Friday, June 23, 2006

Poor John Loftus

Having done a post in which he complains about how Christians are poisoning the pristine well of atheism, Loftus tries to poison the well of Christianity:

“In every case the Christian would have to say that God solves all of these problems. God solves every problem for which Christians have no answer. How convenient for them!”

This is a comment he posted in response to Paladin’s attack on the creation account and the flood account. Paladin had issued a series of “damning” questions on both topics.

But even before a Christian might have a chance to answer the questions, Loftus attempts to discredit any answers in advance of the fact.

He tries to define any and all possible answers, then dismisses them on the basis of his preemptory characterization.

So an unbeliever is at liberty to pose any accusatorial question he likes. That’s fair game.

But a believer is not at liberty to field his questions. The accusatorial questions should be taken seriously, but not the answers.

In my reply I did not invoke divine agency to solve every alleged objection.

At the same time, the creation of the world and the flood of Noah are explicitly supernatural events. So to insist that the only “sufficient” answer is a naturalistic answer assumes at the outset that the record is false.

“But in order to defend their belief in God, they have to use God to defend their belief here! Isn't that interesting...and circular?”

Not all circular reasoning is viciously circular. A homicide detective will use the suspect to prove that the suspect committed the crime. It’s because the evidence is pointing in the direction ofo the suspect that the suspect supplies the best explanation for the state of the evidence.

He has no alibi. Circumstantial evidence places him at the scene of the crime. And he had the means, motive, and opportunity.

So the homicide detective is using the suspect to finger him as the killer. Is that procedure viciously circular? No.

“My challenge to them is to come down out of their delusions and see the problems for what they really are. If no objection here can get past the ‘God did it’ answer, then Christians have insulated themselves from actually questioning their faith.”

Every answer does not involve a direct appeal to God. Even so, if God does, indeed, exist, then the truth of his existence is the foundation for all other truths of reason or truths of fact.

In addition, Loftus is trying to make unbelief the paradigm of belief. Here he’s invoking his own experience, as if apostasy were the template of faith.

But why should a Christian be a sceptic? If a Christian happens to suffer from religious doubts of one kind or another, that’s one thing.

But why should a Christian artificially question everything he believes if, in fact, he is not in a state of doubt about everything he believes—whether religious or otherwise?

Why cultivate a state of scepticism? That is not the same thing as entertaining genuine uncertainties. Rather, these are make-believe uncertainties. Pretending to doubt something simply because you have an imaginative faculty for posing dubious hypotheticals.

In fact, the whole exercise is self-refuting. We can’t very well question everything we believe, for the only reason we find something doubtful is if it comes into conflict with something else we already believe in. Belief is the measure of unbelief, not vice versa.

Loftus’ underlying assumption is that Christian faith is a matter of opinion. A state of believing rather than knowing.

Hence, it is never a sure thing. Christian faith is a probationary status. And we never outgrow our probation. Every day our faith hangs in the balance. No matter how often we past the test, we only have to flunk it once to be out of the running.

As a militant atheist and bitter apostate, one can understand why Loftus would try to frame the Christian faith in such disadvantageous terms.

But it’s a completely synthetic model of a Christian’s mental state. Indeed, it’s a synthetic model of almost any mental state.

It is psychologically accurate only in the “coincidental” case of an unstable faith which is transitional to outright unbelief. Sound familiar?

“So I say, tell me what objection can get past the ‘God did it’ objection. Failing to provide a sufficient answer is indicative of blind faith. Admit it.”

Loftus is like a loner who chooses to live alone, and then complains about how lonely he is. He suffers from this desperate need to have the Christian community affirm and validate his choice.

He wants us to admit that we are all closet unbelievers. That we secretly think the same way he does, but refuse to drop the pose.

It can’t be that there is something wrong with him. No. So if he can make us fess up to our costume drama, then he’ll feel relieved and vindicated to know that he isn't all alone—that the problem is not with him, but with the faith.

Isn’t this perfectly pitiful? Loftus can’t go back and he can’t go forward. He’s unhappy with where he was, and he’s unhappy with where he is. He’s especially unhappy that anyone else would dare to be happy with what he left behind. The contentment of others leaves him discontented.


  1. Poor, poor John W. Loftus. I don't think he's having a good day. I didn't think it was possible but I'm beginning to feel sorry for the little squirt.

  2. Poor Triablogue. I can and do back up each one of these claims in my book.

  3. See here:

  4. Oooh scary! John W. Loftus caught me thinking I was wrong. Why didn't I know that then?

  5. Oh dear, dear Loftus. Your problem is that you are universalising your own experience. I've dealt with this sort of person in politics, and they are disturbing. For example, I once knew a Welsh Conservative who was Welsh-speaking but anti-Welsh language programmes. He became Welsh Conservative leader and ran on a ticket of abolishing compulsory Welsh Language teaching in High School, confident that all the Welsh thought like him.

    He got pummelled, failing even to win his own seat. Loftus is that man translated to the religious sphere.

    We should be wary of universalising our own experience, realising we may very well be the exception, not the rule. What does interest me is that in the final analysis we will always get down to experience when we speak about belief (religious, political, etc). Know what, folks, we always will, because ourselves and Loftus are sitting in different places. As the late Sam Rayburn put it, 'where you stand depends on where you sit.' This does not mean we cannot argue, it does mean that assumption like 'in their hearts they know they're wrong' simply will not do. On either side. We cannot argue unless we believe our opponents are sincere.

    Believing that our opponents know they'r wrong is a lot like wetting yourself on a cold day. It warms you up for a moment, but you soon look very foolish.