject the understanding of Christianity those aleged Christians presented Gandolf with. Moreoever, since he probably is misrepresenting those Christians, I accept and agree with the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. But of courses that doctrine (a) doesn't deny logic and (b) is presented in a worldview where it would be expected and is entirely intellgible (given that God is the archtype and our reasoning and knowledge about him is echtypal). So the argument would me an argument from analogy minus the analogy. Anyway, I'll not respond to Gandolf anymore either. Strikes me as a waste of time.

DL said...

Gregory wrote: "I'm sure Gandalf is going to conjure up a rapprochement..."

Actually, you're replying to "Gandolf". "Gandalf" is the wise figure, the voice of reason and experience. "Gandolf", with an O, is the o-pposite, see; he's a parody of Gandalf, a silly caricature of a certain type of atheist. Now certainly there are stupid atheists out there (just as there are stupid theists), but frankly I think he's carrying out the joke too long. Maybe the first couple of posts were worth a grin, but now it's just getting rude.

DL said...

John Loftus: "If someone refuses to take the OTF I merely ask them why they have such a double standard."
and: "Whether an atheist should take the OTF is not the issue."

Let me see if I can summarize this whole schmeer succinctly:

The "outsider test" for theists:
When did you stop beating your wife?

The "outsider test" for atheists:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Gandolf said...

Gregory said... "Gandalf says:

"What OTF of faith is there for a non believer ?.

Let me see, should i compare my non belief! to somebody elses type of non belief! and balance that over against what a whole lot of other non believers believe also."

But Gregory if we compare non belief with non belief anywhere,we really only ever get non belief.

Non belief=Non belief.

We dont have a Hindu type or Islamic type or mormon type.And anyones non belief will pretty much be the same type of non belief in China.Its unversal,simply non belief.

What do we stand to gain? from comparing two things non belief and non belief, that are basically universally pretty much exactly the same?...Universally all non believers so far see no evidence of Gods!

Thats all any comparison we do will really ever ammount to, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of it.We will always all have, non belief of Gods.

Faith isnt really quite the same.Far from it,worldwide there is plenty of difference.It is totally obviously effected by culture and country and biased opinion.

1,If i compare one non belief with another non belief, it still only ever equals a non belief of Gods.

2,However if i compare Mormonism with Hinduism and then cross check it with Islam etc ,but then no, i might end up wondering about Judaism or else theres maybe JWism or catholicism or westbro or maybe even the Russian orthadox dooms day cave dwellers.

It will depend lots more on my culture and my own particular country and will be far more likely to be indoctrinated through family ties and my frequency visiting churches or Mosks or whatever.

Gregory said.."I'm not sure it's even necessary to point out that persons with "non-belief" can't have "common sense". "Common sense", whatever it is, involves "beliefs"."

Gregory common sense, is when all people sense matters pretty much the same way ,hence why it is called Common sense because its a belief everyone held "in common".IE it never ever changes ...IE non belief always = non belief.

There is agnostic but agnostic is still non belief.

Religion and faith are not common beliefs .Religion is not about any belief held "in common" everywhere worldwide.It does not ammount to any "common sense" ,as in being a "common sense" of a particular belief thats held in common everywhere! worldwide, such as atheism is by all atheists.

Gregory said.."OTF is not an argument. OTF is not linguistically true (i.e. true by definition), nor is it empirically verifiable. It is not an Ethical injunction, nor is it a widely held position in Epistemology (i.e. past and present)."

Not an argument?...Really?

The fact atheism is a wordwide "common held" belief of "ALL" non believers ,compared with the extremely many fractions of differences within faith and religion that is quite OBVIOUSLY effected by both culture or country

Is no argument ?..Not true?..Nor verifiable?..Not ethical?

Well please yourself.But the fact remains faith cannot claim to be considered as a proper worldwide "common held belief" quite like the belief of Atheism can.

And that seems like a kind of argument.

If i compare my non belief with any others non belief,mostly all ill ever hear is ,"i see no evidence for existence for belief in Gods"

So whats to be gained by any atheist from doing OTF?.

Any OTF of our belief we do by comparing our disbelief with the disbelief of other, comes up with much the same answers damn near everytime a coco nut!,"we see no evidence or good reason for belief of Gods".

Infact id even say often plenty of atheist likely probably do a type of atheist OTF looking amongst other atheist belief worldwide ,but the only answer they ever hear is "we see no reason for belief of Gods"

Gandolf said...

Paul Manata said..."I'd respond to Gandolf, but I just can't make heads or tails of his response to me. I think he said that some Christians told him that they reject logic as well. He then fallaciously concludes that I should not reject scientology for similar reasons. However, from what I could gather, he clearly drew a false dilemma. I reject the expression of scientilogy given to me that day, and I also reject the understanding of Christianity those aleged Christians presented Gandolf with. Moreoever, since he probably is misrepresenting those Christians, I accept and agree with the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. But of courses that doctrine (a) doesn't deny logic and (b) is presented in a worldview where it would be expected and is entirely intellgible (given that God is the archtype and our reasoning and knowledge about him is echtypal). So the argument would me an argument from analogy minus the analogy. Anyway, I'll not respond to Gandolf anymore either. Strikes me as a waste of time."

Gandolf had said.." dont know how many times ive heard faithful INCLUDING many Christians...Try suggesting a classical theism ...You know the old tried and trusted endless limitless explaination , that supposedly some understanding of Gods are just to far outside our Human logic and ability of understanding.blah blah wink wink nudge nudge..say no more"

Dont tell me you havent heard of classic theism.That idea which allows anything to be possible,as long as the theist gets to choose when its possible or not possible to understand God.

Plenty of Christian warn against use of a natural mind too,thats little different than being told by Scientologist when and when not to use logic either, and you know it is much the same too Paul.

Paul.."I'll not respond to Gandolf anymore either. Strikes me as a waste of time"

Ohh how terribly Christian of you Paul.But however never mind, please yourself, im not really at all so very surprised.

Of course you should also reject scientology for same reasons.

But i was just pointing out,please dont try suggesting many folks of faith including christians,dont also ask for people to suspend logic or refrain from using a "natural mind".Because plenty still do.

Crikey Paul its one reason why some faithful go and start their own schools.So their pupils get help to learn to refrain from some use of the natural mind.

Little different to what the Scientologist asked of you Paul.Even if you dont like it.

Gandolf said...

Victor Reppert said... "Well, why an outsider test for faith as opposed to an ousider test for world-views.

Imagine growing up on atheism in the Soviet Union. Couldn't I start thinking "You know, if I hadn't grown up an atheist here in Moscow, if I had instead been born in Birmingham, Alabama, I would probably be a Southern Baptist instead of an atheist. How did I get to be so lucky as to realize that religion is the opiate of the masses, as I have been taught since childhood? I could have been born in Mexico as a Catholic or St. Paul as a Lutheran. Or in Mumbai as a Hindu.

On the other hand, he might think, somebody has to grow up believing the truth. Why couldn't it be me?"

Hi Victor ,maybe this is somewhat correct in some way that i have yet to see.

But still seems to me most people are not taught atheism.We dont have groups that enforce group atheism,or shunning and seperation.Neather is there really threat of hell and danmnation.And we dont need to move or go anywhere.

Universally Worldwide the belief basically consists of,so far we see no evidence or reason for belief in Gods.

If you suddenly ask us whether just being born somewhere else might have changed the belief somehow,then it seems to me it seems its talking more about "imposing" a NEED OF going somewhere and imposing a different type of culture and extra special situation to experience this presense of Gods.

Why ? ...If atheists can have their experience of becoming a atheist anywhere in the world,simply by not seeing any evidence for belief of Gods.

Then its very obviously a real cultural type thing, to have faith, once you start suggesting! maybe the guy growing up in the Soviet Union, might have needed! to go somewhere else extra special in the world.Like say this Birmingham, Alabama or somewhere.

Why this special need for faith? ...Surely Gods evidence should be a universal global type thing?

Atheism is pretty universal we dont HAVE any NEED to go anywhere special ...We all! simply see no real honest evidence for Gods.

Victor i feel there is a big difference here.

Surely Gods could show plain evidence of their presence, absolutely anywhere if they wanted?.

The Christian God should be very able to simply make himself known to all Muslims or somebody in the soviet union alike .

Why not?.Why does it take the presence of some input and socialization of some Christian type of evangelist situation?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said: "Well, why an outsider test for faith as opposed to an outsider test for world-views?"

You know Vic, you just may have hit on another important issue here, worldviews. It's probably one major reason the OTF gets so much opposition.

What is a worldview? James Sire in "The Universe Next Door" makes it out to be a set of assumptions about the world and then proceeds to specifically define them as having to to with a list of notions about God, ethics, history, death, and so forth. Geisler and Watkins in "World's Apart" do the same thing. However, Walsh and Middleton in "The Transforming Vision" show what a naive view that is, which is much closer to Ninan Smart's complete and fuller view in his book "Worldviews: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs." Walsh and Middleton show how worldviews affect how we even bath our babies! When I read that the lights came on. Worldviews are about everything we think and do--everything. No wonder Steve claims he would believe in nothing if Christianity is false! He thinks Christianity is a worldview! IT"S NOT! NOT BY A LONG SHOT! A worldview encompasses everything I think and do, how I see, what I place value on, and so forth and so on.

But Christianity? It is merely a set of doctrines that a believer accepts best reflected in the creeds. It does not tell the believe what to think, or do, say.

Come on now, really, can you explain why people of different color can be Christians and yet have different attitudes when it comes to politics or President Obama? Does the fact that one is a Christian woman mean she will think like a Christian man. Does the fact that a New Yorker Christian will see the world exactly like a Christian from Mexico?

Since worldviews include everything we think is true there are probably about as many worldviews as there are people since there is a likelihood no one thinks exactly the same way about everything.

So, the OTF is NOT about worldviews. It's about religious faiths. Worldviews are larger than religious faiths, and they are larger than one's culture too. Someone can abandon her religious faith and not affect that much of anything else she accepts from her culture for the most part, although it can affect quite a bit.

So I'm not asking believers to questing everything they believe about everything, you see. That is impossible. But one major reason why believrs object to the OTF is that they think I'm asking them to questions everything they think about everything at the same time.

I'm not.

Now, if you're asking whether there is any parity between the OTF and questioning everything one believes about everything at the same time then you need to show why you think this can be done. It can't. But I am a testament to the fact that you CAN reject your religious faith and retain most everything else you believe, and I do.

Steve said...

Hi John,

You write, to Vic: "Now, if you're asking whether there is any parity between the OTF and questioning everything one believes about everything at the same time then you need to show why you think this can be done. It can't."

Neither Vic or I think we should question everything. We raise these questions because we haven't been shown why their shouldn't be parity, and since the natural assumption is parity the person committed to the OTF seems to be committed to doubting everything (indeed, actually disbelieving everything, which is incoherent). In other words, we're arguing against the OTF here, not using the OTF to argue against atheism.

You again: "But I am a testament to the fact that you CAN reject your religious faith and retain most everything else you believe, and I do."

I never said that it wasn't possible. I only implied that it wouldn't be rational. If I was feeling especially cheeky I might almost say that your existence proves my point!

John again: "I would think that before one tries to critique an argument that has been argued for in my two books that one ought to at least read them before trying to offer a reasonable critique of it, don't you think?"

You continue to emplore me to read your books. If you'd like to send my a free copy of the relevant material, I'll read it when I can.

I'm no longer a full-time philosopher. If I read philosophy I do it because I want to and feel the time and money spent will be worth the investment (relative to other ways of spending the time and money); that reading the work in question will improve my understanding of something significant and interesting in its own right. That doesn't mean that I only read books by Christians, by the way.

Put yourself in my shoes. I say that your beliefs don't pass test X and are therefore irrational. You ask what test X is. I point you to a couple of poorly written blog posts and when you criticise them I tell you that you should read my book on the subject. It's not very persuasive is it?

By the way, the idea that one should read everything before one can have something reasonable to say is simply absurd. (I realise I'm overstating your point here, but I don't think it matters.) Sure I'd be better informed if I read your stuff before commenting, and I can see why you might find it exasperating to respond to things which you feel you've dealt with elsewhere, but that does nothing to show that my comments or criticisms are misplaced.

Indeed, your refusal to respond in any detail makes me less inclined to purchase as you are doing nothing to make me think "Now here is an insightful thinker ... ".

Steve Lovell

Steve said...

More for John,

You write: "Do you disagree with me that there is no outside religious position from which an atheist can stand on to take the OTF? Scientology? Mormonism? Heaven's Gate? Which one is the "outside" position for an atheist? Simply answer the question, okay? It's an easy one. Just say yes or no, and explain why."

Again, I think this is quite funny. I've asked you several direct questions and you've refused to answer most of them.

I disagree with you. (I'm not sure if that is a "yes" or a "no", since you didn't finish with a yes/no question). There is an outside position. Indeed, there are many. Use them all. Or if you insist on using just one, use Christianity. Since atheism seems to be your outside position for the Christian, it is only natural that the atheists outside position should be Christianity.

However I don't think this is right. I don't think atheism is the outside position for the Christian. Why should I privelege atheism like that? Because it's my main psychologically plausible alternative? But you know better than I do the cultural pressures which make it seem plausible to me! You've written about that in your book(s), apparently.

I think there are many outsides. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Atheism, to name a few.

If you are really taking this seriously, I think you ought to take each of the above (plus a few more) and taking each in turn put yourself in the position of each and try to reason yourself back to where you are now. I still don't see why this would be any easier for the atheist than the Christian.

Now I do think that considerations like this can be unsettling and that they make us hold our beliefs more tentatively than we otherwise would, and that they make us more tolerant of those with whom we disagree, but that doesn't mean we should just all end up agnostic about it all. To think otherwise and apply this reasoning consistently would lead to outright scepticism not just about religion but about everything.

Enough for now.

Steve Lovell

Ken said...

John W. Loftus: I'd like to add something to that, re: worldviews. Even if you admit that strident atheism implies strong belief (that God is definitely and purely imaginary) with worldview implications, those implications are quite similar to a typical agnostic, who can't be said to have any true belief on the matter. The more strident atheists may be more ant-religion than agnostics but I don't see how there is any incompatibility between an atheist's approach to say, moral beliefs, and an agnostic's more explicitly tentative approach. If an agnostic's approach is tentative, then his lack of belief should be immune to any outsider test.

Put another way, if you are a God mythicist and your wife is a thoughtful agnostic, there is nothing to suggest in that epistemological difference that your worldviews will be incompatible or be a source of friction within the marriage. Atheism is entirely compatible with a lack of belief in that atheism implies nothing further than agnosticism. I don't see how one can get further away from non-belief or faith than atheism, except for agnosticism.

John W. Loftus said...

Ken, agreed, if there is any outside position for the strong atheist it is agnosticism. That is the default position from which anyone who moves off that default position has the burden of proof.

Cheers

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, sorry, no free books for you. Take up a collection if you're so inclined to do so, If not, not. The problem is that you have offered nothing by way of a strong criticism to the OTF and you don't know it, nor will you ever.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, you say I'm irrational. I have never thought that about you, Vic, or even Paul. My claim is that our differences are all about seeing things in a different light and that I have better reasons for how I see things. You're like a fish who cannot see the very water he swims in. I can see it. I have stepped out of the box and can see it for what it it. I have stepped out of Plato's cave and have seen the sun. Now the question for me is how to help the blind see. All I seem to be doing for most believers is poking them in the eye with my arguments. But poking them in the eye doesn't do anything to help them see, ya see. And yet that's all I have.

Those analogies do not mean I know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, either. For I can be as culturally blinded as anyone. It's just that when it comes to religions yes, I can see them for what they are, culturally produced sets of beliefs that are unnecessary and sometimes harmful in our evolution.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve said...Indeed, your refusal to respond in any detail...

What? Apart from pasting my book here what more do you ask for? Count the words and you'll see I have been more detailed with you than anyone would expect. There will always be further details, and further details, won't there, as I chase you down the rabbit's hole.

That just sounds to me like a lot of chest thumping.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve said: There is an outside position. Indeed, there are many. Use them all.

This places atheism in the category of a religion and that is a category mistake.

Atheism is not even a worldview. No matter how you define religion it must include supernatural forces or beings, and atheists deny them. If a Christian thinks atheism is a religion then please provide for us a definition of religion that applies both to Christianity and to its denial. Define it such that it applies to all groups that believe in the supernatural and also to groups that deny the supernatural. My guess is that any definition of religion that includes atheism will either deny the inherent supernaturalism of religions like Christianity, or will end up reducing religion to the lowest common denominator of a social grouping. Give it a go, okay? One lame attempt would be to say that atheism is a religion because it takes a position on metaphysical issues, I suppose, but then by the same token, as Dr. David Eller wrote: "If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby."

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, as I said on my blog Vic is a specialist. You probably are too. You're specialization is in philosophy, Christian philosophy. What do you do? You take conservative biblical scholarship as the truth (since you're not scholars in Biblical studies), and like Alvin Plantinga you see what can be made of these conservative theology that results from it.

But there is one scholar who has specialized in both Biblical studies and philosophy. his name is Jacobus Gericke and he started out like most students do as a conservative wanting to be an apologist. And Dr. Gericke argues that Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, who are not experts in Biblical scholarship represent nothing more than fundamentalism on stilts. Follow up on the link. It's free!!!

To acquaint you with biblical scholarship, since you haven't been impressed with me go to your local library and check out for free these two books: 1) The Evolution of God; and 2) The Case for God. They're both liberals, precisely because they understand the results of biblical scholarship. They do not go as far as I'd go though, but this would be a start.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve (and Vic), you both claim that you think there is value in approaching Christianity from a skeptical eye even though you think the OTF is flawed. Okay, Fine, although I still diagree.

Let's test what you say, okay? [I like tests, I guess] Do you do what you say? Read up on Biblical scholarship. Start with Dr. Gericke's link. Then read those two books I mentioned above and continue reading these books

You see, I doubt very much that you will. In fact, I know you won't. Is that indicative of a person who values examining his religion skeptically as you claim?

Hardly.

You do see my point. Admit it.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

lots of people leave their "home" relgions and join other religions (don't become atheists)
Don't these people take the outsider test?

As for critically examing your beliefs.. of course. Does anyone think one should not do so? sounds like a straw man to me.

Steve said...

John,

Thanks for the links. I'll go do some reading when time allows.

You think Vic and I are unwilling to examine the case against our own faith.

This is not the case. I have several atheistic volumes on my shelves, and would have more if time and money allowed. I will admit that I own quite a bit more that is sympathetic to Christianity than is against it, but then western culture is seeped in atheistic thinking, I don't need to do a great deal of reading to find my beliefs being challenged. It happens every day. I studied some biblical studies at university and all the professors were atheists. During my undergraduate and PhD studies in philosophy all my professors were atheists (bar one who was a Zen Buddist). I understand atheism and scepticial thinking very well. It's how I've been trained to think and were it not for the philosophical difficulties I see in atheism I'd almost certainly be an atheist. Far from not seeing the water I swim in, I do see it, and I'm swimming against the tide.

You say I haven't offered any strong criticism of the OTF. But you haven't actually responded to my criticisms except by pointing me to your book and to sound bites on Debunking Christianity. What now seems an age ago on this thread I listed three options for you in response to me. You seemed to take option (3). In short you think that whatever self-critical approach I've taken so far, it's not been enough to satisfy the OTF. But then you refuse to explain what further would be required. Or perhaps you think that nothing further is required, but that I haven't really done what I claim to have done ... that I'm saying the right things, and have understood the test, but I'm not being sufficiently honest with myself.

The fact that I'm still left with such questions shows that you still haven't made it remotely clear what we're even being asked to do. I've told you plenty about what I take myself to have done. Now you tell me ... if I have done those things, have I taken the test?

If yes, then I've passed the test. If no, then either (a) there is more to the test or (b) I'm self deluded in thinking I've done those things honestly.

If (a), please let us in on what that extra stuff is. If (b) then your position on the test is utterly unfalsifiable ... seems like a pretheoretic commitment to me.

Steve Lovell

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor's point with the old USSR, and most modern-day communist countries, is a great one.

It's just weird that an atheist would resist taking a critical perspective on their belief system, which is pretty much what the OT amounts to.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve obviously you haven't taken and passed the test yet, as you are still a Christian. Christians are all people who involuntarily swallowed the superstitions of their parents, and have yet to critically look at their beliefs. They are all extremely thoughtful and critical when it comes to other religions, such as Islam, but when it comes to Christianity they, without exception, insulate their own superstitions from the same critical spotlight.

There are zero exceptions to this, so the OTF must be taken for anyone that professes to be rational in their religious beliefs (except of course if they are an atheist, because as we all know calling atheism a religion is like calling not collecting stamps a hobby; and as we all know, nobody is an atheist just because their parents are atheists, nobody has ever been an unreflective and uncritical atheist, ever).

Hence and QED, you have either not yet taken the OTF, or do not have the requisite faculties to do so, in which case Christianity is probably the right place for you.

I say this not to be insulting, condescending, or presumptious, but unfortunately am just following throught he inevitable conclusions of cutting edge psychology, anthropology, and Biblical criticism.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve said: "You think Vic and I are unwilling to examine the case against our own faith."

Yes, but so what? What does that have to do with the standard of OTF? Have you approached your faith with the presumption that is is false like you do with all of the other faiths you reject? If we can agree on that as a standard then the discussion is ongoing. At least we can agree on the standard even if we will still disagree with the conclusions reached based on that standard. So plenty is still required, yes, but only if I care to pursue you down the rabbit hole, which I don't, not here anyway.

I'm merely asking believers to be self-critical about their faith with the same level of skepticism they use to reject other faiths. I'm asking blinded people to open their eyes. The fact that most of them will claim their faith passes the OTF is not the fault of the test. It's the best I can offer honest believers. Some of them will see it for what it is and find their faith to be false for the same reasons they reject other religions. Most of them will claim otherwise. Again, so what? What more are you looking for when seeking to objectively test one's faith?

The fact that you are still left with questions is because a) you have not become informed, and b) believers and non-believers will always think the other side has not sufficiently answered the questions posed to them. Sheesh.

So have you taken and passed the OTF? I provided a link to this. want to look at it again? here it is.

This is where the debate begins on the other side of the OTF, and I had already said that. Now we at least agree on a standard, the OTF, and so if I were to pursue this line of questioning with you I would ask you to defend your conclusions. I would still think and argue your faith has not passed the OTF, yes, but that is not the fault of the standard of the OTF. The fault is with you I would argue. You are deluded. That's what I think. I am not required to convince you that you are, you see. I make my arguments based on that standard and that's all I can do with enculturated people like yourself. So again, what's the problem?

And you can continue talking about the OTF as if its a pretheoretical commitment all you like, but it's not the case at all. I came up with the OTF after the Christian faith failed the Insider Test for Faith. If Christianity can fail the insider test for faith then it fails to pass the biggest test of them all (and I went through different stages from fundamentalism, evangelicalism, moderate evangelicalism, liberalism, agnosticism to atheism). And so, a fortiori it should be able to pass a less forceful test the OTF.

Now if you want to continue arguing that the test is a pretheoretical commitment then explain why Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith for me and then explain what a better tangible standard might be.

No chest thumping, please.

I do not expect us to come to an agreement anymore than I can expect a blind man to see. My arguments can only reach honest Christians. That's what I think. I can expect nothing more.

And for the record blue knight Devil is not informed about the OTF either. He admitted never reading my books.

GearHedEd said...

Gregory said,

"...People don't "follow" things that don't exist."

Tell that to the 2 billion or so Buddhists in the world, and see if they find your argument compelling.

GearHedEd said...

Paul Manata said,

"...it is clear that (Loftus) treats the probability of any arbitrarily selected religious belief as equipossible. He asserts that the "probability" that any particular religion is false, is high. He treats the religion you have as gained by chance. He thinks of religions like marbles in an urn that you reach into and pull one out, by "luck" or "chance." However, if one of the marbles was as large as a baseball, would the probability that you pulled it out of the urn be the same as the probabilty that you pulled out any other one? Hardly. Loftus doesn't argue for this key assumption of his."

June 25, 2010 1:50 PM

Item by item:

"it is clear that (Loftus) treats the probability of any arbitrarily selected religious belief as equipossible."

Absolutely not. Loftus' arguments all rest on the non-arbitrary cultural influences based on geography of the particular believer; and while this isn't true in ALL cases, it IS for the vast majority. In other words, there's statistically NO chance you'll become a Buddhist if you're born in South America.

"He asserts that the "probability" that any particular religion is false, is high."

And so do you. You believe in only one religion, and all the others are wrong. This reduces your particular religion to an outlier on the bell curve of belief.

"He treats the religion you have as gained by chance."

Only in the sense that it was a crap shoot as to WHERE you were born, and ONLY in that regard. Once you're born, there is a high correlation between culture, family, and religion. Not "chance", in the sense you imply.

"He thinks of religions like marbles in an urn that you reach into and pull one out, by "luck" or "chance"."

If this were true, then we would expect to find a random distribution of religions that would be represented by very small sample populations. For instance, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, we would be able to see a city block that has all the major and most of the minor religions represented within the space of that block, and all blocks anywhere in the world would look similar. This is obviously ludicrous.

"However, if one of the marbles was as large as a baseball, would the probability that you pulled it out of the urn be the same as the probabilty that you pulled out any other one? Hardly."

Which one of the world's religions is as large as a baseball as compared to a marble? What are you implying here? That Christianity is the baseball? If so, you expose your bias. That the right one to grasp is the biggest? Then Christianity fails, because it's not the "biggest". That you think there's more truth in Christianity? Again, the bias is evident.

"Loftus doesn't argue for this key assumption of his."

Pot calling the kettle black, anyone? Paul's analogy is chock full of assumptions he didn't even realize he was making, and THAT'S why the OTF is a valid exercise.

If you reject Mohammed flying over Jerusalem on a white horse in his final journey to heaven because it's an outrageous story with "no evidence" (the Holy Qu'ran notwithstanding), then You have no ground to stand on when claiming the resurrection.

GearHedEd said...

BDK said,

"...It's just weird that an atheist would resist taking a critical perspective on their belief system, which is pretty much what the OT amounts to."

Not really. If we take the position that god doesn't exist as a given, there's no fantasy involved in what atheists believe, but if we want to swallow the Bible in one gulp,...

There's just WAAAAY too much fantastic stuff in there, without any real corroborating evidence to back it up.

Eric said...

"Yes, but so what? What does that have to do with the standard of OTF? Have you approached your faith with the presumption that is is false like you do with all of the other faiths you reject?"

John, but if this is the standard, then why can't we say, as you've said we cannot, that a Christian (or whatever) who *was* an atheist, and who did at one time conclude that all faiths were false or probably false, but who was persuaded largely by arguments and evidence that Christianity is true or probably true, *has* taken and passed the OTF (whether he was aware of it or not)?

As I said, such a person doesn't *attempt* to adopt the position of an outsider, but *is in fact* an outsider. The common objections to my position here -- but he was raised in a Christian culture, but he wasn't really an atheist, but he held other philosophical positions sympathetic to Christian theism -- strike me as hollow, since they could also be applied to almost *anyone* who explicitly takes the test in a Christian culture and claims to come out the other side with his Christian faith intact.

In other words, these objections stack the OTF deck in a way you claim isn't the case, since they lead to the conclusion that we can only confidently judge those who reject the dominant faith of their culture (whether they become atheists or not) to have 'really' taken the OTF, while every other case remains dubious. But this is patently absurd. Take Smith and Jones: Smith takes the OTF in the most cursory manner imaginable, and concludes after no serious reflection that his faith is bunk (I'm reminded of Mrs. Garrison's response to "Dawkins's" arguments on South Park: "You're right! It's so simple! God is a spaghetti monster! Oh thank you, my eyes are opened! Hey everyone, I'm an atheist!"), while Jones takes the OTF seriously, reads the most challenging books, and works as hard as possible to start with the presumption that his faith is probably false, but ultimately concludes that it is better evidenced than any alternative positions he's studied. This is ridiculous, no? But it's where your claims about the OTF lead us.

Further, suppose Smith no longer thinks any position other than agnosticism is possibly tenable, while Jones remains open to being shown that he's wrong. In other words, not only has Jones taken the OTF, but he continues to practice the epistemic virtues we should all admire. But still, you'd be forced to conclude, given all you've said, that Smith has taken the test and Jones has failed.

In short, if the OTF *as you've formulated it* doesn't provide us with criteria for concluding that (1) Smith hasn't 'really' taken the OTF, and (2) Jones has 'really' taken the OTF, and I don't think it does (I see a lot of 'Smiths' on your website, and I don't think anyone has ever acknowledged that a 'Jones' even exists -- and N.B. that a Jones is someone who has 'really' taken the OTF and come through with his faith intact), then it seems to me as if the OTF is far too vague to do the heavy lifting you claim it's capable of doing.

Until the OTF is formulated in such a way that it's obvious, when looking at its criteria, that Smith hasn't taken it and that Jones has (and that if Jones has, then, a fortiori, an atheist who becomes a believer has), it's just not clear enough to do any real work in these discussions.

GearHedEd said...

@ Eric

There's more than just Smith and Jones.

If we start with categories:

Believer and atheist,

Add:

Well in informed vs. poorly informed,

And consider outcomes:

sustains belief vs. sustains atheism,

Then there's eight possibilities, and you've defined two.

just saying...

Eric said...

Ed, who in the world said there are only two possibilities? I set forth two examples that were purposefully extremes to make my point more clearly. I take it as obvious Smith didn't take the OTF and as equally obvious that Jones did (ceteris paribus); that's the point of contrasting the two. But if the OTF cannot account for obvious examples, how can it account for the bulk of possibilities, most of which won't be nearly so obvious?

Now do you see the point?

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, why am I supposed to provide criteria for whether or not someone has taken and passed the OTF? Given the nature of religious faith I know of no silver bullet that can make the religious person to see, so I make no claims that the OTF is the same kind of test that a scientist would propose, although I do claim it's based on some solid research in the sciences.

It is the best and only test I know of for a person to be self-reflective about his faith. It's like I'm asking people to do some exercise during the week, or asking them to practice the piano or asking them to think positively, or even to be more humble, or thinking deeply about an argument. It's up to them to do it and no one can force them to do so. If they claim they have done so dishonestly there is nothing I can do about it, except ask them what they did and help them see some errors in their calculations or in their day calendars.

Let's use the example of telling someone to think through an argument, okay? After a week of doing this a High School student comes back and says he has. What to do? Has he? Probably not, not the way you or I would do so. [I'm NOT saying this is about education so the analogy fails on that point only]. But the only way any of these examples can even be modestly achieved is to ask people to be self-reflective about what they think and offer them a standard to do so; so I do. Along with it I point out what the sciences tell us, and I do.

The point is the standard of the OTF itself. You have it. Others have it. We all have it. But you do not use that same standard when thinking about your own faith. That's the point of the "exercise." And as I've said, once a person says he has passed the OTF then we have agreed upon a standard for deciding these issues. And THAT'S making real progress I'd love to carry on a discussion with someone like that any day over someone who thinks it's legitimate to punt to faith or to the mere possibilities time after time after time to defend what they were raised to believe. Adopting the standard of the OTF will cause many people who never thought about their faith like this to see quite plainly their faith is false, even though most others will continue to kick against the goads and dishonestly claim their faith passes the test.

That's what I think, although I do not think people are consciously dishonest in how they approach and defend their faiths at all. It happens on a subconscious level.

Cheers

GearHedEd said...

Call my understanding incomplete if you must, but the statement

"In other words, these objections stack the OTF deck in a way you claim isn't the case, since they lead to the conclusion that we can only confidently judge those who reject the dominant faith of their culture (whether they become atheists or not) to have 'really' taken the OTF, while every other case remains dubious."

You're keying on results here, Eric. The OTF is a test, not a foregone conclusion, and when John says stuff like (loosely quoted) "I don't think any religion would pass the OTF", he's expressing his opinion. Now, it might look like hubris to say such things, but I take John at face value when he says that he's a former Christian apollogist, with proper credentials. If anyone could be said to have a right to opinions here, it would be John.

Furthermore, as I understand it, the OTF doesn't require one to "reject the dominant faith" as a premise. It's an appeal to critically examine one's chosen belief in the same manner as we critically (and sometimes emotionally) examine belief systems we don't subscribe to. John has said many times that there's nothing within the test that determines the outcome, buit that he's of the OPINION that no religions can or will pass the test.

GearHedEd said...

Eric said,

"...I set forth two examples that were purposefully extremes to make my point more clearly."

The two examples you chose (the poor;y informed atheist who remains an atheist, and the well-informed Christian who remains a Christian) expose your bias.

THAT'S why I pointed it out.

Now do you see the point?

Blue Devil Knight said...

John: John you keep promoting your book: does the argument somehow become compelling when it is presented in a book rather than on the internet?

I just read the chapter from the book, and there is nothing particularly new that isn't on your web site. The argument isn't hard to understand.

It's great to get people to think critically and logically, to examine their assumptions and biases inherited from their culture and family. It's intellectually healthy to go through a period of skepticism about their inherited beliefs (this is generally true whether they be religious, political, scientific, or other beliefs).

Your argument is mereley a species of this extremely banal fact. You focus on religious belief in particular, pointing out the sociological fact that people tend to believe what others around them believe.

Sure, let's be skeptical about our religious beliefs and see if they survive. Commendable, but not particularly mind-blowing or suggesting a particular conclusion (unless there is question-begging going on).

So generally, this argument is not hard to understand. It ain't brain science.

So, given that this argument is rather simple and easy to understand (i.e., people arn't just being dense), it is pretty clear that folks are merely objecting to the further claim that Christianity cannot survive such a skeptical eyeballing.

That's where the hard work starts. It isn't with convincing people to take a skeptical or critical eye. Maybe that's what it's like at Back Hole Nondenominational Crazy Church in Bumhole, Mississippi, but not here. Not with people that have been following these threads.

This "test" is a starting point, it doesn't have a substantive conclusion without a ton of further work. You should be presenting it as an invitation to look critically, not an actual argument with the conclusion.

Blue Devil Knight said...

What I would say, John, is that 'Here is a good reason to think critically'. Then read chapters 6-22 of your book as a kind of "guided skeptical tour" of Christianity. That's the main problem with you promoting the OTF as an argument rather than a method. It's a starting point, not something that actually demonstrates anything until you've done the work of doing the critical thinking.

GearHedEd said...

The statement "Agnosticism is the default positon" has undeniable merit.

Before language and history, primitive man "didn't know" anything. That's why, when he started to ask qestions, he only got answers of the category "god" in pre-scientific times.

We know a lot more about the nature of things now, and the need to ascribe mysterious supernatural agency to the things we "don't know" is seen by many as a failing.

Considering the universal merits of scientific explanations vs. the arbitrary caprices and fiats of gods, the only course I can truthfully see is to set aside religion, and investigate more phenomena. The other option is to say "God dod it, and we can't know any more".

GearHedEd said...

BDK said,

"...So, given that this argument is rather simple and easy to understand (i.e., people arn't just being dense), it is pretty clear that folks are merely objecting to the further claim that Christianity cannot survive such a skeptical eyeballing."

and,

"It's great to get people to think critically and logically, to examine their assumptions and biases inherited from their culture and family. It's intellectually healthy to go through a period of skepticism about their inherited beliefs (this is generally true whether they be religious, political, scientific, or other beliefs)."

It IS intellectually healthy to question belief, and all of us should question. But folks AREN'T merely objecting to the further claim that Christianity cannot survive such a skeptical eyeballing. They're objecting to questioning it (skeptically eyeballing it) in the first place. They're unwilling to subject cherished belief to such examination.

John W. Loftus said...

BDK. I am making two claims. I'm offering the OTF as a standard and I'm also claiming no religious faith can pass it. Why can't I do this? What exactly is wrong with that?

We cannot simply ask people to be objective, fair and openminded. Believers already think they are being objective because they can't see that they are not! Just look at how confident some Muslims are that they are being objective. Some of them are so certain they're objective about their faith they are willing to fly planes into buildings. Ask them if they’re objective and it would be a no brainer for them. But ask them to subject their own faith to the same level of skepticism they use to reject other faiths and THAT will get their attention. Since we cannot pluck out their eyes we must offer them a shocking test, one that may help get them out of their dogmatic slumbers like nothing else can do. And they will object as strenuously as they can to the OTF because they know their faith does not pass that test.

That's my claim. That's why almost every believer I've ever talked to first tries to exempt himself from the OTF, then when I press my case they finally admit that they accept the test and go on to claim their faith passes the test.

So maybe you could explain why believers initially object to the OTF if it's a mere banal fact that "is not hard to understand"? If so, then why do they kick against the goads until finally seeing no way out finally embrace such a banal test?

Furthermore, what's wrong with presenting this test to people from "Back Hole Nondenominational Crazy Church in Bumhole, Mississippi,"as well as to Steve Lowell or Vic Reppert? Are they immune any more than others.

Were you here when I claimed that as far as I can tell Christianity is no more probable than Scientology? So what difference does it make to me whether I'm dealing with a scholar of Scientology or your "Back Hole Nondenominational Crazy Scientologist Church in Los Angeles, CA?

GearHedEd said...

That should read,

"God dood it, and we can't know any more".

Eric Thomson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GearHedEd said...

Actually, there's a criterion I missed:

There's more than just Smith and Jones.

If we start with categories:

Believer and atheist,

Add awareness level:

Well informed vs. poorly informed,

Mix in:

Didn't really take the test vs. Really did take the test,

And consider outcomes:

sustains belief vs. sustains atheism,

Then there's sixteen possibilities.

Blue Devil Knight said...

John: I think people object because of the way you present it.

First, let me say I realize there are people out there who are totally uncritical, even stupidly uncritical. I live in North Carolina, for goodness' sake I see 'Bible Said I, I believe it, That settles it' bumper stickers every day. I've argued with people who try to use the Bible to establish the general reliability of the Bible.

So I realize the need to convince folks to even begin taking a critical eye. I just think you aren't doing it very effectively, because you are tending to conflate the charge to think critically with the results of such thinking.

I think if you posed it more like I did, people would be more receptive, be willing to then follow you where the real work is, in actually examining the concrete details, pointing that critical eye at the resurrection and such.

You are right it is a two step process, but I think the first step, of convincing people to even take the test, to shine that skeptical light, requires a bit more finesse and honey. And you act as if it is a foregone conclusion once someone does take that step. It isn't.

Your argument would be much more effective if you were more clear on the steps involved, and didn't act as if merely by agreeing to think critically you were dooming your faith.

Step one: convince them to look over their faith with a skeptical eye. There are tons of good reasons to do this.

Step two: walk them through this critical analysis (e.g., of the resurrection) based on all your research.

When you mush the two together it rightly annoys people.

John W. Loftus said...

Perhaps so BDK, but I think I already do. You said you read my chapter. Do you think I do so there more so than here? I am always conscious of who my audience is when I write my books, it's the university level Christian, not the scholar and not Joe six-pack Christian.

I don't deal well with ignorant comments coming from someone who has never read much of what I write, and that's what I faced here with Steve. He's too brainwashed to agree with me anyway so I write for people listening in to our discussion. Perhaps they can be reached. Steve cannot. I admit it.

Eric said...

"It is the best and only test I know of for a person to be self-reflective about his faith. It's like I'm asking people to do some exercise during the week, or asking them to practice the piano or asking them to think positively, or even to be more humble, or thinking deeply about an argument. It's up to them to do it and no one can force them to do so. If they claim they have done so dishonestly there is nothing I can do about it, except ask them what they did and help them see some errors in their calculations or in their day calendars."

John, thanks, this is helpful. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that the OTF isn't a test in the strict sense, with established criteria, standards and measurable outcomes, but is more like an intentionally vague admonition. In other words, the OTF is more analogous to, "If you want to be healthy, you should eat properly and exercise," and we can debate whether a person has done so after he accepts the conditional, than it is to, "If you want to be healthy, you should eat such and such [in detail], follow this very specific exercise program, and, if you do, you should weigh this much, have this body fat percentage, meet these fitness specific criteria (e.g. bench press your own body weight ten times, run 3 miles in under 24 minutes, etc.)."

Is that accurate?

John W. Loftus said...

Yes that's correct, Eric, so thanks for your continued probing. I can say it this way though: If you want to really test your religious faith then take the OTF. The OTF is like a standard from which to test one's faith against. Such a standard acts like a personal test to see if a person of faith can reasonably hold on to her faith or not.

Eric said...

"Yes that's correct, Eric, so thanks for your continued probing."

You're welcome, John, and thank you for your patience and for your responses. At least now I think I understand what you are and aren't saying about the nature of the OTF. I still have some concerns, but they're a bit inchoate now, so I'll get back to you when I've worked them out a bit more clearly.

Nathan said...

The Atheist's Outsider Test of Faith - Part the First

I'm happy to give it a whirl, and see where it leads me. I adopt some mathematical terms, used loosely, 'cause that's what I do.

AXIOM - Existence.
There are Gods or a singular God. By 'God', I mean an omniscient omnipotent eternal entity.
So far, this seems reasonable, no obvious issues pop up in that this statement seems compatible with my experience and knowledge.

AXIOM - Observability.
At least one of these Gods have clearly and unambiguously revealed themselves to humanity.
Well, no omniscient, omnipotent eternal entities have revealed themselves to _me_, but then I'm hardly all of humanity. There are a quite a few persons who do claim such direct revelation. I do have to wonder why THEY would be privileged so over ME. I mean, I'm just this guy, ya know?, but ... by the standards of an omniscient omnipotent benign eternal entity so is every person who has ever been or will be. It's not as if an omniscient omnipotent benign eternal entity is going to run out of time, patience, or the ability to reveal itself to each and every person - and in fact it would be no more difficult for an omniscient omnipotent benign eternal entity to reveal itself to every person than to a single person. Hmmm. This seems puzzling. I'm not going to call it a dealbreaker, but ... it's a problem, and I'm not going to conceal it. Still, maybe there IS a reason, it's concievable, so I will simply posit as my very first required THEOREM (in otherwise, my AXIOMS require this to be consistent).

THEOREM: Direct revelation of God is not experienced by all humans. Proof: At least one God exists (Axiom of Existence). At least one God reveals itself to humans (Axiom of Observability). FACT: No God has clearly and unambiguously revealed itself to me.
Argument: I am part of humanity. God has not revealed itself to me. Therefore, God does not reveal itself to all humans.
Admittedly I'm playing very loose with the set-theoretic framework, but I'm not playing with self-referential sets, so I'm OK with it.

At this point, I've gone about as far as I can on first-principle-framework kind of things, so let's take some further ideas about this God and see how they work out.

Nathan said...

(continued)

POSTULATE: There is a God is perfectly good.
I have a friend whose child died, at age three, of fairly painful cancer. Is that compatible with an omniscient omnipotent eternal entity that is perfectly good? In fact, similar scenarios play out across the world, and have played out, for eons. Can an entity, who has the capability to prevent, reverse or undo such events be said to be 'good' or 'especially good'? No, this doesn't work for me. So, maybe God doesn't know about it - but that has problems with the AXIOM OF EXISTENCE, which states that God is omniscient (all-knowing). So, maybe God is prevented from doing so, by another God or some other limitation - but again, our AXIOM OF EXISTENCE states that God is omnipotent, so ... either I toss this postulate, or remove 'omniscient' and/or 'omnipotent' from the AXIOM OF EXISTENCE. So this postulate fails.

POSTULATE: God desires worship.
Weird. Why would an omniscient omnipotent eternal entity desire worship? I mean, that just seems random to me. Still, let's check it out ... after all, there are many folks who claim God had directly revealed himself clearly and unambiguously to them, and part of that revelation is a desire for worship. In fact, the vast majority of God-believers seem to agree on this one. Nothing seems to violate the axioms above, so this postulate SUCCEEDS. It does, however, open a lot more questions of why such a God would desire worship.

Nathan said...

POSTULATE: God has laid down a consistent, unambiguous revelation.
Let's take three sets of possible revelations: the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran, and Buddhist scripture.
Judeo-Christian: Epic, epic fail. There are hundreds and thousands of Jewish and Christian splinter belief systems that are in large part contradictory. Slavery, for example, is morally good in some of them (Southern Baptist, time of founding) and not in others (Episcopalian, today). Even in existing Christian churches there are disagreements over what revelation is, what it means, and how to read it. So, neither Christian or Jewish faith is consistent with this postulate.
Muslim: Epic fail. Sunni. Shi'ite. Muslim revelation is no more consistent with this postulate than Christian.
Buddhist: Not promising. I don't know a lot about Buddhist scripture, but I do see a huge number of variants, which argues against a consistent, unambiguous revelation.
Other: The Latter-Day-Saints incorporate the judeo-christian bible, with all of its evident ambiguity, along with the Moroni revelation. And there are splinter Mormon sects, too.
Scientology might work, except ... I don't think Dianetics makes claims of God or claims to come from God.
None of these seem to be consistent with this postulate.

POSTULATE: God has laid down a clear and unambiguous moral code / system of morality.
Well, since this would require a 'consistent, unambiguous revelation'. I've already dismissed such a revelation from God itself, but perhaps there is an underlying morality? There do seem to be moral consistencies from culture to culture, but ... there are serious disagreements, as well. If God did create a 'consistent unambiguous' moral code or system, one would expect that there would be no (or few) morally ambiguous situations, in the sense of questioning the difference of the 'most moral' action. This is, after all, an omniscient and omnipotent entity, capable of creating such a code that would be clear even in the most difficult situations. I am unaware of such moral or ethical system, and indeed there is much argument over ethical dilemmas among philosophers of ethics and bioethics. I conclude there is no such system, and this postulate fails.

POSTULATE: God will damn those who do not believe in its revelations and / or follow its moral code to eternal and terrible punishment.
Even if the above two postulates held (a 'clear unambiguous moral code' and 'clear and unambiguous revelation'), this seems like a strange belief. If there were clear and unambiguous revelation and morality, wouldn't it make more sense to provide immediate correction rather than wait for a person to die before inflicting such non-proportionate torment? Alternately, perhaps God is insane, and delights in inflicting punishment. But punishment could just as easily be inflicted for no good reason on earth. Given the scope and distribution of natural disasters, perhaps it is. As a final cap to the existence of each person's life, that person is then condemned to eternal punishment, Christians for failing to be Muslim, and everyone else for failing to be Christian, and their screams and pleas for mercy delight a cruel, capricious, omnipotent and omniscient entity. Maybe, but ... life on earth, while painful and ghastly in some places, is not uniformly so, and offers pleasures as well that are inconsistent with such a cruel and vindictive deity.
I'm going to say that this postulate COULD be accepted as an axiom, but that it leads to the conclusion of a deity who cannot be understood by rational humanity, and who by such standards would be insane.

************

So far, the only thing that stands up to possibility is 'God desires worship'. But even that, in the light of God's failure to provide details of how this worship is supposed to happen (no clear unambiguous revelation) seems shakier.

DL said...

Nathan: "No, this doesn't work for me." ... "the only thing that stands up to possibility" ...

Wait, so an "outsider test" defines "possibility" as something that "does it for me"? Seriously?? I don't see how anyone could ever fail it.

DL said...

"There are zero exceptions to this, so the OTF must be taken for anyone that professes to be rational in their religious beliefs (except of course if they are an atheist, because nobody has ever been an unreflective and uncritical atheist, ever). Hence and QED, you have either not yet taken the OTF, or do not have the requisite faculties to do so, in which case Christianity is probably the right place for you."

or:

"Have you approached your faith with the presumption that is is false like you do with all of the other faiths you reject? I'm asking blinded people to open their eyes. Most of them will claim otherwise. The fault is with you I would argue. You are deluded. That's what I think. I am not required to convince you that you are, you see."

...which one is the witty satire, and which one is the, uh, serious argument? Can you tell the difference?

(Incidentally, it seems to me that BDK just passed a mini-outsider test.)

Breckmin said...

Does anyone really truly honestly believe that they can instantaneously assume that everything they believe is somehow false? And be truly sincere?

This is why the OTF is so meaningless. Not only does it NOT address truth itself and accumulative case argument...but it also expects you to forget everything that you have experienced with respect to the Creator and somehow claim to be objective.

No one is able to erase their memory and start over. This is naive and completely unrealistic.

Agenda, agents of deception and unlikely possibilities and inductions all play a part of rejecting the clear logic of a Creator.

Assumptions + Observations/Data = Conclusion.

If humankind is depraved, then how can he/she ever be objective? There will always be an agenda to reject God and it is diametrically opposed to the innate sense that there IS a God in your consciousness. This complicates it even more.

It is all about the battle...and if you don't believe/know you are in a battle then you are going to lose.

Breckmin said...

"I am just as cocksure I am right about your Christian faith as you are in rejecting the Muslim or Jehovah's Witnesses faiths. But that's where our agreed level of confidence ends."

The problem with this reasoning is that it completely fails to identify specifics. You, John Loftus, are completely disagreeing that the God of Abraham is the One True God whereas born-again Christians, JW's and Muslims all agree that there is this Creator.
You can NOT just generalize about "faith." This fails to identify theism vs atheism.

We have already discussed empirical evidence that first leads us to agnostic theism. This is based on scientific observation that is falsifiable and independent (although it corroborates) of the Hebrew scriptures or early Christian writings.

You may try and address Eastern religions which are considered to be historically *pagan* and directly contrary to the covenant that God made with Abraham....but any religious faith that flows from the Abrahamic God MUST deal with the internal specifics of why we disagree with SPECIFIC doctrine.

Generalizing about disagreeing does NOT address *why* we disagree and what specific things lead to a relationship with Christ.

It is all about Jesus. No other historical figure either saves you or condemns you. Question everything.

Breckmin said...

"I do have to wonder why THEY would be privileged so over ME."

THEY wonder the same thing... THEY know that they are no better than any of the other billions of "ME"'s in the world.

But THEY can not ignore/dismiss their relationship and experiences with this Holy Creator Who has given them such incredible grace.

Breckmin said...

@Nathan

I like the way in which you laid out an honest assessment of the way in which you approach Christianity rationally, but there are several things which need to be addressed.
There is no equal opportunity in this universe. We are all affected by other people's choices.
There is basically "no such thing as cosmic fairness" so when you look at the concept of "why doesn't God reach everyone equally?" you are immediately appealing to a concept of "fairness" that is non-existent.

Often times pastors will make the statement "There is nothing fair about grace." Clearly God's mercy is not fair in the sense of equal opportunity to all who were before Jesus died on the Cross, or all of those who have never heard of the gospel. But IF fairness is not observable anywhere in the universe, then how is it a logical objection?

Another thing I like to address is "God will damn those who do not believe in its revelations and / or follow its moral code to eternal and terrible punishment."

1. no one will follow the moral code perfectly...so we ALL fall short.
2. God doesn't damn us exactly for not believing in revelations (although this is the end result) but rather God doesn't "save you" when you don't specifically believe in the Sacrifice of Jesus dying on the Cross for your sin.

This is BECAUSE of "objective guilt of the Law." We are all guilty of this objective guilt and on our "way" to being judged as a result of consequences for our actions (which everything in life teaches us that there are consequences involving laws).
You can not isolate this from the Holiness of God which can not tolerate sin. Neither can you isolate this from the eternal existence of a human being being created in God's Conscious Image...neither can you isolate this from the nature of sin itself and how it would exist as a mockery against a Holy God if it were not dealt with by perfection.
There are other connected premises which I can point to which make it logical for hell to be eternal. If we over simplify and isolate on punishment we will miss the dynamic of how sin/disobedience is a violation against God's Holy Nature as well as the concept of consequences for specific actions.

3. There is also the aspect of relationship and particularly humility and conviction which would be a much longer and detailed discussion. I understand that the end result is the same with respect to "belief" - BUT - you can not love God without trusting Him.

Gandolf said...

Blue Devil Knight said... "Victor's point with the old USSR, and most modern-day communist countries, is a great one.

It's just weird that an atheist would resist taking a critical perspective on their belief system, which is pretty much what the OT amounts to."

-----------------------

Hi Blue Devil Knight.I`d say most atheist do actually do a kind RAW and ever ready OTF quite often.I mean seriously how many atheist? do you think there would be, purposly trying to hide away from being exposed to any evidence for Gods.

Id say most athiests even ones claiming to be complete athiests as opposed to only claiming to be agnostic,would still spend time on the outlook for any evidence for existence of Gods.

Of course they do.Crikey even scientist look for and report evidence on TV.Atheists would need to shut their eyes,before they can actually be honestly accused as not being on the lookout for evidence of Gods.

Plenty of evidence of the "non existence" of God is available universally though,So far not even the hubble telescope has been able to capture even one picture of Gods or even evidence of them.Everywhere in this whole world ! the complete "non existence" of Gods, is blatantly obviously observable! to absolutely everyone! whos willing to open their own eyes and observe it for themselves.Nobody sees Gods.

A raw form of the OTF = Gods cannot have their pics taken.None.Nada.Zilch

Outside further than that OTF then a atheist must then go face a barriage of faith books! and all many of conflicting theorys and dogma and memes and live and behave in certain ways etc etc = Culture

Blue Devil i suggest most likely most Atheist take a raw type of OTF, quite often.They are not frighten to.And when they do,straight away its plainly obvious they hit a universal endless wall of culture sprinkled faiths

Nathan said...

Hello:

DL: I will simply assume that you had difficulty translating "doesn't do it for me" to "seems improbable." Given the context, it seems clear to me, but then I hardly claim to be an omniscient or omnipotent entity. I am sorry if my informal approach was confusing.

Breckman: I am not trying to approach Christianity specifically rather than monotheism in general. My comments about eternal punishment are as much a refutation of the Islamic sort of monotheism as Christian (or any other monotheistic religion that believes in eternal punishment).

I was approaching this OTF as attempting to define what sort of deity might pass my skepticism - and I ruled out a benign one.

If it is your claim that Christianity implies that everyone is damned to Hell unless they accept Jesus, that means practically every dead child under the age of, oh, eighteen months at a minimum, is so damned. Although such a God and case cannot be ruled out, I maintain that this is consistent only with an irrational deity who cannot be understood by humans (insane).

Privileged revelation: I did not dismiss it on that basis (although I find it telling). I dismissed based on the failure to be 'clear and unambiguous.' Millions of persons claiming to be Christian (Muslims) disagree on the meaning and nature of the New Testament and Gospels (Koran). Why should I delve into the disputed details? Why do they matter? 'Jesus alone saves' - there are persons who call themselves Christians who disagree with even that. You are welcome to say they aren't 'real Christians', and only Christians who pass your dogma test are 'real Christians' but I think that just illustrates the point: there is no 'Christian Faith', there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of 'Christian Faiths' now and historically.

Many thanks for reading my commentary and your response.

Nathan

N

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said... "Does anyone really truly honestly believe that they can instantaneously assume that everything they believe is somehow false? And be truly sincere?

This is why the OTF is so meaningless. Not only does it NOT address truth itself and accumulative case argument...but it also expects you to forget everything that you have experienced with respect to the Creator and somehow claim to be objective.

No one is able to erase their memory and start over. This is naive and completely unrealistic.

Agenda, agents of deception and unlikely possibilities and inductions all play a part of rejecting the clear logic of a Creator.

Assumptions + Observations/Data = Conclusion."
---------------------

Breckmin yes you do if you dont want to get stuck in a cultural rut.You need to assume it all false,and first ask yourself why you should even have reason to even "need" to go allow yourself to be indoctrinated and influenced by some specialist theory! .Why do you even need that Culture part?.

As a atheist you dont need use of anybody elses theory, to simply take look around yourself, and always observe no Gods are seen to exist.

Making
1,faith = Cultural
2,Atheism = universal personal observation

Breckmin said..."This is why the OTF is so meaningless"

Meaningless?

You can claim it meaningless all you wish Breckmin.Be our guest.

But claiming it meaningless is very short of proving it is actually meaningless.

The fact remains you need to be indoctrinated into faith its a cultural thing.You yourself argue for indoctrination,by trying to claim nobody should be expected to quote:..>"assume that everything they believe is somehow false? And be truly sincere?"<.....The idea worries you right?..Breckmin if any agenda of deception exists,it the deception that requires deception of indoctrination!...And faiths are liturally riddled with it....Whats more you here argue for special "right" to use it.

Thats a type of right of passive brainwashing


Atheism is by universal natural "personal" observation.No worrys,just keep your eyes open and observe it for "yourself".Does God exist? No ..not so far..I cant see any evidence..

Proving even "your" God Breckmin, seems it might reside entirely within the indocrination/culture part

Breckmin "question everything" you remember??

Brecmin said.."Assumptions + Observations/Data = Conclusion."

No Breckmin..Best kept Observations/Data = Conclusion.

Cut out culture and indoctrination.As soon as Gods are assumed it becomes a type of culture/indoctrination thing.

Do you "personally" see honest evidence for God Breckmin?.Can you provide observable evidence?...Yes?..No?

Or does your God seem to exist entirely within your indoctrination/culture/theory?

OTF

Breckmin said...

"If it is your claim that Christianity implies that everyone is damned to Hell unless they accept Jesus, that means practically every dead child under the age of, oh, eighteen months at a minimum, is so damned."

There are various positions on this, even with respect to Jesus Followers(born-again Christians).
Many believe that babies do not yet make choices so that is why they are not judged, etc. Others believe in an age of accountability, and others believe in infant baptism and raising a child within the family communis, etc.
Some in the early church believed that the young children of born-again Christians were saved and that the unbeliever's children were not being raised in the knowledge of Christ and within the family communis and therefore anathema. Infant baptism became a historical practice because of the seriousness of hell.

I do not claim personally to know whether all babies go to heaven like so many evangelicals. That is God's decision, not mine. I don't witness and proclaim the gospel to babies... I focus on those whom I can attempt to reason with.

Breckmin said...

"Do you "personally" see honest evidence for God Breckmin?"

Yes, absolutely.

"Can you provide observable evidence?...Yes?..No?"

Yes. The information sequences we see in genome clearly come from Intelligence. You can not over simplify "complexity" and fail to deal with the arrangement itself and the processes which fascilitate biochemical functions.

This is just one of three or four observable evidences that first lead us to agnostic theism. This doesn't identify the God of Abraham (that is a different accumulative case argument), but it does clearly point to a Creator or in this case an Informant.

Gandolf said...

Eric said..."Smith takes the OTF in the most cursory manner imaginable, and concludes after no serious reflection that his faith is bunk (I'm reminded of Mrs. Garrison's response to "Dawkins's" arguments on South Park: "You're right! It's so simple! God is a spaghetti monster! Oh thank you, my eyes are opened! Hey everyone, I'm an atheist!"), while Jones takes the OTF seriously, reads the most challenging books, and works as hard as possible to start with the presumption that his faith is probably false, but ultimately concludes that it is better evidenced than any alternative positions he's studied. This is ridiculous, no? But it's where your claims about the OTF lead us.

Further, suppose Smith no longer thinks any position other than agnosticism is possibly tenable, while Jones remains open to being shown that he's wrong. In other words, not only has Jones taken the OTF, but he continues to practice the epistemic virtues we should all admire. But still, you'd be forced to conclude, given all you've said, that Smith has taken the test and Jones has failed."
----------------

Eric you discribe

1,one person named Smith, who took a rough raw and very down to earth type test.And concluded he saw no evidence of Gods ..So far

2 Next you describe Jones a person who takes a more refined edition of the OTF , im picking he needs to read lots of books and listen to speakers and maybe even go and live amonst a certain special group of human and become involve in their practices etc.

Smith seems to have been subjected to far less method of indoctrination/culture

I would say Smiths OTF would have more chance of being closer to Truth.

Because if Gods exist.The surely there must not really be that many honest good reasons why Gods should have any need to try to obscure themselves from us humans in general.Specially not if they really honestly wish us "all" to be having faith in them.

Meaning to have faith,often first we really need to take on board some particular indoctrination/culture/theory like your man Jones did.

But Jones dont anything to prove much about any God,no Jones really only proves far more! about the presense of the very strong influencial effect of indoctrinatin/culture/theory that hangs around faith beliefs.

Breckmin said...

" ask yourself why you should even have reason to even "need" to go allow yourself to be indoctrinated and influenced by some specialist theory!"

You don't believe something because you have the "need" to allow yourself to be indoctrinated. If this is the question that you ask yourself then you have indeed asked yourself the WRONG question. If anyone else believes that this is the question that they are asking then perhaps the correct question needs to be asked:

What is true? What is the objective reality? Do I need to be saved from myself and is this an objective reality? Do I do anything WRONG? Are there going to be consequences for the wrong things that I have done? etc.

Talking about "need" for a specialist theory is building a strawman and has nothing to do with the objective reality of God's Existence nor what is consistent with His Omniscience.

Is the God of Abraham the One True Creator? True or untrue regardless of my personal perception? Do people all over the world worship Him with praises and music? Does He offer salvation from myself and my bad choices? etc.

This has nothing to do with the consensus gentium or ad populum of culture...this has solely to do with discovering the objective reality that is consistent with the Holy Creator... and why!

"Why do you even need that Culture part?."

You don't. That is why the OTF is also so meaningless...cultures are wrong plain and simple...but that doesn't mean that your culture didn't get something right.

Your culture may have gotten "part" of something right...but NOT all of it. Once again...meaningless...except when it applies to your own personal favor of circumstances...but it does NOT determine truth itself.

The OTF is absolutely no threat to Christianity. Why? Because it is superfluous to accumulative case argument. It is superfluous to personal experience and the reality of personal relationships with the Holy Creator. It is superfluous to whether you align yourself to the objective reality of God's Omniscience or whether you land in deception.

Anyone who believes that "IF" you use logic that is empty from the Infinite Creator then you can discover meaningful truth is clearly blind to basic conclusions about the reality of an Intelligent Creator. Design that has flaws is still clearly design...especially if there is a reason for the flaws. Question everything.

I'm not really attacking the OTF because I don't see it as being relevant. It is evasive to being born in the right place at the right time... and clearly such circumstances are UNFAIR!

There is nothing fair about grace.

Gandolf said...

"Can you provide observable evidence?...Yes?..No?"

Yes. The information sequences we see in genome clearly come from Intelligence. You can not over simplify "complexity" and fail to deal with the arrangement itself and the processes which fascilitate biochemical functions."

Breckmin you "assume" this is evidence of Gods.

You have not really provided evidence as in any proof.

To have faith you still make a leap in faith.

At best your evidence can lead you to being agnostic ,when using complete honesty.

At present your conclusion is still much about culture.Your cultural belief is that complexity = must equal intelligence of a being

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said.."What is true? What is the objective reality? Do I need to be saved from myself and is this an objective reality? Do I do anything WRONG? Are there going to be consequences for the wrong things that I have done? etc."

Breckmin we know why we need to be indoctrinated on how we should behave....Its because if we dont get indoctrinated we dont learn how to behave.The question is not why we need indoctrination for certain things,the question is why does it take indoctrination for belief in God and why does that indoctrination change so much depending on country and culture.

The question is why does belief in Gods take indoctrination/culture ?.....We know why we need to have indoctrination to teach us how to behave,its because we cant learn it supernaturally.

We dont need to be indoctrinated to breath or fart.Or see the sun.Or get hungry

Why does belief in Gods always rely so much on indoctrination/culture/theory

We are not questioning why we need to be indoctrinated on how to behave and how to add and subtract or build houses or fix cars Breckmin.

But why does it need to take the same indoctrination when moving towards faith and believing in Gods.

It makes God belief no better than a mechanic manual.Or surgery enciclopedia.

Breckmin thinks thats fine.He think he can mixe it in with the natural like mechanic manuals or Surgery details ,yet wishes to still be allowed the right to claim it of the supernatural.

Game rigged .Faith styles

Breckmin said...

"If someone refuses to take the OTF I merely ask them why they have such a double standard."

Perhaps it is not a double standard. Perhaps they believe that it is really impossible to distance yourself from all a priori regarding your faith...especially if you have a relationship and a spiritual connection which corroborates your past examination of evidence and your accumulative case argument.
Not all faiths have the same accumulative case argument.
The scriptures tell us to "test or examine all things carefully, hold fast to what is true." (1 Thess. 5:21) Testing our faith to find out whether what we believe is true or not is sine qua non for both biblical and systematic theology...or any critical thinker who is honest about the Christian faith. IF, however, a person is engaged in a relationship which is continuously confirmed through a spiritual world or dimension which is not empirically falisfiable, that doesn't mean that they are imposing a double standard. They could just be being honest about their personal history with God. Q.E.

Breckmin said...

"A judge must recuse himself from judging a case if there is a known conflict of interest. If he doesn't he would face the of judicial oversight and censure."

If the judge has personal information and eye witness account himself to facts about the case OR has a personal relationship with the "person" who is alleged not to exist...then this changes everything.

There are aspects of religious belief that are clearly knowledge and not just fideism.

Nathan said...

Hello:

Breckmin: I don't wish to represent any particular doctrine as either 'Christian' or 'yours.' It doesn't even matter. The lack of consensus itself speaks to the inchoate nature of the Christian revelation - and to me, that makes it unlikely to be the revelation of an 'omniscient' or 'omnipotent' entity. Such an entity must know (by virtue of its omniscience) how its revelation will be received, and has the power (by virtue of its omnipotence) to ensure such revelation is clear and unambiguous.

If you believe that such an entity as I have posited would NOT reveal itself in an 'clear and unambiguous' way, then I would welcome such discussion, and that would bring Christianity and Islam back into the 'can't rule out' realm.

As a side note, I would like to know what other evidence beyond genetic complexity you find convincing for the existence of a deity, although this has nothing to do with an atheism OTF.

Cheers,
N

Breckmin said...

"the question is why does it take indoctrination for belief in God"

Some people become theists independent of indoctrination. I know of a boy who disagreed with his atheist parents even though he did not watch Christian programming or have access to theistic arguments. He just said that he knew that there was a God based on all of the complexity of the world. Complexity was enough for him personally.

There are cultures who have been theistic without the indoctrination from Judeo Christian infrastructures.

A side answer to your question, however, could be that "because God works through people" in spreading the good news of salvation."

"and why does that indoctrination change so much depending on country and culture."

Because clearly people are believing the wrong thing...that is why you should realize that you are at God's mercy to guide you to the truth (and so you should pray to Him for guidance and protection).

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said

"Why do you even need that Culture part?."

You don't. That is why the OTF is also so meaningless...cultures are wrong plain and simple...but that doesn't mean that your culture didn't get something right.

--------------------------

It does take culture.Not all human universally had belief in Gods.

Humans in most countries did but reason for this has some obvious natural explaination sticking out that can help explain reason why many ANCIENT human mostly all had faith in Gods.

1,Without availability of certain types of "modern knowledge" narural occurances such as ,lightning.earthquake,tsunami,drought and floods etc ..Were bound to get "assumed" as being atributed to some supernatural being enitity ..They had no way of knowing any better,at the time

2,Cultures mixed amongst each other explaining why certain faiths spread in "certain" areas more than others.

Faith is obviously very much controlled by culture Breckmin.We do not have babies that arrive in this world screaming in out in Islam and reciting the Koran

And it extremely unlikely! your next child will be born "Hindu" ,demand you "sacrifice" the cat

Yes? No?

Faith in all real honesty!, is a very cultural thing isnt it Breckmin.Be honest.

Why need to beat around the bush about it

Gandolf said...

Breckmin..."Some people become theists independent of indoctrination. I know of a boy who disagreed with his atheist parents even though he did not watch Christian programming or have access to theistic arguments. He just said that he knew that there was a God based on all of the complexity of the world. Complexity was enough for him personally.

There are cultures who have been theistic without the indoctrination from Judeo Christian infrastructures."

---------------------

This Boy is still influenced by culture faith belief in Gods is a belief existant within all our societies .Its influences exceed teaching of any atheist parents.The boy would needed to not watch TV,not talk with other kids,not expose himself to certain faith books and or beliefs.He would near need to extract himself from general civilization to not be influenced about God belief.

The theory of God faith impermeates our world.Just like fear of the dark and under bed monsters,also impermeate thought of many of our children universally.These ideas are simply passed on from generation to generation.All ancient ideas that started though our lack of modern knowledgible ways to understand.

Had Ancient man understood more, he would have been less likely himself to fear the possibility that maybe monsters lurked in the dark,and then our kids these days would also be less likely to fear monsters in the dark either.

These days we pretty much know Monsters in the dark, dont really exist,but yet our human culture still often tends to tell us maybe they do.

Breckmin said...

"If you believe that such an entity as I have posited would NOT reveal itself in an 'clear and unambiguous' way, then I would welcome such discussion, and that would bring Christianity and Islam back into the 'can't rule out' realm."

With all of the different Sutras and their focuses that result in different sects of Buddhism does that mean that Siddhartha Gautama was somehow incoherent? Or not clear on his teachings?

Any two people who think exactly alike on everything...

one of them isn't thinking. It is the nature of human existence to be at different stages of learning..this is why we are all going to disagree. That doesn't mean that the truth isn't found somewhere buried between the controversies.

Our imperfections in communication and our different stages of learning doesn't mean that God somehow failed... what it means is that God's plan is inclusive of such imperfections and disagreements. The bottom line is trust in the Creator no matter how much confusion knocks at your door. Seeking the Creator is the logical action to take in the middle of all of these different belief structures that fail to account for the sinful condition.

You see ambiguity and confusion...so do I. But I recognize that God works through people and relationships..and grows His Church OUT from among those who are perishing and believing incorrectly about/regarding Jesus Christ.

I rule out everything that is opposed to Jesus Christ and His Perfect Sacrifice almost 2000 years ago because I have personal confirmation that Jesus Christ is uniquely God in human flesh and died for the sins of the world.

This is either objectively true or untrue regardless of whether or not I grew up as a Christian.

The fact that there are counterfeits that are close to this religious faith can easily be explained by an "enemy of the Christian faith." If you say "Why would an omnipotent God allow this?" (first I would argue that the English word omnipotent is problematic) I would respond by saying that God is intentionally engaging us in a battle (testing us) to prove (not see) if we love Him. Deception is everywhere and that is why we must logically go to God for deliverance from such deception. Praying for protection from that which is untrue is one of the wisest prayers you can pray sincerely before the Holy Creator.
Praying for "love" (to Love Him enough to allow Him to live in you and through you) and for the power to battle your own flesh (as well as our world system and satanic/demonic powers) by allowing God to be strong in the midst of your weaknesses is just one more aspect of the battle.

The Christian will often argue that "theism is clear" but becoming a born-again Christian requires "faith" and God's help.

Clearly it is God's grace.

Asking for God's mercy when you understand your objective guilt of His law is a wise thing if you do not want to perish forever. It is seeking grace/mercy rather than receiving judgement/punishment.

Justice can be inclusive of both grace/mercy and judgement/punishment. Question everything.

Breckmin said...

"Faith in all real honesty!, is a very cultural thing isnt it Breckmin.Be honest."

It is completely meaningless as to whether or not the culture got particular aspects of it right or not. The origin of the accumulative case argument is independent of the argument itself and of the historical evidences and/or testimonies to the truth...NOT to mention personal relationships.

A "culture" that believes in rain dances doesn't determine the specifics of meteorology. The weather is the weather regardless of any "outsider test for faith" of whether or not it is going to rain or not. Likewise, the Infinite Creator exists independent of any "outsider test for faith" so the method of questioning is completely evasive to the objective truth itself or the discovery of it.

You can't destroy the Creator of the universe by simply NOT believing in Him...or by taking some ridiculous test where you first assume that He doesn't exist.

Such methods will only continue to contribute to your deception. It is much more logical to look at evidence that first leads you to conclude that there is "a" God and then go from there and build knowledge on top of evidence.

Question "assuming" something to somehow be untrue - as though you can really honestly do that....

Gandolf said...

Breckmin..."A "culture" that believes in rain dances doesn't determine the specifics of meteorology. The weather is the weather regardless of any "outsider test for faith" of whether or not it is going to rain or not. Likewise, the Infinite Creator exists independent of any "outsider test for faith" so the method of questioning is completely evasive to the objective truth itself or the discovery of it."

The weather is the weather because it remains weather wherever we are in the world.There is little thats cultural about rain or sunshine.

What outsider test for rain and sunshine exists .Can we put ourselves where the rain or sunshine is completely non existent, so as to ask if maybe the idea of rain and shunsine might have existed purely because of the particular culture influence around us?.

The weather is weather because it exists everywhere and the evidence is observable by everyone.The rain stays rain everywhere.

How do you even compare that with belief of Gods.Something so much more influenced completely by culture.

Breckmin how do you even try to compare the two?....There is little to nonthing to compare between the idea of weather ,and idea of faith/Gods

You cannot claim that God exists like the weather does ...Thats a false claim ...Its assuming God exists just as the weather does.

We have plenty of proof of the weather,culture dont change it.

The same cannot be claimed about Gods.

Gandolf said...

Breckmin.."You can't destroy the Creator of the universe by simply NOT believing in Him...or by taking some ridiculous test where you first assume that He doesn't exist.

Such methods will only continue to contribute to your deception. It is much more logical to look at evidence that first leads you to conclude that there is "a" God and then go from there and build knowledge on top of evidence.

Question "assuming" something to somehow be untrue - as though you can really honestly do that...."

-----------------------------

Yet you are quite happy that people simply create a idea of Gods, and simple believe in it.No test needed,just faith.

And you dont think this opens it up to much deception?.

Goodness me Breckmin how do you suppose Jim Jones got to lead his cult to death...Through testing belief?

Or why did some folks cast their children into fires in hope of more fertility,through being sure of "testing" their idea of faith??.

Breckmin.."It is much more logical to look at evidence that first leads you to conclude that there is "a" God and then go from there and build knowledge on top of evidence"

Dont you think thats the same type of path Jim Jones crew most likely took?

And those folks who threw their children into fires?.

Breckmin ..do you really suggest OTF would have been deceptive for these folks.

The sum total! of your so called evidence amount to,what realistically is not evidence, but is actually little more than an "assumption". IE the universe seems complex = Gods did it

You are still motivated by the "culture" of assumption .

Its little to do with proof through evidence .

You had no proof,you assumed complex = Gods

And your culture of "assumption" has also led to people throwing babies into fires expecting better fertility.

And yet you still try saying you are so very worried about the problem of "deception".

Your faith ideas have long fired assumed-deceptions that have led to plenty of death and all manner of suffering.

Faith worldwide has long been the very champion! for rights to "deception", Breckmin

Steve said...

Wow, this thread doubled in size while I was away.

John,

You ask, "Have I approached my faith with the assumption that it's false".

I answer, "Yes". But I also know that when I do so, it's an assumption; I've reasoned hypothetically. The results of such reasoning are not things which I'm committed to since I'm not committed to the assumption. Why should I think otherwise?

Now, if I thought that to be rational a person must be able to reach their current position from all possible starting points, then
my faith would be in serious trouble. But I don't think that, indeed I think it's palpable nonsense. Anyone who has seriously studied epistemology will agree (or wind up a Pyrrhonist).

So it would seem that you are requiring religious beliefs to meet standards of rationality which you don't (or shouldn't) require of other beliefs.

I admit that I'd like my beliefs to pass such a test, and not just my religious beliefs for that matter. But they don't. That is not a problem with the beliefs (though it does make me hold them less confidently than I otherwise would) it's a problem with the test presented as you've presented it.

I'm still in Neurath's boat with Victor.

Steve Lovell

Steve said...

This from above made me laugh:

"Faith is obviously very much controlled by culture Breckmin.We do not have babies that arrive in this world screaming in out in Islam and reciting the Koran"

They don't arrive reciting Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics either.

Gandolf said...

Steve said...
This from above made me laugh:

"Faith is obviously very much controlled by culture Breckmin.We do not have babies that arrive in this world screaming in out in Islam and reciting the Koran"

They don't arrive reciting Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics either.


----------------------------

Hi Steve...So what does that prove?

I agree "Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics " is also cultural learning too, its relative to the thoughts/culture of the humans that thought about them.

Or were you suggesting it supposed to be more supernatural devine inspiration?.

And besides is Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics ,another supernatural "being" that supposedly shows itself also?.

How do you make the comparison between Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics and a Godly being who is supposedly purposely showing himself to all people.

Was Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics another supreme omnipotent being that was supposedly showing itself to humans too?.

How do you calculate these things are connected as much the same thing.

Steve said...

Gandolf,

I may have got the wrong end of the stick it the passage from you I quoted. It seemed like you were saying that religion must be "merely cultural" and have no relation to objective reality since babies don't have it.

If that is what you were saying then I think my response above should make you think twice.

If you were saying that culture plays a role in helping us acquire religious beliefs but allowing that that needn't undermine our confidence in them, that's fine.

Cheers,

Steve

Gandolf said...

Steve said to John.."I answer, "Yes". But I also know that when I do so, it's an assumption; I've reasoned hypothetically. "

So you have reasoned even though God does not bother making himself plainly obvious to absolutely everyone,and evidence cannot even be captured or recorded for all to observe.And that even though God is said to be a supernatural "being" with concience and motive and free will etc,you reasoned it more likely gravity,wind,lightning would have better chances of making themself more obvious to all of us.

And reason you have made less "assumptions" this way.

I would be interested in knowing your method.

I mean i do understand the idea almost anything could be possible.But im interested in seeing your formula, of how you suggest your present position of theism,actually involves less use of assumption.

Gandolf said...

Steve said... "Gandolf,

I may have got the wrong end of the stick it the passage from you I quoted. It seemed like you were saying that religion must be "merely cultural" and have no relation to objective reality since babies don't have it.

If that is what you were saying then I think my response above should make you think twice.

If you were saying that culture plays a role in helping us acquire religious beliefs but allowing that that needn't undermine our confidence in them, that's fine.

Cheers,

Steve"
--------------------

Hi Steve.

Yes i do infact suggest its quite obvious culture plays a very big part in all religious beliefs.Infact id say the percentage of culture part involvement plays in religious beliefs is all mighty high.

Just as is percentage of the part played by culture high with regard to those who learned about "Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics".

Folks around before "Euclid's Elements, the inverse square law or the 2nd law of thermodynamics" were learned.Didnt know much about it did they.Because the culture never yet existed.

The same goes with God ideas.

If it wasnt mostly all about culture, Christianity might have tried to spring up on its own steam in places like China, and surely might have been able to do so without any need of christian evangelism at all.

But we dont see that.

Im suggesting a large percentage of faith belief is something that surely must be "highly" cultural...If not even more a matter of being completely cultural.

Even idea of Gods is "cultural" thought, connected to fear of the unknown, and motivated by a great lack of understanding in ancient times, for many obvious freely observable phenomena, such as killer earthquake,deadly accurate killer lightning bolts etc.It was early culture that drove the idea of Gods.

Even today faith in God rests mostly on matters of culture and the unknown...IE..that the world seems complex = Gods

DL said...

Nathan: "I will simply assume [...]
I hardly claim to be an omniscient or omnipotent entity. I am sorry if my informal approach was confusing."


Hm, you assume many things. And no, it wasn't confusing at all, I think it's quite clear what you were doing: your standards for what "seems" improbable are arbitrary. It's a common approach for "arguments" against God that follow the form, "I would do X, therefore God would do X, but not X, therefore not God." Of course, such arguments are not even remotely valid.

For example, you complain that there should be "no or few morally ambiguous situations". Let's gloss over your arbitrary cut-off point (you acknowledge there are fundamental moral consistencies, but they don't "seem" to be enough for you). But why are ambiguities not to be expected — do you know of some religion that says mankind is infallible? Isn't mankind supposed to have free will? Does it "seem" probable to you that fallible free creatures will always be consistent?

Or you pull out the old chestnut about "God would prevent evils", but what makes you think any of it is real? Why are you not supposing instead that life must be some kind of dream, a vision of what results evil can have, so that you learn not to be wicked yourself? Now you might say, "Everyone believes that other people are real, it's ridiculous to have to prove it." Hm. Certainly it is a reasonable starting point from a practical perspective. Of course, it's not really something "everyone" believes, just "almost everyone", though those who don't are a tiny minority (we might even dismiss them as crazy). But then, "almost everyone" believes in the supernatural, so why aren't you taking that as your starting point? Apparently it just doesn't "seem" probable to you.

In other words, what we are dealing with here is possibilities, not probabilities. A religious person could obviously look at the same points you're making and deem them "probable" and thus draw the opposite conclusion, and since it all comes down to "seeming", there's no honest way to object. If what you're doing is the "outsider test", then it amounts to listing all your beliefs and saying, "Yup, looks good to me!" In which case, as I said, no one could ever fail it.

Gregory said...

Gandolf says:

"But Gregory if we compare non belief with non belief anywhere,we really only ever get non belief.

Non belief=Non belief."


and

"Gregory no, we appeal to some common sense...Gregory common sense, is when all people sense matters pretty much the same way ,hence why it is called Common sense because its a belief everyone held 'in common.'"

I'm not even sure if this last part is even coherent. But since Gondwarf doesn't have any "beliefs" (i.e. because "non-belief = non-belief"), then...what's there to criticize, anyway...right?!? Certainly not "beliefs", right?!?

Why?

The Punchline:
Because you can't criticize something, or someone, that doesn't exist!!!

So critics of the "arguments for the existence of God" are nothing more than biological bullies. "Bullies"? Really?!? Yes, because atheism implies that human people are "it" (as far as "Culture" is concerned). Or as one ancient philosopher has said:

"Man is the measure of all things"

The irony, to me, is only too clear. Under the guise of "liberty" and "freedom" the atheist wants to legislate a world that is "free from religion" because Churches and Icons are grossly offensive to their "secular" sensibilities....or "non-belief", whatever that is....yet they want religious people to live in a world where they can't be religious; which is equally offensive to our "religious" sensibilities.

Atheists are crypto-fascists...no different in kind from their "Grandly Inquisitive" ancestors. But they don't need swords, shields and catapults....today, we have "ballot initiatives", "political payola" and "media plugs", all of which are joined-at-the-hip. And once those domains have adequately served the atheist ends, then the New Crusaders come marching with tear gas, billy clubs and guns.

"No", the atheist says. "We would never do that!!"

Indeed. Spoken like a true Bolshevik.

Here's the worst part....atheists are spitting on the graves of all their dead family members, of the recent and ancient past, who did "believe" in God.

When you criticize what I'm saying, or insult me, you are--by the same token--criticizing and insulting many of your own family members....like your Great-Great Grandfathers or your Great-Great Aunt/Uncles and/or Grandmothers.

But you are also insulting "common sense" because we, qua "religious believers", cannot help but be "religious". We are all exactly the way we are because of the inviolable monergy of Nature's providence.

"Who are you, O man, to talk back to Nature? Can the thing formed say to that from which it was formed 'why didst that make me like this?' Does not Nature have the power, it's power being the source from which all things have their being, to make some people 'religious' and other people 'anti-religious'?" (The Epistle to the Romantics 9:20,21)

Gregory said...

Gregory said:

"Gandalf's attempt at reconciling his own statements, here, is going to appear even more foolish than his original statements!!!"

Gondolf replied afterward:

"Gregory common sense, is when all people sense matters pretty much the same way ,hence why it is called Common sense because its a belief everyone held "in common".



I call it like I foresee it XD

But seriously...I'm only trying to make "nonsense" uncommon.

Steve said...

Gandolf,

I think you've misunderstood. The question right now isn't who is making the most assumptions. John asked me to assume my current beliefs are false.

What does that mean? Normally, when something is "assumed" in this sort of context we are unpacking what it would be like to be an "outsider" and see where reason and evidence would take such an outsider. I've done that plenty.

But what is the relevance of this? From the perspective of my current beliefs, it's a merely hypothetical excercise. Is John asking me to do more? Is he asking me to actually disbelieve what I currently believe? Well belief doesn't work like that. I can't just turn it on or off. And even if I could, why should I? Because the OTF requires it? So much the worse for the OTF, it asks the impossible.

Steve Lovell

Steve said...

Gandolf,

On the topic of culture again. You seem to admit that culture played a large role in the production of Euclid's Elements.

You also say that culture plays a large role in the production of religious belief.

You seem to think that this undermines the content of one and not of the other. Or do you?

Russ said...

Steve Lovell said,

Loftus wants to restrict the test to only religious matters, but this seems completely arbitrary. Moral beliefs would surely fail this test too.

I find it curious that you separate "religious matters" from "moral beliefs," since among the religious, their religious matters are made compelling by making them matters of morality to be judged by some deity. For example, among the religious:

-- Church attendance is a matter of morality.

-- What one eats is a matter of morality.

-- What one does with their genitals is a matter of morality.

-- If you buy into the Bible's OT, then how a woman responds to being raped is a matter of morality.

-- Whether parents prosecute Roman Catholic clergy who have raped their children is a matter of morality.

-- Christian Scientists letting their children die of easily treated afflictions is a matter of morality.

-- The specific interconnectedness of neurons that constitute one's beliefs is a matter of morality.

-- Whether those interneuronal connections still give rise to specific beliefs concerning a specific deity at the point of death is a matter of morality.

It is quite odd, Steve, that you fail to recognize this, and that you introduce a critique of Mr. Loftus' OTF by highlighting your failed understanding.

Gandolf said...

Sheeze Gregory your first post is all emotion ,and pity about critizing the ancestors ...Pure dribble that puts the ancestors right of belief ,above human right not to be effected by faith guess work.

Thats faithful folks for ya...They dont care,right to faith comes first.

And you obviously dont understand faith is cultural because its different depending on country or place of origin.

You fail to understand atheism doesnt change with country or place of origin ,it stay exactly the same universally ...All atheists simply see no evidence for Gods.

You dribble on about "But you are also insulting "common sense" because we, qua "religious believers", cannot help but be "religious". We are all exactly the way we are because of the inviolable monergy of Nature's providence."

And forget faithful cant honestly claim any "common sense" ...Because if faithful honestly had "common sense" faith might be "christianity universally" like atheism is universally plain atheism.

We dont get hindu atheism,islamic atheism,American atheism,Kiwi atheism because its a universal "common sense"

1,Atheism is the same universally its a "common" sense it stays the same.

2, Faith changes by country and culture ...IE its not a "common" sense ..It dont stay the same

Its not belief in common ...Its culturally driven

Cant you do better than bleat for your poor ancsestors, who might have even burned witches for all we know, through their stupid idiotic use of "faith guess work".

But maybe the Pope would feel much the same way too right? ...Who cares about sexually abused kids...Pfffttt our right to "faith" and "pride of place" comes first.

What kind of moral thought is that Gregory?

Gandolf said...

Gregory said... "Gregory said:

"Gandalf's attempt at reconciling his own statements, here, is going to appear even more foolish than his original statements!!!"

Gondolf replied afterward:

"Gregory common sense, is when all people sense matters pretty much the same way ,hence why it is called Common sense because its a belief everyone held "in common".



I call it like I foresee it XD

But seriously...I'm only trying to make "nonsense" uncommon."

------------------------

Trying to make nonsense uncommon?.

Sheeze ive heard and seen little other than "utter nosense" coming from you, from your very first posts Gregory.

Seems you cant even get a grip on real morals.You argue somehow a ancestors right to Godly faith belief, should be respected far more than a humans right not to ever be abused by said right of faith.

What utter "Nonsense" Gregory.

Now if you spent less time being a wise crack, "im laughing at you" type faithful ....Hell bent on just trying to make someone look stupid.

And spent more time thinking.

You might be far wiser! and far less full of utter nonsense!

Hmmm?

Nathan said...

Breckmin: Again, thank you for responding to me. I would, however, prefer that you respond to my comments. Although I am perfectly happy to levy the same charge of unclear and ambiguous against Buddhist sutras, as I understand them, they are not the work of an omnipotent and omniscient entity, but of men deemed extraordinarily wise and insightful. It does not come as any kind of dissonance to find that works by even the wisest and most insightful men may disagree. (Please note that I do not claim they are wise, or insightful, or make any judgement on that kind. I merely point out that many humans consider them so.)

Are you suggesting that the Christian revelation texts are clear and unambiguous (even if I do not find them so)?

Are you suggesting that God is incapable of clear and unambiguous revelation?

Are you suggesting that God's failure to provide clear and unambigous revelation is somehow a 'benefit'? Since many Christian theologies (and, if I have understood you correctly, this includes your own) make the claim that failing to accept this revelation leads to eternal punishment, does not this lack of clarity mean many more millions of persons will suffer eternal punishment? If God's aim is, in fact, to prevent this from happening, even I, who is far from either omniscient or omnipotent, can think of more effective ways to do so. If I with my human and mortal limitations can improve on what is presented to me as the 'master plan of an omnipotent and omniscient entity' - then I cannot (not will not, but can not) accept it as such. It's ludicrous. You might as well ask me to believe we're held to the earth by etheric springs, or that airplanes achieve their flight via skyhooks.

Of course, the above makes the assumption that it is God's intention to save as many persons as possible. But if that assumption does not hold, then this God becomes an insane (in the sense of not conforming to human rationality) entity, and there may well be no way of placating it in any case.

The suggestion that the current situation is 'the best possible' one is implicit in your commentary, and that even an omniscient and omnipotent entity cannot improve on it. How is that compatible with the claim that God is omnipotent and omniscient? In a minimal case, I observe that a world with just one less instance of childhood cancer is better than this one.

I am baffled by your invocation of an 'Enemy.' What possible opposition can be offered to an omniscient, omnipotent entity? Any such opposition would have to be known, permitted, and therefore endorsed by such an entity. Is this enemy likewise an omniscient, omnipotent entity that is in opposition to the first? How can two omniscient and omnipotent entities be in contention?

Again, thank you for this interesting discussion.

Cheers,
Nathan

Gandolf said...

Steve said... "Gandolf,

On the topic of culture again. You seem to admit that culture played a large role in the production of Euclid's Elements.

You also say that culture plays a large role in the production of religious belief.

You seem to think that this undermines the content of one and not of the other. Or do you?"

-------------------------

Yes i think so.After all just because it undermines the content of one,doesnt automatically lead us to conlude, it must then also undermine the other.

For starters Euclid's Elements is not supposed to be connected to anything Godly.Euclid's Elements is not a "supreme being" thats suposedly showing itself to all humans.

Its fine that Euclid's Elements would be cultural and connected to the culture that thought about it.

But Gods are supposed to be different.Gods are supreme beings supposedly trying to get all human to realize the existence of "the" God.

If so, there seem less reason we should see God belief to also be so very cultural.

Unless you wish to try and argue Euclid's Elements had no better chance of making itself obvious to men, than Gods did ?.

You would need to try and argue Euclid's Elements was also "supreme being" just like Gods are.

I say yes it must undermine one "far more" than undermining the other anyway.

Gandolf said...

Steve how can gravity be a more universal belief than God ,if God is a devine supreme being with free will who is suppposedly trying to have all humans believe in him?

Gravity has managed to make its belief far more universal than Gods have ..Gravity is not even a "being" and yet worldwide all people got to understand it exactly the same way ...Gravity is a "common sense",something we all see in common universally.

Yet Gods which are "omnipotent supreme beings" ...Have so much more trouble ....Some humans see hundu God ..Some Islamic ...Some many other types of Gods

Why should the "supreme Being" be the one having more trouble?.

1,Humans all see things falling

2, but Gods are all about culture and guess work

Steve said...

Gandolf,

You are clearly a different class of reasoner altogether. I'm not going to bother you any further.

Russ,

I agree that moral beliefs and religous beliefs are closely connected. I never said otherwise.

The outsider test for morality, if failed, would undermine a conviction in moral realism. I'm a moral realist and I think lots of other people want to be moral realists too ... regardless of whether they are religous. All I'm saying is that if morality cannot pass the outsider test, that may be more a problem for the test than it is for morality. And plausibly, if religious belief must fail the test, the same goes for moral realism.

Steve

Steve said...

John,

I still don't feel you've answered Vic's question as to why this isn't the Outsider Test for Worldviews. Your comment that the various creeds are not Worldviews in the rich sense employed by Ninian Smart is completely beside the point.

These creeds, including atheism, are all Worldviews in the sense Victor was intending.

This is why I group atheism with the other Worldviews and say that every Worldview, yours included, has many that are "outside" it, and from the perspective of which your test could be taken.

Steve Lovell

Gandolf said...

Steve said... "Gandolf,

You are clearly a different class of reasoner altogether. I'm not going to bother you any further."

So you have no real easy answer why Gravity and Atheism might managed to become a far more universal belief amongst human ,than a omnipotent God belief motivated by the God being managed to show itself.

You can work out how non beings can make themselves more observably the same universally ,than supreme beings can.

So you simply give up and say ..No not discussing it anymore.

Guess you believe that simply proves you real smart too huh?.L.o.L

Did you do the same when taking the OTF? .Quit when you found it tough.Simply quit when you found you couldnt provide no good answer.

I can see why John questions if you honestly even took the OTF .

GearHedEd said...

Breckmin, quoting JLW:

"If someone refuses to take the OTF I merely ask them why they have such a double standard."

Breckmin's answer, in part:

"Perhaps it is not a double standard. Perhaps they believe that it is really impossible to distance yourself from all a priori regarding your faith..."

Breckmin's answer, paraphrased:

I can't look at these things as an outsider, due to the brainwashing I've received throughout my life. Therefore, the test fails.

No. YOU fail, Breckmin.

GearHedEd said...

Breckmin said,

"...You can't destroy the Creator of the universe by simply NOT believing in Him...or by taking some ridiculous test where you first assume that He doesn't exist."

Neither can you conjure him into existence on the backs of the ignorant, non-scientific folks who wrote the Bible.

You keep going on about "accumulative case argument", but provide nothing beyond assertion. People ask for proof, and you quote Paul's letters. Atyheists point out the cultural aspects of religious indoctrination, and you retreat into the "imperfection of language".

ALL of your arguments add up to a huge FAIL.

GearHedEd said...

Gregory said,

"...When you criticize what I'm saying, or insult me, you are--by the same token--criticizing and insulting many of your own family members....like your Great-Great Grandfathers or your Great-Great Aunt/Uncles and/or Grandmothers."

THIS is a reason to respect religion? Not because it contains objective truth, but because our relatives would disapprove?

Come on. This is less than dumb.

Gregory said...

Gondolf:

You're barely coherent in much of your posts. Perhaps laying off the drinks or getting some rest might help.

GearHedEd:

Obviously, humor is foreign to you. But, I haven't seen a solid response to any of the main points I've made, thus far, so I'm not sure why I'm dignifying your "ad hominem" here. The ability and passion to possess and tinker with electronics equipment doesn't necessarily make one fit to do philosophy. Perhaps if you treated humans as human, rather than biological machinery, you might be able to make tremendous strides in your approach.

For everyone else:

Thomas Farr's interview is helpful and instructive about the impossibility of an OTF, and better illustrates why the "new atheism" is at terrible odds with American Democracy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J4_G0U45eo

Breckmin said...

"You cannot claim that God exists like the weather does .."

Well I do indeed, but that was not the point.

The point was regarding "faith" or belief into what causes rain or what can change the weather. My example regarding cultures who *believe* in rain dances was to address the meaninglessness of a culture's faith as though it has any bearing on objective truth.

Your whole post was actually incongruous to the point that I made regarding the futility of a culture's belief.

It was not a question of "whether" or not the weather existed or not...

Breckmin said...

"Yet you are quite happy that people simply create a idea of Gods, and simple believe in it.No test needed,just faith."

Gandolf,
until you present an accurate opposing argument which contains the alleged evidence which first leads to agnostic theism I don't see us making progress here.

You continue to pluralize "Gods" as though you can make a strawman out of the Infinite Creator. What you don't realize is that polytheism makes no sense in the
cosmic creative sense of infinite regressions and illogical temporal assertions. Until you address *WHY* the Christian believes there is evidence for a Creator and what specifically this evidence is you are doing nothing more than continuing to build a strawman with polytheisms and a claim that there is no evidence.

What about all of the alleged evidence? Question everything.

Breckmin said...

"Breckmin's answer, paraphrased:

I can't look at these things as an outsider, due to the brainwashing I've received throughout my life. Therefore, the test fails."

Perhaps I realized my brain needed "washing?"

Question everything.

You're reductio ad absurdum paraphrase fails to address why I believe that we *ALL* learn and how our knowledge is progressive.
My claim is that it is logically impossible for ANYONE to immediately switch "gears" and somehow claim complete objectivity.

Such assertion is fantasy and completely unrealistic. We are all bias with prior knowledge and experience and anyone who "believes" that they are not biased is even MORE biased than the person who is honest enough to admit that prior experience and knowledge biases us all.

Of course critical thinking is greatly encouraged... but how can you forget eye witnessed accounts?
How can you ignore sensations which take place at the exact same time in which you worship the Holy Creator? How can you completely ignore your PERSONAL EXPERIENCE with the factual Creator????

Those of us who HAVE had experience with the Infinite Creator know that such Creator is factual and it is completely foolish to deny that we have been created by Intelligence (for a specific purpose).

Eyewitness accounts and personal relationship are NOT just brain washing... they are brain convincing..

and we don't need anyone else to somehow tell us there is a Creator.

Question everything. It just might lead you to the basic reality that there is indeed a Creator - and you have wasted too much of your time ignoring basic evidence for His Existence.

Breckmin said...

"Neither can you conjure him into existence"

Agreed.

"on the backs of the ignorant, non-scientific folks who wrote the Bible."

Agreed. The knowledge of the Creator clearly existed BEFORE there were ever prophets or apostles writing about Him...or testifying to the coming Messiah.

"You keep going on about "accumulative case argument", but provide nothing beyond assertion."

If you actually read my posts you would know that I have repeatedly given evidence which first leads us to agnostic theism. (IF-THEN algorithmic programming in gene regulation, the physiology of complex mechanical "working" systems (nano-factories of living cells which perform protein synthesis), and the specified arrangement of codons which provide the template for amino acids and how this is clearly INFORMATION - and how all information comes from intelligence based on our uniform and repeated experience.

It is only when you remove the stigma of requiring circular reasoning and naturalistic explanations that you are finally open minded enough to allow for theistic implication in science.

Then you are finally allowing science to be a sincere search for truth rather than the dogma of materialistic assumptions.

Question everything.... it just might lead you out of the circular assumptions of materialism.

Breckmin said...

"and you retreat into the "imperfection of language"."

I don't retreat to something axiomatic. I expose it as the truth that you are reacting to with alleged critical thinking.

True critical thinking, however, would see clearly that we are all "learning" and therefore could never develope a language which could deal with atemporal concepts and ontological definitions for an Infinite Creator.

It is as simple as Richard's Paradox or perhaps the Berry Paradox (our good friend Bertrand Russell). Mathematics is a perfect language... English is not...neither is Hebrew or koine Greek.

I don't retreat to the imperfection of our languages..but I do believe in exposing them. There is far too much equivocation in the words which we use and meanings which are ontologically inexact.

Inexactism is everywhere... and we need to learn to navigate through it all and provide clarification.

The scriptures are filled with inexactism just as they are filled with anthropomorphisms with respect to a Holy Creator. You have to learn how to navigate through it all with the "help" of God's Holy Spirit.

This starts with love, trust and petition.

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said.."The point was regarding "faith" or belief into what causes rain or what can change the weather. My example regarding cultures who *believe* in rain dances was to address the meaninglessness of a culture's faith as though it has any bearing on objective truth."

------------------------

Breckmin thats the point there is little that can be considered truly as any "objective truth" among faith.Because its very cultural whether they chose rain dance or not.

Hense God doesnt exits like the rain does,because rain stays rain and always exactly the same wherever it happen to fall.

Gods dont.Some are raindancing Gods others are not.

There is little "objective truth" that can be claimed to exist amongst all God beliefs.

Other than many humans seemed to guess maybe there might be some God.Thats about it.That many ancient humans had ideas of possiblity of Gods or supreme beings etc,is the only "object truth" that could be claimed.

And yet there is plenty of reason why ancient human thinking, might have had reason to assume maybe Gods/supreme beings exist.Especially! the fact at that time they had absolutely no way! to understand or explain lots of natural phenomena, such as tectonic plate movement being actually whats involved in causing earthquakes that killed people.They had no way at that time to understand about tectonic plates.

So why wouldnt ancient mans mind think...ohh..Shucks...Gods must of did it

There was little other choices available in their ancient thoughts Breckmin.

Their thinking up involvement of supreme beings ...Suggests nothing at all about any Godly "objective truths" roaming around amongst all ancient human

And it suggests far more about a universal matter of ancient ignorance! ,thats totally due to lack of their ability to use our modern knowledge.Knowledge today that includes modern information about tectonic plate movement being the cause of earthquakes,meaning today we now know tectonic plate movement causes earthquakes that sometime kill people ...So us modern folk have no reason to "assume" Gods like the ancient humans did.

You try to say the fact many ancient humans assumed Gods exist,proves some type of "objective truth"

When all its really proves is the existence of a "objective ignorance" .A ignorance that existed in most all! ancient human,due to their lack of modern knowledge.

I suggest thats all you prove by pointing out many ancient humans had ideas about possible existence of Gods or supreme beings.

Gandolf said...

Breckmin said.."You continue to pluralize "Gods" as though you can make a strawman out of the Infinite Creator. What you don't realize is that polytheism makes no sense in the
cosmic creative sense of infinite regressions and illogical temporal assertions. Until you address *WHY* the Christian believes there is evidence for a Creator and what specifically this evidence is you are doing nothing more than continuing to build a strawman with polytheisms and a claim that there is no evidence.

What about all of the alleged evidence? Question everything."

-----------------------

Breckmin your Christian God itself is only a stawman God,as your christian god is merely a "distorted version" of all other Gods that have also been claimed universally.

Who argues from a strawman?.You do Breckmin.

You impose a strawman God of christianity, a position Y Christian God, that trys to claim position X God-s is all wrong.

Your faith is one complete Strawman position Breckmin.

A faith that rests entirely in suggestion of evidence held in some ancient book of many myths.You have yet to even prove good reason why you faith should be considdered any more logical than anyone elses faith.

Never mind the strawman argument of .."Until you address *WHY* the Christian believes there is evidence for a Creator and what specifically this evidence is "

How about addressing position X

1,How about you first address why your christian God might have never appeared personally amongst all nations and all men?.

2,Why your christian god is obviously so culturally motivated ?...It obviously never personally appeared in China by its own "motivation" ..No it didnt....Instead it took Christian evangelism! to take! it to places like China.

This is no strawman argument, that it seems faith and belief in Gods is obviously! very much "culturally motivated" !.

There is no evidence which suggests its likely to have been motivated by any Godly presence.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I don't see anyone here addressing the first premise of the OTF that religious belief is a cultural by-product and one need to test the truth of their faith claims against the hypothesis that they are cultural presuppositions.

I don't think the OTF asks anyone to assume atheism but only to assume that circumstances of one's birth are strong inputs into what one believes.

John's appeal to antrhopology is an illustration of this.

Why is it that 97% of Thai people admit a Buddhist supernaturalism with Hindu ancestor-worship-syncretism? What is the probability a person will accept this form of spirituality true to the exemption of other forms if they are born in Thailand?

The same is true for Christianity and the West.

I know when I studied in Thailand I marveled at the practice of building "Spirit Houses" in one's backyard. These "Spirit Houses" are part of the supernatural practice of the Thai and they are not strange to one who sees life with that culture. I however looked at the probability of one's ancestors living as a spirit in a a tiny house atop a pole in one's backyard as nothing more than superstition and myth because I was not raised in that culture. I didn't see the "Spirit House" for what the Thai saw the "Spirit House" to be.

We all have these different perspectives based on the culture in which we were raised.

I experienced the same thing when I was a practicing Christian and lived in the American South. The Christianity practiced there was not the same religion my emergent-church experience from the North was. It was less inclined to intellectual debate and more inclined to large revival type worship. If I mentioned the difference my Southern friends looked at me with confusion. They couldn't "see" it. They were looking at Christianity through a particular culture as was I.

The OTF invites a person to see the culture in which they were raised as an artificial experiential-organizing tool. It challenges one to look at their holy precepts as I looked at the "Spirit House" or revival worship and determine a religious presuppositions' probable truth.

It doesn't demand you doubt your faith but it demands you look at your faith as a cultural construct and then see how your culture has informed your instinctive faith defense.

I took the OTF after reading John's blog and realized that many of my religious precepts were built on the same type of cultural bias a Thai builds a "Spirit House". I was pretty distraught for a time but then drifted to agnosticism and then atheism and now see that for me to proclaim that I know the only viable version of the spiritual unknown is nothing more than ethnocentrism and cultural arrogance.

Are you willing to test the culture by which you see things?

That to me is the OTF.

I don't know what your conclusion would be.

Mine was agnosticism and then atheism.

Breckmin said...

"And forget faithful cant honestly claim any "common sense" ...Because if faithful honestly had "common sense" faith might be "christianity universally" like atheism is universally plain atheism."

The common sense is NOT Christianity... it is in being wise enough to identify when scientists are behaving COMPLETELY foolish. It is in being wise enough to see clearly that the primordial soup will NOT produce blue green algae NOR any sort of prokaryote or eukaryote no matter how many times you strike it with lighting. The common sense is in being honest enough to identify that the very conditions necessary to create various chemicals that make up life would completely destroy any chance at abiogenesis. The common sense is to be wise enough to know that Information comes from Intelligence...that factories don't build themselves. That IF-THEN algorithmic programming does just magically program itself via some ridiculous form of unobserved aspect of "natural selection" (which SHOULD BE based on what is observable and NOT a violation of basic entropy). The common sense is in seeing all of the actual EVIDENCE that is continually denied because of circular reasoning and circular definitions with regards to REQUIRING natural explanations when you have "assumed" materialism in the first place. The common sense is in identifying how you are actually defining the empirical world as so called "natural" and completely ignoring the logical possibility that all of creation is sustained by an Infinite Creator by His Infinite Order and Power. The common sense is in NOT denying all the evidence that first leads to agnostic theism. The common sense is in allowing theistic implication in science instead of being painfully BIASED against it.
The common sense is in clearly "seeing" that life is far too complex to have ever originated without Intelligence and anyone who believes there is no Creator is just fooling themselves with 'aw-theistic' assumptions based on circular reasoning (which don't allow theistic implication).

The common sense is in identifying when someone is really actually appealing to ignorance when in fact they aren't claiming they don't know the answer...that only YOU are the one claiming you can't know the answer because you have eliminated the correct answer with your philosophy in science that excludes theistic implication.

The common sense is NOT about the specifics of faith regarding Christianity...the common sense is in knowing that there is "a" Creator. The common sense is in allowing CURRENT positive data which is falsifiable to allow to speak volumes of common sense with regards to IF-THEN algorithmic programming, complex mechanical working systems and biochemical functions, and the actual nature of information itself (not just a complexity argument).

Yes. The common sense is in knowing that all of these cognitive and conscious beings are NOT just here by accident...

but we actually have a purpose.

Part of that purpose is accountability and the basic observation in this world is that there are consequences for actions.

Question everything WITH common sense.

Breckmin said...

"Hense God doesnt exits like the rain does,because rain stays rain and always exactly the same wherever it happen to fall."

What you're not seeing is that all of creation (life) is the so called "rain" in the analogy. God is not the rain...anymore than causes for the weather or "rain dancing" is the rain.

My analogy is regarding "belief" in what causes the rain. It is NOT about the "rain" existing verses "God" existing.

Breckmin said...

"There is little "objective truth" that can be claimed to exist"

The truth is not in the claim... it is in the actuality of existence.

If a Creator does indeed exist and He HAS revealed Himself to a chosen few (even if it is unfair by human standards...yet no such example of cosmic fairness exists in the universe to somehow lay a charge against God), then no matter how many religions form throughout the world in different cultures - this will not change the facts about what God knows (His Omniscience).

Claiming it is all subjective does NOT address where subjectivity actually lines up with objectivity (the facts, truth and reality of this universe which exist in actuality independent of our deceptions).

Question everything.

Shackleman said...

I am both fascinated and disturbed that this topic has received so much attention.

All this bashing of culture is completely pointless and a strawman.

Either there is one objectively true reality or there isn't. Either we can know it or we can't. If there is only one reality and we humans can know it, then any one person or culture or society can, by necessity, be closer to that truth in its teachings and understandings than others. Perhaps to the Western ear, (an ear tuned to relativism) that is politically incorrect. But that's just too damned bad.

Rejecting belief, simply because one is taught them by their surroundings is foolishness. As CS Lewis once said:

Do not be scared by the word authority. Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have told them by someone you think is trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority — because the scientists say so. Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove them by pure logic as you prove a thing in mathematics. We believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact, on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in other things as some people do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.

Look, if God exists, then any teaching---culturally acquired or otherwise---should be accepted and the counter rejected.

Truth is not constrained by culture and shouldn't be rejected because of it either. Truth is truth. This whole OTF is foolishness and is nothing more than an rebellion against Father's religion.

Breckmin said...

"How about addressing position X"

First, before I answer these, I would like to note that it is "unwise" to reject knowledge of the Creator through scientific evidence based on what you do or don't understand about particular faiths. How many times have I had biblical objections in the middle of a scientific argument is somewhat fascinating. I always make the point that you can not reject scientific evidence on the basis of what you do or do not understand about the "bible."

"1,How about you first address why your christian God might have never appeared personally amongst all nations and all men?."


I could quote Romans 1:20 but I'm not sure you would get the point. The fact is that the Christian God is "Infinite" therefore you could never "see" all of Him and anything finite that you would see would possibly be an appearance of His Glory at some point in the universe. It would probably kill you. It is more logical for God to become a Man and live amoung us.
Only God should be King over Israel.

Yet you want "equal opportunity." Equal fairness... in a universe where people are born into circumstances where they are affected by other people's choices.
No such equal opportunity "fairness" exists in this universe. We hurt each other. We kill each other and change/affect each others personal/eternal destinys based on what could have been more optimal for us. There is no fairness in the universe therefore the concept of fairness is an illogical thing to appeal to in a universe where people have absolute choices that affect one another.

Answer to point #1. It's not fair.
God saw Abraham's faith and chose Israel as His chosen nation. End of story. God is God and we are not.


"2,Why your christian god is obviously so culturally motivated ?"

This is known as a pseudo question because it is a question with a false assumption. God is not motivated by culture...but those who write about Him are affected by their culture and environment and God does allow for specific laws to prevent abuses due to cultural common practices.


"...It obviously never personally appeared in China by its own "motivation""

The gospel has spread into China, however. God works through people and He works through relationships.

"..No it didnt....Instead it took Christian evangelism! to take! it to places like China."

Yes. God uses Christians as instruments of His Will to spread the gospel. This is multi-faceted and 'one' of the reasons is that He is glorified in weakness and humility. Question everything.

Shackleman said...

Oops...too fast. This :

"Look, if God exists, then any teaching---culturally acquired or otherwise---should be accepted and the counter rejected."

should have read:

"If it is true that God exists, then..."

Breckmin said...

"Yet you are quite happy that people simply create a idea of Gods,"

No. There is One Infinite Creator regardless of how many people try to create false finite gods.

What you are attempting to do, however, is to look at all of the abberrations like Jim Jones and various cult leaders and say "see, this is what can happen" - when in reality these are the ones who are all about deception.

You could have easily tested them against what Jesus said and known clearly that suicide was a deception.

I agree with Shackleman. It is utterly ridiculous to even give "culture" this much attention with respect to knowing truth.
It is easily demonstrated as a logical fallacy to claim that any culture can have truth based on tradition or numbers without accumulative case argument and evidence. That is why the OTF is so meaningless. It fails to address the specific evidence that Christianity is based upon.

Trying to skirt alleged evidence and accumulative case argument and trying to allude to culture does not appear to be scholarly at all.

Question why culture has anything to do with objective slices of that which is.

Eric Thomson said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackelman: The conclusion John draws from the fact that people's religious beliefs are largely culturally determined is not that such beliefs are false. Though he sometimes does come off that way, he isn't commiting such a cultural ad hominem.

Rather, the main conclusion of such drastic cultural conditioning (coupled with variability across culture) is that such beliefs deserve a skeptical eye. Not particularly contentious or earth-shattering. People should consider that they might be wrong, examine the evidence and logic behind their views. They should also compare such evidence/reasons as provided by alternative views such as agnosticism, Islam, atheism.

One heuristic he pushes is to examine your own religion as critically as you evaluate religions that you are not a member of. But frankly that isn't essential in my eyes (though he loves to push it), and I think most people are as lazy in their critiques of other religions as they are in their own. However, it is a useful heuristic to imagine you want to kill your cherished views and see how well they fare (that's Popper's falsificationism in a nutshell, after all: it's a great way to overcome confirmation bias, or the tendency to look for evidence that confirms our view of things rather than evidence that falsifies our views).

In sum, the kernel idea in the OTF is a pretty banal Philosophy 101 sort of idea. Loftus has managed to obscure the reasonableness of the general claims with his rather arrogant and tendentious presentation style. If presented in a more cool manner, he could make the people refusing to take the OTF seem like silly unthinking sods, which would be a rhetorical coup.

Shackleman said...

BDK: Nice post. I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with it. Though, Loftus doesn't just oversell the OTF from the standpoint of an arrogant and emotional outburst. He claims it can do, and does more than it possible can. He claims all religions fail the outsider test. This is pure nonsense for reasons I point to in my previous post.

But, I'm sure he's drummed up at least one new sale of his book as a result of this ridiculously attended to thread. Crazy like a fox, that guy!

Chuck O'Connor said...

Shackleman,

I don't think you understand the OTF methodology. I base this observation on what you wrote and your citation of Lewis to make your point. Drawing from your Western and Christian cultural heritage to defend your Western and Christian cultural heritage seems intellectual circular.

Additionally your statment, "Look, if God exists, then any teaching---culturally acquired or otherwise---should be accepted and the counter rejected.

Truth is not constrained by culture and shouldn't be rejected because of it either. Truth is truth. This whole OTF is foolishness and is nothing more than an (sic) rebellion against Father's religion," could easily be made by an Islamic apologist waiting to enjoy the next Caliphate.

Islam of course embodying in its substance "peace, purity, submission and obedience." I mean what could be more authoritative than that?

John's tone has no bearing on the first premise of his test and anyone who has done a modicum of travel can see how culture bounded by geography lends itself to discrete and unquestioned belief systems.

You seem to be an object lesson in the ideological calcification ethnocentrism breeds.

Shackleman said...

"You seem to be an object lesson in the ideological calcification ethnocentrism breed"

Nice ad hominem. Get over yourself, O'Connor. You don't know me from Adam so you can kiss my ass.

If you had actually read what I wrote, you'd see I didn't claim to know the truth. I claimed that the truth cannot be discarded simply because it is acquired via cultural influences (or, put differently, by authority--which is why the CS Lewis quote is directly relevant). Do you deny this?

I also didn't claim that culture doesn't influence belief. What I claimed was that cultural influences are not necessarily defeaters to truth or truth-claims, which is why the OTF is so pointless.

One should look for truth. Period. How one comes to know it is immaterial.

I have little doubt you'll reply with *more* ad hominems. Whatever makes you feel good, toughguy.

Oh, and I agree that I can't claim exact knowledge of the methodology Loftus uses because he insists that we all buy his book before we *really* get to know it and before we're allowed to argue for/against it. LOL! That. Is. Awesome!

Chuck O'Connor said...

Shack,

I said you seem to be an object lesson - I didn't practice an ad hominem.

My argument was that your use of a Western Christian apologist to defend your Western Christianity is intellectually circular and evidence to the first premise of Loftus' test.

You believe your culture a superior arbitor of knowledge because it is yours. That is obvious by both your use of Lewis (whose argument amounts to a strawman that elevates obedience to the highest moral good) and your defensiveness.

Where does Lewis get his 99% figure. It is evidence to his gilded rhetoric and your use of it is evidence to your calcified ideology hardened by your ethnocentrism.

And if you are a Christian as I suspect you to be then yes, you do believe you have the inside scoop on the truth in the character of Jesus.

Blue Devil Knight said...

"...an object lesson in the ideological calcification ethnocentrism breeds"

Wow, that is a good turn of phrase....

Breckmin said...

"it is a useful heuristic to imagine you want to kill your cherished views and see how well they fare (that's Popper's falsificationism in a nutshell, after all: it's a great way to overcome confirmation bias, or the tendency to look for evidence that confirms our view of things rather than evidence that falsifies our views)."

But Popper's critical rationalism also understood that knowledge and truth were objective existences. If you have experiential eye witness accounts to miracles performed in the Name of a Holy Creator then you are going to believe/know that the Creator's Existence is objective reality.

Of course we should use a heuristic method with our critical examination of all religions...but don't be naive with respect the their extreme differences. There is clearly ONE religion which sings praises to an Infinite Creator with joy, peace, love and a claim of spiritual sensation. This is done all over the world to One God and One Savior. Praise music is completely different than recited religious songs or chants or following along while reading.

Trial and error is important, but when you understand that error is inevitable in the details - at some point you have to look beyond the hyper-technicalities at face value and employ wisdom.

Seeing that praise songs are sung to Jesus Christ and not Mohammed or Buddha or Baha'i or Krishna or anyone else in this world. Praise music is very specific in its world wide implementation.

Critical thinking on this issue is sine qua non. It is not an argument for 'whether there is a Creator' - that is completely unnessary given a correct understanding of natural theology.
It is a question of "Who" is the Creator and what we would expect to see based on concluding that there is already a Creator based on science.

Someone may object and say "songs are sung about Santa Claus but that doesn't make Santa Claus real." This is, however, clearly incongruous to the point. Santa Claus is NOT an alleged creator of all matter or finite existence in the universe..and in fact - I know of no adult who actually believes Santa Claus currently lives at the North Pole and has rain deer, etc.
Also, these songs are not worship songs either. No one is worshipping Santa Claus.

We have to have at least an ounce of pragmatism when seeing joyful praise music to the Creator through out the world and how this is NOT in anyway tantamount to something written by the Beatles or the Grateful Dead which is NOT intended to be worship music.

I never see anyone really address the specific point of praise music in the context of worship. If people really want an outsider test for faith...they need to open their eyes to the "specifics" of this type of praise music. Western or not...NO style has a monopoly on the joy, peace, thankfulness and spiritual fellowship that exists with specified praise music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejg7haph29w

see the end of this song for evidence of the type of thing that takes place world wide to ONE Infinite Creator

Breckmin said...

John Loftus - "So if you assume your own religion is false at the outset and the evidence can still lead you to accept it, your religious faith has passed the OTF."

When you say "your own religion" you immediately fail to address the difference between born-again Christianity and all other religions.

Born-again Christianity is NOT just a religion or a commitment to a particular faith...it is a "relationship."

So assume your own relationship with your Savior and Lord and God doesn't exist from the outset and then your relationship can lead you back to God and faith? Then your relationship with God has passed the OTF????

There is a LOGICAL special pleading because of the difference involving spiritual regeneration which can not be ignored.

And what constitutes evidence? Do miracles count as evidence? Do spiritual encounters (exorcisms)with unclean deceiving spirits that can not be explained naturally count as evidence?

Does being filled with God's Spirit in a special annointing also count as evidence?

There are so many dynamics to deal with here... and I can even throw in world wide praise songs to a specific Creator/Lord Jesus Christ as an observation of behavior AND experience that can not be ignored.

We can all pretend for a moment that something real isn't true..

that doesn't change objective reality...

Question everything. It just might lead you to align yourself with objective reality. (Karl Popper's critical rationalism was at first headed in the "right" direction).

Blue Devil Knight said...

I have never heard the 'Gospel Choir' argument for the truth of Christianity. :)

Shackleman said...

O'Connor,

"My argument was that your use of a Western Christian apologist to defend your Western Christianity is intellectually circular"

Are you really this dense, or are you just a dishonest asshat? I did not quote Lewis to "defend my Western Christianity". I quoted him because it's a well constructed thought that attempts to show the foolishness of being too skeptical of inherited knowledge, since *most* of the knowledge one claims, is inherited. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity in particular and can and does apply to ALL knowledge. It's relevant because there is a *parallel* lesson here with respect to this ridiculous notion you and Loftus are selling that one should discount knowledge out of hand simply because it was inherited. My point, for the THIRD time is that the truth is what matters. Not the vehicle by which it comes and I have not made any argument for what that truth is. That isn't my point and that's not what I'm arguing for. Now, how many times do I have to say that before you stop constructing your straw man?

Since the rest of your comment is nothing but puffery and typical internet toughguy bullshit, and since you ***repeatedly*** ignore what I actually wrote, you are either an idiot, or you're just playing games with words, entertaining yourself with your ability to turn a witty phrase. Enjoy yourself, and the accolades you receive from your applauding puppy dog followers. You're obviously not interested in a serious discussion and so I'm done with you.

Breckmin said...

@BlueDevilKnight

There are many people who have come to faith through worship music.

Reducing the observation to "gospel choir" however is evasive to the specifics of joy, peace, thankfulness and love as well as a peace that surpasses all understanding and spiritual experience/sensation through being filled with His Spirit.

It is the *specifics* of praise music that make it unique to born-again Christianity (ALL OVER THE WORLD) only. It is a type of praise which is specifically directed toward an Infinite Creator (the God of Abraham) and the Man (Jesus) that He became.

There is nothing else like it.

Question everything.

GearHedEd said...

Breckmin said,

"...There is clearly ONE religion which sings praises to an Infinite Creator with joy, peace, love and a claim of spiritual sensation. This is done all over the world to One God and One Savior. Praise music is completely different than recited religious songs or chants or following along while reading."

This is still acompletely idiotic argument for the "truth" of your invisible, non-existent god.

And your "accumulative case argument " sounds like it was coppied and pasted from the Discovery Institute.

Brad Haggard said...

I think for everyone's benefit it should be known that the OTF was originally a call to read a set of atheistic books along with Christian apologetics. It was a really simple and clear test, and I'm afraid Loftus had tried to turn it into his doctoral thesis now.

I think he's just begging the question, myself.

Breckmin said...

"I think for everyone's benefit it should be known that the OTF was originally a call to read a set of atheistic books along with Christian apologetics."

What IF the so called Christian apologetics books are "behind?"

IOW, critical thinking asks questions. More and more questions and these questions need answers. Systematic theology is progressive in answering these questions. Knowledge is accumulative and this is how we learn more and more.

Where we are in the progression of answering questions (especially when Christian apologists are busy both answering questions AND teaching. This creates speakers who are over worked and unable to write enough books to address these questions.


Bottom line: How will you know whether or not Christian apologists have "caught up" in answering these questions?

Question everything.

Breckmin said...

This is still acompletely idiotic argument for the "truth" of your invisible, non-existent god.

Calling something idiotic is general and doesn't deal with anything specific or any particular observation that is made throughout the world.
(which have nothing to do with the Discovery Institute).
That's "idiotic" is NOT a rebuttal.

It is a cop out without explanation.

Breckmin said...

The problem with the so called "Outsider Test for Faith" is that it is actually based on a form of "generalizing about culture."

Generalizing about a cultural upbringing doesn't address WHY a particular culture is right or wrong about their faith. It doesn't address historical evidence. It doesn't address the specific truth that is conveyed or WHY it is true or untrue. It doesn't address any progression of (yes) accumulative case argument.
(from hard atheism to agnosticism to agnostic theism to Infinite Creator to Orthodox Monotheism to the actual SPECIFICS of why born-again Christianity is a fulfillment of Orthodox Monotheism and how Jesus claims exclusive truth that is opposed to modern Judaism, Islam and non-born-again Christianity).

Until we address specific arguments and evidences themselves we are generalizing about what happens with culture. This is why the OTF is so meaningless.

You can pretend to forget everything you ever learned and claim all of your experiences are not real in order to generalize about culture and claim you are engaging in critical thinking... but true critical thinking understands that knowledge is based upon other knowlege. That learning is based on established axioms and observations.

That you don't need to somehow pretend that there is no God in order to question all of the logic that leads you to the conclusion that there IS clearly a Creator.

The Creator is clearly concluded based on scientific observation...
and following those who employ the circular assumptions of materialism and naturalism will only lead you away from basic logic and critical thinking.

Question what you are doing when you are requiring so called "naturalistic" explanations.