The latest example of Loftus' misuse of reason has been to undermine the faith by claiming that it arose from stupid and superstitious people. Since people in the days of Christianity were superstitious rednecks, then we can psychologize about why they believed the claims of Christianity. Loftus' argument is yet another example of the philosophically shoddy work he engages in - all in the name of rationalizing one's unbelief! Unbeknownst to Loftus, though, is that his blogs and arguments (not worthy of the name) serve to bolster the faith of Christians. To those who want to live a full and examined intellectual life, the requirement of Loftus to commit intellectual suicide serves as a useful barrier to those who would otherwise give his claims a fair hearing (fair in the sense that he has something substantive to offer).
Those who read Loftus' blog entry, as well as read the counters by Engwer, Hays, and myself, will be impressed with Loftus' amazing inability to comprehend the arguments of other’s. His post (above) is virtually irrelevant to the arguments we've put forth. He does not succeed in debunking Christianity, but in debunking reading comprehension. John-boy does not really offer hope that one can leave Christianity and keep his rationality, but he does offer hope that one need not be able to comprehend what one reads in order to get a Masters degree.
Before we look at Loftus' blog it will serve us well to look at an example of the distorted reasoning Loftus engages in. John, John-boy Loftus tells us that his rational reason for not believing in the miraculous claims found in the Bible is because,
"My views are based upon every waking moment of my life. I have never seen God's working or his miracles, so I am every bit rational to conclude he didn't work in the past. What's so hasty about that?"
Thus we see that Loftus reasons from his particular experience to the totality of experience. He asks, "What's so hasty about that?" He seriously does not believe that this is fallacious, yet he has told me that he teaches logic at college! We should all agree, though, that a fallacy has been committed. Loftus is making a claim about the totality of experience. He's making a claim about the totality of what has (or could have!) happened throughout history. The larger the claim the larger the sample should be. John's limited experience is not nearly enough to make conclusions about the totality of what has happened in the entire history of the planet earth.
Furthermore, this begs the question against the Christian worldview. All of creation and history testify to "God's working" in time. So, only if this were false could Loftus say that he's never “seen" God's working. Now, John-boy could be using "see" in a very restrictive sense such as: "I've never seen God's working like I've seen a construction worker working." But notice on this interpretation that John, John-boy Loftus is "every bit rational" to conclude that there are no laws of logic since he's never "seen" them in the sense that he's seen a construction worker working.
Now, Loftus continues to mock the Christian worldview, and uses as evidence against it, by arguing that it only arose because of the stupid, ignorant, and superstitious people that lived back then. But as Hays, Engwer, and myself have argued, we have superstitious people as well as skeptical people then as well as now. But let's look at some nasty problems Loftus creates for himself:
(1) Materialism sprouted out of ancient Greece by teachers like Democritus, therefore materialism is most likely false since ancient, stupid, and superstitious people believed it. Loftus may retort that materialism has become more refined than in the days of the atomists, but the same goes with Christianity. It's conception of miracles, along with a sovereign God who providentially governs all events, is more advanced than, say, Zeusian conceptions of deity.
(2) Loftus proposes what he calls an outsider test which says "that when examining any religious belief, skepticism would be warranted..." The problem here is that Pyrrho, that stupid, superstitious ancient started the school of philosophy known as skepticism. Indeed, Sextus Empiricus, in whom much of our knowledge of ancient skepticism is found, tells us of the five modes of skepticism. Those modes are: Discrepancy, Relativity, Infinity, Assumption, and Circularity. We see that Loftus' outsider test employs the first mode when he writes that we should be skeptical "since the odds are good that the [religion] you are investigating is wrong." Therefore Loftus should drop his Outsider Test since skepticism is something that arose from stupid and superstitious people. Loftus even uses an Argippian mode, which originated from an ancient.
(3) The belief that one species became another species (evolution) can be found first in Anaximander. Anaximander believed that fish evolved into men. Thus Loftus should regard the theory of evolution as myth since it originated with stupid, ancient, and superstitious people.
(4) Logic was first formalized by Aristotle. Thus John, John-boy Loftus should reject Aristotelian logic (in tota) since it originated with an ancient, superstitious Greek. Indeed, all forms of formal logic were birthed by Aristotle, thus John should reject logic.
Having embarrassed Loftus thoroughly let's now turn to his most recent blog entry. Loftus writes,
"Many Christians claim that ancient people were not that superstitious compared to our own age. They do this in order to help bolster the purportedly historical claims of their faith."
No, we do it because it's correct. As Steve Hays told you before you wrote this: "People are no different today than they were in the past. You have credulous people today, just as in the past. You have skeptical people today, just as you had in the past." As Engwer told you before you posted this,
"Remember, the issue here isn't whether twenty-first century people have some advantages over first-century people. In some ways, they do. Similarly, in some ways forty-first century people will have advantages over twenty-first century people. They'll probably have better technology, more advanced methods of research, etc. We don't conclude that forty-first century people therefore can dismiss what twenty-first century people reported by making vague references to the alleged gullibility of twenty-first century people."
And as I cited for you before you posted this,
"Just like our own culture today, the ancient world was an intellectually mixed-bag. Like us, it had its share of superstitious and mystically minded people; as we do, it had people whose thinking was ignorant, misinformed, lazy, stupid, illogical and silly. But also like our own age, the ancient world had plenty of people who were skeptical and cynical. (Indeed, those were even the names for two prominent schools of ancient Greek philosophy in the period of the New Testament!) Plenty of people in the ancient world were critically minded about reports of natural wonders and magical powers. Many not only doubted claims to miracles and found them incredible, but even precluded the very possibility that such things could occur."
Thus we see that rather than debunking Christianity you're debunking people's confidence in your ability to comprehend what you read. The rest of Loftus' post takes an example of someone who Loftus says was superstitious and then uses that to conclude that the vast majority of people, save a few, were superstitious idiots. Aside from this being another hasty generalization, the problem is that none of the people Loftus is arguing with deny that you'll be able to cite examples of superstitious people. Indeed, we admitted that there were superstitious people back then. But, for every "superstitious" person you can cite, I'll cite "rational and skeptical" people. Just like today, for every "rational and skeptical" person you find, I'll fine you two to one of the other.
What's more embarrassing is that Loftus'own blog just posted on how gullible and scientifically backwards the majority of people are. We live "in a society where a large majority of the population has no grasp on basic scientific principles and methods..." Look at what Loftus' fellow self-debunking buddy, "Brother Danny" concludes,
"So there's always plenty of superstition to fill in people's heads when knowledge and reason are absent. I don't see religion going away anytime soon, so long as general scientific illiteracy abounds and pervades."
Thus it looks as if Loftus' own team can't get on the same page. But(!), it's worse than that. John, John-boy Loftus argues that today is not like the ancient days, where superstition prevailed. In Engwer's com box Loftus writes: "Just ask yourself, is there anything like that in today's world?" Got that? Loftus is asking whether the majority of people are superstitious today, but then in "Brother Danny's" post Loftus writes,
"Prof James Strauss has documented that whenever there is a crisis in the dominant metaphysical belief system of a western culture then people will gravitate towards the occult, and all kinds of superstitious beliefs looking for answers. We are in such a crisis now."
Thus we see the utterly confused mind of Loftus. When he argues with us he says, "are there any superstitious people now?" But when he strokes his buddy's ego he agrees by writing about how many superstitious people there are now! So many that we are in "a crisis." This is the effects of the fall on Loftus' mind. Loftus continues to make himself, and team atheism, look like the ancient dummies he rails against.
Next thing we know Loftus might agree with Democritus and tell us that the soul is really "fire atoms." He already agrees with Anaximander in saying that men evolved from other species. He already agrees with Agrippan skepticism. Thus it looks like we have a case of projection here. Loftus is a modern-ancient and he’s projecting his gullible and naïve intellect on Christians!
Lastly, what's worse is that Loftus' post is totally disanalagous. He uses a non-Christian's belief to argue that the Christian's beliefs must have been equally superstitious. This would be like me saying that atheists believe stupid things because some deist said something stupid.
We can all agree, then, that this is yet another example of the absurdity of Loftus' "arguments" against the faith. Loftus continually helps the Christian cause by giving concrete evidence, empirical evidence if you will, of the Psalmist's claim:
Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.