John Loftus is trying to discredit Christianity by drawing attention to the emotional appeal of the Christian faith. That, however, raises a number of issues:
1. The Emotional Appeal of Christianity
There’s no doubt that many Christians find Christianity emotionally appealing in various ways. However, if I were to generalize, I venture to say that atheism is more appealing to the young, while Christianity is more appealing to the old. And, of course, there are many exceptions in both directions. So Loftus’ objection cuts both ways.
Moreover, if the Christian God exists, then we’d expect Christianity to be appealing in some fundamental respects. God would be the supreme good, and the wellspring of all secondary goods. So Loftus’ objection only has teeth under the prior assumption that the Christian God does not exist. His objection has no independent value.
A final problem with this line of objection is the tacit assumption that it’s wrong to believe something for purely emotional reasons. What’s allegedly objectionable about this is that if we believe something for purely emotional reasons, then we don’t believe it because it’s true.
But the problem with this objection is that Loftus is a moral relativist. For instance, he once got into a debate with David Wood over at David’s old blog (http://www.problemofevil.org/) in which he admitted that nothing is intrinsically evil. But in that event, it’s not intrinsically wrong to believe something for purely emotional reasons.
Loftus bandies the word “delusion,” because of the stigma attaching to that word, yet this is out of sync with his moral relativism. Even if Christian faith were delusive, Loftus is in no position to say that makes it wrong.
2. Tough-Minded Atheism
Infidels also resort to emotional appeals on a regular basis. This takes two basic forms. There’s the tuff-guy atheist. He pretends to revel in the stark, unyielding purity of atheism. Yes, the worldview is utterly bleak, but that’s what separates the men from the boys. Real men can stare the abyss in the face without blinking.
Atheism is not for everyone, but that’s a good thing. Atheism is for a select few. The best and the brightest. The atheist is a breed apart. A moral and intellectual elite. On a brave and noble pursuit of truth wherever it leads, whatever the cost.
He doesn’t lean on the “crutch” of religion. He has no need for the weak-minded bromides of the Gospel. Real men don’t cry. No, he’s like a courageous soldier who volunteers for a suicide mission, to sacrifice his life for the sake of his comrades.
3. Tender-Minded Atheism
Then you have infidels who advertise the bright side of atheism. Atheism is liberating. Atheism emancipates us from the shackles of religion. From blind superstition and ignorance. From all that’s backward and primitive. Atheism stands for the stately march of science.
Christianity is a cringing, groveling, servile religion. At the beck-and-call of its jealous, overbearing God. But atheism frees us from the abject servility of religion. We can stand on our own two feet. Be the master of our destiny and captain of our soul (if we had a soul).