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The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails – A Philosophia Christi Review of John Loftus’ Book

June 25th, 2011 by Madeleine

On the list of blurbs just inside the cover of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books) 2010, the following appears:

The Christian Delusion Blurb by Matthew Flannagan

As a result of being published on the blurb of the book, the current edition of Philosphia ChristiVol. 13, no. 1 – Summer 2011, shows the following in the table of contents under “Book Reviews”:

Philosophia Christi Table of ContentsThe Editor of Philosophia Christi has kindly granted Matt permission to reproduce his review of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails here on MandM.

A Review of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails

by Matthew Flannagan

In The Christian Delusion John Loftus brings together a series of articles by contemporary free thinkers all focused around a common epistemological critique. It is the sequel to Loftus’s Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.

The book is divided into five parts, each addressing a different aspect of Christianity. Part 1 is entitled “Why Faith Fails” and comprises four chapters. In chapter 1, David Eller argues that religions both deeply influence and are deeply influenced by culture; he argues that different cultural contexts lead to different forms of Christianity. In chapter 2, Vallerie Tarico draws on cognitive science to offer naturalistic explanations for why people believe in God. In chapter 3, Jason Long explains how people believe in Christianity despite its obvious absurdity by documenting how humans frequently engage in certain fallacies, have certain biases, believe things that are comfortable and resist changing their minds.

By themselves it is hard to discern how these chapters provide arguments against Christianity. They appear to assume Christianity is false and provide naturalistic explanations as to why people believe such falsehoods. The relevance is explained in chapter 4, where John Loftus uses them to defend what he calls the Outsider Test for Faith (“OTF”). Loftus argues that a rational person should adopt the same skeptical stance towards her own religious beliefs that she does towards religions she rejects. The OTF undergirds all the articles in the book.

Part 2 is entitled “Why the Bible is not God’s Word”. Edward Babinski, in chapter 5, combs various psalms, myths, hymns, art work and apocalyptic literature and concludes that the Bible teaches a flat-earth cosmology where God literally lives just above the sky. Needless to say, Babinski’s exegesis is extremely literalistic. On p143 he states that Revelation 21:16 claims that the New Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia in height and then argues that something this size would “block jet streams in the upper atmosphere and be pummeled by natural and manmade objects orbiting the earth” (one wonders how an asteroid can strike a metaphor).

In chapter 7 Paul Tobin summarizes some fairly standard arguments against the reliability of the Bible – it is inconsistent, not supported by archeology, contains forgeries and fairy tales, etc. Loftus rounds off this section with a long list of passages that he contends people have historically appealed to in order to justify immoral acts.

We move onto “Why the Christian God is not Perfectly Good” in Part 4. Hector Avalos offers a critique of Paul Copan’s “Is Yahweh a Moral Monster?” [Philosophia Christi 10 (2008): 7-37]. Avalos draws on a lot of ancient Near East (“ANE”) material; however, he often does so quite selectively. On p215, Avalos dismisses Copan’s contention that the lex talionis does not call “for bodily mutilation, but rather just (monetary) compensation” as “mere assertion”. However, only a page later, Avalos criticizes Copan’s comments about the manumission of slaves citing the authority of “Raymond Westbrook, one of the foremost biblical legal specialists”. In fact, Westbrook has defended Copan’s position on the lex talionis [“The Character of Ancient Near Eastern Law” in A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003) 74]. Further, Avalos contends that Jesus took the lex talionis literally in Matt 5:38-39, a position refuted by David Daube [The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (London: Athlone Press, 1956) 256].

Exegetical issues aside, much of Avalos’s moral arguments contains subtle fallacies. He argues Christians are committed to accepting the counter factual: If YHWH commands you to kill P then it is permissible to kill P. He then points out that if we replace the word YHWH with Allah, you get the conclusion it is permissible to kill Americans if Allah commands it. Avalos contends that this calls into question the “logic” of theistic ethics. It does not. Any sound argument will be analogous to an unsound argument if we replace a true premise with a false one.

Perhaps the most glaring problem with Avalos’s article is that after he argues The Torah is immoral and unjust he states that moral relativism is true. But how can a relativist consistently claim that the moral code of another culture is immoral?

Loftus rounds of Part 3 by arguing that the existence of animal suffering is incompatible with belief in God in chapter 9.

Part 4 argues “Why Jesus is not the Risen Son of God”. In chapter 10, Richard Price engages in a largely ad hominem attack on Greg Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. He argues that methodological naturalism is the correct historical method and that Jesus is mythical figure. Applying the OTF, in chapter 11 Richard Carrier argues that Christians should respond to the claim Christ rose from the dead with the same skepticism they have towards miracle stories in Herodotus. Loftus finishes the section with chapter 12 by taking the apocalyptic imagery of Olivet discourse literally; he argues that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic preacher who predicted the end of the world and got it wrong.

In the final section, Part 5, the authors argue that “Why Society does not depend on Christian Faith”. Failing to distinguish ontological questions from sociological ones, David Eller in chapter 13, offers the non-sequitur that because different systems of mores can exist independently of religious beliefs morality does not depend on religion. He also contends that anyone who fails to grasp this point “understands very little about religion or morality” – something I am sure is news to Robert Adams, John Hare, Stephen Layman and Mark Linville.

In chapter 14 Hector Avalos selectively argues that Christianity was responsible for the Holocaust. He argues the Nazis were Christians; they promoted an Aryan Christianity which taught Jesus, preached love of one’s own race and opposed the Jews. According to this Nazi theology, Paul and the later Jewish apostles corrupted Christianity by teaching love of all people including other races. Then only a few pages later he rebuts attempts to hold Darwinism responsible for the holocaust on the grounds that these fail to distinguish Darwinism from later interpretations or misinterpretations of Darwinism by others.

An even bigger howler occurs on p374; Avalos appeals to anti-Jewish pogroms that occurred in 1096 as evidence of Christian anti-Semitism. Avalos concedes “church authorities did denounce these pogroms” but dismisses this, suggesting “the laity may have acted the way they did because of words such as those of Pope Innocent III…in 1208” Are we to seriously believe the pogroms of 1096 were motivated by a papal announcement made 112 years after the fact? The book closes in chapter 15 with Carrier critiquing Rodney Stark’s claim that Christianity caused the rise of modern science.

Perhaps the greatest problem with this book is the incoherence of the main line of argument. Loftus outlines the OTF in terms of two theses:

[1] The religious diversity thesis: that people from different cultures adopt different religious beliefs;

[2] The religious dependency thesis: which religion one adopts is overwhelmingly dependent on cultural conditions.

Loftus contends [2] is a plausible inference from [1] and that [1] and [2] entail the OTF. So, Christians should approach Christianity with the same skepticism they have towards Islam or Hinduism or even belief in fairy worship. Their beliefs are rational only if they can be justified from this default skeptical position.

Various analogies call this argument into question. For example, according to the articles of Avalos and Loftus, previous Christian and Jewish cultures held moral beliefs which were very different to ours. They believed in killing heretics, accepted racism, slavery, killing witches, supported genocide and so forth. Further, Carrier argues Christians despised the virtues of curiosity necessary for science. So it seems that an analogue of [1] applies to many of our moral beliefs.

Similarly, Babinski, Carrier, Eller, Price and others note that Christian and ANE cultures did not endorse a scientific epistemology or critical historical method. They believed in myths over empirical research or held to superstitious religious doctrines instead of believing the current scientific theories we believe today. Ancient Greek historians credulously accepted unreliable miracle stories. Consequently an analogue of [1] applies equally well to epistemological positions such as these.

Given that [2] is inferred from [1], if Loftus’ argument is valid then analogues of [2] must apply to Loftus et al’s own moral, epistemological and scientific beliefs. But then parity of reasoning would entail that their readers should adopt the same skepticism towards science and critical history as they hold towards the myths and superstitions of primitive cultures. Similarly, readers should adopt the same skepticism towards Loftus et al’s beliefs that anti-Semitism, killing heretics, committing genocide and burning witches is wrong as they hold towards the moral beliefs of cultures that practice and endorse these actions.

This conclusion is obviously absurd; but, more importantly, if it were embraced it would undercut the very premises the authors in the book use to argue against Christianity. In numerous places Loftus et al appeal to science, canons, critical history and the immorality of certain actions to critique Christian belief. They do not attempt to justify these beliefs from premises which would be accepted by a skeptical outsider from a radically different culture. But these are the kinds of beliefs which analogues of [1] and [2] apply to, and hence, are the kind of beliefs the OTF says we should be highly skeptical of. If the OTF is correct we should, in fact, treat Carrier and Price’s critical history with the same skepticism we currently treat miracles in Herodotus. We should treat Babinski’s appeal to modern cosmology with the same skepticism we treat ANE cosmological myths. We should treat Avalos’s appeal to the wrongness of slavery with the same skepticism we treat appeals to the permissibility of genocide.

Loftus is aware of this line of criticism; on p89 he admits an analogue of [1] applies to his scientific and epistemological beliefs “Unless I could have come up with this vast amount of knowledge myself, then I wouldn’t know any different than others if I was born in 1000 BCE”. He states “I was indeed lucky to have been born when and where I was born to know what I do in order to offer the OTF as a critique of religious faith.” Citing Carrier, on p101 he makes a similar response regarding moral beliefs using the example of democracy, “any rational sixteenth-century man who was given all the information we now have (of the different outcomes of democratic vs. non-democratic nations over a long period of time) would agree with us that democracy is better.”

Both these answers involve the abandonment of the OTF. Loftus assumes that he is “lucky” to be brought up in a culture that has got it right with regards to science, epistemology and morality. He suggests that what counts is not the stance skeptical outsiders hold but rather the stance outsiders would hold if they were insiders; that is, if they had all the knowledge which people of Loftus’s persuasion hold. This seems like special pleading. One can imagine Christians responding in an analogous way. If Muslims were lucky enough to be brought up in a Christian home and culture they would know the same things about Jesus that we Christians have been fortunate enough to learn. Loftus can only rule out this parity of reasoning by begging the question and assuming from the outset that the moral and epistemic beliefs of skeptics count as knowledge but Christian beliefs do not.

This review has been fairly negative; however, despite the problems inherent in this book, which are substantive, The Christian Delusion is still worth reading. The book is a comprehensive and representative expression of contemporary skeptical thought from some leading free thinkers in a single volume. Given the pervasiveness in our culture of the line of argument advanced in this book, anyone who wants to understand the position of contemporary free thinkers could not do much better than to read it.

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305 responses so far ↓

  • The concept is not hard to understand John, but the basis for the special pleading – the OTF only being applied to religious beliefs and not to other beliefs – really is.

  • Madeline, that is a red herring. It’s how Christians reject other religions.

  • No it is not a red herring John. You ask Christians and other religious believers to apply a standard to their beliefs – your OTF test – that you do not ask atheists, agnostics, sceptics. That is special pleading.
    It is an attempt made by a sceptic (or however you describe yourself) to reject Christianity/religion.

  • Madeline, which beliefs of mine am I exempting? I do not believe. I am a non-believer, a non-theist, an a-theist. How can I subject my non-beliefs to further testing? Would you care to test your non-belief in unicorns any further than by testing such a belief against the evidence? Once you conclude there are no unicorns how can you possibly test that conclusion any further than you already did?

    I take it you are a non-Muslim. You tested such a belief exactly as I described in that link. If you didn’t than you did so by begging the question in favor of your faith which is an informal fallacy. Now, how can you possibly test your non-Muslim “beliefs” to any further testing?

  • John, you’ll see a series of beliefs you and the authors in your book put forward which the outsider test is not applied to in my review above. I explictly mention them.

    As to ” I am a non-believer, a non-theist, an a-theist. “ first you know that the word “athiest” does not merely mean someone who does not believe in God, it refers to the belief there is no God. But second, you believe the outsider test is the correct way to asses truth claims, this is an epistemological claim, its not accepted by all reasonable people, it moreover is a peculiarly western way of thinking and is not accepted cross culturally, so please provide an argument from premises which all people cross culturally accept for it.

    Otherwise, you are clearly exempting your self from it.

  • For the record

    Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.

    I believe the key phrase here is: “absence of belief”

  • Paul
    For the record… what is the difference between an “atheist” and an “agnostic” by your definitions?

  • Also for the record

    The “Test” John has created is aimed at “Religious Faith”

    Namely, a belief not resting on logical proof or material evidence.

    In contrast, as Richard Dawkins states in “The God Delusion”, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position.

    He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”.

  • Matt, first, the OTF does not undergird all the articles in the book. How can you come to that conclusion? Please explain this delusion of yours.

    Second, the OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions. If there is any inconsistency at all it it how YOU assess truth claims.

    Tird, the first three chapters show us from anthropological and psychological data how we come to our beliefs, all of us. That is indeed something you must wrestle with since YOU are the one claiming one particular religious faith is true out of all the others.

    Fourth, the OTF is an argument I can only make in our day an age. It would have little or no force during the Catholic Middle Ages where everyone was a Catholic

    Fifth, without the present anthropological and psychological data that we all accept the OTF would have less force than it does too. Unless I could have come up with this data on my own I could not make this argument, so in that sense I was lucky to be born when and where I was born in order to make it.

    Sixth, doubt is the adult attitude given the facts that form the basis of the OTF. One cannot subject this doubt to further testing. It is what makes testing our ideas possible in the first place. It is a filter that strains our the wheat of what’s true from the chaff of false ideas.

    Seventh, we human beings are in the same boat, epistemologically speaking. We are not all that rational. We believe what we prefer to believe and we defend that which we were raised to believe. We seek to confirm what we believe rather than disconfirm it. Even contrary evidence or the lack of evidence is seen as evidence that we are right.

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/07/people-believe-and-defend-that-which_31.html

    Therefore doubt is the adult attitude. This should be simple and non-controversial. Because we are not all that rational we should all be skeptics, demanding hard cold impartial evidence for that which we believe. That’s how you approach all other religions.

    Why the double standard?

  • Madeline, again, the OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions. If there is any inconsistency at all it it how YOU assess truth claims.

    It should only take a moment’s thought to realize that if there is a God who wants people born into different religious cultures to believe, who are outsiders, then that religious faith SHOULD pass the OTF.

  • “Because we are not all that rational we should all be skeptics, demanding hard cold impartial evidence for that which we believe. ”

    and what we don’t believe … belief, lack of belief … they’re the same really … the issue is that you don’t apply your standard to your own beliefs/disbeliefs

  • Anon,

    It will not do to argue against atheists that this data applies to us too. This is a fallacious argument that cannot be used to sidestep the implications for one’s own inherited religious faith. All believers who are certain of their faith will use this same fallacious argument against atheists. But doing so does nothing to solve the problem of religious diversity, since they still have not come up with a method that can solve their own differences. Atheists are doubters. We are skeptics. Knowing this data causes us to require hard, cold evidence for that which we can accept. We have concluded this requirement is never met by any religious faith.

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/its-time-once-again-boys-and-girls-for.html

  • Non-beliefs are semantic rubbish. Do you believe that your non-belief is true, correct, the right stance to take? Of course you do, no one takes the stance they think is wrong or the second best option. Then given this you have a framework, lense, perspective, worldview, way of looking at and processing your thoughts about life, the universe and everything – whatever you want to call it – which I call a set of a beliefs but I’ll quite happily call it a turquoise pot-plant seeing as you don’t like that term.

    Now my turquoise pot-plant is Christianity, yours is something else – not-Christianity perhaps, atheism, agnoticism, jediism… Whose turquoise pot-plant is the right one? Well, without special pleading, John, you would have to say, we had to apply the OTF to our turquoise pot-plants but that is not what you are saying; you are saying that only people with my type of turquoise pot-plant have to apply the OTF, people without my type of turquoise pot-plant do not have to. That is special pleading.

  • turquoise pot-plant…ha!…that’s a good one to start off my Saturday with.

    Paul Bennett,

    If atheism is simply an absence of belief, how do we distinguish an atheist from an acorn? Absence of belief is a bit broad. Are young children atheists if they have not been raised in a religious home?

    Suppose a child makes it to adulthood without ever critically assessing their atheistic upbringing. Are they still exempt from the OTF? They certainly aren’t in the category of skeptical doubt that Loftus places himself. They haven’t even considered that their beliefs are false. They were simply raised as atheists.

    Why are they exempt from the OTF?

  • Wow, I read through the review and I’d have to agree with John.

    The OTF applies to faith, however, I’d be interested to see how it’s not applied elsewhere under a different name.

    Perhaps Matt, Madeleine (and Glenn) you could cite some other fields where the OTF equivalent is not applied but should be and perhaps describe what the detriment is to that field for not doing so ?

  • A problem I see with the OTF is that, as Paul Bennett explicitly says (in his comments here) that the OTF rests on the idea that it tests beliefs which have no evidence. To whit, “Namely, a belief not resting on logical proof or material evidence.”

    But that’s part of the problem. Loftus et al assume Christianity is on the same level as all other religions–they make the assumption that there is no logical proof for Christianity–and then say “Ah HA! The OTF works!” Well of course, if you make the assumption that there is no evidence for a position, you’re going to falsify it.

    But despite Loftus’ attempts to assert he apparently believes nothing (apparently he doesn’t believe the proposition: “Jesus did not raise from the dead” or “There is no God”), he would have to apply a similar rule to each of his own beliefs, like “We should use the OTF.”

  • Unfortunately, the reductio about the OTF applying to moral beliefs has been repeated by (it seems) almost every commenter on the OTF. John’s response here (special pleading about the epistemic status of non-belief, presuming there are no grounds for any religious belief over-and-above another, asserting reasonable outsiders would agree with his moral and religious beliefs, etc.) is typically uninspiring. I fear he just doesn’t ‘get it’.

  • There are two usages to the word “belief.”

    1. A cognitive understanding of the nature of reality or truth. In this sense it is the same as “faith.” I.e. I believe that the moon is orbiting the earth either has a correspondence to reality or it does not. It is either true or it is not. I believe the moon is orbiting the earth, or that God exists means the same as saying “I have FAITH that the moon is orbiting the earth or the God exists.”

    2. A preference. I.e. I believe that this painting is beautiful means I have a preference for this painting. I believe that witches should be burned means I have a preference for a system where witches are burned. I CANNOT have FAITH that a particular painting is beautiful or that witches should be burned. All beliefs about morality come under this usage because they are merely expressions of preference or opinion.

    What seems to be happening here is that christian philosophers are trying to say that the OTF which only applies to usage 1 should be applied to usage 2.

    Somehow they think that the OTF failure in a context that it was never intended for is a failure of the test–they could not be more wrong.

  • @ J W Wartick

    “But that’s part of the problem. Loftus et al assume Christianity is on the same level as all other religions–they make the assumption that there is no logical proof for Christianity–and then say “Ah HA! The OTF works!” Well of course, if you make the assumption that there is no evidence for a position, you’re going to falsify it.”

    Yes, Christianity is unique, just like all of the other faiths.

  • If no religion can pass the OTF then it is not the fault of the test. It’s the fault of religion. After all, YOU use it when rejecting other religions. Why would YOU use a test and then say it doesn’t apply to your own faith? Why the double standard?

  • Lofty is the sort who gets what he thinks is a bright idea, then, no matter how many people explain to him why it simply won’t fly, can’t bear to let go of it.

  • “Tird, the first three chapters show us from anthropological and psychological data how we come to our beliefs, all of us. That is indeed something you must wrestle with”

    Lofty, why must anyone wrestle with an argument based on the genetic fallacy?

  • “Doubt is the adult attitude” presumably applies to adult atheists too.

    So even atheism, when held by rational conviction, should be a provisional rather than a terminal stance.

    Humility all round is called for, given the immensity of the topic!
    (So it is good to see such a respectful tone being maintained in this debate so far, more or less.)

  • I think the OTF is seen to fail in the mind of those who are afraid of the implications.

    For those interested in the truth, it’s a good test. Believers clearly set a low bar for evidence when it comes to their own supernatural beliefs, but they raise the bar when it comes to other supernatural beliefs and no evidence is sufficient when it comes to any claim which negates their beliefs. The OTF reveals this bias.

    The believer wants to think that the atheists rejects their beliefs for bad reasons, when in fact, atheists reject the believers beliefs for the same reasons believers reject other religions and superstitious claims. Obviously, people believe in the magical things they do because of indoctrination, confusing correlation with causation, and confirmation bias. Christians can see this readily when they consider Greek Myths or reincarnationists– but their indoctrination blinds them in regards to their own, equally unsupportable supernatural beliefs. If they are indoctrinated well enough, they become too afraid of thinking outside the faith– afraid that they’ll suffer forever if they do so.

    Every cult member can tell you why they are sure their religion is the really true truth– but none can tell you what evidence would get them to believe a competing claim– that’s because no evidence would or could suffice. They are brainwashed. Christians can see it with the Muslims and the Scientologists, but their indoctrination makes sure they deny it in themselves. The OTF illustrates this, however– which is why we see so much kicking and screaming around it.

    The OTF is just a tool to help a believer counteract the biases of his indoctrination, so that instead of endlessly trying to prop us his belief, he’s got a brain more willing to consider whether his supernatural beliefs are any more likely to be true than the supernatural beliefs he rejects (such as reincarnation). As far as the empirical evidence is concerned, the answer is “no”.

    I understand why this would bother someone more interested in keeping the faith rather than understanding what is real. Magician, James Randi points out that the easiest people to fool are those who are certain they cannot be fooled. I know I can be fooled. And I don’t feel like fooling myself any more. I think those against the OTF are those with a strong interest in continuing to fool themselves.

  • John Loftus:

    For the following beliefs, if you have them, please provide cold impartial, material evidence to support them:

    the truth of epistemic internalism
    the external world
    other minds
    the physical world
    one’s own thoughts

  • Dr. Flannagan, you wrote:

    “If the OTF is correct we should, in fact, treat Carrier and Price’s critical history with the same skepticism we currently treat miracles in Herodotus. We should treat Babinski’s appeal to modern cosmology with the same skepticism we treat ANE cosmological myths. We should treat Avalos’s appeal to the wrongness of slavery with the same skepticism we treat appeals to the permissibility of genocide.”

    I think the obvious answer here is that we do! This conclusion is no less absurd than asking for evidence to back up our claims. Modern cosmological views are based on a series of constant revisions borne out by evidence. Avalos’ appeal to the wrongness of slavery is borne out by our idea that slavery creates a damage to the well-being of human beings.

    These claims are not merely resting upon faith; they are founded upon evidence and reason. The OTF just asks us to extend those values to culturally ordained religious beliefs.

    For any interested, I wrote a larger response here:
    http://www.soulsprawl.com/2011/06/25/when-christians-play-the-part-of-skeptics/

  • For each of those positions listed, use the OTF. That is, do not make an argument for those positions that presuppose their truth. For example, if you seek to provide evidence for the truth of internalism, you must only provide it from the perspective of an externalist. If you provide evidence of the external world, you must adopt the default position of no external world, and then reason yourself to it. Of course, you may only reason yourself to it if you first proven that you have thoughts in the first place, which you must also prove wrong in a non question-begging way the default position that you have no thoughts.

  • This conversation is like talking to a room full of blind and deaf people who do not realise they are.

    Simply asserting things like “The OTF applies to faith” and “I think the OTF is seen to fail in the mind of those who are afraid of the implications” and “no religion can pass the OTF” shows that you are not listening. Your responses are responses to objections that no one has actually advanced and they fail to answer the objections that have been.

    Once again… Every single person on the face of the earth has a perspective on life. Some people share similar perspectives and these similarities are of a nature that we can reasonably group them and give them labels. Given the sheer range of perspectives present on earth it is not surprising that some entail the rejection of others because some contradict each other.

    Now it is only natural that adherents of one perspective are going to think that their perspective is the right one; it is natural because no one adopts a perspective, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they think is wrong. So we get into discussions about how and why our own perspective is right and why someone else’s is wrong.

    In that context John comes up with his OTF and insists that people with my type of perspective apply it to their own perspective but then insists that people with his type of perspective do not have to do this because people with his type of perspective simply have an absence of belief in my type of belief. Well, why can’t I say that I simply have an absence of belief in his type of belief? Both his perspective and my perspective are perspectives. Why is that so hard to grasp? Playing games with semantics does not change this. John views the world through one lense, I view the world through a different lense; both are lenses.

    Asserting that only one of us has to examine and put under scrutiny their lense is special pleading – put both lenses to the same test. What are you afraid of – the implications? I think the reason that the sceptics are so afraid to subject their viewpoint to the same degree of scepticism they are demanding of the viewpoints in conflict with their own is that know their own perspective will not pass the Outsider Test for Sceptics “OTS”.

    Why should a religious person who has been lucky enough to be born into a religious community which holds the right and correct and most obviously neutral viewpoint have to buy the secularist’s position when there is so clearly no evidence for it? What positive proofs have been offered by science as to why we should view the world with the sceptic’s lense? Why should outsiders of scepticism buy scepticism when it so clearly fails the OTS.

  • Why Atheism Fails…

    Why atheism fails http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/06/the-christian-delusion-why-faith-fails-a-philosophia-christi-review-of-john-loftus-book.html Labels: Hays, Hector Avalos, Inerrancy, John Loftus, Village Atheist…

  • Dr. Flannagan Just Does Not Get it, The OTF Again and Again and Again……

    Christian philosopher Matthew Flannagan wrote a review of The Christian Delusion for Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He offers nothing but canards against the OTF. Was he not paying attention?…

  • I think the OTF is seen to fail in the mind of those who are afraid of the implications.
    This is an assertion backed up by an ad hominen attack on people who disagree with them.

    For those interested in the truth, it’s a good test. Believers clearly set a low bar for evidence when it comes to their own supernatural beliefs, but they raise the bar when it comes to other supernatural beliefs and no evidence is sufficient when it comes to any claim which negates their beliefs. The OTF reveals this bias.

    Actually I think it does the opposite, sceptics demand that Christians meet an inordinate burden of proof by proposing the OTF, but then they fail to apply this proof in other contexts, particular to premises they use to argue against Gods existence. I note this in the review.

    The believer wants to think that the atheists rejects their beliefs for bad reasons, when in fact, atheists reject the believers beliefs for the same reasons believers reject other religions and superstitious claims.

    This is an assertion which has been refuted already on this blog. But note you make it without any proof. If I held to the OTF I should be sceptical of this claim until you prove it.

    Obviously, people believe in the magical things they do because of indoctrination, confusing correlation with causation, and confirmation bias. Christians can see this readily when they consider Greek Myths or reincarnationists– but their indoctrination blinds them in regards to their own, equally unsupportable supernatural beliefs. If they are indoctrinated well enough, they become too afraid of thinking outside the faith– afraid that they’ll suffer forever if they do so.
    Again we see an assertion, involving a string of genetic and ad hominen fallacies, prefaced with the word “obviously”
    If you want to insist on the OTF, I should be sceptical of these claims until you prove them. Where is the proof?

    Every cult member can tell you why they are sure their religion is the really true truth– but none can tell you what evidence would get them to believe a competing claim– that’s because no evidence would or could suffice. They are brainwashed. Christians can see it with the Muslims and the Scientologists, but their indoctrination makes sure they deny it in themselves. The OTF illustrates this, however– which is why we see so much kicking and screaming around it.

    Again another assertion about others being “brain washed” with you expect everyone to accept without proof. Keep the examples coming your proving my point nicely

    The OTF is just a tool to help a believer counteract the biases of his indoctrination, so that instead of endlessly trying to prop us his belief, he’s got a brain more willing to consider whether his supernatural beliefs are any more likely to be true than the supernatural beliefs he rejects (such as reincarnation). As far as the empirical evidence is concerned, the answer is “no”.
    I note here you limit your claims to supernatural beliefs and insist on empirical evidence. Why? This is an epistemological claim. If the OTF is true I should be a sceptical outsider to claims like this so my default position is to deny it, until you prove it.
    I note the only proof you give is an assertion.
    Again, thanks for proving my point.

    ”I understand why this would bother someone more interested in keeping the faith rather than understanding what is real. Magician, James Randi points out that the easiest people to fool are those who are certain they cannot be fooled. I know I can be fooled. And I don’t feel like fooling myself any more. I think those against the OTF are those with a strong interest in continuing to fool themselves.

    Interesting, again we have the OTF defended by an ad hominen. This is apparently the only proof needed when it’s your beliefs that are under discussion. When people question the epistemic stance you adopt, you respond by saying they “have an interest in fooling themselves” and dismiss it.

    Perhaps you’ll answer the question I put to you last time we discussed this. Take the claim “women and men have equal rights” or “all human beings have equal dignity and worth” can you prove this with empirical evidence? If I had been brought up in another culture I would probably not believe this. So the OTF requires me to be sceptical of it until someone proves it with empirical evidence alone.

    I take it you provide empirical evidence for this claim that meets the standard you demand before on believes in theism, then you need to explain to me why you adopt a different standard here?

  • If no religion can pass the OTF then it is not the fault of the test. It’s the fault of religion. After all, YOU use it when rejecting other religions. Why would YOU use a test and then say it doesn’t apply to your own faith? Why the double standard?

    Sorry John, but if I accept the OTF then I have to be skeptical of this assertion until you prove it from premises that skeptical outsiders are required to accept.

  • “[1] The religious diversity thesis: that people from different cultures adopt different religious beliefs;

    [2] The religious dependency thesis: which religion one adopts is overwhelmingly dependent on cultural conditions.”

    One can replace the word “religious” in Thesis 1 with “political”, “moral”, or many other kinds, like beliefs about church and state, or beliefs about the origins of the world. Does it follow that all these beliefs be validated by the OTF?

    Suppose my religious is extraordinarily unique to me – no one else in my culture has the kind of belief I have. Does this exempt my belief from the OTF’s saw?

  • Matthew Flannagan said:

    “Exegetical issues aside, much of Avalos’s moral arguments contains subtle fallacies. He argues Christians are committed to accepting the counter factual: If YHWH commands you to kill P then it is permissible to kill P. He then points out that if we replace the word YHWH with Allah, you get the conclusion it is permissible to kill Americans if Allah commands it. Avalos contends that this calls into question the “logic” of theistic ethics. It does not. Any sound argument will be analogous to an unsound argument if we replace a true premise with a false one.”

    Did he really say this? OTF fail, Matt!

  • Paul summed it up in a nutshell when he wrote: The believer wants to think that the atheists rejects their beliefs for bad reasons, when in fact, atheists reject the believers beliefs for the same reasons believers reject other religions and superstitious claims.

    The great thing about the OTF is that it backs Christian apologists into a corner and they have to respond by either “going nuclear” (see Stephen Law on this tactic:http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2010/09/revised-chapter-for-comments.html ) or suggesting, a Madeleine has, that skepticism also fails the OTF. Well Madeleine, let me drink your kool-aid and assume that you’re right – skepticism also fails the OTF. How does this help you? The simple fact of the matter is that you and your brethren believe that a divine being raped a virgin so that He could offer up his son as a blood sacrifice for a fallen humanity. These facts are fundamentally based on supposed miraculous events of which there are no first hand accounts to verify that they occurred. You are obviously a well-educated person. if you can look me in the eye and tell me that you would be able to swallow that load of crock if you had never heard it before right now, I’ve got some oceanfront property in the U.S. state of Arizona that will definitely interest you.

  • Hector Avalos’ time travel claims were interesting.

    (Sorry, I am bored with all the OTF stuff now and this blog post was not, afterall, simply an assessment of the OTF, it was a review of a whole book)

    Did anyone else have any thoughts on Avalos’ bizarre straw-clutching attempts to smear the Medieval Papacy with anti-semitism by suggesting that people were motivated by events yet to occur for another 150 years? When you have to make stuff up to prove your point you are not really on strong ground.

  • “you and your brethren believe that a divine being raped a virgin so that He could offer up his son as a blood sacrifice for a fallen humanity.”

    Nothing in the gospel accounts suggest that God engaged in physical and sexual intercourse with Mary. Unless you operate by a different definition of rape, you’re just being a dick.

  • TAM the fact that no viewpoint can pass the OTF “helps me” becayuse it establishes that the OFT is a stupid way of examining the truth basis of a viewpoint – no viewpoint can pass it.

    But that was not my point. My point was that anyone can prove their viewpoint is superior if they engage in special pleading but then if that is how they get there then they have not really proven anything have they?

  • I think the obvious answer here is that we do! This conclusion is no less absurd than asking for evidence to back up our claims. Modern cosmological views are based on a series of constant revisions borne out by evidence.

    This assumes several epistemological theses: that certain types of data counts as evidence. Others do not. That the way to gain knowledge is by revision. It also assumes controversial claims about the history of science, that its progressed by constant revisions.

    Neither claim is one that is accepted by all epistemologists or philosophers of science or historians of science. And other cultures would not have held these epistemic claims.
    So until someone comes up with proof of these claims from premises that people in all cultures would accept, and using a method and argument that all cultures accept, and is accepted by all my epistemic peers in these disciplines. I am afraid appealing to these claims as evidence fails the OTF.

    Avalos’ appeal to the wrongness of slavery is borne out by our idea that slavery creates a damage to the well-being of human beings.

    This assumes that: an action is wrong if it “damages” the well being of humans.

    That’s a moral claim, it’s also proposed as an objective claim, one that applies to all cultures including ANE Israelite culture.
    To demonstrate this with empirical evidence one would have to have constructed an empirical proof of the existence of objective moral obligations.

    The fact is, in contemporary meta-ethics its highly debatable whether one can prove ought statements empirically. No one has ever provided a substantive empirical proof of substantive object moral claims like this. There is no premise and argument that is such that all my epistemic peers in these subjects accept it, so these fail the OTF.

    (Avalos by the way, in his article rejects both moral objectivism and claims that can’t be empirically verified is should be rejected, yet he relies as you say on a moral claim, treats it as objective and it’s a claim that is not falsifiable)

    These claims are not merely resting upon faith; they are founded upon evidence and reason. The OTF just asks us to extend those values to culturally ordained religious beliefs.

    This is simply cultural blindness on your part. The epistemic assumptions of science would be rejected and according to Carrier were rejected in many cultures. The idea that all human beings are equal and one should respect their flourishing is also “culturally ordained” many previous cultures had no problem with viewing other humans as less worthy of respect and rights. Avalos and others go to great lengths to argue this is true. So, seeing these are culturally ordained. If you claim these pass the OTF I want to see proofs for these claims that are at least as powerful as the numerous philosophical arguments for Gods existence which sceptics insist are rubbish.

  • OK, I’ll bite…

    “An even bigger howler occurs on p374; Avalos appeals to anti-Jewish pogroms that occurred in 1096 as evidence of Christian anti-Semitism. Avalos concedes “church authorities did denounce these pogroms” but dismisses this, suggesting “the laity may have acted the way they did because of words such as those of Pope Innocent III…in 1208” Are we to seriously believe the pogroms of 1096 were motivated by a papal announcement made 112 years after the fact? ”

    Are we to seriously believe that Pope Innocent III’s position regarding the Jews was unique?

  • TAM wrote: “you and your brethren believe that a divine being raped a virgin so that He could offer up his son as a blood sacrifice for a fallen humanity.”

    Um sorry. Who believes this?

    It sounds like some bizarre chinese whispers version of Christianity – something a cult might believe.

    Christianity clearly records Mary being visited by an Angel who told her of the plan, which did not involve sex – she remained a virgin until after she gave birth – and to which she willingly gave her consent to.

    Now rape is generally defined as some kind of unconsented to sexual contact. So here we have no sexual contact and consent. On what planet could this be rape?

    It is more analogous to guaranteed to implant IVF performed with informed consent. OOh morally dubious. NOT.

  • Prove that there’s such a thing as an “angel”.

  • I didn’t say that other stuff. You said,

    “Christianity clearly records Mary being visited by an Angel who told her of the plan, which did not involve sex – she remained a virgin until after she gave birth – and to which she willingly gave her consent to.”

    I’ll go you one better. If Jesus had no earthly father, how is it that he was male? only a biological father can provide a ‘Y’ chromosome.

  • “Are we to seriously believe that Pope Innocent III’s position regarding the Jews was unique?”

    So, assuming you are right, that his positions was not unique, that makes it ok for Avalos to make stuff off and publish it in a book as truth!

  • What Christians believe is a ridiculous story without proof beyond what’s written in the New Testament.

  • I’m just saying, about the Papacy’s attitudes…

    Dr. Avalos chose that passage, I have no way of knowing his reasons. You’ll have to ask him.

  • Madeline Flannagan reviews The Christian Delusion…

    No surprise, the discussion ends up focusing on the OTF. HT: Steve Hays. – That’s not a review. – True. It’s more like a burial at sea. – I thought it was rather like a roundhouse kick to the brain….

  • GearHedEd, actually I don’t think Avalos esthablished that pope Innocent did support what he contends. He cited a phrase about “heretics” and said it was about Jews and heretics, nothing in the text he cited however suggested Jews were included. I was unable to locate the primary source to check. I did however see some sources which said Innocent said the opposite. Not having the time to research it completely I was charitable to Avalos in my review.

    As to your question,

    First, you don’t get to argue that because one Pope said something one can assume all Popes at all points in history did so. That is not a valid inference, the suggestion you seem to be make is that the default position is to make this inference, is one I find incredible.

    Second, Avalos himself documents that the Chruch authorities at the time did condemn the practise, so the position does not appear to have been Uniform. In fact I think there have been several church pronouncements throughout history condemning anti-semitic violence. But researching documenting all this for a short review would have been overkill

    But this is all evasive as I noted on p374; Avalos appeals to anti-Jewish pogroms that occurred in 1096 as evidence of Christian anti-Semitism. Avalos then concedes “church authorities did denounce these pogroms” but dismisses this, suggesting “the laity may have acted the way they did because of words such as those of Pope Innocent III…in 1208”

    In otherwords, he cites an atrocity to show the church supported something, he then admits the church actually opposed it, and then tries to smear the church anyway by contending the laity were motivated by papal statements a century later. Loftus read this, knew it, and published it anyway.

    I note again that suddenly the OTF’s demand to adopt a skeptical outsiders perspective towards claims of this sort has suddenly gone out the window. Now, the suggestion is that the default is to assume pronouncements existed on no evidence apart from one unsubstantiated claim, and, in fact ,on the basis of obviously absurd claims which are scientifically impossible and extrapolate from these across church history.

    Its interesting how the sceptic demands and goal posts shift when its accusations against the church that are being discussed.

  • “What Christians believe is a ridiculous story without proof beyond what’s written in the New Testament.”

    See, I find the excessively literal and fundamentalist way of reading the Bible that scpetics insist on doing very difficult to grasp.

    The genre so very clearly is not dry, contemporary, science text-book so why you insist on attempting to read what is clearly metaphorical language in that way is a bit bizarre. No wonder you find it so easy to write off as “ridiculous”.

    Further what is wrong with using the proof within the text? This is another thing I find bizarre. We accept this sort of textual evidence in every other context for other historical texts, just not the Bible… Special pleading again?

  • Matt said,

    “First, you don’t get to argue that because one Pope said something one can assume all Popes at all points in history did so. That is not a valid inference, the suggestion you seem to make is that the obvious default position is to make this inference, I find that incredible.”

    You’re arguing that the medieval RCC was soft on Jews? I find that incredible.

    “In fact I think there have been several church pronouncements throughout history condemning anti-semitic violence, I can dig the sources out if you want.”

    A handful of statements from moderate Popes over the span of some 1,700 years? OK… I’ll grant you could find a few.

    The point is, not that I’m not consistent in my skepticism, but that Christianity fails in so many ways, and that otherwise intelligent folks such as yourself bend over backwards to defend it.

    Again, if it was the first time you heard Christianity’s claims, you’d say,

    “Yeah, right. And I have a load of swampland in Borneo that I’d like to sell you.”

  • “The genre so very clearly is not dry, contemporary, science text-book so why you insist on attempting to read what is clearly metaphorical language in that way is a bit bizarre. No wonder you find it so easy to write off as “ridiculous”.”

    Jesus died for a metaphor. Gotcha.

  • What did I say from which it could reasonably be deduced that Jesus died for a metaphor?

  • Oh. So it’s not a metaphor now?

  • which html tags work in here?

    ED: Most of them, such as – bold, italics, underline, a href, blockquote, ul, ol, li, plus more

  • “The genre so very clearly is not dry, contemporary, science text-book…”

    The genre is clearly not meant as history, either.

  • The genres are mixed; you have to learn how to spot which type you are reading and at what point the genres shift within the text. This is why hermeneutics and textual interpretation and knowledge of ancient cultures and language is so important.

  • Further what is wrong with using the proof within the text?

    Nothing, provided that there’s corroborating testimony from outside the NT. Further, when we’re talking about fantastic occurrences like people “rising from the dead”, we need more than a single source; we need more than the one source that makes the claim as a testimonial written to encourage belief in it’s own claims. How many people can you name outside the Bible that have come back from the dead? Are any of them reliable accounts, or are they myths?

  • The genres are mixed; you have to learn how to spot which type you are reading and at what point the genres shift within the text. This is why hermeneutics and textual interpretation and knowledge of ancient cultures and language is so important.

    This is the definition of “cherry-picking”. The parts that are non-negotiable are “historical”; the parts that don’t matter so much are “metaphor” and “allegory”.

  • No, cherry-picking is when you selectively, led by your own biases, make the text say what you want it to say, omit the bits that don’t and so on. Proper textural interpretation, like what I am speaking of, simply involves getting at what the text is actually saying by recognising and honestly and appropriately deciphering the genres and reading each part within the context of the whole.

    This is easy in modern texts. For example, if I wrote a book of memoirs of my life that included a poem I had written which was read out at my wedding, my favourite recipe for chocolate cake and my first hand experience of surviving an earthquake, all interspersed with the genre of memoir writing, you would not, as you read your way through the book, read the part of my memoirs recording my experience and observations of the earthquake as a poem, neither would you take the chocolate cake recipe as an historical narrative of a natural disaster.

    Further, you would not accuse anyone who read the book of “cherry-picking” if they claimed that “pages 1 – 87 are memoir genre, from paragraph 2 on page 88 to paragraph 4 on page 89 the genre shifts to historical narrative. It reverts back to memoir style until page 164, about half-way down, where 3 pages of poetry begin…”

    Now they would be cherry-picking if you checked their references and found that they had omitted 2 pages of poetry on pages 120 and 121 and if they had claimed that something was memoir genre when it was clearly recipe genre – especially if that suited their particular slant on the book. But if they had made a clearly genuine attempt to get the genres assigned correctly and had appropriately interpreted them then they would simply have been reading the text honestly.

    The same applies to ancient texts. They are riddled with mixed genres and cultural references, you cannot read them as single genre and I agree with you, cherry-picking, done by Christians wanting to establish their slant or sceptics wanting to establish theirs, is not on.

  • Paul wrote: “Believers clearly set a low bar for evidence when it comes to their own supernatural beliefs, but they raise the bar when it comes to other supernatural beliefs and no evidence is sufficient when it comes to any claim which negates their beliefs.”

    How is this ‘clear’? All the believers I know believe christianity is objectively true, that the evidence points to it and no other belief. All belief are judged on that same basis of evidence and truth, and I don’t know how you can say otherwise. of course you may think the reasons they give are inadequate, but that is a different question.

    For example, if one believes, as I and millions of other people do, that God is the best explanation for the universe’s existence (whether via the Cosmological argument or something less sophisticated), some religions (e.g. Buddhism and Hinduism) appear to be shown to be inadequate and others (e.g. Christianity & Islam) fit the evidence – all on the same basis. And if one believes, as I and millions of other people do, that the historical evidence points, broadly speaking, to the gospel writers telling the truth about the life of Jesus, including that he was resurrected, then only christianity can be true – again based on historical evidence.

    So the OTF is nonsense, it starts with the assumption of what it is attempting to demonstrate, and doesn’t relate to how most thoughtful christians explain their belief. I am quite happy to subject myself to the OTF, in fact I have done so (without giving it that name) for four decades. And I’m still a christian because the evidence points to it being true.

  • GH Ed,

    Why would you refer to a collection of documents written by multiple authors as a “single source?” Do you think the NT is a single document?

  • David,

    Most serious scholarship indicates that the Gospels are all dependent on and are revisions of Mark. So there’s basically one “source” for all the information contained in the Gospels.

    Beyond the Gospels and Acts, the bulk of the rest of the New Testament was written by (or attributed to) Paul who never (even though he was about the same age and was a Pharisee that studied in Jerusalem at about the time Jesus was supposedly wandering around Judea preaching to crowds of thousands) met Jesus, nor even seems to have heard of him other than by inference to reports of Jesus’ followers. At least not until his ‘vision’ on the road to Damascus.

    Most of the doctrinal things Christians believe come from the teachings of Paul; look at how often I Corintians, Romans, Ephesians or Galatians are quoted when making a point in favor of Christianity!

    You guys aren’t following Christ, you’re following Paul.

  • John Loftus said,

    “Matt, first, the OTF does not undergird all the articles in the book. How can you come to that conclusion? Please explain this delusion of yours.”

    If you would have paid more attention to my criticisms of the OTF in my review of your chapter in TCD you would know the answer to this. As I wrote on p. 10

    *********

    “That this lengthy review of ours destroys The Christian Delusion can be demonstrated by looking at another claim Carrier made on his blog. Of the argument in chapter 4, John Loftus‘s “The Outsider Test for Faith Revisited,” Carrier says: “It‘s the lynch pin of the whole book, the fulcrum on which every other chapter does Christianity in” [sic] (http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2010/04/christian-delusion.html).

    *********

    Carrier made this claim in other places and in your presence and with your awareness. You weren’t keep to “debunk” it then, so why the rush now?

  • No, cherry-picking is when you selectively, led by your own biases, make the text say what you want it to say, omit the bits that don’t and so on.

    …something Christians are never guilty of… LOL

  • Guys, this has been a hoot, but it’s after 1:00 am here, and I gotta get up and go to church in the morning.

    …wait. No I don’t…

    :o)

  • No, cherry-picking is when you selectively, led by your own biases, make the text say what you want it to say, omit the bits that don’t and so on.

    …something Christians are never guilty of… LOL

    I never claimed Christians have never been guilty of it. We’ve all seen Christians cherry-pick and we’ve all seen sceptics do it too. It is not on no matter who is doing it. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • I’ve made this point to John and OTF devotees before, I guess I’ll make it again.

    When people point out that Loftus needs to take an OTF for many of his beliefs, like belief in the external world, he claims that we must first show him that the existence of the external world is *probably* false. This knife cuts both ways. If this is really the pre-req for taking an outsider test, then it must be the pre-req for me to take the outsider test for my faith. That is, Loftus must *first* show that my belief in Christianity is “probably” false. But, if he does manage to *show* this to me, then I don’t need to take the OTF since if I believe that Christianity is “probably false,” then I wouldn’t believe it. If Loftus says that the mere fact that my culture helps contribute to what I believe shows that my beliefs are probably false, then that’s all I need to show him his belief in an external world is probably false. If that inference doesn’t show the probability claim, then Loftus can’t use that inference to show the probability that my belief in Christianity is true is low.

    The upshot is: According to Loftus, he must first show me that Christianity is probably false, in which case I don’t need to take the OTF. If he says that some cultural dependence does show low probability, then same goes, mutatis mutandis, for his beliefs (e.g., belief in an external world, scientific realism, etc). So he must lead by example and take a couple hundred outsider tests of his own. But he claims he doesn’t need to. Same with me, then. I’m just following the practices of the founder of the OTF. If it’s good enough for him to skip tests, then, by parity of reasoning, it is for me.

  • @ Paul:

    Here’s the difference: All the navel-gazing about the problem of induction notwithstanding, if I believe that the external world is false with all my heart, soul and mind, then jump off a 200 foot cliff into the rocks, I’m gonna die.

    If I believe that there’s no God, nothing happens.

    Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

  • GHead,

    Why do you think denial of the existence of an external world means you wouldn’t die if you jumped off a cliff? I bet you’d be the guy who, upon hearing Berkeley give his argument, kicks a rock and says, “I refute you thus!” Sheesh, you’d think the millions of people who have denied the existence of a mind-independent world would have figured out the belief was false the first time they burned themselves. You really should study up on stuff before you pontificate your zingers as if no one’s thought of them before. I mean, you’d think that with your kind of answer I could just avoid the OTF by telling Loftus that if I deny Christ, then I will go to hell.

  • We’ve all seen Christians cherry-pick and we’ve all seen sceptics do it too. It is not on no matter who is doing it. Wouldn’t you agree?

    I agree, with a caveat:

    The truth of Christianity should be such that cherry-picking would not be necessary to defend it. That so many do resort to it, is telling.

    I’m an atheist not because I’m angry with God, nor that I don’t want to be subject to God’s morality, nor because I read something some “New Atheist” wrote; I’m an atheist because I do not find the “evidence” compelling enough. I knew Santa Claus was a fraud before I knew the first thing about Jesus.

    I skipped the childhood indoctrination, and by the time my parents decided to start dragging me to church, I was already 10 or 11, and the magical stories were too fantastic to believe. That was 40 years ago. In that time, I’ve seen nothing that warrants me changing my mind.

  • I mean, you’d think that with your kind of answer I could just avoid the OTF by telling Loftus that if I deny Christ, then I will go to hell.

    That’s your belief system, not mine…LOL

  • BTW, you guys can call me Ed. It’s my name.

    The “handle was my first internet address which I’ve had since 1997 and is still valid. I don’t use my real name because it isn’t important, and none of you have ever heard of me in any other context anyway.

    In other words, I’m a nobody.

  • “That’s your belief system, not mine…LOL”

    Ummmm, right, that was the point. I guess the reductio was lost on you. Oh well, you did say it was after 1 am, you must be tired.

  • Carrier made this claim in other places and in your presence and with your awareness. You weren’t keep to “debunk” it then, so why the rush now?

    Actually its worse than this, Loftus claims that the Chapters by Eller, Long, Talico, and himself all elaborate the OTF. In his introduction on p 15 of the book.

    Carrier himself explicitly states his chapter is an attempt to apply the OTF to Christianity on p 291.

    Avalos, repeatedly applies an epistemic standard of the outsider test in his critique of Copan. He regularly stalks of “faith based special pleading” and contends one cannot appeal to any theological claims in ones assessment of morality or biblical exegesis unless they can be empirically verfied, in the absence of verification we should reject all such claims as equall false. This point in made repeatedly in his article in which is on (p 209-237 )

    Price also spends the first several pages of his book spelling out an epistemic stance in history analogous to the OTF. He defends for example the critical history views of Trotesch and Van Harvey which demands one bracket all faith claims with equal scepticism and proceed on the basis of methodological naturalism ( see for example p 274).

    Avalos also uses the OTF in his argument that the Nazis were Jews, he for example notes the Nazis produced an Aryan Theology According to which Paul and the later Jewish apostles corrupted Christianity by teaching love of all people including other races. In response to the claim that this is not orthodox Christianity he claims that this objection makes a theological claim, that all theological claims wether Nazi’ Jewish, Marcionite, Lutheran etc should be bracketed from historical research and treated with equal scepticism. This enables him to contend as a matter of historical method that Nazi theology as no more or less Christian than say Catholicism or Evangelical Christianity. (p 378) which of course makes his conclusion that Christianity is responsible for the holocaust pretty easy to defend.

    Similarly, Eller’s argument that Christianity is not a basis for morality. Is based on the idea that Christianity is just one of many different perspectives and religions which offers one system of morality amongst many. The assumption, here is that if there are many different perspectives we should be as sceptical towards Christianity as we are to all the others. (p 347-368)

    On the inside cover Loftus book contains a recommendation from Frank Zindler which states “the Outsider Test of the Faith” figures prominently in this book.” (p1) Just under that there is a recommendation from James McGrath which recommends something like the OTF and claims the book is an exercise in this. (p1). Loftus, the editor, had no problem putting these positive reviews and recommendations on the inside cover. In fact he quotes a similar comment from McGrath in his own chapter and contends McGrath is advocating the OTF.(p 85)

    So like I said there was a reason why I considered this epistemological stance to be central to the book. The authors of the book pretty much said so, there arguments implicitly suggested it, and the review Loftus choose to include on the first page encouraging people to read it said so.

    and as you note Richard Carrier has said this is the case in Loftus presence on numerous occasions.

    I leave my readers then to ponder John’s public claim that this is not the case.

  • Perhaps Matt, Madeleine (and Glenn) you could cite some other fields where the OTF equivalent is not applied but should be and perhaps describe what the detriment is to that field for not doing so ?

    Paul on the Reasonable Disagreement Thread and the One less God thread, examples were pointed out over and over to show its not applied consistently in any field.

    But I note in this comment you ask “us” to prove something is not applied in another field.

    Once again we see that you suddenly demand proof for you to not accept something which its your beliefs being challenged.

    If you really believed the OTF always applied you should be skeptical of the clam its always applied in other fields and also skeptical of the claim that failure for it to be applied is detrimental.

    After all its us who have an absence of belief in the OTF, you you have a positive belief in it. So why do we now suddenly have to provide the proof?

    I’m an atheist not because I’m angry with God, nor that I don’t want to be subject to God’s morality, nor because I read something some “New Atheist” wrote; I’m an atheist because I do not find the “evidence” compelling enough. I knew Santa Claus was a fraud before I knew the first thing about Jesus.

    Well your comments in here suggest something else, you made a claim that Christianity taught that God raped mary

  • Did he really say this? OTF fail, Matt!

    I see a basic fundamental point of first year logic is contrary to the OTF.

  • Ed

    I’m an atheist not because I’m angry with God, nor that I don’t want to be subject to God’s morality, nor because I read something some “New Atheist” wrote; I’m an atheist because I do not find the “evidence” compelling enough. I knew Santa Claus was a fraud before I knew the first thing about Jesus.

    This simply asserts that a certain epistemic stance is correct. The stance that one should be an atheist unless one can prove God exists with compelling evidence.

    Here is my question, why should anyone accept that:can you provide compelling proof for this claim, if not why don’t you treat this claim as on par with belief in santa claus?

  • GearHedEd sed: “Most serious scholarship indicates that the Gospels are all dependent on and are revisions of Mark. So there’s basically one “source” for all the information contained in the Gospels.”

    I’m afraid this is dead wrong and I am surprised you make such an erroneous statement so strongly. Scholars generally recognise 5 or 6 sources for the gospels – Mark, L, M, Q and John at least, with some saying John has at least 2 sources. Check out Wikipedia for a quick summary.

  • Ed,

    Note that here the issue is a positive claim is wether for a period of history (around 500-2000) the papacy supported the killing of jews.

    You have (a) suggested that because Avalos asserts in a book one Pope did this we need reason for thinking this claim was false. And then stated (b) you are sceptical this claim is false and want evidence to say it is.

    In otherwords, your accepting a positive claim critical of Catholicism. And claiming the burden of proof are on those who are sceptical of it.

    Perhaps you can explain why all the atheist rhetoric about not believing things in books unless they are proven has suddenly flown out the window?

  • “In fact I think there have been several church pronouncements throughout history condemning anti-semitic violence, I can dig the sources out if you want.”

    A handful of statements from moderate Popes over the span of some 1,700 years? OK… I’ll grant you could find a few.

    Well, I know of serious historical studies which contest this.One farily comprehensive study by a Jewish scholar is cited here. http://books.google.co.nz/books?id=UpgAqc7-m38C&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=Steven+T.+Katz.+Thou+shall+not+annihilate+the+jews&source=bl&ots=FhptZwyh4B

    This is why I wanted to check Avalos sources, but it was only a 2000 word book review so time did not justify it.

  • Similarly I also discovered this from Innocent III in 1199

    Pope Innocent III: Constitution for the Jews

    (1199 AD)

    Although in many ways the disbelief of the Jews must be reproved, since nevertheless through them our own faith is truly proved, they must not be oppressed grievously by the faithful as the prophet says: “Do not slay them, lest these be forgetful of Thy Law,” [Ps. 58 (59):12] as if he were saying more openly: “Do not wipe out the Jews completely, lest perhaps Christians might be able to forget Thy Law, which the former, although not understanding it, present in their books to those who do understand it.”

    Just as, therefore there ought not to be license for the Jews to presume to go beyond what is permitted them by law in their synagogues, so in those which have been conceded to them, they ought to suffer no prejudice. These men, therefore, since they wish rather to go on in their own hardness than to know the revelations of the prophets and the mysteries of the Law, and to come to a knowledge of the Christian faith, still, since they beseech the help of Our defense, We, out of the meekness proper to Christian piety, and keeping in the footprints of Our predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene, Alexander, Clement, and Celestine, admit their petition, and We grant them the buckler of Our protection.

    For we make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But if any one of them should spontaneously,a nd for the sake of faith, fly to the Christians, once his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of the Christianity who is recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not spontaneously, but unwillingly.

    Too, no Christian ought to presume, apart from the juridicial sentence of the territorial power, wickedly to injure their persons, or with violence to take away their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.

    Besides, in the celebration of their own festivals, no one ought to disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.

    In addition to these, We decree, blocking the wickedness and avarice of evil men, that no one ought to dare to mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.

    If anyone, however shall attempt, the tenor of this decree once known, to go against it – may this be far from happening! – let him be punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his presumption by making equivalent satisfaction.

    We desire, however, that only those be fortified by the guard of this protection who shall have presumed no plotting for the subversion of the Christian faith.

    Given at the Lateran, by the hand of Raynaldus, Archbishop of Acerenza, acting for the Chancellor, on the 17th day before the Kalends of October, in the second indiction, and the 1199th year of the Incarnation of the Lord, and in the second year of the pontificate of the Lord Pope, Innocent III.

  • Or these sources here

    http://www.ccjr.us/dialogika-resources/primary-texts-from-the-history-of-the-relationship/263-pope-innocent-iii-on-the-jews-and-forced-baptisms-1199-and

    These suggest Innocent III had some anti semtic ideas, but that he on several occasions condemned violence against Jews and was opposed to them being killed.

  • @ Matt:

    “Paul on the Reasonable Disagreement Thread and the One less God thread, examples were pointed out over and over to show its not applied consistently in any field.

    But I note in this comment you ask “us” to prove something is not applied in another field.

    Once again we see that you suddenly demand proof for you to not accept something which its your beliefs being challenged.”

    Any field Matt means any field, which is quite a wide area to dismiss with such authority. So, could you show me say in Chemistry where the OTF equivalent is not being applied and what the detriment is to that Science ?

    Maybe you might want to visit the Chemistry department of your University before doing so.

    Maybe it’s just me being without a Phd and all but I thought that scientific peer review was founded upon skepticism. I can think of many, many examples where a scientific theory has been discarded BECAUSE of the application of the OTF equivalent.

    As for applying OTF to non-Christian faiths and beliefs my comment on Santa Claus actually confirms that.

    A common tactic from ANY Theism is to claim that it is their faith in particular that is subject to unfair criticism. We’re seeing it again here.

  • Paul

    The natural science would be just one example where the OTF is not applied. Note what the OTF requires, it claims that when we believe somethng which is not shared cross culturally, one needs to asses the belief as though one was a skeptical outsider.

    So in the sciences, that would mean that scientitists adopt the stance of a person who was sceptical of science: that the stance is someone who was sceptical that empirical methods, testing, induction, laws of nature and so on where correct methods and who did not accept or use these methods.

    I doubt many science departments abandon empirical methods of testing, induction, laws of nature and so on when they defend their theories. In fact most scientists I know simply take these methods for granted.

    Another I have pointed out to you many times is ethics, it would mean that people who believe claims such as “wife beating is wrong” or “its “wrong to torture children for fun” adopt a stance towards these beliefs of the moral skeptic, that is they would assume moral nihilism and try and try and esthablish the truth of moral claims from the default position that all claims of this sort are false or unwarranted. I doubt anyone who believes that its wrong to torture children has gained there knowledge this way.

    but I thought that scientific peer review was founded upon skepticism. I can think of many, many examples where a scientific theory has been discarded BECAUSE of the application of the OTF equivalent.
    This is false, I little history of scepticism would suggest otherwise. I doubt for example much science would advance if scientists had to demonstrate Hume’s scepticism about induction, causation, the external world, the existence of the self were mistaken before they enaged in science. I also doubt science would have progressed if they had followed Cartesian scepticism and adopted the stance that no thing apart from ones own mind existed.

    I assure you that if I visited the Chemistry department at Auckland, mosts people there would not be writing rigorous Humean or Cartesian defences of the external world, the existence of others, causation and so on, they are to busy doing chemistry to engage in skeptical philosophy of this sort. Most would probably have a rudimentary idea of scientific anti- realism or Kuhnian relativism and one would not find them adopting stances of this sort in philosophy of science and proceeding to show they were false before they claimed scientific theories were true.

  • Matt, again, the OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions. If there is any inconsistency at all it it how YOU assess truth claims.

    It should only take a moment’s thought to realize that if there is a God who wants people born into different religious cultures to believe, who are outsiders, then that religious faith SHOULD pass the OTF.

  • Matt, I find it very telling yu must go to the lengths you do to reject the OTF:

    So in the sciences, that would mean that scientitists adopt the stance of a person who was sceptical of science: that the stance is someone who was sceptical that empirical methods, testing, induction, laws of nature and so on where correct methods and who did not accept or use these methods.

    I doubt many science departments abandon empirical methods of testing, induction, laws of nature and so on when they defend their theories. In fact most scientists I know simply take these methods for granted.

    You see, when you examine other religions you use the tools of science. All I’m saying it that you should use these same tools to examine your own. This is not a radical skepticism I’m proposing whereby someone must be skeptical of science or a material world, I’m proposing using the same level of skepticism you use to examine others faiths to your own faith.

  • Carrier’s claim is that the OTF sets the standard for the rest of the chapters in the book. Flannagan’s undergirding comment is meant to suggest that if the OTF fails then so do the rest of the chapters.

    This really IS a waste of time arguing with believers, isn’t it? Christians argue just like most all other believers do, yet they all do so with a double standard. This is obvious and yet they do not see it.

    Let’s say there are no non-believers at all, none. Everyone on earth believes in a religion of some kind. How would YOU propose to assess them fairly without any double standards?

  • It appears that the OFT is very subjective and is totally controlled by the individuals own presuppositions. Being objective would require one to evaluate all beliefs by this method. Not, just religious ones. I see John claims not to be a theist so this exempts his world view from scrutiny. He has to believe that there is no God. This is a knowledge claim. If one makes the assessment limit to ‘faith’ then surely having ‘faith’ or confidence in ones non-theistic beliefs are surely valid for review. So it seems like there is a clear bias that sets and limits the scope for possible conclusions. Using the word ‘faith’ already has certain connotations within our world, it would be linked to a supernatural source. I would think believing that there is no God takes faith also. But, this faith is also meta-physical in nature, and would be rooting in the physical universe being the only ultimate source for truth. It is a philosophical assumption.
    It is interesting how John claims that if God puts believers in different cultures then religious belief should pass the OFT method. But, if I understand this right he is assuming that these ideas are a kaleidoscope of ideas from the same origin. But, this fails to recognise the distinct differences within faiths that makes people assess other theological or meta-phyuscal views. So the OFT is going to happen because people seek truth. People are seeking the supernatural it would seem. Including intelligent well educated people. I can decide that a ferrari is a better car than a toyota because of the known data. So why can’t one evaluate ones core beliefs like atheists do? The only way to do so is by reviewing the data and making conclusions to why one believes this is the right choice.
    With regards to people quoting Paul. It is clear the main focus of Paul’s letters are theological and ethical. So his letters are a good source about how Christian behaviour looks like in the world. As Ed says the Gospels have multiple sources. Yes, Mark is the first Gospel but not the sole source for the narratives.
    It would be advisable that if one make claims about a subject then it should be better informed.

  • Where is Avalos? I want to hear his justification for using shonky made up rubbish to smear the medieval papacy with anti-semitism. While we’re at it, why did you as Editor let that through John?

  • John you write You see, when you examine other religions you use the tools of science. All I’m saying it that you should use these same tools to examine your own. This is not a radical skepticism I’m proposing whereby someone must be skeptical of science or a material world, I’m proposing using the same level of skepticism you use to examine others faiths to your own faith.

    So, what you are saying is that you don’t apply the OTF to the “tools of science” which are the premises you use to reject religion, but you do to religion and the premises religious people appeal to to defend religion.

    But that’s my whole point, you apply it inconsistently, if you applied it consistently you would embrace a radical scepticism.

    There is no basis for you to arbitrary exempt your premises from the test.

  • When Christians Play the Part of Skeptics…

    lately a slew of Christian thinkers and philosophers have taken it to task, and they all seem to play the part of skeptic about the coherency of the OTF. Thomas Talbott originally questioned it by postulating a skepticism of rape ethic, and now Dr. Mat…

  • What seems to be happening here is that christian philosophers are trying to say that the OTF which only applies to usage 1 should be applied to usage 2.

    Actually what I said in my view was
    “ Given that [2] is inferred from [1], if Loftus’ argument is valid then analogues of [2] must apply to Loftus et al’s own moral, epistemological and scientific beliefs. But then parity of reasoning would entail that their readers should adopt the same skepticism towards science and critical history as they hold towards the myths and superstitions of primitive cultures.”

    Here its quite clear I was referring to moral epistemological and scientific beliefs, particularly issues of science and the canons of critical history. So, unless you think that science, epistemology are mere preferences this is false.

    2. A preference. I.e. I believe that this painting is beautiful means I have a preference for this painting. I believe that witches should be burned means I have a preference for a system where witches are burned. I CANNOT have FAITH that a particular painting is beautiful or that witches should be burned. All beliefs about morality come under this usage because they are merely expressions of preference or opinion.

    Actually I think its pretty clear that moral claims are not mere preferences and the claim “I believe that witches should be burned means I have a preference for a system where witches are burned.” Is false. One reason for this is that the phenomena of moral disagreement shows we use moral language to contradict each other and also that we utilise arguments for moral claims and use them as premises, something one can’t do for preference claims.

    But I note importantly that this is a meta-ethical claim, and you have not provided any argument or proof for it, again mere assertion from the proponents of the OTF ensures when its “their” beliefs under discussion. If I were to support the OTF I should be sceptical of your meta ethical claims until you prove them.

    But as I pointed out to you elsewhere, if moral claims are mere preference claims, then much the argument of Loftus book fails. The book offers moral critique of Christianity. Loftus offers an argument from evil, he argues the bible has been used to promote atrocities. Avalos argues the bible supports slavery infant sacrifice and slavery, Carrier argues that Christians did not promote values like curiousity. Avalos argues Christians caused the holocaust. If what you say is true, then much of Loftus book is simply the claim that “ I prefer Christianity is false” and “I prefer God does not exist”. That’s hardly a compelling critique. I would prefer Loftus blog did not exist, does it follow it doesn’t?

  • Why Dr. Flannagan Fails History by Dr. Hector Avalos…

    FLANNAGAN MISREPRESENTS WESTBROOK In my chapter, “Yahweh is a Moral Monster,” I critiqued Paul’s Copan claim that lex talionis in the Bible represented a moral advance compared to other Near Eastern cultures. I countered that Copan was using the word “…

  • Matt you have just dug yourself in the hole so far it reveals how dense believers can be:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/dr-flannagan-denigrates-science-why-am.html

  • Dr Flannagan Denigrates Science Why Am I Not Surprised?…

    It there any reasoning with believers? There is a good reason why I say they are brainwashed, a really good reason. If a Christian philosopher does this there is no hope for the people who blindly accept what he has to say since they cannot see through…

  • John, given Avalos explictly states all people are moral relativists his final question there is kinda funny.

  • So in order to be skeptical of religious faith I must be skeptical about science? Science gives us the tools to be skeptical at all! Science has overthrown superstitious thinking since its inception. It is a given.

    I see, so the reason you exempt scientific beliefs from the OTF is because science “gives you the tools to be skeptical” in other words you need these premises to come to your skeptical conclusions thats why they are exempt.

    The other reason is because you assert these premises are “given”

    and the final reason is because you can call my beliefs a lot of names.

    I don’t know whose digging themselves in deeper John, but its sure not me.

    Hows this for an answer to the OTF:

    Christian beliefs are exempt from this test they are given, I need them to come to Christian conclusions, your a stupid brainwashed superstitious pseudo-scholar.

  • Debunking Christianity: Dr. Flannagan Just Does Not Get it, The OTF Again and Again and Again……

    Dr Flannagan must have really struck a nerve! Sheesh!! He was way more kinder and open-minded than Loftus himself. Look at his original review and compare it to Loftus’ “rebuttal”…

  • Matt, surely you know that the problem of suffering is a problem for your view of God. The argument is whence this suffering is your God exists. it is independent of who makes the argument too. Process theologians make it. So given your own present Anselmian views of God he is a moral monster. That is the argument.

    What’s there not to understand about this?

  • Matt said: “Hows this for an answer to the OTF:

    Christian beliefs are exempt from this test they are given, I need them to come to Christian conclusions, your a stupid brainwashed superstitious pseudo-scholar.”

    Wow, if you think for one minute their is any parity between the results of science and religious faith your are brainwashed. I cannot help you because I cannot heal you.

    Take a good look at “The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference” and tell me that. Show me any comparable results coming from the various religious faiths. They do not even have a method.

    Or, see David Eller’s chapter in “The End of Christianity.”

    No one in their right mind can denigrate the sciences like you just did.

    Wow!

  • Matt, why is it that I feel as if teaching you basic things about reason and science that we’re back in High School with me trying to teach you fundamental things all adults should understand? I know you will see this as an ad hominem, but I am serious, sorry.

  • The OTF seems to be a designedly imprecise attempt to establish a privileged position of judgment for “outsiders”. Unfortunately, outsiders are susceptible to the same biases and influences that under-gird the OTF in the first place.

    Now the scientific way to reduce bias involves the use of statistics (how is it that the propagators of the OTF appear unaware of this?). That is, let’s not pretend that the OTF can be meaningfully wielded by a single outsider (why does it appear that a certain JWL feels that he is the “normative” outsider?) Rather, let’s permit literally millions of outsiders to participate in this “test”. We’ll call this experiment “history”.

    In history, there needs to be sufficient grounds for an outsider (preferably many outsiders) to convert to any given worldview. Of course, coercion of any kind is a biasing factor here. But the principle stands: what worldview has received the most non-coercive conversions throughout history?

    Two thousand years after “turning the world upside down” (by radically convincing “outsiders” of its message), Christianity still has the edge.

  • It would be helpful to the OTF supporters if they could establish that atheists arrive at their position via science and logic. Contrary to the “de-conversion catechism” that most atheists receive to this effect, it has been my (admittedly limited) experience that de-conversions result from very much less science and logic, and very much more insult and vituperation.

  • You see, when you examine other religions you use the tools of science. All I’m saying it that you should use these same tools to examine your own. This is not a radical skepticism I’m proposing whereby someone must be skeptical of science or a material world, I’m proposing using the same level of skepticism you use to examine others faiths to your own faith.

    John, you may have missed the point of Matt’s comparison to science. I saw what he meant.

    You don’t propose the science test for faith. You propose the outsider test for faith. In other words, a person has to show the same scepticism towards the beliefs they hold (whatever those beliefs might be: beliefs about science, induction, evidence, all beliefs) that they show towards the beliefs they reject.

    If you say that religious beliefs are somehow unique then clearly you’re engaging in special pleading. But the reality is, you know as well as anyone that this is not the standard you hold people to in normal life. Take scientists for example. They have a belief (and a practice that reflects this belief) that they have reliable belief forming faculties, that it’s legitimate to engage in induction, that empirical data counts as evidence and so on, and if they were as sceptical towards those beliefs as they were towards the beliefs they now reject, science would never happen.

    When you treat religious beliefs as a special case, you simply reveal that – while you’re happy to let people start out in their enquiry with the knowledge they already possess, you make one exception: God beliefs.

    And you wonder why the OTF isn’t catching on.

  • Doug, John L is pretty candid about the fact that he didn’t arrive at atheism via science and logic. In public discussion with me (at theologyweb) he was pretty frank in agreeing that people (himself included) tend to justify that move after the fact, rather than making the move because it seems justified.

  • Glenn said, “You don’t propose the science test for faith. You propose the outsider test for faith.”

    Just tell me how you evaluate other religions, okay? You do so with science and reason.

    I don’t suppose you’ve read where I say the OTF is based on science and reason.

    Now let’s say for the sake of argument that someone rejects other religions not based on science and reason but because they know their religion is true and so therefore the others are false. I addressed this in my book. This is begging the question in favor of their religion. And doing so offers no alternative to the OTF at all for if this is the method then there is no way to decide which religion is true, if there is one.

  • The outsider test of faith qualitatively challenges believers to scrutinise the sociological conditions of the society they are a product of. Consequently, the supposition of the O.T.F. attempts to explicitly elucidate and reduce the believer’s religious disposition to nothing more than the end result of sociological pressures—such a supposition is questionable as to whether or not the doctrine the O.T.F. implicitly pertains and affects the qualitative reasons obtaining to why the religiousity of an individual is deserved. The O.T.F. participates in petitioning the genetic fallacy, whereby, the religiousity of the individual is not intrinsically assessed; but rather, the religiosity of the individual is extrinsically assessed relative to sociological nuisances. The deduction of the O.T.F. is not only contextually inept but also self-referential. To suggest otherwise merely begs the question.

  • John, listen, I am saying that YOU (John Loftus) do not propose a scientific test. You propose, in principle, and outsider test. Do you realise that these ideas aren’t actually the same? Now, do you see the point about what happens when scientists themselves apply the outsider test? Do you see the way in which you’re making religious belief a special case? You aren’t really telling us whether you grant that our not, you’re just trying to push other questions back at people without answering.

    What’s more, it is not “begging the question” when a person appeals to an experience or a properly basic belief in their own evaluation process.

    This is normal epistemology, John.

  • Glenn Peoples, it doesn’t matter how I arrived at atheism. That is utterly irrelevant, a red herring

    Why oh why must I continually teach people, PhD’s no less, basic thinking skills.

    I am offering an argument despite any personal experience. Please deal with the argument. Sheesh. Are you spending too much time at the bastion of stupidity, or what?

    The Christian delusion is so strong that it takes many of us a bad personal experience (or more) to force us to do what we should have been doing all along, like it did with me. That is my claim.

  • I have addressed the genetic fallacy in my books. Apparently Matt saw my reasoning in arguing that the OTF does not commit that fallacy, otherwise why did he not raise such an issue?

  • “We just end up believing what we were taught to believe by people we trust in a Christian dominated culture.”

    I don’t see any reason to doubt the veracity of my declaration given the information you have made available on your blog regarding the O.T.F., John.

  • Amusing how they don’t want to touch the Y chromosome comment with a ten foot pole. Reminds of a debate between Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona when Ehrman asks Licona to describe what physically happened to Jesus when he ascended to heaven and whether Jesus still has the same body he had on earth. I wish I had a transcript of this exchange – it was priceless. You could tell that Licona didn’t want to talk about the real world implications of his beliefs. Just further proof of my conviction that most Christians don’t believe half the bunk they are supposed to believe – they want to believe, they dislike the implications of believing but they just can’t do it. No more than they would believe there is a dragon in my basement.

    Finney, Madeleine and Matt object to the Mary rape comment. I think they doth protest too much. Madeleine wrote: Christianity clearly records Mary being visited by an Angel who told her of the plan, which did not involve sex – she remained a virgin until after she gave birth – and to which she willingly gave her consent to.

    Well, your definition of “clearly” departs from mine. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t bother to read the Bible or consider the differences between the synoptic gospels. I’ll wait for a future post to explain why Mark doesn’t bother to mention the virgin conception (hint: it never happened). So let’s consider the description in Luke 1:26-37 (NET):

    In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.

    “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! For nothing will be impossible with God.” So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

    Gabriel clearly told Mary that she would be impregnated before she said “let this happen”.

    I repeat my submission that Mary was raped. Strike that. I submit that a 2000 year old story written by someone who clearly was not around at the time of the supposed rape suggests that Mary was raped. Finally, I submit that this is a great example of how Christians who reject other religious beliefes must appreociate that the application of the OTF to their beliefs has people of other faiths (forget skeptics for the moment) howling with laughter. We skeptics are just sitting back and enjoying the show.

    Matt and Madeliene, if your God exists – prove it. Please don’t point to an ancient text and then suggest that the only way to discern history from metaphor is: The genres are mixed; you have to learn how to spot which type you are reading and at what point the genres shift within the text. This is why hermeneutics and textual interpretation and knowledge of ancient cultures and language is so important. Actually, that passage is a perfect summation of Christian apologetics.

  • Glenn religious epistemology is abnormal.

    “You too Brutus?”

    You too denigrate science?

    No wonder scientists have such a dim view of philosophy.

    Without science I could not propose this test. It depends, like I said, on the soft sciences for starters, like anthropology and psychology, and the sciences is general.

    You cannot be serious that you are criticizing the title to an argument rather than that argument, can you? The argument is laid out as a whole, and in it I say the OTF is based upon science.

    Sheesh. I really cannot believe you have a PhD, sorry. And you want to debate me? Wow!

    DNA has shown us that Native Americans did not come from Semitic peoples and yet there still exists a Mormon church. We now know there was not an Exodus, Wilderness Wandering and Canaanite Conquest.

    That’s science baby. Kick against the goads all you want to. You use science against other faiths. You refuse to do so to your own. That’s my claim anyway.

    So much to say so little understanding. Just see this for now;

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/08/top-seven-ways-christianity-is-debunked.html

  • Glenn Peoples, it doesn’t matter how I arrived at atheism. That is utterly irrelevant, a red herring

    it would be a red herring if I had used it to show anything. I was just answering a query that someone raised. Did you see that?

    Why so touchy all of a sudden?

  • How one arrives at a worldview is not at all a red herring!

    In fact, it represents the mechanism of the OTF!!

    Incidentally, plenty more insult than logic coming from JWL — quite in keeping with my reported experience…

    Wouldn’t it be nice if science and reason were actually the criterion on which an OTF were grounded?

  • Meant to type “they dislike the implications of notbelieving” but I think you all got my drift.

  • John, what? Denigrating science? No, John, you’re the one attacking their epistemology, not me. After all, you’re the one with the outsider test. I’m sticking up for the poor sientists that your “test” undermines.

    Fancy that, the Christian protecting science from John Loftus!

  • You mistake the conclusion that Matt draws from the consistent application of your principle as Matt’s actual position on science. It is your position that denigrates science Mr Loftus, not Matt’s.

  • Oh, one last thing before I head off for the night: John, how come other people have to use the OTF, but now you’re trying to say that this doesn’t apply across the board, that science is exempt, that the OTF has to presuppose science so science doesn’t have to pass the OTF.

    I have to say, John, the more you defend it, the worse it gets, and the more clear it because that it’s just the John Loftus test all along: Subjective and loaded from the outset.

  • Glenn People said: <i.Oh, one last thing before I head off for the night: John, how come other people have to use the OTF, but now you’re trying to say that this doesn’t apply across the board, that science is exempt, that the OTF has to presuppose science so science doesn’t have to pass the OTF.

    It will not do any good but you need to think about what you are saying. One the one hand we have religious faiths, on the other hand we have reason and the sciences. How can we doubt an empirical fact? how can you dispute a sound argument? These are the only tools we have for deciding between religions. And given the fact that you will undoubtedly and ignorantly say atheism is a religion then it makes no difference. We must use reason and science to settle these disputes. THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE! Sheesh.

    Once again let me repeat for the reading impaired:

    The OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions. If there is any inconsistency at all it it how YOU assess truth claims.

    It should only take a moment’s thought to realize that if there is a God who wants people born into different religious cultures to believe, who are outsiders, then that religious faith SHOULD pass the OTF.

    Now deal with what I said. Either you do not use this as a standard when rejecting other faiths, or your faith was not made to pass the OTF, in either case all of your arguments to the contrary are red herrings, special pleading, begging the question and anti-scientific?

  • Tell us, John, what is the difference between the OTF and simply subjecting one’s own faith to scientific investigation (i.e., something that Christians have been doing since the rise of modern science)?

  • So Doug

    What scientific basis do you have to support your belief that a man who has died can come back to life three days later?

    This should be interesting!!!

  • Gabriel clearly told Mary that she would be impregnated before she said “let this happen”.

    Exactly, she was told this will happen ( future tense) Mary said let it happen (present) and aftershe said this it happend.

    Suppose I said to my wife, tonight I will make love to you, she says great lets do it, and we have sex is that rape?

    But even God had impregnated Mary before she gave consent virginal conception is not rape. Unless you think a person can be a virgin and have had sex.

    But I guess believing contradictory premises is not a problem for you.

    Try not to create ridiculous straw men.

  • Hi Paul,

    As a candidate explanation for the historical evidence that we have (i.e., how history has played out) the resurrection is hard to beat. Unless, that is, a prior commitment to some ideological position prevents one from entertaining miracles…

    I’d recommend N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God for a good (and thorough) discussion of the relevant points.

  • Sorry Doug

    But your comment: ” Unless, that is, a prior commitment to some ideological position prevents one from entertaining miracles” basically goes against what you asserted when you first stated that: “simply subjecting one’s own faith to scientific investigation (i.e., something that Christians have been doing since the rise of modern science)?”

    Speaking personally, I don’t see how you can reconcile what we know from modern medical science and a christian belief in the resurrection, as the two are incompatible at the end of the day.

    Unless of course you have religious faith, namely a belief not resting on logical proof or material evidence. :)

  • But your comment: ” Unless, that is, a prior commitment to some ideological position prevents one from entertaining miracles” basically goes against what you asserted when you first stated that: “simply subjecting one’s own faith to scientific investigation (i.e., something that Christians have been doing since the rise of modern science)?”

    You are quite mistaken on a number of grounds. First, the second quote was not an assertion (it was, in fact, part of a question). Second, the comment is by no means contrary to the content of that clause.

    And there is nothing quite so incompatible with “modern medical science” as immodesty with respect to the claims of “modern medical science”. True scientists understand the chasm between the “descriptive” and the “proscriptive”. What is your area of study, Paul?

  • Doug, what’s the historical evidence you rely on to support the virgin conception or is that not an essential tenet of your faith?

  • Doug said: Tell us, John, what is the difference between the OTF and simply subjecting one’s own faith to scientific investigation…

    Nothing. It’s just that in order to do this Christians need to see that this is what they are doing with the other religions that they reject. The OTF asks them to seriously do for their own religion what they are doing to other religions.

    You see, brainwashed people, if that is what you are, already think you are subjecting you faith to rigorous testing, as the tail end of your comment said. The OTF is meant to stop the double standards and to see they are not being consistent.

  • The science question can also be divided. Loftus is using it as an umbrella term to hide differences within science. For example, John tells us that science “gets at how mind-reality really is.” That it does more than “save the phenomena..” This is of course scientific realism. But why not apply an outsider test to scientific realism? Surely cultural, environmental, and sociological factors have converged together in John’s becoming a realist. Imagine him telling Bas C. van Fraassen that realism *just is* “science” and that assuming realism is simply basic and the assumption that must be made to undermine any other assumption.

    By my lights, Loftus has a few hundred outsider tests of his own to take and he’s taken exactly zero. Why’s he so concerned about test specks in others’ eyes when he refuses to take the test log out of his own?

  • Hi TAM,

    What is it with you and virgins? ;-) (kidding)

    If curiosity wrt virgin conception drives you to consider the claims of Jesus, so much the better. If skepticism wrt virgin conception predisposes you to avoid the claims of Jesus, so much the worse.

    On my part, my faith is sufficient to entertain the possibility of virgin conception, and my reason is sufficient to appreciate that statistics is insufficient to eliminate the possibility.

    But in the context of “modern medical science”, how do you account for the origin of life?

  • Matt, a ridiculous strawman indeed.

    I like concentrating on the supposed virgin contraception because, while Christian apologists have circled the wagons around the supposed resurrection of Christ, they have paid far less attention to the former.

    I propose that we convene a youtube demonstration of the OTF by sitting you down with a Muslim scholar for a discussion on why your belief in the virgin conception is reasonable while his belief in Muhammad splitting the Moon is not. In fact, one discussion wouldn’t be enough – I would love to have you explain why your belief in the virgin conception is more reasonable than the myriad of miraculous claims of other religiions that you reject as quickly out of hand as I reject yours.

  • Doug asks: But in the context of “modern medical science”, how do you account for the origin of life?. I don’t have a sweet clue but an alien teenager from another dimension seems just as reasonable a creator to me as your proposed :”God waves a wand” explanation.

  • John wrote:

    …people… already think [that they] are subjecting [their] faith to rigorous testing…

    Quite so. True of Christians. True of atheists.

    Glad we agree.

    But simply saying “be honest and subject the object of your faith to scientific inquiry” is far more direct, simple, and legitimate than the absurdly equivocal OTF.

  • TAM wrote:

    I don’t have a sweet clue but an alien teenager from another dimension seems just as reasonable a creator to me as your proposed ”God waves a wand” explanation.

    If God turns out to be an alien teenager from another dimension, would he be any less God? ;-)

  • “Most serious scholarship indicates that the Gospels are all dependent on and are revisions of Mark. So there’s basically one “source” for all the information contained in the Gospels.”

    I’m afraid that you’re confused here GearHeadEd. Here, let me help you.

  • Doug asks : If God turns out to be an alien teenager from another dimension, would he be any less God?

    No, from our perspective, he would be the first cause – a true creator god (we’ll not worry about his first cause any more than you worry about the first cause of your god). However, here’s the rub: knowing that we were created at the whim of some pimply teenager from another dimension wouldn’t compel us to worship him any more than I would feel compelled to worship your Yahweh if he decided to stop his divine hiddenness game of hide and seek.

  • Hi TAM,

    I’ll be heading out for the day in a minute, but let me leave you with a thought.

    Since modern science has “not a sweet clue” (accurately stated, btw) about the origin of life, let us permit (for sake of argument) that there is some “God” (i.e., someone with powers we are unable to fathom) who is responsible for that.

    If said God can put together life, why do you suppose he would have any trouble whatsoever with virgin conception?

  • “You too Brutus?, I mean Paul Manata?

    You too denigrate science?

    Listen up, science does indeed debunk science, or fraudulent science. It has been doing this for centuries. Surely you don’t mean to suggest that religion does this, or do you? Surely not, or you are utterly ignorant about science.

    You don’t even realize something else about what you’re doing. You are taking the disputes on the cutting edges of science and making them out to be a description of what science is all about., and that’s a non-sequitur. Sure there are disputes on the cutting edge of science. But scientists have agreed upon a massive amount of secured results. Just touch the cover of “The New York Public Library Science Desk Reference,” which weighs in at near 700 lbs ( i mean pages). It is chock full of the results of science that scientists agree about.

  • Doug, modern science embraces the “we don’t knows” and works tirelessly to provide answers to fill in your god of the gaps. The gaps remain but they are getting fewer and far between.

    I am sure that a divine creator would have no problem arranging for a virgin conception. He would also have no problem making sure that his presence was more apparent than being entirely synonymous with his absence. You’ve heard it 1000 times before but I’ll repeat it again: absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

  • How is the OTF as presented in this thread (yes, I’ve read the full versions in Loftus’ books over the last five years) different from the faulty argument by Stephen Roberts?

    For instance, John says “the OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions,” but this is obviously not the case. I reject Islam, because God has revealed himself as Triune. I reject Hinduism because it violates the commands of God in Scripture regarding the worship of created things. These are clearly not the same method as the OTF.

    The fallacy is that it begs the question by requiring a certain perspective to even begin the “test.” You must take on a skeptical worldview for it to work.

    Paul and the rest of the “lack of belief”ers,
    I fail to believe that you all know so little of neuropsychology and general neuroscience that you would assert such silliness as the claim that your “perspective” amounts to a lack of belief. First, to claim that a “lack of belief” is something enough to name it “atheism,” betrays that it is not actually a nothing, but a something. Second, for you to claim a perspective at all assumes a conglomeration of beliefs amounting to such a perspective.

  • Kyle said How is the OTF as presented in this thread (yes, I’ve read the full versions in Loftus’ books over the last five years) different from the faulty argument by Stephen Roberts?

    Roberts said: “When you understand why you dismiss other religions you will understand why we dismiss yours.”

    If you could only understand that what you’re rejecting are faith-based claims then you could see why you should reject other religions.

    You just don’t get it.

  • GearHeadEd,
    You are simply wrong on your source criticism of the gospels. Since I assume from your comments that you are not read in this topic, let me give you a brief introduction.

    Most critical scholars, atheist/agnostic/liberal Christian, would hold that Mark is the earliest gospel, but that Matthew and Luke also had access to another document alongside Mark called “Q.” Beyond that, they would say that the material particular to Luke comes from “L” and to Matthew from “M.” Most would also hold that the latter portions of Mark come from a “cross gospel” originating in the late 30s to late 40s. There has been a recent movement of atheist scholars though, which has moved the date of Mark into the 30s as a whole based on the underlying Aramaic, but this is still a minority position. The majority of critical scholars place Mark in the 60s or early 70s with Matthew and Luke in the 80s.

    John is a whole different ballgame. About half of the critical scholars think that John had access to Mark, but used it only sparingly. Most speculate that the Johannine school had access to a signs tradition (or source) as well as to a cross/resurrection source. Just about everyone from evangelical to atheist critic places John in the 90s with a few exceptions.

    There remain a minority of scholars (10% or so) who hold that Matthew came first and Mark is a shortened gospel with the “highlights.” There is also a growing minority who reject “Q.” The trend over the past fifty years has been to move the gospels earlier, so you will find many scholars dating Mark to the 40s or 50s with Matthew and Luke in the late 60s or 70s, but the majority probably still hold to the first set of dates given above.

    So yeah, according to most atheist/agnostic critical scholars, there is a lot more than one source of information.

  • The majority of critical scholars place Mark in the 60s or early 70s with Matthew and Luke in the 80s

    … and that’s what you base the historicity of the virgin conception on? ROTFLMAO

  • I think God exists for philosophical reasons. I reject polytheism because the definition of God necessarily entails a single being. I think people can track the same object with different concepts. I think for philosophical reasons the Islamic conception of God is impoverished. I think arguments from divine hiddeness and arguments from evil fail. Therefore given the background information, I think Christianity is the most reasonable. So, have I passed the test John?

  • TAM wrote:

    knowing that we were created at the whim of some pimply teenager from another dimension wouldn’t compel us to worship him…

    Oh no? Steve Jobs gets heaps of fanboy worship for orders-of-magnitude less technological prowess…

    On gaps… as John Lennox astutely observed, there are two types of gaps: those that get smaller the closer they are examined and those that get larger the closer they are examined. Coincidentally, three of the largest (and growing) “gaps” for modern science are identified in the Bible as “creation” events: the Big Bang; the origin of life, and the origin of self-consciousness/language/rationality. The more these three things are investigated, the less modern science can begin to claim that those gaps are being narrowed.

    Heading out (for REAL this time :-D ).

  • David, do you feel any need to worship your creator and, if so, why? Also, if Gabriel visited your teenage daughter tonight (if you don’t have a teenage daughter, imagine you have one) and told her that she would be impregnated with the second coming of Christ, would you be ok with that?

  • TAM,
    What are you talking about? I’m simply correcting the misinformation given by Ed above. He’s obviously ignorant of the topic, and I was giving him a basic introduction. Furthermore, who cares what “the majority of critical scholars” say on any given topic if you have been trained to do the academic study of the topic on your own. You get to a point where you are able to assess the data on your own, and other opinions or assessments are not very helpful apart from seeing where they might differ from you and for what reasons.

    Most people base their beliefs about the virginal conception on their other beliefs about the reliability of Matthew/Luke as records of accurate history (which is based on much more than their date), or on their beliefs concerning the nature of the documents (i.e. inspired or not). Date rarely plays a factor outside of as one piece of the accuracy question (and honestly a very small piece).

  • No David,
    Despite your obvious rationality, you do not pass, because you came to the wrong conclusion…but wait, I should leave it to the priest of the DC cult to pronounce the actual decision. Only he is the true arbiter of who passes and fails.

  • TAM,
    If David is a Christian, he should be worried about such an event, because “even an angel from heaven” would be teaching him something contrary to what God has revealed. Jesus’ second coming will not be like his first. Can I assume from your question that you still have yet to read through the New Testament?

  • I think I ought to worship the creator and I don’t see the relevance of the other question.

  • It’s kind of like an impossible test. Cause even if you pass you fail because God clearly doesn’t exist.

  • Kyle wrote: Most people base their beliefs about the virginal conception on their other beliefs about the reliability of Matthew/Luke as records of accurate history (which is based on much more than their date), or on their beliefs concerning the nature of the documents (i.e. inspired or not).

    Kyle, the author of Luke doesn’t profess to have been around at the time Gabriel visited Mary. This is mythic literature. Unlike the resurrection, the Bible doesn’t even bother to describe witnesses to the event (side from Mary and there is no suggestion that she recounted the story to the author).

    I must correct you. Most people base their beliefs about the virginal conception because they have been spoon fed this doctrine since childhood. The doctrine cannot survive the scrutiny of the OTF. If it does, so do all the other crazy stories propounded by the multitude of religions you reject. Why can’t you see this? It’s as plain as day.

  • Kyle asks: Can I assume from your question that you still have yet to read through the New Testament?

    No, I have read the entire Bible three more times than I would have cared to.

    My question was not intended to suggest that the second coming would happen by way of a second virginal conception. In fact, your objection to the suggestion (because it doesn’t appear in your sacred text) is just another example of how the OTF governs your reaction to any supposed miraculous happening that does not accord with your chosen dogma.

  • John, um, er, you think realism/anti-realism is a debate on the “cutting edge of science???” Awe, that’s cute. You’re so uninformed you don’t even know how much you don’t know. It’s pretty main stream, John. Also, to point out that you need to take an OTF for scientific realism is hardly being “anti-science,” unless you think guys like van Fraasesen, Laudan, Fine, etc., are anti-science??? Really??? You’re serious??? My friend at Stanford tells me that most of the dept.s have gone anti-realist there too, even in maths and logics.

    Like I said, you have a bunch of outsider tests to take, so get to it, you’re wasting time telling everyone else to take their own tests.

  • TAM,
    I’ve gotta get to bed, but as expected…you’re wrong. Very few people are “spoon fed” the doctrine from young. Since the majority of atheists seem to have grown up in either nominal Christian homes and don’t know about the typical church, or in fundamentalist homes and have a skewed view of the typical church as well, these types of misunderstandings are normal. The reality is that many only know it as a small part of the story of Jesus’ birth, and don’t actually think much about it until they consider the story as a teenager or young adult. By this time, they have developed views on the nature of the Bible and/or it’s reliability that determine how they take the story.

    Furthermore, Luke doesn’t believe he is writing mythic literature. Once again, you seem to be betraying how little of the New Testament that you’ve actually read (or studied with any seriousness). Luke makes it clear from the onset that he has researched the information he is going to present having discussed it with the “autoptai” (eyewitnesses) and “servants of the word.” Considering his very intimate portrait of Mary throughout the gospel, many scholars hold that she was a source of his information in part. There are no good reasons to think that she wasn’t, but not enough to hold definitely that she was.

  • Hey don’t forget Stephen Hawking.

  • TAM,
    One last thing. You are missing the very heart of the OTF and why it must be applied across the board. The fact of the matter is that I deny the possibility of the second virginal conception because I’m a Christian, an insider. You are an insider as well, but not of Christianity. The OTF simply begs the question in regards to the worldview that Loftus and you inhabit, and thus causes all the shenanigans when critic, after critic, after critic responds that atheism fails when assessed by a similar method.

    Seriously, thanks for the discussion, but I am off to bed and probably won’t return to the thread. Y’all have fun.

  • Kyle writes of an “intimate portrait” of Mary throughout the gospel of Luke.

    Like Madeleine’s use of the word “clearly”, you must have a dramatically different interpretation of the phrase “intimate portrait” than I do.

    Summary of Lucan references to Mary can be found here: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/bible3.html

    I’ve never understood the Roman Catholic veneration/adoration of Mary but I am looking forward to reading Michael Carroll’s The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Psychological Origins which is currently about #50 in my unread library. I wish I had more time to read – working for a living sucks.

  • Looking at some of the comments here, it seems as if there is a belief that the OTF is a new approach for testing whether one’s religion is true or not. Yes, the name itself (OTF) might be new but the methodology described therein is not. I think using examples would help here one can be too fixated on using key words such as “OTF” and “science” rather loosely without fully comprehending the practical implications of their statements.

    Paul is the breadwinner of a family of 5, supporting his wife and three kids. His wife is a housewife while the kids are all attending school. Although the budget is tight, he manages to take care of his family well enough. However, upon later doing a routine medical checkup, he finds out that he has cancer. His doctor tells him that the cancer is at an advanced stage and the chances of recovery are rather slim even with chemotherapy.

    Being a Christian family, they put their faith in Jesus Christ that he will guide them through this ordeal. Paul therefore goes for chemotherapy while ensuring that his family maintains their faith. In what can only be described as a “miraculous” recovery, the chemotherapy works far better than imagined. For Paul, this comes as a good surprise but one that doesn’t overwhelm him as he believes that his faith played a part in his recovery.

    On the other side of the world, a guy by the name of Abbud is also in a similar scenario. Breadwinnder, family to support, advanced cancer, “miraculous” recovery and constant faith in his religion. The main difference here though is that Abbud is a Muslim.

    When Christians hear of Paul’s story, they attribute it as a miracle by the power of Jesus Christ. While Muslims who hear Abbud’s story attribute it to the power of Allah. But what is weird is that when Christians hear of Abbud’s recovery, they attribute it to either luck, the Devil’s work or God having a grand plan for Abbud’s life. The same goes for Muslims hearing of Paul’s story. In both cases, the respective books (Holy Bible and Koran) are used to dismiss the other party as having experienced a genuine miracle validating their religion.

    It should be clear in this case that both parties can’t use the alleged miracle, of their own cancer recovery story, to say that their religion is the “one true religion.” This would be as pointless as claiming that the air we breathe was created by respective God, there’s just no way of verifying that the miracle is really a miracle from the respective God. Basically, the faith that led Paul and Abbud to recover is really worthless as a means to differentiate whose religion is the correct one. Something else is needed… that’s where science comes in. Science comes in via two ways in this story…

    Firstly, for us to verify that a “miracle” really did happen here, we’d have to know whether there was a need for a miracle in the first place. If I have a headache and pray for it to go away, it would be silly to attribute the healing as a miracle if I don’t know what caused the headache in the first place. The headache could have easily been caused by me using my laptop too long without resting my eyes; so me leaving the laptop actually was the cure. It should be clear here that science is needed to at least diagnose if the sickness in question is really something to need supernatural intervention for.

    Secondly, if our PRESENT DAY religious experiences such as miracles and “stength in faith” are indistinguishable from other religions, such experiences clearly can’t be used to differentiate which is the true religion. This is where, at the very least, the “historical evidence” of the religions need to be scrutinised.

    That’s all the OTF is asking for, what some Christians are in fact already doing. It’s asking you to be as skeptical towards Paul’s “miracle” as you are towards Abbud’s. Claiming that your OWN miracoulous stories justify your religion is pointless as Abbud’s and Paul’s stories can be deemed “miraculous” as well. Why the discrimination against Abbud’s miracle and his faith?

    At the least, the OTF should make a Christian to look over and above their “faith” and ask themself what really differentiates their religion from that of others. Their own experience is subjective and only affirms the religion they’re already under, as the above example clearly shows. Only the investigation and verification of the bible as having been accurately passed down to us can resolve this. This is the real evidence that should be underpinning their faith. If this is not the evidence, then what is?

  • I’m looking forward to Matt’s answers to Prof. Avalos’: QUESTIONS FOR DR. FLANNAGAN

    1. Where does Westbrook say that the biblical laws of lex talionis in the Pentateuch were never taken literally? If so, what was his evidence?

    2. Do you regard Josephus as a witness to Jewish law in the first century?

    3. How did Daube decide what was a survival versus a revival in rabbinic law of lex talionis at the time of Jesus?

    4. Do you deem it an ethical advance to cut off a woman’s hand for seizing the testicles of her husband’s opponent? If so, why?

  • Matt quoted me: I’m an atheist not because I’m angry with God, nor that I don’t want to be subject to God’s morality, nor because I read something some “New Atheist” wrote; I’m an atheist because I do not find the “evidence” compelling enough. I knew Santa Claus was a fraud before I knew the first thing about Jesus.

    Then Matt said in response:

    Well your comments in here suggest something else, you made a claim that Christianity taught that God raped mary

    Better check your source. I never said that God raped Mary. That was written by The Atheist Missionary, @ Jun 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm.

    If you need to resort to dishonesty to try and “prove a point” (and your stance on religion isn’t immune from this attitude), then you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    (more to follow).

  • Me: “Did he really say this? OTF fail, Matt!”

    Matt: “I see a basic fundamental point of first year logic is contrary to the OTF.”

    Let me be specific.

    The original passage:

    “Exegetical issues aside, much of Avalos’s moral arguments contains subtle fallacies. He argues Christians are committed to accepting the counter factual: If YHWH commands you to kill P then it is permissible to kill P. He then points out that if we replace the word YHWH with Allah, you get the conclusion it is permissible to kill Americans if Allah commands it. Avalos contends that this calls into question the “logic” of theistic ethics. It does not. Any sound argument will be analogous to an unsound argument if we replace a true premise with a false one.”

    The logical formulation:

    P1 YHWH commands someone to kill P.
    C1 It’s OK to kill P.
    P2 Allah commands someone to kill P (specifically Americans).
    C2 It’s OK to kill P.

    I took the quoted sentence “Any sound argument will be analogous to an unsound argument if we replace a true premise with a false one”. to indicate your belief that YHWH is somehow fundamentally different than Allah (the “true” god vs. the “false” one).

    If this isn’t what you meant, then you were not clear.

  • Me: I’m an atheist not because I’m angry with God, nor that I don’t want to be subject to God’s morality, nor because I read something some “New Atheist” wrote; I’m an atheist because I do not find the “evidence” compelling enough. I knew Santa Claus was a fraud before I knew the first thing about Jesus.

    Matt: “This simply asserts that a certain epistemic stance is correct. The stance that one should be an atheist unless one can prove God exists with compelling evidence.”

    My reply: The way I see it, without compelling evidence, it’s stupid to assert belief in something that is only supported by shoddy or insufficient evidence. Where’s the warant for belief there? This quote is semantically equal to Pascal’s Wager in its implication, and betrays the Christian assertion “that a certain epistemic stance is correct”.

    Matt: “Here is my question, why should anyone accept that:can you provide compelling proof for this claim, if not why don’t you treat this claim as on par with belief in santa claus?”

    You need compelling proof that Santa Claus is a fraud? By the time I figured this out, it was obvious that there is no “magic” in the world. I knew this as a child. The emperor is naked.

  • Just keep on throwing up red herrings Paul Manata, if your faith needs it.

    Is this realism/anti-realism debate taking place among scientists?

    How would they know except from the physical evidence? Physical evidence is what they need to consider, and if so there is a physical universe or there isn’t any ground to talk.

    See this:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/responding-to-thomas-talbiott-on-why-i.html

  • Would some believer, anyone of you, please respond to my argument rather than continually throwing up red herrings?

    Please, just one of you. Respond to the argument.

    Here it is again:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/ouitsider-test-for-faith-otf-is-not.html

  • Me: “Most serious scholarship indicates that the Gospels are all dependent on and are revisions of Mark. So there’s basically one “source” for all the information contained in the Gospels.”

    David Parker: “I’m afraid that you’re confused here GearHeadEd.”

    “Q” is still hypothetical. How is it that a document that was supposed to have been so closely associated with the true origins of Christianity is utterly lost and never mentioned by early church fathers, while the blatherings of Matthew and Luke survived?

  • Kyle said, The trend over the past fifty years has been to move the gospels earlier, so you will find many scholars dating Mark to the 40s or 50s with Matthew and Luke in the late 60s or 70s, but the majority probably still hold to the first set of dates given above.

    I already knew all of the above. Most of the attempts to move the Gospels closer to the Resurrection come from solidly within the Christian camp, attempting to thereby provide a refutation of the “legendary accretion” hypothesis. The problem is that, with so few (even admitted by the Gospels themselves) “witnesses” to the alleged events, a few weeks is probably sufficient to begin the process of deifying a dead messiah. Consider: Jesus stayed on Planet Earth for 40 days after the Resurrection, according to Acts 1:3, but wasn’t proclaimed by the Apostles to the world as “risen” until Pentecost, about 10 days later.

    How conveeeeenient…

  • John, precisely, anti-realism argues that the physical evidence doesn’t support realism. Realism postulates all manner of unseen, unproven, unobservable entities. That’s obviously simplified, but it seems your very strictures require you to take an OT for scientific realism. But I find you don’t want to have a debate on the matter since (a) you deleted my calm and rational response to your calling me a slimeball at your blog, and (b) you declined to debate me (no doubt due to your memories about your performance in our radio match-ups). Since you don’t actually want to debate this, and since you clearly are unfamiliar with the issues I’m bringing up, why are you bothering?

    As far as the OTF, I critiqued in my chapter in The Infidel Delusion dealing with it. You then tossed out two half-hearted attempts at a rebuttal, and I responded to those at Triablogue. So far, you never responded to my rejoinders. There’s really nothing left for me to do, ball’s in your court.

  • GearEd,

    Q is put forth as something that explains the relevant evidence Q was invoked to explain. Do you have a better hypothesis? Yeah, Q is postualted, and the argument for it (if one accepts Q rather than other views) is an inference to the best explanation. To rebut it, you need to offer something else up that has as much or more explanatory value.

  • Paul M: Q is put forth as something that explains the relevant evidence Q was invoked to explain.

    Anyone else see the circular logic here?

  • An interesting discussion.
    @David, You seem to be the only one who’s actually claiming to have applied the test everyone is talking about here to his own beliefs.
    I think the test proposed is reasonable and I note that no one has said that the test itself doesn’t have any merit. The arguments have mainly been, ‘you apply it to your beliefs’, ‘No, you apply it to YOUR beliefs’.
    I’m the same as David to a large degree and having traveled and lived along side people of differing religious beliefs, comparative religion was one of my favorite topics of study. I reached the same conclusion as David, that Christianity was the most reasonable. At the same time, I was also studying geology. The science employed didn’t seem to mesh with many of the main religions I was studying, and definitely not Christianity. Today I have no choice but to doubt the age of the earth as reveled by the bible and as a result I am doubting the very existence of the christian god. I think I’ve taken the OTF test. It’s left me shaken so I can see why some here would actively resist it. I don’t call myself an athiest but I do not know if there is anyone in the driving seat anymore or how one could know as surely as some here would have me believe.

    I don’t think it’s fair though, to say that the outsider test should be applied to science…. science is just a way of finding things out like logic and philosophy. They don’t require a particular set of beliefs and there are religious and non religious practitioners. A child is a scientist as he learns by experience and imagination (childish philosophy) about the world around him. It’s all we’ve got.

  • Hi John

    “When believers criticize the other faiths they reject, they use reason and science to do so. They assume these other religions have the burden of proof. They assume human not divine authors to their holy book(s). They assume a human not a divine origin to their faiths.”

    Generally speaking, I agree.

    “the OTF simply asks believers to do unto their own faith what they do unto other faiths. All it asks of them is to be consistent.”

    Again, I agree. But I think one issue is, if this is all the OTF asks for — consistency — then it seems to me that it cannot be restricted to religious belief, but should apply to any belief that one adopts on largely cultural grounds. It seems to me that if you deny this, then you’re saying that it’s fine to be inconsistent when it comes to evaluating competing moral claims etc. but not when it comes to evaluating competing religious claims. This seems to be a recurring theme in critiques of the OTF, and if, as you say, consistency is at the root of the OTF, then I can’t see how you can say it only applies to faith unless you’re fine with inconsistency (vis-a-vis the epistemic standards we claim to hold) in other areas. Do you see the problem? The only way I can see out of this is to admit that there are all sorts of Outsider Tests (for morality etc.) but that you’re focus is on developing an Outsider Test for faith. I can’t see how you can escape the charge of special pleading unless you admit that there are Outsider Tests for *any* phenomenon the acceptance of which is largely culturally determined. (I apologize if you’ve already said as much elsewhere; I’ve read much of what you’ve said on the OTF, and I’m a regular reader of DC, but I’m sure there are posts and comments I’ve missed.)

    “The OTF asks why believers operate on a double standard. If that’s how they reject other faiths then they should apply that same standard to their own. Let reason and science rather than faith be their guide. Assume your own faith has the burden of proof.”

    Again, I agree in general with what you’re saying here, but I think we would disagree about specific applications of the OTF. For example, I’m a Christian, but I was, for a few years, an atheist. I was an atheist on largely philosophical grounds, but as I studied philosophy more seriously, I came to see that the case for atheism was actually much weaker than I had supposed. I especially came to see that the scientific case for atheism was *very* weak. (I don’t claim that these conclusions are universally accepted, but that these are the conclusions I came to). I first moved to agnosticism, then to theism, and ultimately to Christianity, and each move was made on largely rational grounds. (I say ‘largely’ because I’d like to think I’m not fool enough to suppose that everything I believe is a result of rigorous, evidence based thinking. None of us can claim that, and that’s why I said I agree “in general” with what you say about the epistemic standards we apply to other religions.) So I did approach Christianity from the outside. And like many other reflective Christians, I do think about religious pluralism, and I think I have good reasons for rejecting other religious beliefs, including both the rational support I think my religious beliefs enjoy, and the various arguments against other religious beliefs I have concluded are strong enough to warrant my rejection (for the time being, anyway) of those faiths.

    So, in my judgment, I have sincerely taken the OTF, and continue to take it (I spend a lot of time reading atheist critiques of Christianity) and it seems to me that many other Christians have as well. And I wouldn’t limit it to Christians — I have no problem conceding that many other people, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. have taken the OTF (even if, like me, they weren’t aware of your formulation of it at the time) and have concluded that their beliefs have come through intact.

    But if this is so, then all the OTF does, it seems to me, is clear the ground for discussion among believers of various faiths, atheists and agnostics. To use myself as an example again, once you’ve proposed the OTF, and I judge myself to have taken it sincerely and concluded that my faith has passed it, we haven’t done much more than establish that we’re both (to some degree) evidentialists, and the only thing to do from there is go on to discuss the evidence and the arguments. Perhaps the OTF can be used as a lodestar in our discussion — “Eric, you accept X, but this religious faith you reject claims something similar to X; why do you reject it there and accept it here? Are you being consistent?” — but then it would just be a particular take on the notion of consistency. Perhaps that’s all it is, and those of us who have problems with the OTF are at fault because we think it has to be more than that.

    What do you think about the points I’ve raised above? I’m going to present them clearly below for your convenience (we’re all busy!):

    (1) If the OTF is about consistency, and especially about consistency when it comes to beliefs adopted for largely cultural reasons (I know this is vague, but I think we all get the basic sense of it), then why aren’t there a host of different Outsider Tests? You’re familiar with the history of Western philosophy, so you know how much of what we believe, in a number of areas, has been influenced, and influenced deeply, by this tradition.

    (2) Do you agree that there are Christians (Muslims, etc.) like myself who sincerely think they have taken the OTF, and that their faith has passed it?

    (3) If I take the OTF and conclude that my faith has passed it, isn’t it the case that all the OTF has done is clear the epistemic ground in advance and confirm that we’re both, to some degree, evidentialists, and that the serious work of analyzing our competing conclusions is before us (with the OTF perhaps working throughout the discussion as a more concrete and interesting way of talking about consistency?)

    This is a long(ish) post, so thanks in advance for taking the time to read it.

  • I’ve read Matts response to my comment regarding the use of the OTF equivalent in Chemistry and he doesn’t actually deal with at all. Have you done any Chemistry, Matt ? Or Physics ? Or Maths ? It’s not a simple blind empiricism. It is about applying skepticism to everything, regardless of the source, as an outsider would.

    @ John – yes, you’ve applied what I understand the test to be, you’ve asked some questions, the same type of questions that you would ask of any other religion and you’re considering the answers.

    @ Madeleine, if anyone is in a room of the blind and the deaf it’s us, not you.

  • ““Q” is still hypothetical. How is it that a document that was supposed to have been so closely associated with the true origins of Christianity is utterly lost and never mentioned by early church fathers, while the blatherings of Matthew and Luke survived?”

    If you’re going to make some silly argument based on what “most serious scholarship indicates,” then you need to stick with the implications of Markian priority. Who is cherry-picking now GearHead? ;-)

  • @ David Parker:

    I’m certainly not alone.

  • I’d like to clarify something from my previous post.

    I do think that the OTF is a great way to get unreflective believers to think about their religious beliefs. If it were exclusively directed at unreflective types, I don’t think there would be much of a problem with it. “Be consistent, apply the epistemic standards you use to reject other faiths to your own, etc.” (Though one problem that might arise would concern whether certain unreflective types apply *any consistent* evidential standards when rejecting other beliefs, and another potential problem would arise for those who aren’t evidentialists). That said, I think the OTF runs into some serious problems when its construed as a test for *all* believers, reflective and unreflective alike, for then the reflective types can justifiably say, “But I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do all along,” and confusions about the nature of the test arise when it’s claimed that such believers haven’t “really” taken the OTF, or that if they had taken the test sincerely, they would reject their faith, etc. So, as I’ve said many times before, I think that a general OTF — one that’s meant to apply to the reflective and unreflective alike — would require a *much* more rigorous formulation than the one we currently see.

  • Implicartions of Markan priority.

    1.) It’s the shortest (by chapter count) of the four Gospels.
    2.) It has no “birth narrative.
    3.) there’s a statement in my NIV after Mk 16:8 which reads “(The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20)” This is the part that comes immediately after Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Salome saw “a young man (Mk 16:5)” in an empty tomb and fled in fear, telling no one (Mk 16:8).
    4.) If 3.) is reliable, then there is no Resurrrection story in Mark, either.
    5.) There was no guard posted on Jesus’ tomb (Mk 15:42-47).

    There are good reasons to see why all these omissions inMark were “corrected” later.

  • Paul Manata, you are a slimeball, one of the nastiest Christians I have met on the web. Your father Gary even emailed me apologizing for your behavior and emphatically denying your lies about him, the ones you said about him here.

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/ouitsider-test-for-faith-otf-is-not.html

    You are refuse.

  • A little clarification:

    In 1.), I said that Mark is the shortest (by chapter count) of the four canonical gospels. This is a fact, not an implication. The implication is that future revisions and embellishments would have made longer narratives as difficult parts were explicated, “omissions” were corrected, and theological issues addressed.

    All the other versions of accounting for the current state of the gospels seems to me to be more “gymnastic” than the idea that Mark was first.

  • Oops, wrong link. I’ll leave it like that unless you persist, Paul.

  • GearHead,

    You’re missing the point. You want to use what “most serious scholarship” says about Markian priority. But to do so, I will insist that also accept what “most serious scholarship” says about Q. Namely, that is is another source. If you accept Markian priority but reject Q, you are engaging in special pleading. And if you accept Q, you defeat your own argument.

    Quoting from the article you linked: “The theory of Markan priority is today accepted by the majority of New Testament scholars who also hold that Matthew and Luke used a lost source of Jesus’s sayings called Q.”

    So you’ll need to show why the majority of NT scholars are correct about Markian priority but incorrect about Q.

    I think that you are cherry-picking the consensus view on Markian priority. First you said that “when we’re talking about fantastic occurrences like people ‘rising from the dead’, we need more than a single source.”

    You’ve already admitted Paul as another source, and Paul was probably written much earlier than the synoptics. And more importantly, Paul specifically talks about Jesus rising from the dead! So you’ve already shot yourself in the foot, even if we put aside the Q source. It’s a bad argument.

    Check out James Crossley’s debate with William Lane Craig to see how “multiple attestation” plays into attacks and defense of the resurrection. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJpeJJlCK-U&feature=player_embedded

  • Thanks Eric, I can always count on you to be reasonable.

    But morality is irrelevant Eric. Do people who hold to different views have a holy book that they must assume a human author for? Do people who disagree with a moral claim also have to also disagree with any number of extraordinary miracle claims too?

    Whatever people do when they disagree about morals it doesn’t matter anyway. What we know is that when it comes to religion believers disagree based on what you just agreed to above. So morality is irrelevant.

    My claim is the one of the major reasons there is moral diversity is because there is religious diversity. Deny that if you can. Therefore it is circular to reject the OTF by claiming there is moral diversity when that diversity depends upon religion in some large part. I claim that without religion there would be a greater potential for a moral consensus.

    Cheers.

  • David: So you’ll need to show why the majority of NT scholars are correct about Markian priority but incorrect about Q.

    You may note that there’s a section in the wiki claiming “A minority of scholars accept Markan priority but reject Q.”

    Furthermore, “a majority of New Testament scholars” are Christians, so it’s a vested interest of theirs (I know, genetic fallacy! But it could still be true!) to promote a hypothetical document much closer to the source than the Gospels are, and thus lend credibility to the Gospels.

    “Q” is unnecessary. Parsimony says that unnecessary information should be dropped from the explanation.

    Here’s a better question: If Jesus could raise folks from the dead, change water into wine, etc., etc., why couldn’t he lift a finger and pick up a freakin’ stylus and write his own Gospel?

  • …or would that have been “too much proof”?

  • ” I claim that without religion there would be a greater potential for a moral consensus.”

    John, would this only apply to civil societies as opposed to tribal ethics?

    At any rate, this claim might be transferred to any property of societies. I claim that without ethnicity, there would be a greater potential for moral consensus (think about the Rwandan genocide which was wholly unmotivated by religious factors as well).

  • GearHead, these things require sustained attention and critical reflection. Jumping to other questions and topics will never help anyone get closer to the truth. Cheers.

  • ““Q” is unnecessary. Parsimony says that unnecessary information should be dropped from the explanation.”

    What explains the common material in Matthew and Luke that isn’t in Mark then, Sir Ockham?

  • @ David,

    I’ll read that as, “I don’t really have an answer for that…”

  • “Do people who hold to different views have a holy book that they must assume a human author for? Do people who disagree with a moral claim also have to also disagree with any number of extraordinary miracle claims too?’

    No, they do not. But while you’ve pointed out a disanalogy to be sure, I can’t see how it’s a *relevant* disanalogy, for moral beliefs are largely culturally determined, often held unreflectively, etc. In other words, they seem to be perfect candidates for an Outsider Test. But I think there’s a confusion at work here about what I think follows from this, which I’ll address below in my response to the next quote from your most recent post:

    “Therefore it is circular to reject the OTF by claiming there is moral diversity when that diversity depends upon religion in some large part.”

    First, let me say that I don’t think that a rejection of the OTF follows from the claim that there are all sorts of Outsider Tests. I just think that the logic of the OTF necessitates that there are other Outsider Tests. So please, don’t think I’m rejecting the OTF!

    As for your point about the relationship between religious belief and morality, I in general agree. But I think that the moral beliefs we hold are not always, and perhaps are more often than not, held in conceptual isolation from the religious beliefs that they usually depend upon. But this means that moral beliefs, being as it were twice removed from rational reflection for most people, are perhaps an even *better* candidate for an Outsider Test than religious beliefs. After all, if X (say, religion) is a candidate for an Outsider Test, and if Y (say, moral belief) depends on X but is often held in ignorance of that dependence, then if X requires an Outsider Test, Y is screaming out for one! I just can’t see how this doesn’t follow. But I want to emphasize, again, I don’t take this to be a reason to reject the OTF, but rather see it as a reason to concede that the grounds commonly adduced to support the Outsider Test for Faith also support Outsider Tests for all sorts of culturally determined beliefs.

    “I claim that without religion there would be a greater potential for a moral consensus.”

    I’m not so sure about that one! I agree that many *current* barriers would be removed, but I think that many others would be raised up to take their place — perhaps more formidable ones.

    Without religion, moral beliefs would have to be grounded in tradition and practice on the one hand (call this a conservative ground), or in reason on the other (call this the liberal ground). I can’t see any other alternative. (If you do, let me know!) If the former, then given your premises, they cry out for an Outsider Test, in which case we must appeal to reason. But the people who are arguably trained to think most rigorously about moral questions — moral philosophers — disagree about all sorts of things. Indeed, they disagree about things things that most religious believers never consider (error theories, non-cognitivism, anti-realism), so it seems to me that much more moral diversity, and not a consensus, would be the result. I mean, forget the moral philosophers — can you imagine the disagreement that would arise when we tell each person that he or she, with his or her reason, must determine what is and isn’t moral, and if there is such a thing in the first place?

    Now I’m not saying that this supports belief in god, or anything like that. I’m just disagreeing with your claim about what would follow in terms of moral consensus in the absence of religious belief.

  • “What explains the common material in Matthew and Luke that isn’t in Mark then, Sir Ockham?”

    Are you kidding?

    Matthew was written before Luke, embellishing and expanding on Mark; Luke drew on both sources, considering Mark to be authentic. None of this would have necessarily found it’s way back into Mark, unlike the embarrassing omission of the resurrection in Mark being handled by 12 interpolated verses being added later.

  • Eric:
    Without religion, moral beliefs would have to be grounded in tradition and practice on the one hand (call this a conservative ground), or in reason on the other (call this the liberal ground).

    Is there any reason to suspect that those reasons are insufficient?

  • You’re writing more than I can reply Eric to. I’ll respond in time on my blog, perhaps tonight.

  • “You’re writing more than I can reply Eric to. I’ll respond in time on my blog, perhaps tonight.”

    No problem, John. We could all use more time! I sincerely appreciate any response you have the time for, even if it’s just to tell me that you don’t have time for a response!

  • I’ll wait for a future post to explain why Mark doesn’t bother to mention the virgin conception (hint: it never happened).

    And then its a fallicous argument from silence.

  • Eric, on second thought you are asking me to write a pamphlet in response, something I don’t have the time for, like writing on why I adhere to my morality and what reasons there are for rejecting other claims.

    So let me say I’m writing a book on it and will deal with those questions, so thanks.

    But for now I am making the case from what believers themselves do. If you want to make your own OTF for other beliefs then have at it. Remember that whatever we use to test any belief must be based on reason and science. It matters not whether people are inconsistent or even ignorant. For when someone accepts the burden of proof demanded by the OTF then the debate can really begin. Before then we are just talking past each other.

    I am asking believers to be consistent. You claim to have been consistent but then you are not a biblical scholar since philosophy is not how to decide what you should believe. Biblical studies are! I’ve written about this before, here:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/02/trouble-with-natural-theology.html

    And this:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-education-my-goals-and-value-of_07.html

    And this:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/12/jaco-gericke-fundamentalism-on-stilts.html

    See the awesome chapter by Jaco Gericke for my book, “The End of Christianity,” where he argues that your God does not exist because Yahweh did not exist.

  • I’ve read Matts response to my comment regarding the use of the OTF equivalent in Chemistry and he doesn’t actually deal with at all. Have you done any Chemistry, Matt ? Or Physics ? Or Maths ? It’s not a simple blind empiricism. It is about applying skepticism to everything, regardless of the source, as an outsider would.

    Paul, all your doing is repeating your self and then asserting I have never studied chemistry.

    I have studied epistemology and so do know a bit about skepticism. Are you telling me that Chemistry students, adopt Cartesian skepticism about the external world and other minds or Humean skepticism about induction and causation, and do there theorising from that perspective? I know the answer to this is false. Perhaps in stead of making assertions of how science is “skepticism” people allied with the sciences should learn what skepticism is, and some of the issues it raises, then they would see they clear are not skeptics about everything.

  • “unlike the embarrassing omission of the resurrection in Mark being handled by 12 interpolated verses being added later.”

    Hi GearHedEd!

    I think it’s obviously false to suggest that there’s an “omission of the resurrection in Mark” *as such*. Reread Mark 16:1-8 again — there’s clearly a *resurrection* there, though there’s admittedly no account of *what happened after* the resurrection.

    “Is there any reason to suspect that those reasons are insufficient?”

    If you mean “insufficient to ground moral prescriptions,” then I’d say yes, I do think there are good reasons to think this is the case. But that’s not at issue in the discussion John and I are having, so I don’t want to get sidetracked. Glenn has some great posts and podcasts on the issue on his blog. Check them out!

    BTW, I see that I left out a rather obvious alternative in my response to John above, viz. sentiment (e.g. Hume). So we have reason, or tradition/practice, or sentiment left when we reject “religion.”

  • My claim is the one of the major reasons there is moral diversity is because there is religious diversity. Deny that if you can.

    Actually that’s not hard to deny, one needs to only look at the current diversity of positions in secular philosophy to see this is false. Removing religion from ethics did not bring about a sudden consensus on issues, if anything it has had the opposite effect.

    In fact, one source of major disagreement in meta-ethics is empiricism. Non cognitivism in the early 20th century was motivated by this, because moral claims were not empirically verfiable, people like Ayer, adoped emotivism, this was unsatisfactory, so people like Hare adopted prescriptivism, alternative forms of moral naturalism are also motivated by an attempt to make moral claims empirically sound, and error theories of Mackie are similarly motivated. So here we have four radically different understandings of morality motivated by an attempt to make empirical sense of moral claims.

    Intuitionism and Platonism are similarly often attempts to try and adopt a view of ethics that escapes the implausibility empiricism in ethics without rejecting a secular view of the world

    You could also read John Hare’s book God and Morality, which argues that the main secular theories on offer today. Virtue ethics, kantianism, existentialism, and utilitarianism, actually have moved further apart due to secularisation. He notes that when people had Theological premises these theories were more integrated.

    But John, you asked me to “deny” a historical claim, showing again that when its a claim you agree with you demand that others accept it until its been disproved, reversing what you claim with the OTF.

    If you want to make positive affirmative claims about the effects of religion on ethics, then the OTF requires me to be a skeptical outsider until you provide proof of it. Where is it?

    Looking forward to you, once again, changing the subject to avoid your own test.

  • Eric; I think you know Mark 16:1-8 is just a second hand account of a missing body.

  • Here’s a better question: If Jesus could raise folks from the dead, change water into wine, etc., etc., why couldn’t he lift a finger and pick up a freakin’ stylus and write his own Gospel?

    It’s amusing to see the questions posed here that are left unanswered by Christians.

  • @John
    “Today I have no choice but to doubt the age of the earth as reveled by the bible and as a result I am doubting the very existence of the christian god.”

    What is the age of the earth as revealed by the bible, i cant find it anywhere?

  • “Eric; I think you know Mark 16:1-8 is just a second hand account of a missing body.”

    Missing, crucified bodies of the formerly dead that are “risen” and on their way to Galilee are, well, resurrected bodies by definition. Remember, the issue is whether there’s an “embarrassing omission of the resurrection in Mark,” not whether the account is second hand, reliable, etc. Well, there’s is no such omission.

  • Gearhed,

    Why do you state your opinions as obvious and unquestionable truths? You’ve dismiss Q as unparsimonious and then simply announced that Matthew added on whatever material was not already in Mark.

    This is all very interesting, but it lends zero support to your original argument, which is what I am interested in discussing.

    As for your other snide remark: you can read it however you like. The question of why Jesus didn’t write an autobiography is an interesting one, but not worth pursuing right now, since it is irrelevant. You might as well entertain the question of why Jesus didn’t write you a love letter and leave it under your pillow when you reached the age of accountability. Surely it’s conceivable that Jesus could do this. So why couldn’t he? *Yawn*…

  • TAM,

    It’s more amusing how many people don’t want to give serious attention to a question, but instead jump around to various tidbits until they’ve satisfied themselves that “they are right. they won the debate.” You should know that’s not how I roll by now.

  • David:
    Why do you state your opinions as obvious and unquestionable truths? You’ve dismiss Q as unparsimonious and then simply announced that Matthew added on whatever material was not already in Mark.

    First, you asked how it could happen, so I gave an answer that works without resorting to anything out of the ordinary, not “stated my opinion as fact”.

    Second, you’re opinions are in no better shape than mine, when there’s still serious debates going on about whether thete’s any truth to the claims of Christianity. In simple terms, you back the side that says what you want to hear, and since you’ve already all but accused me of the same, that makes neither of us “objective”.

    I’m just really tired of Christians waving their bibles at me and saying, “Here’s the Trooth!”

    Dead people stay dead. Prove me wrong.

  • GHE,
    I gave you the introduction, and you respond that you knew all that already. Yet your first comment betrays that you don’t know the topic.

    1. Mark includes the resurrection story, as would the proposed cross gospel. It doesn’t include the resurrection appearances. Big difference. Furthermore, critical scholars are not conclusive on the ending of Mark. Most believe that there was a shortened ending now lost which included one or two appearances, but was expanded and that became the current ending. Nobody knows and there is no evidence one way or another.

    2. You claim that Christians keep moving the dates earlier, but this is simply incorrect. Sure, Christians wouldn’t oppose an earlier date, but it’s not necessary. The strongest three attempts have been by John A.T. Robinson (a “Christian” atheist), and most recently by James Crossley and Maurice Casey (both atheists…Crossley has even debated Craig on the resurrection). They place it as early as the mid-late 30s based on arguments from Aramaic that unfortunately most NT scholars are totally ignorant of. Casey, an atheist, is one of the worlds leading authorities on the historical Jesus. Don’t let his arguments for an early Mark discourage your faith, because he is a living example that you can hold to an early Mark and still be a skeptic, haha.

    3. Finally, “Q” is not founded on circular logic, but simply follows from the fact that there are good reasons to doubt that Luke had access to Matthew and that there are two groups of writing where they quote each other word for word. First, they match on sections that match with Mark. Second, they match in other areas word for word as well. This leads scholars to assume that since they most likely didn’t have access to each other that they must have had access to another document. I personally don’t hold to “Q” either, but let’s not make fools of ourselves claiming that it is only hypothesized for circular or non-existent reasons.

    John (not Loftus),
    Where do you get that the findings of geology contradict the “dates” of the Bible? I know you’ve mentioned your strict fundamentalist upbringing in the past, but to those of us who are OT students, such a claim is fascinating. Those dates simply are not there unless you make assumptions about Genesis 1-4 that simply are not there. I would suggest two entry level books that might help you in this regard:

    1. C. John Collins – Genesis 1-4 – A Commentary
    2. Davis Young – The Bible, Rocks and Time

    If you can find a copy at a library, I would also suggest “Genesis Unbound” by John Sailhamer. It makes clear that the types of readings of Genesis that would require a young earth are simply impossible to maintain according to the Hebrew text. You can still hold to a young earth, but there is a reason virtually no scholars of Genesis do, and it has more to do with the text itself than with science.

    I’m sorry you are facing this struggle, and you will continue to be in my prayers. It hurts me to think that churches are causing such issues for their flock by putting blinders on them that are not from Scripture, but from their traditions. I would suggest you find a church that holds to the motto “all truth is God’s truth,” and seeks the truth of God, Scripture, science, etc. passionately and without fear. They are all over the place, and I’m sorry you grew up in one that wasn’t this way.

  • Is there a reason why the outsider to the various Christian faiths shouldn’t require the same type of evidence to believe in the supernatural claims of Christianity that a Christian would require to believe in the supernatural claims of other faiths– such as belief in reincarnation or the Muslim version of paradise and hell or that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God or in Wiccan spells?

    Doesn’t encouraging belief in the supernatural encourage dangerous ideas like that children can be witches or people can be possessed or cursed or that god requires sacrifices or demands belief in certain unbelievable stories. What is noble about this kind of primitive thinking? It seems so manipulative and so difficult to correct– and so prone to know errors in human thinking– mainly confirmation bias. If you believe you are cursed, all negative things that happen can be seen as “evidence” of that curse, right?

    If someone is interested in what is true, and doesn’t want to be fooling themselves in the manner that the vast majority of believers in the supernatural are doing (which must be the case if ANY of their specific claims are true), what are they to use other than science? How else do you distinguish real things from myths or illusions or misperceptions? Shouldn’t real things be distinguishable from illusions? Shouldn’t scientists be able to test, refine, and hone our knowledge on real things the way we have with atoms and DNA and electromagnetism and mental illness?

    When people feel saved for their beliefs and damned for doubt (such as many Muslims and Christians feel regarding their beliefs), then aren’t their claims automatically suspect to anyone interested in the truth in regards to whether souls are even real? Don’t you think a Muslim could be making the same sort of obfuscatory complaints about the OTF to prop up the beliefs that they have that you don’t share?

    If a person is diminished by increasing brain damage and disease, how can they be anything at a without any brain? How do you distinguish immaterial beings from non-existent ones? Would someone who imagines themselves saved for what they believe even be interested in knowing if souls were just an illusion of the brain? How would they know and what would be their incentive for finding out?

    To me, it seems that all believers in the supernatural are engaging in the same sort of nonsense to confirm their beliefs as those with conflicting beliefs are doing. I think the OTF illustrates this which is why so many believers in the supernatural fight so hard against it.

    Why shouldn’t the outsider to your faith require the same sorts of evidence you’d require to believe in supernatural things (or other outlandish claims) that you are an outsider to? Why shouldn’t my skepticism to your supernatural beliefs match your skepticism towards Scientology’s supernatural claims? We can all come up with pretty good reasons as to why people believe in the supernatural (magical/divine) things they believe in, but the real question is, is there any reason for an outsider to think any of this stuff is true? I’d say whatever answer the Christian would give to the Hindus is the same answer I’d give to the Christian. This outsider rejects your excuses– possibly for the very same reasons you’d reject these excuses coming from a Hindu or believer in some other :”magic” you don’t believe in.

  • @Jeremy. About 6000 years from family trees, not including a global flood and a six day creation.

  • @Kyle, from my experience you’d be in the minority regarding old earth theology. At least that may be what is believed now but certainly wasn’t in the past which makes me question your claim that theorigin of your old earth beliefs are the Hebrew. However, I’ll look up the references you gave. I’m particularly interested in the explaining how an eons long creation fits with a single Adam. I cant see why so many Christians are going around preaching young earth when to you it’s obvious from the Hebrew it’s not.

  • @john
    Leaving aside all questions of genre and hermeneutic, and taking on the fundamentalist perspective, family trees only take us back to Adam. They say nothing of the age of the earth. Neither do they say anything about the others among whom Cain was sent out to join and married.

    You have to sneak in other assumptions about the time between the creation of the world and man to think that family trees take us back to the beginning. Furthermore, you have to write off the biblical evidence of other homo sapiens that Cain could mate with. The creation of the first “person” according to the Bible is much more than the biological question of “who is the first homo sapien.” There is much more to being a person than being biologically homo sapien.

  • @John
    The Hebrew is agnostic on the age of the earth. The majority of Christians have been agnostic on the question as well because the Bible simply doesn’t say. Of course, there were those who held to a young earth, because there was no outside data to confirm one way or the other, but there have also been those who held to an old earth as well as those who held that Scripture didn’t say and both options were live options until further data came in from Gods revelation in nature.

  • @John
    With that said, read the recommendations I gave and let’s not derail this thread to yet another topic. I’m sure that you and I will have ample opportunity to work through it in future threads that might be more applicable to this topic.

  • “@Jeremy. About 6000 years from family trees, not including a global flood and a six day creation.”

    Young earth theories based on hyper literal readings of Genesis are historically quite recent in their ascendence only about 150 yrs.

    May i recommend
    Why the Universe is the way it is, by Hugh Ross PhD [astronomy and astrophysics]
    The Passionate Intellect by Alistair Mcgrath, particularly the chapter Augustine and Evolution.

    Given your expressed concerns i am sure you will find them both very helpful.

  • GearHed,

    “I’m just really tired of Christians waving their bibles at me and saying, ‘Here’s the Trooth!’

    Dead people stay dead. Prove me wrong.”

    I had to move out of the Bible belt for the same reason.

    Frustration about other people’s beliefs used to be a big hangup for me too. I can tell it’s eating away at you. But look at it from your own worldview:

    People have brains, and brains follow the same physical laws as everything else. No one can decide what to believe. We see evidence and suddenly we are inclined to believe something. Other people see the same evidence and are not similarly inclined. But why? The answer is clearly at the neurological level; something along the lines of “due to neuron firing pattern x in relation to prior firing patterns y and environmental facts z, this brain did not response to the evidence by forming a belief.”

    As a naturalist, I can see no reason to impose any doxastic duties on anyone. They didn’t choose their brain or their environment. And that entails that they didn’t choose their beliefs. All one can hope to do is impose the right set of conditions on the brain so as to incline belief in a different direction.

    As a naturalist, I can see no reason to despise other people for their beliefs. After all, it is purely a scientific question to explain why their brains incline towards the beliefs they do, and how those beliefs can be changed.

    We talked about rationality and about evidence, but besides Loftus, few would say that theists are suffering from cognitive deficiency. But if they are, why despise them? We don’t despise the handicapped because they can’t run the 5K in 25 minutes. So what really motivates the atheist to despise Christian beliefs? Does he expect that they should respond to the evidence differently? How could this in principle be possible, if the laws of nature are such that any brainstate is physically determined?

    All that to say…don’t be frustrated! If you’re a naturalist, then you have reasons to think that people can’t choose what they believe. So why be upset about it? Just try to provide the right conditions to change beliefs.

    You wouldn’t try to grow grass by dumping acid on it. So, don’t try to persuade Christians by being insulting and deriding. It won’t work. It will only produce cognitive dissonance and a strong desire to protect their beliefs.

    I think Loftus would agree at least partially with what I’m saying here. He has read up on it a bit. Don’t take my word for it GearHed. But if you’re interested in persuading someone..you’ve gotta drop the insults.

  • (I should add that I’m not a naturalist, but was only trying to bring out the implications of the worldview)

  • “I was unable to locate the primary source to check.”

    Don’t bother, Matt. GearHedEd wouldn’t know a primary source if it bit him in the face. Investigating the facts for themselves is not an interest of the New Atheist sheeple.

  • David:

    …don’t try to persuade Christians by being insulting and deriding. It won’t work. It will only produce cognitive dissonance and a strong desire to protect their beliefs.

    I think Loftus would agree at least partially with what I’m saying here. He has read up on it a bit. Don’t take my word for it GearHed. But if you’re interested in persuading someone..you’ve gotta drop the insults.

    Ok, first, I thought I was scrupulously avoiding an insulting tone. I guess I wasn’t entirely successful… Further, I don’t despise Christians or Christian thinking (note that I have almost always capitalized Christian, Bible, God, Him/His, etc… and not because someone else told me to.); I’m not one of those unfortunates that, once they’ve “escaped the prison” (so to speak) wish to destroy it. I have never been what you would call a “believer”, so I’m not as emotionally invested in the outcome. If I didn’t say it earlier, I will now: I don’t find “the evidence” at all convincing, nor do I find myself experiencing “bad things” from my non-belief, with the possible exception of being harangued incessantly by Christians who want to “save” me.

    In the end, there are good, strong arguments on both sides of “the Question”, and if Christianity were true, I think this would have been resolved long ago, not still hotly debated as it is.

    One of the things that bugs me the most about Christians is the assumption that atheists secretly “know” that God exists, but deny the truth…

    That’s bull, except for the most superficial non-thinking atheists, most of whom which fall in this category are either fad-following teens and twenty-somethings, or more properly classified as “apostates”..

    But you’re right. I don’t believe because I can’t.

  • GearHedEd wouldn’t know a primary source if it bit him in the face. Investigating the facts for themselves is not an interest of the New Atheist sheeple.

    I’m not a New Atheist.

  • John, you wrote: “If no religion can pass the OTF then it is not the fault of the test. It’s the fault of religion. After all, YOU use it when rejecting other religions. Why would YOU use a test and then say it doesn’t apply to your own faith? Why the double standard?”

    But you know very well that Christianity HAS passed the “OTF”. I have told you this so often on another website that I’m afraid of sounding like so many of of your one-note fellow travelers who repeat the same tired line over and over again (Steven Carr comes to mind).

    But throwing caution to the wind, I will nevertheless once more say it – the so-called OTF was applied to Christianity by G.K. Chesterton in 1925, decades before you ever trademarked the term, and Christianity came out all the stronger (read “The Everlasting Man”). In fact, Chesterton practically pleads with people to examine Christianity from an outsider perspective, demonstrating decisively that the truth behind the faith becomes all the clearer when one does so.

    Why do you never respond to this? The gas was let out of your balloon long ago – in fact, before you ever blew it up.

    Christianity has nothing at all to fear from the “OTF” – in the end, it turns out to be one of the strongest arguments in its favor!

  • It’s interesting to me that Christians cannot agree on whether the OTF is fair or not.

    Matt, do a follow-up post on it if you can find the time. I want to see after this discussion if you have changed your mind in any way, or if not, how you respond to this discussion.

    If you don’t have the time I’ll have to understand.

  • There are lots of disagreements about meta-ethics, Matt.

    What I’m talking about when I speak of achieving a greater consensus in morality is what has been described as basic ethics as opposed to dilemma ethics. And we use meta-ethics to justify our basic ethics. Consistency sometimes forces us to change our basic ethics but not usually.

    Meta-ethics usually does not matter. People with ethical theories can all agree on certain basic ethics for different reasons. Who then cares what these reasons are when we all can agree on basic ethics? Sure, disagreements about justifying our basic ethics is problematic, but not that much after all.

  • I see John, so basically, the reason you exempt your own views from the OTF is “its given”. I need them to be a skeptic and, if you disagree I’ll call you brain washed and suggest I need to educate you.

    Right, that really answers the question.

  • John you writeThere are lots of disagreements about meta-ethics, Matt.
    What I’m talking about when I speak of achieving a greater consensus in morality is what has been described as basic ethics as opposed to dilemma ethics. And we use meta-ethics to justify our basic ethics. Consistency sometimes forces us to change our basic ethics but not usually.
    Meta-ethics usually does not matter. People with ethical theories can all agree on certain basic ethics for different reasons. Who then cares what these reasons are when we all can agree on basic ethics?

    I see so when we develop a secular ethics we should believe things regardless of what the reasons are for them. In fact we should believe ethical claims without worrying about wether they are justified or not, wether the justification for or against them is sound, and we should continue to hold to a secular consensus on these things and not care about there justification and the sceptical challenges to them.
    This does not really solve your problem John, it simply expresses it. When it comes to moral beliefs you and other secularists hold, you suddenly abandon the OTF and tell people to believe regardless of the justification, why, well it gets you a secular ethics that people agree on.
    Try being consistent.

  • “I’m not a New Atheist.”

    That’s what all the New Atheists say. Then they proceed to make the standard New Atheist arguments.

  • Lofty will never give up his OTF, he’s got too much invested in it by now. What he needs to do is take an Outsider test for the OTF but that’s like trying to tell a young Truman Burbank that there’s a world beyond the Dome.

  • @ “Guest”:

    I’ve been an atheist since 1971. That’s well before “the New Atheists” even existed.

    Go fuck yourself.

  • GHE,
    I think that “new atheist” refers more to a style of atheist than to the length of time someone has been an atheist. After all, the “new atheist” magisterium have been atheists for quite some time as well. Your admission that there is evidence for Christianity and good arguments on both sides proves that you are not a “new atheist,” but someone who has (and is) thinking through the issues.

    John,
    Atheists can’t agree on the validity or value of the OTF either. I think a lack of agreement on the validity of the argument speaks more, well, to the validity of the argument than to the validity of the worldview(s) it claims to critique.

  • John, so my comments are flawed because I need to read what I’m saying, and Paul’s argument is wrong because he’s a slimeball.

    Cheers, John. Thanks for the confirmation.

  • Matt and Glenn, you could learn from Eric. I’m very surprised at your level of reasoning when compared to his, and he’s still a student.

  • John, I think it’s fair game to note your tactics in replying – shallow comments about whether or not people can read, and quips about people’s family life.

    It’s hardly the stuff of confident arguments. And for you to complain that I point these tactics out seems more than a little self-serving, wouldn’t you say? Sorry, your OTF argument just isn’t very good, which is why it’s not popular. I’m not saying that to be offensive, it’s just true.

  • Matt and Glenn, you could learn from Eric. I’m very surprised at your level of reasoning when compared to his, and he’s still a student.

    John, perhaps you can explain to me why, when people like yourself claim to hold to a could faith rational skepticism offer an argument, and someone else provides arguments and reasons why its mistaken, reasons that are potentially serious, the discussion suddenly degenerates to you suggesting those who disagree with you are “brain washed” “can’t reason” “need to be taught” and so on.

    This strongly suggests the “good faith” skepticism is a ruse.

    You have yet to address my argument at all, my point is three fold: 1. that analogues to the OTF can be constructed for epistemological, scientific and moral beliefs. 2. That your arguments against Christianity rely on moral, epistemological and scientific premises and 3. scientific, moral and epistemological premises do not pass analogues of the OTF.

    So far none of these claims have been responded to with any plausibility.

    Perhaps you can explain which premise is wrong. Or are we just going to here more assertions that your premises are just given, followed by condescending expressions of your own alleged intellectual and educational superiority.

  • I predict an ad hominem post at DC or another “you just don’t get it.” Of course, there is the possibility of a link to DC that only tangentially relates or a “my upcoming book will deal with this, it’s endorsed by (pick a skeptic).”

    Or maybe, just maybe, instead of taking the conversation elsewhere, John will step up to the plate in these comments and attempt to show the problems in Matt’s premises? I’m skeptical.

  • One of the reasons why I enjoy this blogue is the fact that Matt is undeniably brilliant and has a knack for boiling arguments down to their bare essentials. He writes: You have yet to address my argument at all, my point is three fold: 1. that analogues to the OTF can be constructed for epistemological, scientific and moral beliefs. 2. That your arguments against Christianity rely on moral, epistemological and scientific premises and 3. scientific, moral and epistemological premises do not pass analogues of the OTF.

    The whole point of the OTF is to point out the double standard employed by Christians who accept miraculous claims without hardly any evidence (note my choice of words) while dismissing equally ridiculous claims from other religions. Anyone who has had the patience to follow this herculean thead will see that I have been using the immaculate conception instead of the resurrection as my example. The reason for this is because the focus of Christian apologetics has been to try to support the supposed historicity of that event. However, if you subscribe to the statement of faith that affirms inerrancy from the Evangelical Philosophical Society (as I understand that you do), you have to apologize for a heck of alot more than the resurrection. Now, your response could well be that: “if the resurrection happened, anything is possible”. If that is your position, fine – please just say so. But if you say that, you need to understand that the OTF irrefutably suggests that it is you who are living in the dome.

    At this point, you pull out the nugget I have placed in italics above and suggest that the OTF can also invalidate scientific beliefs. After picking myself off my chair, about all I can say to this is that you have gone nuclear. You are backed into an intellectual corner you can’t get out of and are reduced to muttering things like “how do you know you don’t live in a matrix?”. Of course scientific theories can be disproven (that is the definition of a scientific theory), but as numerous commenters have already pointed out: it’s the best we’ve got. In the meantime, science helps us cure innumerable diseases, develop GPS devices, fly to the moon, etc. (i.e. “it works”).

    I said it before and I’ll say it again: what we need is youtube debates where you explain to a Muslim scholar why it is unreasonable to believe miracles attributed to Muhammed but reasonable to believe that a virgin was impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

  • To “Atheist Missionary”,

    You write: “Anyone who has had the patience to follow this herculean thread will see that I have been using the immaculate conception instead of the resurrection as my example. ”

    No you haven’t. The Immaculate Conception refers to the birth of Mary. The Birth of Christ is known as the Virgin Birth. Look it up. You have just proven to everyone that you don’t have the slightest idea of what you are talking about.

  • Bob, actually the term I have been using above is “virgin conception”. Virgin birth is a misnomer because Christians can’t decide among themselves if jesus was born vaginally or not.

    My reference to the “immaculate conception” was clearly a Freudian slip – some of my Roman Catholic schooling coming back to haunt me. However, please don’t waste time with ad hominem attacks. Assume, for the sake of argument, that I am as dumb as a post. then please address my argument.

  • Bob, I should also add that I do not have any formal training in theology nor philosophy (a fact known to Matt). Nor do most of the readers of this blog. If I require formal training in these disciplines to udnerstand how the miracles described in the Bible survive the OTF, I am sure that someone will let me know.

  • [Sorry for the multiple posts]

    In fact, I would ask Matt to assume that the author of the June 24, 11:27 pm post is only 15 years old, has only read the Bible once and has just skipped over here from Debunking Christianity to see how a Christian academic responds to the OTF. No references to epistemological debates please. What are you going to tell them?

  • TAM,

    As convenient as it is to address virgin conception in isolation, the Christian’s approach to it is as follows:

    Primary Premise:
    God, who made everything from nothing, loves the world enough to send his Son Jesus to save humanity, whom He raised from the dead as proof of his credentials.

    Note that (as you are aware) the creation of the world and the resurrection of Jesus are two things that Christians spend time investigating and defending.

    Note, also, that the love of God and His mercy to humanity is part of the experience of most sincere Christians.

    Secondary Premise:
    There is an early story concerning the conception of Jesus having been of a virgin

    No controversy there. This story exists. It is early (perhaps not as early as some might prefer, but very early indeed as centuries-old stories go).

    Conclusion.
    Given the primary premise, there is really no question that God is capable of bringing about a virgin conception. That there is an early story to that effect is not a surprise under these circumstances. Moreover, there is no reason (for anyone who accepts the primary premise) to doubt such a story.

    So for Christians, your preference to examine the virgin conception of Jesus in isolation seems like a great effort to miss the point.

  • I didn’t see an argument worth responding to. Catholic theology insists that our Redemption was contingent upon Mary’s willing participation in the Incarnation (“Fiat”). As to the chromosome nonsense, what’s the problem? Mary is Theotokos and Anthropotokos. God the Father is the father of God the Son. Jesus couldn’t possibly have two fathers, so the Virgin Birth is a logical necessity. Works for me.

    This is not a trivial matter for adolescent internet bickering. The Incarnation is the bedrock fundamental reason behind Creation itself. It’s why you and I exist in the first place to be having this discussion. God’s becoming a man endows the least of our actions with divine dignity and truly awesome significance. It means that every person I encounter (including you) is a revelation of God’s very essence to me.

    (And I apologize for the ad hominem. I too make Freudian slips. But the motivation behind my regrettable personal attack stands. Anyone who genuinely confuses the Immaculate Conception with the Virgin Birth is not worth listening to on either subject.)

  • John Loftus writes:

    Please, just one of you. Respond to the argument.

    Funny: there have been many responses to the argument.

    But since John seems able to recognize them as such, let me provide a translation service for him:

    “The argument is framed poorly.”

    That is, while the argument itself might sound simple, clauses like “exactly how Christians criticize other faiths” are imprecise sources of equivocation. Hence my plea that we simply request folks to examine their own faith carefully and logically (something that Christians have been doing for centuries, in spite of John’s vituperation)

    But there is more:

    “The argument requires special pleading to avoid it being turned on the one who wields it.”

    The OTF is entirely premised upon the biases intrinsic to maintaining any given religious or philosophical position. Unfortunately, for OTF purveyors, they too are susceptible to exactly the same kinds of biases.

    As a result, the OTF is mostly a rhetorical device and not particularly an argument at all. If it were to become an argument, one would need to systematically take into account all possible biases on the part of everyone involved (outsiders as well!)

    The only scientific way to do this would be to treat the “experiment” of history as a statistical OTF. But it would appear that John is ignoring that suggestion (in spite of the fact that it actually does “respond to the argument”) as it both a) makes Christianity “pass” and b) exposes the practical difficulties inherent in the OTF.

  • Bob,
    Thanks for this line: ” God’s becoming a man endows the least of our actions with divine dignity and truly awesome significance.”

  • Matt said: John, perhaps you can explain to me why, when people like yourself claim to hold to a could faith rational skepticism offer an argument, and someone else provides arguments and reasons why its mistaken, reasons that are potentially serious, the discussion suddenly degenerates to you suggesting those who disagree with you are “brain washed” “can’t reason” “need to be taught” and so on.

    Well Matt, it’s hard for me to respond much further when you introduce irrelevancies like morality into debates about different religious faiths and miraculous claims that are embraced by different people around the globe who all think they are almost certainly correct. Likewise when you denigrate science, which has accumulated a massive amount of knowledge. You have no objective fair method for deciding which religion is the true one and yet you claim an epistemological superiority with your double standard way of approaching religion over my non-double standard approach.

    All the OTF does is to show the believer, any believer, that he or she has the burden of proof. You are making affirmative claims, positive claims, and extraordinary claims. I doubt them because I am now an outsider. I was not always an outsider, but now from the outside position it is crystal clear to me that you have the burden of proof in the same way that other religious believers have around the globe who make affirmative, positive, extraordinary claims that are mutually exclusive to your claims.

    At some point we’ve hit the wall. There is no need for me to beat my head up against the wall of your impenetrable delusional mind. One cannot reason with people like you any further. It’s time to do more productive things.

  • [...] seems my recent Philosophia Christi review of  John W. Loftus’ The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails has hit something of a nerve. [...]

  • There are basically two fatal flaws in Loftus’s position on the OTF vis-a-vis Christianity, and I can’t decide which is the more serious, although either one should be sufficient to end the whole discussion on this subject forever. (There are two additional fatal flaws regarding John’s double standard as to who is allowed to interpret the results, but I’ll same them for a later posting.)

    1. Christianity, being a proselytising religion from Day One (see: The Great Commission), has been approached, critiqued, analyzed, and evaluated by outsiders since 33 AD, and has come out on top for 2000 years, growing from at most a few hundred frightened, persecuted persons to billions today.

    2. Within the last 100 years, Christianity has been subject to precisely the type of scrutiny that Loftus demands by numerous persons deserving our attention (I have listed them in other postings, and on other websites), and their conclusion has been that the Faith is indeed the Truth. As they say in TV courtroom dramas, the question has been “asked and answered!”

    It’s time to move on. This issue is a dead doughnut!

  • Must reproduce this comment by extian from Debuking Christianity:

    Flanigan’s implication that one must be skeptical of science for the OTF to be consistent is ludicrous.

    First, there is nothing preventing one from being skeptical of science. Science itself is basically applied skepticism, so this is like using science on science, which is what scientists do all the time.

    Second, to try to apply the OTF to non-faith subjects (science, morality, etc.) is a misrepresentation of the purpose of the test. This is like saying that because the principles of mathematics cannot be applied to a Jackson Pollack painting then mathematics must be inconsistent and invalid. We already have a method to check for double-standards in naturalistic thinking – it’s called science. Faith eschews most scientific methods, so that’s where we apply the OTF.

    Is this really that hard to understand?

    Well, is it?

  • Why do atheists (particularly those with no experience actually doing science) use the word “science” as a case-study in equivocation?

  • To “Atheist Missionary”,

    Thanks for that quote. I frequently use music in my pro-Christianity apologetics. Now I’ll have to start using Jackson Pollack (whose work I love) as well.

  • It’d be funny to read all of these Loftus disciples, and the discipler himself, if it weren’t so sad and an exercise in extreme mental confusion. Is this what cheating on your wife, getting mad at God, and doing all you can to defame Him does to someone?

    I’d like to read some sociological critiques of this phenomena…

  • An Exchange between Matt Flannagan and John Loftus…

    This is a combox exchange between Loftus, whose comments are in italics, and Matt Flannagan, whose comments are not italicized….

  • Bossmanham,

    I’m generally loathe to psychoanalyse people I’ve never met face to face, but I strongly suspect that most of these overly-vocal atheists who obsessively haunt faith-based websites are desperate to believe in God (and specifically in Jesus), but internal “issues” prevent them from doing so (akin to a smoker who hates cigarettes, but cannot bring himself to quit). How else to explain the otherwise inexplicable frequency of posting from persons who, by their own admission, do not believe in the subject matter they are commenting on. And judging by the rapidity of many responses, they must be hitting the refresh button non-stop.

    I may get frustrated by their incoherence and ill-manneredness, but more than that, I genuinely feel sorry for the Internet Atheist. They obviously experience the same deep longing for God that all of Mankind does (or they wouldn’t even bother visiting a website such as “Dangerous Idea”, let alone go to the effort of setting up one like “Christian Delusion”), but they themselves throw up every roadblock imaginable to that need.

    But there is indeed hope. I do believe that John Loftus is far closer to God than someone who never gives these matters a second’s thought.

  • TAM, if you follow the thread above you’ll see I responded to that point repeatedly. In my response to Paul about Chemistry, People who say you can’t be skeptical about science and science is applied scepticism need to learn about the history of skepticism.

    And there suggestion scientists have answered these skeptical concerns, such as the problem of induction, or how prove there is an external world, or that our senses are reliable, and so on, simply shows they are unfamilar with the subject.

    keep repeating the mantras.

  • Well Matt, it’s hard for me to respond much further when you introduce irrelevancies like morality into debates about different religious faiths and miraculous claims that are embraced by different people around the globe who all think they are almost certainly correct. Likewise when you denigrate science, which has accumulated a massive amount of knowledge.
    So the answer would be you don’t want to actually address the premises of my argument and show which one is false.

    I showed in my argument that the issue of morality is not irrelevant, I showed that an analogous arguments to the OTF can be applied to moral claims.
    Nor did I denigrate science I showed that an analogous line of argument to the OTF leads to scepticism about science, that would denigrate science I agree, but I am not commited to that line of argument you are.

    You have no objective fair method for deciding which religion is the true one and yet you claim an epistemological superiority with your double standard way of approaching religion over my non-double standard approach.

    Here we have assertions which you as someone who has studied philosophy know are false. First, the OTF is not the standard epistemological way of approaching religion, nor is it true that if one does not accept the OTF there is no objective way of deciding issues.
    But even if it were, these are controversial epistemological claims, as I noted in my article arguments analogous to the OTF apply to epistemic claims and so if the OTF is sound one should be an epistemological skeptic and hence be sceptical of claims like this until people like your self answer epistemological scepticism.

    All the OTF does is to show the believer, any believer, that he or she has the burden of proof. You are making affirmative claims, positive claims, and extraordinary claims.

    Yes, and the nihilist can say the same thing, people who claim there exists an obligation to not rape, are believers: they believe there exists obligations like this. They make an affirmative claim: obligations exist. From the point of view of the nihilist this is an extraordinary claim: moral obligations do seem both epistemologically and ontologically ordinary compared normal empirical objects, they are prescriptive, normative in a very strong way. This is the point Nihilists like Mackie make.

    The person who follows science is a believer, he believes science is a reliable method to get us truth. He makes an affirmative claim, that the principle of induction is true, that our senses get us to truth, that empirical methods are reliable and so on. He makes an extraordinary claim, science is a method which most cultures did not develop it developed in western Europe in the 17th century, and the claim of people like your self is that this one uncommon method is reliable relative to all others. So one can argue in an analogous fashion to what you just did that we should be sceptical outsiders to science.

    I doubt them because I am now an outsider. I was not always an outsider, but now from the outside position it is crystal clear to me that you have the burden of proof in the same way that other religious believers have around the globe who make affirmative, positive, extraordinary claims that are mutually exclusive to your claims.

    I see, so the justification is that, for outsiders like yourself its “crystal clear” your correct.
    Why then can’t a Christian say that, I doubt all non Christian views because I am now an outsider. I was not always an outsider, but now from the outside position it is crystal clear to me that they have the burden of proof in the same way that other non Christian believers have around the globe who make affirmative, positive, extraordinary claims that are mutually exclusive to your claims.

    All your doing John is proving my point.

    It’s quite clear John you offered an argument, it has been shown to be unsound repeatedly. It cannot be consistently embraced without entailing absurdities. When it is shown to be unsound. Your response is to simply assert, suggest others don’t get it, and suggest they are brainwashed and so on. How about being honest and admitting that in reality your case has failed and you are just evading this fact because you don’t want to admit it.

  • As predicted, instead of offering a rational response, Loftus goes for the ad hominem attack. He ignores every point and criticism made by Matt by:

    1. Stating without evidence or argument that the argument is not analogous
    2. Stating (the unrelated point) that Matt denigrates science
    3. “Leaving” the conversation with this ad hominem quote: “At some point we’ve hit the wall. There is no need for me to beat my head up against the wall of your impenetrable delusional mind. One cannot reason with people like you any further. It’s time to do more productive things.”

    Matt has offered reasons and analogues to prompt doubt that the OTF can be successful. He has now asked multiple times for Loftus to respond with reason or evidence and Loftus simply resorts to these tactics. If he didn’t prey on the minds of the weak, then it might be time for the real scholarly community to simply move on and leave him to his corner of the Internet.

  • I actually think in a pluralistic world the way one should dialogue is using the insider test of the faith.

    What I mean is this, one needs to understand the others position on their terms, understand the assumptions they make, the presuppositions they accept, and then reason conditionally, asking what would follow if one accepted these presuppositions for the sake of argument what would the implications be.

    Would this position answer important questions and provide explanations for various things, would it be internally consistent, would it cohere with our existential experience.

    Can a person who accepts these premises defend them against objections and defeaters which utilise premises which have a claim on them and so on.

    Those who raise the argument of evil do precisely this they suggest that if God exists evil would not exist, evil exists therefore he does not. I don’t think this is a sound argument but it’s the right kind of question to ask.

    Similar the arguments for Gods existence can be understood this way. As claims that if one accepts that God exists, then one can answer certain questions about the nature of morality, its authority, the origin of the universe, the contingent existence and so on.

    The counter question would be to then ask if naturalism is true can we answer these same questions in a more plausible or better way.

    That’s what I see EAAN and the argument from reason doing, assuming naturalism for the sake of argument and it fails to answer certain challenges or entails certain things which undermine rationality.

    Interestingly, this does allow one to adopt a neutral position, shared by most people. We can’t all affirm the same basic assumptions, but most of us can address conditionals such as “if this assumption were true would Z follow” a naturalist for example can ask, the question if God exists does he explain Y, or if God exists does it entail evil does not, and so on.

    A theist can ask if naturalism is true how would one explain moral obligation.

    What destroys dialogue is the insistence everyone bracket controversial assumptions and reason only those foundations that are shared by all. That leads to the kind of sceptical problems that are highlighted.

    It also inevitably means one perspective pretends its assumptions are uncontroversial neutral and seeks to define itself as the default position, as Loftus does.

    Loftus has it completely wrong, it’s the insider test not the outsider test which is the way to discuss these issues.

  • Hi Matt

    I’ve been thinking something along those lines myself lately. It seems to me that most atheists could say, since most were once believers, that they have taken an ‘Insider Test’ for faith, and that in their judgment faith failed. I’m willing to accept this, and I wouldn’t want to claim that they were ‘never really’ insiders (i.e. weren’t “real” Christians). But I often think that those of us who have made the opposite move — from atheism to theism — should be afforded the same prima facie courtesy, and that those who propose an OTF should view the claim that we were never “really” outsiders to be on a par with the claim that they weren’t “really” Christians (or whatever).

  • When To Appeal To Authority…

    M & M’s can be dangerous. It depends on which ones you choose. … To me, a lay atheist, when I go to M & M (and yes I do go to Christian blogs. … I’am overwhelmed by….err, how frackin’ smart they are compared to me. Honestly, if there were supe…

  • Eric, something like an “insider test” is suggested by Wolterstorff in his book Justice, Plantinga hints at it in several places as well.

    One does not bracket assumptions, but tries to be honest about them and understand how others with different assumptions see the world, and conducts dialogue by taking these assumptions seriously and trying to show that what the cost of accepting them are in various contexts.

  • John Loftus posted the following rebuttal to Dr Matt Flannagan accusing him of denigrating science. I’m really sick of Loftus saying that about people who believe in God hate science….

    John Loftus posted the following rebuttal to Dr Matt Flannagan accusing him of denigrating science. I’m really sick of Loftus saying that about people who believe in God hate science….

  • This is from one of the pingbacks linked above (Krissthesexyatheist):

    “To me, a lay atheist, when I go to M & M (and yes I do go to Christian blogs. To know them is to debate them…and win) I’am overwhelmed by….err, how frackin’ smart they are compared to me. Honestly, if there were super smart Christian peeps leading me (and deceiving me) when I was younger, then I probably would never have become and atheist-probably. I think it was last year when John (Debunking Christianity) was debating them in a series of online exchanges. It all went over my head (and yet still informative).”

    She goes on to discuss how you have to appeal to authority for your positions, because there is no way we can be experts in all of these fields. As atheism has become a populist (and less elitist) movement, these types of “just have faith” arguments are becoming more prominent. Some of those who were converted by simply reading the NA literature, or even Loftus’ works, struggle when confronted with intelligent “others.” Some of these will (and have) converted to Christianity, and I think we should be wise in how we handle them.

    I had a friend who was converted to atheism after reading WIBA in its older form (WIRC), but after a year of “loud atheism” moved to agnosticism for a couple years and then back to Christianity. He was particularly moved via Continental Philosophy and realizing the inevitable nihilism of Satre in the face of God’s absence. A strong conviction that nihilism was wrong, a few works by Kierkegaard and the work of former nihilist J. Budzizewski changed his mind.

    It would be easy to prop him up as an “atheist convert to Christianity,” but I don’t think that would be wise. He is converting out of a worldview that many of us find intellectually unsustainable, and whose arguments most of us have considered and find vapid. Instead of glorifying the individuals, as more and more new atheists are rejoining churches (or joining them for the first time) in their post-atheism, we shouldn’t prop them up as celebrities, but instead nurture them to maturity as we would strive to do with anyone else.

  • Bob said “I strongly suspect that most of these overly-vocal atheists who obsessively haunt faith-based websites are desperate to believe in God… How else to explain the otherwise inexplicable frequency of posting from persons who, by their own admission, do not believe in the subject matter they are commenting on.

    Bob; couldn’t a corollary be made to “apologists” who choose to focus on the faults of atheism and atheists as opposed to defending their own theologies? People like Voxday and Dinesh D’Souza come to mind.

    Also, since Matt initially critiqued John book, I don’t think you can claim that John’s readers are obsessively haunting Matt’s blog. Maybe you weren’t, it wasn’t exactly clear, but it could have been read that way. Once a “faith-based” website engages an atheist or comments on atheism, it’s fair game as far as I’m concern. As for me, I tend to post when I see atheism being misrepresented and don’t get involved with theology (a subject matter I don’t believe in) unless the conversation goes that way. And although I’m aware I probably have deeper motives for many things, it doesn’t seem that a desperate need to believe in a deity is one of them.

  • Ryan,

    Although I probably deserve any blowback I get from my last posting (after all, I did begin with “I’m generally loathe to psychoanalyse people I’ve never met face to face”, and yet went ahead anyway), I really do have to wonder about some of the self-identified atheist posters. I myself don’t ever visit even a single atheist website (and don’t bother suggesting any) because I have zero interest in anything that might be said there. And as for “Christian” websites, I regularly read only one – Victor Reppert’s “Dangerous Idea”. And that’s mainly because Victor and I go way back – we’ve been close friends since the 1970′s back at Arizona State University. the only way I ended up at this one was because Victor linked to it in a recent thread, and since I had read (parts of) the book in question, I was curious to read the review.

    I have to admit that at 60 years old, I’ve answered almost all of the Big Questions to my personal satisfaction years and years ago, and spend most of my time practicing my beliefs, not looking for them. At this point, I figure that in a relatively short time, I will KNOW what’s what, and won’t have to BELIEVE any more.

  • I guess I appeal to what you say Kyle

    I don’t find comfort in my Deism, only despair I guess. Nonetheless, I’m still holding onto my position because of moral objections regarding God’s character.

    But Matt is right about critical weaknesses in Loftus OTF, it jives with what William Cavanaugh was talking about how the definition of Religion historically changes overtime. Atheist rely on a too narrow definition of it to suit their purpose, but they forgot how it was applied in a broader definition by academics studying nation-state and religious identity relationships in Europe to include even their own atheism in the mixture.

    I guess post-modernistic instincts come into play when deconstructing the New Atheistic humanism. Theirs the book by Stefanos Geranous ‘An Atheism that is not Humanism’ that talks about this. Lay Atheist surprisingly do not know the darker aspects of negatively reading the implications of a godless worldview

  • [...] rather infamous. More infamous than is warranted, since Matt Flannagan (among many others) has shown its incoherence. But ignoring that, Paul Manata now crushes the OTF‘s relevance by asking the question: [...]

  • Yay! I caught up.
    Is this a new record for the number of posts or what?

    I’m going to add my 2c.

    First if this is true:
    “the OTF uses the exact same standard that YOU use when rejecting other religions,”

    Then it’s pretty easy to pass as Kyle showed in post

    HIS standard was the Bible, and understandably Christianity passed, and Islam failed.
    If a Muslim used the standard of for lack of a better word “consistency” The Bible would fail and the Koran would pass, as all Korans are identical word for word, and the Bible has multiple versions.
    So my point is any religion can pass if it chooses its own yard stick.

    However, when he says “Remember that whatever we use to test any belief must be based on reason and science.” shows that it is not necessarily “the exact same standard you use”

    So it shows he is the one using a double-standard as he does not put his faith in reason and science through the OTF.

    The way I see it John Loftus, is that Matt is simply asking you this question:
    “Where should we start our search when we are looking for the Truth?”
    If your answer is human experience, reason & logic, and eventually science, this is an argument I believe you can win.
    You simply have to make the argument, and not beg the question by saying:
    “…when you denigrate science, which has accumulated a massive amount of knowledge. You have no objective fair method for deciding which religion is the true one…”

  • Rosjier,
    I think you followed my point precisely. That’s one of the same reasons why Roberts argument fails. If you think the standard that we must use to discredit other claims is “x,” then you must make an argument in that regard. It’s a question of first principles.

    Thus, basically John is saying that we should judge our own worldview from his worldview and in doing so, we will see that it fails. We can turn that around on him. From our worldview, his obviously fails as well. Matt though, is going even further and saying that from John’s own worldview it fails as well (which are his comments on EAAN, AfR, etc.).

  • Oops, I should add something to “If you think the standard that we must use to discredit other claims is “x,” then you must make an argument in that regard. It’s a question of first principles.”

    It should say, “then you must either make an argument in that regard or take is a properly basic belief.” Matt has shown why in John’s worldview, holding to “reason” as the properly basic belief fails (EAAN, AfR, etc.).

  • Kyle

    Almost,

    Loftus claims that one should approach religious beliefs from the perspective of a skeptical outsider, one should assume default position of skepticism and try and justify them from that skeptical position.

    The question I ask is why single religious beliefs out in this way, why not approach, scientific beliefs, or moral beliefs, or epistemological beliefs from the default position of a person who is skeptical that we know things or that scientific methods are correct, or a moral skeptic who embraces nihilism.

    Loftus answer in the book is that religious beliefs differ from culture to culture, that’s why one should be sceptical of them.

    In another part of the book he suggests the fact different people within a culture disagree is also a reason.

    The problem is this is true of moral scientific and epistemological beliefs as well. Most cultures historically did not engage in or practise science as we know it. Epistemological theories widely differ even within a society, and there is cross cultural and intra-cultural moral disagreement as well as disagreement over whether morality counts as knowledge at all.

    The problem is Loftus is not sceptical towards these things, his arguments rely on moral claims and epistemological claims and he cannot and will not adopt a sceptical stance towards these claims nor could he justify them if he did.

  • Almost all of the objections to the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) are red herrings placed in the road to sidetrack us from getting at the truth. They do not understand the perspective of an outsider, or they grossly misrepresent it in favor of faith. Since I like beating my head against the wall, let me try again.

    In my book, Why I Became an Atheist, I contrasted the insider’s perspective (IP) with the outsider’s perspective (OP), which can be explained like this: The insider believes in a particular religious sect. The outsider does not. The insider has faith. The outsider doubts. The insider makes extraordinary claims. The outsider makes no claims. The insider has a belief in search of data. The outsider looks at the data to determine the probability of a claim. The insider takes a leap of faith beyond the probabilities. The outsider doesn’t claim more than what the probabilities can show.

    The IP represents a person who has faith. The OP represents a person who does not have faith. The OP represents science-based reasoning. The IP represents faith-based reasoning.

    That is the contrast between the OP and the IP. It is not about some Martian, or a sociopath, or a lunatic, or a rapist. It is the perspective of science, which is the same standard believers use when rejecting other religions.

    Now, ready for the kicker? The IP has no method for settling which religion is true. The OP does.

    Comprendo?

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-is-outsiders-perspective.html

  • John after such vigorous question-framing, why should anyone be surprised that you get the answer that you want?

    The trouble is that the frame you’ve created, though convenient to get where you want to go, is almost entirely bogus.

    This is not a red herring, John. This is a weakness with the OTF: it gives a unjustified privileged place to — well, those who think like you do! What a surprise.

  • JWL
    Why aren’t you an agnostic?

  • John all your answer does is equivocate: you state

    The insider makes extraordinary claims. The outsider makes no claims.

    But then you state

    The insider has a belief in search of data. The outsider looks at the data to determine the probability of a claim.

    If the outsider makes no claims, then he cannot claim that any data exists or that any data is factual, that would be to make a claim. What we see is suddenly that the position described as making no claims is one which in actually is committed to several claims.

    The insider has faith. The outsider doubts. …The IP represents a person who has faith. The OP represents a person who does not have faith. The OP represents science-based reasoning. The IP represents faith-based reasoning.

    here you state the outsider is one who doubts, not one who has an faith, but then we see that in fact the outsider believes in a particular method, science and trusts that method.

    You keep speaking as though the issue was one of lack of comprehension, its not I understand completely what I have done is offered an argument against it. Numerous times I have shown you that analogous lines of reasoning lead to absurd consquences, your response has been to repeatedly ignore this argument and claim its “a red hearing” or to suggest everyone else does not understand or needs to be educated and so on.

    Now John, how about addressing the argument.

    Why don’t you apply the OTF to moral beliefs? Why don’t you apply it to epistemic beliefs? Why don’t you apply it to scientific beliefs?

    Take the claim that all people have equal dignity regardless of their race. This is a claim many cultures have denied, can you prove this claim by science? If not why aren’t you doubtful of it, why aren’t you treating opposition to racism as a delusion contrary to free thought?

  • Oh hey, another argument about a particular belief X that has been reduced to, “belief X can’t justify the existence of other minds/the efficacy of reason and science, the laws of logic, so it certainly cannot apply to Y”.

    Thanks Plantinga.

    But seriously, why would anyone expect the OTF to justify the existence of other minds, reason, the laws of logic, or even science? Those things are foundational requirements to even begin having this conversation (the one exception might be science). Like most arguments, the OTF simply appeals to the common ground which most of us are expected to share. If one wants to deny the laws of logic, reason, the efficacy of science – well, have fun with that project, and I for one am fine with conceding that the OTF will not persuede you… and I’m not sure what can.

    But for those of us who at least do share in common a belief that reason, the laws of logic, science, etc are good things that work well, then the OTF can apply. If you’re waiting around for the existence of other minds to be logically proven before you can reasonably debate something like the OTF, well, then… again.. good luck with that.

    Plantinga may argue that belief in God should keep company with belief in the law of non-contradiction, logic, etc in our epistemic foundation, and we can debate that. But either way, the whole of Christian theology certainly doesnt get such a lauded position. So at this point, its worth noting that the book was called “The Christian Delusion” – not the “Abstract Theism Delusion”.

  • Just for fun, let’s see if the OTF holds up under a “change of venue”…

    In the religious conflict between Coke and Pepsi, if the OTF were legitimate the diabetic would be right.

    In the religious conflict between Mac and PC, if the OTF were legitimate the Luddite would be right.

    In the religious conflict between rock and jazz, if the OTF were legitimate the deaf man would be right.

    In the religious conflict between the Red Socks and the Yankees, if the OTF were legitimate the hockey fans would be right.

    In the religious conflict between Ford and Chevy, the cyclist would be right.

    Who knows? Perhaps “science-based reasoning” will one day establish that tech-challenged, cycling, deaf, diabetic hockey fans have been vindicated. But where is the fun in that??

    Let’s face it: JWL’s frame missed at least one important distinction: The insider is self-examining; the outsider could hardly care less to actually understand…

  • I’m curious, John, about that magical “science-based reasoning” you mention. Have you any experience actually doing science? Or do you take all your science-based reasoning on… faith?

  • drj,
    Nobody has argued that the OTF should justify those things. The point is that it must assume them to get off the ground. You are correct though, that we all agree on the existence and usefulness of reason, other minds, etc. The problem is that our worldview makes sense of those things…yours has to assume their existence without any justification (except some a posteriori pragmatic justification, but must admit that there is no assurance of their future reliability).

    But that’s all beside the point to the argument Matt is making. He is wondering (and John has yet to answer) why the same argument cannot be applied to moral or epistemic beliefs in an atheistic worldview. John has called this a “red herring,” but I’m assuming you know the meaning of a red herring and why this is not. I’m also assuming that you realize that ad hominem doesn’t make an argument either. John can continue to call us deluded, ignorant and whatever else…and we may be…but that has nothing to do with the validity or invalidity of Matt’s argument.

    To speed things up, I’m going to reproduce John’s OTF from a post of his at TheologyWeb where he gave it. I’m then going to replace “religious beliefs” with “moral beliefs.” You and John are welcome to show us why the argument works with “religious beliefs” but doesn’t work with “moral beliefs” according to an atheistic worldview. In his “objection,” I will also replace “atheism” with “moral nihilism,” “hell” with “prison” and you tell me where the argument now fails but worked with religious beliefs.

    Here it is:

    1. (Moral) diversity around the globe is a fact—many (moral beliefs) can be found in distinct geographical locations in the world.

    2. There are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which (moral belief) is true.

    3. (Moral) apologists all claim they are correct and they reject all other distinctive (moral) beliefs but their own.

    4. All (moral beliefs) seek to answer life’s most important questions in a believing communal social environment where the adherent is encouraged to believe and discouraged to doubt.

    These four facts form the basis of the argument. Okay so far? I think these facts are undeniable.

    So if you want a deductive argument expressing this inductive argument of mine, here it is:

    p -> q:

    If 1-4 is true, then it’s probable that people adopt their (moral beliefs) based upon “when and where they were born.”

    p: 1-4.
    .: q:

    Therefore, it’s probable that people adopt their (moral beliefs) based upon “when and where they were born,” and if that’s the case the (moral beliefs) a person adopts is probably dependent upon the “accidents of birth” rather than rational assessment of the case.

    Based upon 1-4, it’s highly probable (moral) adherents will not investigate their (moral beliefs) dispassionately. They will use reason to solidify and support (moral beliefs) arrived at prior to rationally examining them. And because there isn’t a mutually agreed upon scientific test to determine the truth of any (moral belief), therefore social/political and geographical factors heavily influence what (moral beliefs) one adopts.

    This conclusion is the strongest in those communally shared (moral beliefs) where doubt places the adherent in danger of (prison), as well as the fear of losing the friendship of the (moral) community he or she is involved in.

    This conclusion leads to the presumption of skepticism when investigating any (moral belief), including one’s own; for it’s probable that the adherents merely adopted their (moral beliefs) based upon “when and where they were born.”

    —————-

    Objection:
    Why do you think (moral nihilism) stands outside the bubble?

    That’s a great question. In the first place (moral nihilism) is the position of last resort having examined the various (moral) claims and finding them faulty by virtue of the Outsider Test. And if we’re all inside some kind of bubbles to varying degrees, when it comes to being inside the bubble of science, education, and rational thought, I’ll go with that every time, since the alternatives are superstitious, and because science has accomplished so much.

    Besides, if I am to question (moral nihilism) as an outsider and find it wanting then at best I would be an (moral agnostic), a complete skeptic with regard to metaphysical claims, and that grants the (moral realist) no ground.

    Other than that, the differences have to do with the nature of communal (morals), threats of (prison), ancient texts written by (moral realists) over against scientific reasoning, the nature of what history can and cannot show, and the fact that (moral nihilists) usually come out of (moral beliefs) by themselves.

    Where’s the problem with this argument if the OTF is sound? Why should the OTF be applied to religious beliefs, but not moral or epistemic beliefs? These are not red herrings (obviously – http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#Red%20Herring), but show the heart of the problem with the OTF.

  • John have you actually read Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster?

  • [...] seems my recent Philosophia Christi review of  John W. Loftus’ The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails has hit something of a nerve. [...]

  • (read it all…(by Zac Alstin)

    [The 'New Atheists'] have revealed an inane agglomeration of “religion” across the whole of human history and experience. If I were to do the same for, say, “politics”, then people would rightly call me an idiot. Yet it would be an exercise of comparative ease to lay out the history of human politics in all its inglorious array. I could freely intermingle the banal squabbling of modern democratic party-politics with the extravagant pomp and prestige of the late French Monarchy, or the crushing totalitarianism of Stalinist Russia. How easy it would be to lay the blame for so much nonsense, violence, and human misery at the feet of an abstract and unified entity called “politics”. If only we could free humanity from the parasitic tyranny of politics, and – the root of all evil – the farcical human invention we call the polis.

    The rage against religion seems to me as unhelpful as any similar rage against politics would be. Religion is as much a part of human nature as is politics; the pertinent distinction should not be between religion and the absence of it, but between good religion and bad, or true religion and false. We do not dismiss democracy on account of the horrors of communism, nor should we turn against it when we discover its abuse or perversion in any particular instance.

    What religion and politics have in common is the humanity behind them. Religion doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Trying to stop humanity being religious has as much hope as stopping us from being political.

    I have as much faith in an irreligious nation remaining irreligious as in an apolitical nation remaining apolitical. Human nature being what it is, a community devoid of politics will necessarily become politicized over time purely for the sake of the benefits politics confers. Indeed, one might as well admit that “apolitical society” is an oxymoron.

  • But seriously, why would anyone expect the OTF to justify the existence of other minds, reason, the laws of logic, or even science? Those things are foundational requirements to even begin having this conversation (the one exception might be science). Like most arguments, the OTF simply appeals to the common ground which most of us are expected to share.
    I did not in the review mention the laws of logic or other minds I mentioned epistemological, moral and scientific claims.

    But for those of us who at least do share in common a belief that reason, the laws of logic, science, etc are good things that work well, then the OTF can apply. If you’re waiting around for the existence of other minds to be logically proven before you can reasonably debate something like the OTF, well, then… again.. good luck with that.

    I think you’ll find that if your looking for any position of any substance to be proven from “common” assumptions shared by all people you’ll be waiting a long time. Its pretty much granted that there is no position of any substance, whether in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, politics, economics, or even science in a realist sense or the belief in an external world as opposed to some form of idealism, that can be demonstrated from common assumptions shared by all people. Knock down arguments for or against any of these positions don’t really exist.

    Unless you are going to be a skeptic about all these things, I don’t think the OTF works.

    There is also the self referential problem given that the OTF is itself an epistemic stance.

  • Matt: “I don’t think the OTF works. ”

    yes, you do Matt. you use it ALL the time with respect to other religions.
    John Loftus made this point repeatedly, yet you never answered it.
    instead, you keep equating scientific scepticism with radical scepticism.
    does your scepticism with regard to Islam commits you to radical scepticism? apparetnly not, so why the double standard?

  • AoR,
    I know that you all think like that, but it’s simply not the way most Christians work…even the intelligent ones. We are theists in regards to all other religious claims, and the primary reason that we reject other claims is because of our theological convictions. I reject the Islamic conception of God, because of my convictions concerning the truth of the Triune God.

    I can’t speak for Matt or anyone else, but I think that if you sat down and talked to most people, you will find that they reject differing perspectives (in any field) because of their convictions and not because of some cold, unbiased analysis (something we all know if a myth anyways). I reject atheism because I believe in God. I reject Buddhism for a similar reason. I reject Judaism, because of my convictions about that God.

    There are foundations for those convictions, but the claim that Matt, me or anyone else treats other religions from a position of skepticism is not necessarily (nor probably normally) true, and a bad basis for an argument.

  • Silent Surrender…

    what’s striking, and easily forgotten in this exchange, is not what Avalos has said, but what he’s left unsaid. In addition to some factual criticisms, Flannagan also lodged a couple of logical criticisms: … Thus far, from what I’ve read (unless I mi…

  • How astonishing it is that supposedly sane people in 2011 can actually try to articulate their personal beliefs about how the invisible sky-god chose to personally impregnate a little girl in the ancient Middle East 2000 years ago.

    There is no better definition of lunacy than to believe in the literal truth of Christian doctrine. It is truly an absurd, asinine, ridiculous Stone Age myth that any thinking person should have left behind centuries ago.

    Christians, what’s the secret to believing in utter Neanderthal bullshit and calling it truth?

  • What is an “invisible sky-god?” That’s not the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Nor is it anything similar to the conception of God in classical Christian theism (not to mention any other major concept of God alive today). Furthermore, a virgin “being with child” is not the same as a god personally impregnating a little girl. You should consider what others believe before you start attacking straw men.

    You should consider what I stated in the other thread you posted on. Try actually understanding the views you reject and you might learn something in the process. Continuing to degrade others and act elitist (when in fact you clearly do not understand the opposing view) only hurts how others view you. Try having a real-life, personal conversation with a Christian who knows what they are talking about and see if your perspective can stand up without the insults.

  • [...] Flannagan reviews The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus. Loftus, of course, shows up in [...]

  • I think its pretty amazing that a lump of meat and chemicals can get so worked up over other peoples beliefs. I mean, just think about it, all that sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  • “If no religion can pass the OTF then it is not the fault of the test. It’s the fault of religion.”

    My test is the alphabetical test. Clearly, the alphabet develops in sophistication as it progresses, so that the last letters are superior to the last. Therefore, I won’t accept any positions that begin with the most inferior letter A.

    If atheism fails my test, it is clearly not the fault of the test, it’s the fault of atheism.

  • I think you’ll find that if your looking for any position of any substance to be proven from “common” assumptions shared by all people you’ll be waiting a long time. Its pretty much granted that there is no position of any substance, whether in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, politics, economics, or even science in a realist sense or the belief in an external world as opposed to some form of idealism, that can be demonstrated from common assumptions shared by all people. Knock down arguments for or against any of these positions don’t really exist.

    Unless you are going to be a skeptic about all these things, I don’t think the OTF works.

    There is also the self referential problem given that the OTF is itself an epistemic stance.

    Eh, see… so there’s no knockdown arguments against our most basic assumptions, therefore there’s no knockdown arguments against anything.

    Seriously, its not productive to reduce every debate to solipsism.

    Fine, not *every* human believes in the efficacy of science, or the validity of reason and logic, etc. But who cares, for the purposes of the OTF?

    Let’s just restrict it to the people who do share those beliefs?! For the others, if we hope to convince them, we’ll have to emply other strategies.

  • “Eh, see… so there’s no knockdown arguments against our most basic assumptions, therefore there’s no knockdown arguments against anything.”

    Not what I argued, my point is that if you demand knock down arguments for Christianity as the OTF does then parity of reasoning would lead to skepticism about almost every substantive position on everything.

    “Seriously, its not productive to reduce every debate to solipsism.”
    I agree, methods which do this are unproductive, which is why demanding people approach any belief they hold which is remotely controversial as a skeptical outsider is unproductive.

    “Fine, not *every* human believes in the efficacy of science, or the validity of reason and logic, etc. But who cares, for the purposes of the OTF?”

    You can’t avoid a counter argument by saying who cares. The point is analogous lines of argument apply to morality, science and epistemology. Either the argument is sound or it is not, if its sound one should be skeptical about all these things. If it is not then its unsound.

    “Let’s just restrict it to the people who do share those beliefs?! For the others, if we hope to convince them, we’ll have to emply other strategies.”

    Well Christians could say the same thing, they could just arbitary choose to restrict there methods to those who share basic Christian or theistic assumptions. If this is a good escape for the OTF for you why is it not for me?

  • [...] book review of John Loftus’s The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails prompted several responses from Hector Avalos, one of the [...]

  • [...] Book Review of “The Christian Delusion” edited by John Loftus by Matthew/Madeleine Flannagan at MandM. A review from Philosophia Christi of a book arguing against Christianity. Great comments. Flannagan [...]

  • I am not a believer. I think that the OTF (although I would modify it to just the OT in certain cases) is decent. However I think the skeptic ignores the fact many times that many believers have weighed the evidence of differing religions and come to believe they have empirical and external evidence for accepting one of them. I personally haven’t, but that doesn’t mean others have. Isn’t the basic idea of the OFT basically trying to see another’s perspective?

  • [...] and offers some words of criticism for prominent a-carnie-ist, P. Z. Myers. Matt Flanagan also reviews Loftus’ The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails. Jim West offers an ostensibly tongue-in-cheek proposal for dealing with heretics, but John Loftus [...]

  • I wish more time was invested by theists in addressing the issue of animal suffering and it being compatible with a morally-perfect God.

  • What is this “thingy” some of you folks label as “God”?

    I’ve never heard of this label, nor do I LOGICALLY know what it is.

    Can any of your “God” experts give a LOGICAL ARGUMENT for “it”?

  • i wonder if you can take a pill for it…

  • or perhaps some aloe vera?

  • some things to chew on:
    1. Altogether Hitler’s killing machine murdered more than 5.5 million Jews, and more than 7.5 million Christians — a little published fact that caused Jewish historian Max Dimont to declare that “the world blinded itself to the murder of Christians” by Nazi Germany (Max Dimont, 1994, pp. 391-392).  In Poland alone 881 Catholic priests were annihilated (Azar, 1990, p. 154).  In time many more priests would end up in concentration camps.
    2.: “Of course, OPEN OPPOSITION to Christianity would have to wait to the END of the war”…. ( p. 411, 555)… (and a short time later): “while the “eradication of Jews and ‘other vermin’ could begin now“.
    3.Albert Einstein: “…as a lover of freedom, when the (Nazi) revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced.  Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…ONLY the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth.  I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church ALONE has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom.  I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly” A. Einstein. (cited by Wilhelm Niemoller in Kampi und Zeugnis der bekennenden Kirche — Struggle and Testimony of the Confessing Church, p. 526. and Cochrane).
    4. If Hitler was so fond of Christianity why did he slaughter 7.5 million Christians?
    5. It’s time for atheists to do some honest impartial research – not just copy and paste from bigotry of atheists like S. Harris (who recommends killing of his opponents if they harbour “dangerous ideas”). And then he has the gall to question the morality of others. What a sick joke!

    (from “Mein Kampf” and “Bormann-Vermerke” – a collection of HAND-WRITTEN notes made by Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary)

  • More to chew on:
    1. I apologise for not identifying the source of several quotes, eg., item 2, in earlier article.

    Item 2 read: 2.: “Of course, OPEN OPPOSITION to Christianity would have to wait to the END of the war”…. ( p. 411, 555)… (and a short time later): “while the “eradication of Jews and ‘other vermin’ could begin now“.
    Sources: “Mein Kampf” and “Bormann-Vermerke” – a collection of HAND-WRITTEN notes made by Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary.
    2. And from the same sources:
    a) “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity.” (Hitler – evening of 11th-12th July, 1941)
    b) “Christianity is an invention of sick brains”…Let’s be the only people who are immunised against the disease. (p 118 & 119) (13th December, 1941, midnight)

    3. I would add the following:
    Hitler’s Persecution of the Christian Churches: J. Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, noted:
    “The Fuhrer … is completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race… Both [Judaism and Christianity] have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end, they will be destroyed.”
    Excerpts from secret OSS documents that detailed the Nazi Master Plan to Persecute Christian Churches:
    “THE NAZI MASTER PLAN – Annex 4: The Persecution of the Christian Churches” and “DRAFT FOR THE WAR CRIMES STAFF –  6 July 1945”
    Description: – This study describes, with illustrative factual evidence, Nazi purposes, policies, and methods of persecuting and eventual total eradication of Christians in Germany and occupied Europe.
    Many more documents that prove Nazi’s planned to “eliminate Christianity and convert its followers to an Aryan philosophy” are now on the online version of Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion (Hotchkin, 2003, p. 3). The church did much to fight Nazism with weekly sermons, encyclicals and passive resistance and offering conduits of escape to refugees … there is no way that they can they be held as the cause of Nazism“.

    4. Hitler’s own statements are on record, and disprove atheists’ insistence that Hitler was any kind of Christian – Hitler had clearly rejected Christianity – just like some other brutal tyrants like Stalin, Mussolini, etc. etc..

    5. More sources:
    a) (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, p. 240 in some editions, p. 332 in others. Chapter headed “Triumph and Consolidation”, subsection “The Persecution of the Christian Churches”)
    b) Martin Bormann, Reich Leader, 1942, ‘National Socialist and Christian Concepts are Incompatible’, From Kirchliches Jahrbuch fur die evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, 1933-1944, pp. 470-472, quoted pp. 245-247, George L. Mosse, Nazi Culture: A Documentary History).

  • HITLER NEVER A CHRISTIAN. THE EVIDENCE.

    POST-WAR SENTIMENTS of JEWISH HIERARCHY towards CHRISTIANITY:

    A small sample of the Jewish testimonies included in “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope”:

    1. “We share in the grief of humanity [at the death of Pius XII]…. When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace. ~ Golda Meir

    2. No keener rebuke has come to Nazism than from Pope Pius XI and his successor, Pope Pius XII.
    ~ Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

    3. “In the most difficult hours of which we Jews of Romania have passed through, the generous assistance of the Holy See…was decisive and salutary. It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the supreme pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews…. The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance.”
    ~ Rabbi Alexander Safran, chief rabbi of Romania

    4. “The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion, which form the very foundation of true civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of Divine Providence in this world”.
    ~ Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel

    5. “I told [Pope Pius XII] that my first duty was to thank him, and through him the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public for all they had done in the various countries to rescue Jews…. We are deeply grateful to the Catholic Church.”
    ~ Moshe Sharett (who later became Israel’s first foreign minister and second prime minister)

    From research by Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Columbia.

    6. That the church was NOT silent, though, was testified by the great physicist
    Albert Einstein who said that as a “lover of freedom, when the (Nazi) revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…ONLY the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church ALONE has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom.
    I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly” A. Einstein. (cited by Wilhelm Niemoller in Kampi und Zeugnis der bekennenden Kirche — Struggle and Testimony of the Confessing Church, p. 526. and Cochrane).

    7. This further DISPROVES the insistence of Atheists of linking Hitler with Christianity.

    8. Dinesh DeSouza explains the errors in atheism (in “What’s So Great About Christianity?“) and details how, when atheism is embraced, there is no imperative left for humans to behave in a civilised way (see how Dawkins proclaims that “there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ … just a “pitiless universe” … but he offers no other yardstick for morality – because one is left with the sole imperative to one’s own survival or rise to power at any cost). DeSouza describes how this results in no limit to all manner of crime, of war, of war crimes … and eventually GENOCIDE.

    9. Dostoyevsky (returning to his Christian roots after internment in the Soviet Gulags) pleads for everyone to embrace Christianity, which he had finally discovered as the only path to true civilisation and genuine brotherhood of man and genuine peace.

    10. To illustrate how Christianity as a philosophy has nothing to apologise for to anyone (when not deviated from by the apathetic):
    Even one German (atheist), Jurgen Habermas now admits about Christianity: “Christianity – if nothing else – is the ultimate foundation of liberty, of conscience, of human rights, of democracy – which are the very benchmarks of western civilisation.”

  • Nasz zespól redakcyjny owo grupa ludzi, którzy
    ogromna pasja dodatkowo poswieceniem staraja sie pomóc Panstwu w drodze naukowej.
    Opracowanie to sugeruje kiedy skonfiskowac
    sie pisania pracy dyplomowej . Wymaga poswiecenia przede wszystkim
    duzych ilosci czasu. Podstawowa sprawa w uslugach pomocy pisania zlecen jest
    dokladne sprecyzowanie tematu a wlasnych zalozen. Najlepsze w danej sytuacji.
    Koszt poprawek wliczony jest w cene redakcji tekstu.
    Zajmujemy sie pomoca w pisaniu zlecen dyplomowych, w tym: zlecen magisterskich, zamówien licencjackich,
    zlecen zaliczeniowych tez wszelkiego rodzaju innych zlecen.
    Zajecie to przyjeli na siebie pisarze, zwani angielska (ze nie inaczej jakby nowoczesniej) copywriterami.

    Korekta zlecen nie ma pustka wspólnego z plagiatem ani wyreczaniem kogos pisania pracy dyplomowej.
    W naszym zespole znajduja sie dyplomowani specjalisci z róznorodnych dziedzin
    naukowych, majacy wieloletnie wiedze praktyczna w zakresie poszukiwania
    natomiast zbierania materialów naukowych, oraz takze
    przygotowywania testów. Osoby sporzadzajace opracowania posiadaja tytuly naukowe natomiast pisza
    prace w zgodzie ze swoimi kwalifikacjami a doswiadczeniem.
    Pisanie prac licencjackich