Friday, November 21, 2014


Loftus: There is nothing irrational about these videos or laughing at your faith if you are delusional, Vic. Reason is behind them. Laughter is good medicine. You need a dosage of it everyday.
Let's say believers are in fact as I say, delusional. Let's also say that precisely because they are delusional we cannot usually reason them out of their delusion. Let's say their delusion is also causing a great deal of harm (think ISIS here if you need to). Then reason calls us to do whatever it takes within decency and the law to help them out of it.
Besides Vic, we just can't help ourselves. I'm saying let loose. We laugh at your faith in private all of the time. I'm saying bring it out into the public. Let the deluded see what we really think. What's wrong with letting people know what we really think on occasion? I don't advocate doing this exclusively, although for some people that's all they know to do.
A side product of doing this, just like when atheists come out of the closet, is that it increases the peer pressure against faith. All I hear you say is you don't like it, and that's it. Christians do it from the pulpits across America every Sunday against atheists.

VR: OK, I think we are at the center of what the problem really is. You say
1) Believers are delusional, and I take it this is something beyond just being mistaken. They are ignoring overwhelming evidence against their beliefs.
2) We cannot reason believers out of their delusion.
3) Their delusion is causing a lot of harm, the sort of harm the ISIS inflicts.
4) It will therefore be helpful to society overall to use whatever means are necessary to help believers out of their beliefs.
The underlying idea is that somehow, if we got believers to reject their faith, we would progress to some kind of earthly paradise or utopia. For people like you, John Lennon's Imagine is a good, serious piece of social analysis, not a pretty tune with a utopian vision written by someone who dropped too much acid to think clearly. (I wonder if even John thought it was a piece of serious analysis). My answer to that sort of thing is that you have to be that this idea is what's really delusional. You have to be really be gullible to believe something like that. If you buy that, you may claim to be from Missouri, but you have just bought bridges in New York and California and oceanfront property in Arizona.
I don't think this way about atheism in general. I have a lot of sympathy with arguments like the argument from evil. There a lot of commentators on my site who aren't particularly fanatical Christians, but they are particularly angered by this kind of New Atheism, or as I call it, atheojihadism.
It isn't religion that makes ISIS harmful, it's the idea that religion has to be brought into effect from the top down by government. On the other hand, the use of government-funded educational institutions to shove atheism down people's throats, which is where you end up if you follow Boghossian's Manual to its logical conclusions, or Dawkins' child abuse charge that is actually making it hard for Christians to adopt children in parts of England, you are turning atheism into a religion in the negative sense. Where this is headed for is a society bifurcated on religious-non-religious grounds, where we are going to be less and less able to function together as a society.
I think I've gotten uncharacteristically ill-tempered here. But I can tell you that even if I stopped believing in God tomorrow, I would still be unalterably opposed to a crusade to save people from their religious beliefs.


unkleE said...

Hi Vic,

Does John really believe christians are delusional, and we can't be reasoned out of our delusion? Psychology Today has this to say about Delusional Disorder:

”Avoiding direct confrontation of the delusional symptoms enhances the possibility of treatment compliance and response.”

So either he hasn't done even basic research on the topic (strange for one who claims to value evidence), or he doesn't really want to help us in our delusion, or he doesn't really believe we are delusional (it's just talk).

And does he really think that religious belief per se is doing a lot of harm? Has he not read the mountain of research that shows that more often than not religious faith has many benefits for physical and mental health and societal wellbeing. It is only some more extreme forms of belief that pose the sorts of dangers he and other often refer to.

Crude said...

Victor, I respect you. Always have. Whenever I've been rude with you, I was the worse man for it.

But one issue I've had with you over the years is this: you treat John Loftus as a man worthy of conversation. When clearly, he is just the lamest kind of wannabe flim-flam man who can't even manage to rise in the ranks of the Internet Atheist. Despite many years of trying.

I know, you normally reply that it's important to answer what Loftus says because other people may repeat it.

First, far fewer repeat Loftus' words than many others - this is, by most estimations, going to remain true until he's vanished from this mortal coil.

But second... I agree that it's important to answer even obviously bad arguments, because really - morons will repeat them, and morons are numerous. But don't you think it's about time you simply say 'John Loftus isn't a serious thinker, and dwells in an intellectual gutter that is best dealt with by ignoring the man, and at best, answering his words without attribution'?

Here's another way. Loftus, having swallowed his teeth in every serious intellectual fistfight he's gotten into (including against Triablogue, who you'd suspect may be easier targets because they flare up faster than even yours truly), by his own admission resorts to mockery and insult because that's the best he can do at this point.

Why treat him as a serious thinker? He's a clown, and you deserve a better opponent than him. Always did.

Look for better atheist targets than him. Plenty exist.

Crude said...

By the by, considering Loftus once used to talk about how he was going to be bigger than the New Atheists - he's probably not the best judge of who is and isn't delusional. ;)

David Duffy said...

John W. Loftus is one of the most thin-skinned and humorless bloggers when it comes to his own life and beliefs. My goodness, I'm glad he finally found some humor in his own fallen humanity.

Papalinton said...

Loftus's intellectual and philosophical acumen has grown and is on the rise and rise. No doubt about it. Acknowledgement of his work and his authorship, together, are having a marked influence in the community via the interweb and through published literature. His work is clearly impacting on society's collective conscious. One need only to gauge this growing impact, that his erudite and productive contributions is having in the marketplace of ideas, by the discordant cacophony and the degree of shrill in Victor's OP and the cheap combox responses targeting the person rather than the ideas.
But this recourse to personal attack is expected and is a pretty good indicator of both the degree of personal angst and, there being nothing left in the immaterialists' gas tank. .
'Atheojihardism', '... lamest kind of wannabe flim-flam man', '... most thin-skinned and humorless bloggers when it comes to his own life and beliefs'. I love these epithets.

Papalinton said...

I think you have cited the wrong page from Psychology Today. THIS IS THE PAGE that perhaps you should have published. In particular:

"Themes of delusions may fall into the following types: .............; grandiose type (patient believes that he has some great but unrecognized talent or insight, a special identity, knowledge, power, self-worth, or special relationship with someone famous or with God); ........"

There is little question that a belief in the existence of a [putative] live, immaterial, non-human omni-max entity is indeed delusional. It is only a question of degree impact of that delusion on one's physical, emotional and psychological life.

Papalinton said...


For liberal believers, such a delusion has minimal impact in the community. For the conservative, evangelical and fundamentalist afficionados of supernatural superstition the impact and influence of the delusion within the community is both damaging and worrying.

Kevin said...

At best, Loftus keeps me entertained. On a negative note, he and those with similar views make it really hard for me to break my contempt of his brand of atheism. Just too much nonsense held up as "reason".

David Brightly said...


"or Dawkins' child abuse charge that is actually making it hard for Christians to adopt children in parts of England"

You have mentioned this before:

"Apparently, it is having an impact over in England. For example, Christian couples have been denied the right to adopt on grounds that the children might be brainwashed. Here."


The link is to a piece about Dawkins by Jonathan Luxmoore in Commonweal magazine published in 2007.


Luxmoore says,

"Meanwhile, social services in several counties-including Dawkins’s native Oxfordshire-are reported to have denied adoption rights to Christian couples, after claiming the children in question could be 'brainwashed'.”

but he doesn't cite a source.

I'd be alarmed and upset if this was happening in my country. Have you any further information?

Victor Reppert said...

This is what I found out about this.

im-skeptical said...

So according to this story, nobody has actually had a problem adopting because of their religion. However some religious people like to harbor beliefs that they are being persecuted, and fear that this persecution might result in denial of their adoption rights. The only basis they have for this fear is that they were asked questions about their religion (probably because they came off as being ultra-religious).

Papalinton said...

In Reppert's epistemology, "... including Dawkins’s native Oxfordshire..." actually translates to and is as good as Dawkins having said it himself. It is the nature of decades of apologetical inculcation and training to misinterpret others' writing right to the point of arrant absurdity as the christian cause is want to do in actively engaging in whatever it takes to prop up its recondite and perverse perspective. The long tradition of acquiescing or deferentially yielding to such uncontested nonsense is now being vigorously and forthrightly challenged as it should.

It is good that Brightly makes this challenge.

But I lament at how convenient the religiose can shroud their minds into an amnesic state so readily and effortlessly. It is only a few years ago the utter tragedy over centuries of what it was like for unmarried mothers and foster children growing up in Catholic care:

HERE. Of particular poignancy: "Memoirs in 1990s: The whole business of untold stories is at the heart of our fascination with these revelations. The private domain of personal experience was always at odds with the official stories which were sanctioned, permitted and encouraged by the state and the catholic church. These memoirs run like a parallel stream of information alongside the official documentary record and complemented with their personal immediacy and vibrancy. The official record could tell us what happened but rarely what it it felt like," Cateriona Crowe.




The question is, if institutional religious organisations run by believing christians were not able to protect foster children and unmarried mothers, how are the relevant social authorities able to vet, monitor, and be assured that the well being of children adopted out to equally ardent and doctrinaire believing christians, particularly within the even more enclosed and circumscribed privacy of the parental environs. I think it a big positive step in the right direction that prospective adoptive parents should have their religious views and thoughts thoroughly scrutinised. As we know, there is no correlation between a person's religiosity and their understanding of decency, fairness, justice, well-being and the need for protection of the child, particularly their emotional and psychological well-being.

Papalinton said...

One must also observe due diligence and take into account the perspective from which direction and the level of personal investment the reporter, Jemima Thackray, has behind writing this story. Clearly she has a particular viewpoint from which her story develops. "It’s true that interest in traditional forms of organised religion is declining, but in my role as a chaplain the majority of people I encounter regard what I do with interest and express mostly agnostic views. The militant objectors to religion seem mostly confined to parts of the media and political classes, and to Government funded public services."

She certainly gives her conspiracy theory a good spray, all the fault of the 'media', the 'political classes' and 'Govt funded social services'. [What a nasty anti-religious bunch they are]. And the agnostic views she encounters may well be more a function of people's reticence or good manners not to raise parochial religious aspects in the context of the broader values that a wider and diversely distributed community would generally hold to be true.

I think why the UK is making it more difficult for couples to adopt is that the community has learned from the painful experiences of history, particularly of the horrors of institutional religious care of foster children and unmarried mothers over recent decades and centuries and coupled with the global institutional failings of religious organisations to deal justly and properly with child sex abuse by priests.

What we have learned is that religion and religious sentiment comes a very poor second to the survival instincts and the motive of self-preservation of so-called 'sacred' institutions of the christian god. Good, honest, decent people are no longer hoodwinked into according religious belief a free ride in the morality and ethical stakes across the community. Prospective religious adoptive parents must meet the new and intensive minimum conditions for adoption along with everybody else. There is no special case or criterion accorded a free pass to religious belief any more, as being synonymous with good and proper parenting.

And that is a good thing, a probative measured response.

David Brightly said...

Thank you, Victor. My own Google searches turned up these two cases: 2007, 2011. Interestingly, in both attitudes to homosexuality rather than Christianity per se appear significant. These have undergone a sea-change over the course of my life time. I can well imagine that people of more traditional views now find themselves in a minority and regarded with suspicion by the now right-thinking majority, which no doubt includes most social workers adjudicating on adoption applications. During the passage of the Equality Act 2010, which outlawed discrimination against homosexuals, and the Marriage Act 2013, which extended marriage to gay couples, there was considerable media coverage of the objections from the established churches. We have our own 'culture wars' over here too. A recent case under the Equality Act was brought against the catholic adoption agency St Margaret's Children and Family Care Society in Scotland, not by an aggrieved gay couple but by the National Secular Society. This, at least, has now turned out well, but a similar case in England, where the law on charities is somewhat different, not so well. So far, though, no reports of adoption rejections on fears of 'brainwashing', thank goodness.

im-skeptical said...

Oh, now I get it. It's not that Christians are being denied the right to adopt. Christians are being persecuted if they are denied the right to discriminate against gay people who try to adopt.

B. Prokop said...

Some apropos observations on Dawkins's call for mockery can be found HERE.

im-skeptical said...

Christians mock and ridicule atheists all the time. Your jihad against Dawkins and other atheists is nothing but hypocrisy. When you start to practice what you preach, I might have better reason to listen. Until then, it's just a lot of hot air, devoid of meaningful content.

Victor Reppert said...

I would never ridicule someone for being an atheist. Dawkins isn't just an atheist, he is someone who is trying to make atheism predominant and marginalize religious belief by turning atheism into a popular movement.