Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lampooning, Puncturing, and Deflating the Self-Debunking Debunkers of Christianity

A fellow by the name of "Ex-believer" (team member of John Loftus' blog,
Debunking Christianity") has, for some reason, taken up the cause of defending Loftus' horrible arguments against Christianity by means of thinking it "suspicious" that the majority of Christians happen to live in America, Muslims in Muslim territory, Animists in Animist territory, Buddhists in Buddhist territory, and so forth. All the brouhaha started over Loftus' post on "The Outsider Test" which basically argues that what we believe religiously is determined by where we were born. Loftus writes, "If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn't so?" This argument has been used to imply that the religious adherents’ belief is false. That is to say, my belief in God is simply the product of my culture and not of truth; or, rather, the cause of my belief is not the truth of what is believed. Put differently, I don't believe Christianity because it is true, I believe it because of the determining external cultural factors. Stated even stronger, the Christian religion is the product of culture, not any objective truth about reality.

We can see the essence of the argument put succinctly by Ex-believer when he writes,


"But can the Christians, here, not also admit that, from our point of view, it is certainly suspicious that world religions dominate geographically and that it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography, not products of "truth" and "falsehood"?" (SOURCE)


I maintain that this argument is self-refuting and that Debunking Christianity has, again, debunked itself. Before I get to what I consider to be nail in the coffin, alow me to address sundry issues pertaining to the above so-called argument.

I. The Outsider Test is (Admittedly) Impossible.

John Loftus writes,


"An outsider would be someone who was only interested in which religious or nonreligious view is correct, and assumed from the start that none of them were true--none of them! An outsider is a mere seeker who has no prior presuppositions about any faith or no faith at all. To be an outsider would also mean we would have nothing at stake in the outcome of our investigations, and hence no fear of hell while investigating it all. These threats could hinder a clear-headed investigation."


But then Loftus tells us that he "know[s] it may be impossible to do, since we all have presuppositions..." Moreover, would an outsider live long? If someone "was only interested in which religious or nonreligious view is correct (emphasis mine)...," then would they not be interested in breathing and eating? And, what kind of person would this "outsider" be? We are told that this person assumes that neither belief nor unbelief is correct. If something is not correct then it is false. So, if this person starts off by assuming that belief is false, then wouldn't they be starting off as an unbeliever? That is, if they don't start off as a believer then they start off as a un-believer. If they do not start off as an unbeliever (because that view is false) then are they a believer? But they can't do that either. It seems to me that there are only two options here, either you believe or you don't.

Maybe Loftus would say that an "outsider" should begin agnostic? But this is a position. Agnosticism furthermore assumes that Christianity is false. Christianity teaches that men know that God exists and that He can be known. So, to assume that God cannot be known (or, you don't know) is to assume that Christianity is false. Therefore, agnosticism presupposes that Christianity is false. But, Loftus said an "outsider" has "no presuppositions" about any faith. So, this won't do. Indeed, it looks as if an ideal outsider is impossible, as Loftus admits. Thus we see that the famed outsider test is impossible to administer.

II. The Watered Down Outsider Test.

Since "The Outsider Test" is impossible, because it's impossible to be an "outsider" in the sense mentioned above, Loftus still forges ahead in order to come up with a way to refute religion (note: agendas are not neutral!). Loftus, the Greaser, still wants to rumble with the Soc and so he revamps his outsider test. We'll call this: "The Pretend You're an Outsider Test" (TPYAOT).

TPYAOT is, as Loftus describes, nothing like the original outsider test. Loftus writes,


"The outsider test (TPYAOT) would mean that there would be no more quoting the Bible to defend how Jesus' death on the cross saves us from sins. The Christian must now try to rationally explain it. No more quoting the Bible to defend how it's possible for Jesus to be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over, by merely quoting from the Bible. The Christian must now try to make sense of this claim, coming as it does from an ancient supertitious [sic] people who didn't have trouble believing this could happen (Acts 14:11, 28:6), etc, etc. Why? Because you cannot start out by first believing the Bible, nor can you trust the people closest to you who are Christians to know the truth. You would want evidence and reasons for these things. And you'd initially be skeptical of believing in any of the miracles in the Bible just as you would be skeptical of any claims of the miraculous in today's world."


And so it appears that we should start of as unbelievers! His first test has us starting of as if neither position is correct. The first test presupposes nothing pro or con about faith. But the new test is to start off by not allowing the Bible to be authoritative (which it would be if it were God's word). In the first test, the "outsider" is an ideal observer, but in TPYAOT the outsider starts off by viewing the Bible as stemming from "ancient and superstitious" people, i.e., idiots.

By way of brief digression, I will respond to this oft leveled charge by Loftus that the people in the biblical times were "superstitious idiots." Loftus made this claim before, I responded, and he never responded back. So, out of respect for good reasoning and argumentation (which Loftus' outsider test cherishes above anything else) I cannot let this slide again. I will quote Greg Bahnsen's response to this ignorant claim:

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Slandering The Past

You will notice in the hypothetical challenge to Christianity's credibility which is expressed above (meant to be representative of the actual negative mindset and comments of unbelievers which we encounter), there is an unquestioned and arrogant assumption that a critical mindset about miracles is the exclusive property of "the modern world." The philosopher David Hume snidely remarked that it forms a strong presumption against all supernatural and miraculous relations that they are observed chiefly to abound among ignorant and barbarous nations; or if a civilized people has ever given admission to any of them, that people will be found to have received them from ignorant and barbarous ancestors....

Over and over again you will find non-Christians who simply take it for granted that people in the ancient world believed miracles took place, to be blunt, because: (a) they were too scientifically stupid to know better, (b) they were gullible and naive, and/or (c) they were fascinated and eager to find anywhere they could traces of magic in their experience.

Of course, on those three scores we should wonder if the enlightened modern world has any reason for pride, really. It is not the least bit difficult today to locate scientifically stupid people, even college graduates. Watch them try to "fix" things with a hammer, deal with an unwanted cockroach or rationalize their smoking; listen to their home-cures for a hangover. And as for gullibility and magic! In our oh-so-smart "modern" world have you ever heard about get-rich-quick investment schemes, diet fads, lottery fever, or the wonder of crystals (or pyramids, etc.)?

Or listen to all those respected entertainers on TV talk-shows telling large, attentive audiences about their "former lives," or about the healing power of meditation, or about "social karma" and "mother earth," or about the "human face" of communist tyranny in our century, etc. These are hardly evidences of a critical mind or superior rationality.


Believe It Or Not, Skepticism Has Been Around


Clear-thinking people should beware of sloppy and self-serving generalizations about, or comparisons between, one age (or culture) and another.

Even more, they should refrain from manifesting the kind of historical ignorance which imagines that people who lived before our enlightened, modern age were, in general, never critically minded or were readily fooled (or more easily than we would be) into accepting tales of miracles. After all, what is the source of the expression occasionally still used in our day "he's just a doubting Thomas"? Remember Thomas, called Didymus (the "Twin"), from the gospel of John's account of Christ's resurrection (John 20:24-29)? Down through subsequent history he has come to be called "Doubting Thomas" just because of his skeptical mindset regarding one of the greatest miracles in the Bible. Thomas would not readily accept the testimony of the other apostles that they had seen the resurrected Savior.

And he was not alone in that spirit of disbelief. Even those who personally encountered Christ after He rose from the dead were not excitedly awaiting or jumping with eagerness at the opportunity to believe that a wonder had taken place. Two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31) as well as Mary Magdalene (John 20:1, 11-16) were so disinclined to believe such a miracle that they did not even recognize Jesus when they saw him. (Gestalt psychology helps us understand that kind of experience, which all of us have had when "seeing" somebody we know, but not recognizing him "out of normal context" or in an unexpected setting.) Matthew relates that even in the presence of the resurrected Lord and knowing who He was supposed to be, "some doubted" (Matt. 28:17).

When the gospel of the resurrected Savior was taken out into the ancient world, there was then - even as now - a general antagonism to the credibility of such claims. Paul proclaimed the resurrection of Christ before the Council of Areopagus in Athens, but the Greek poet Aeschylus many years before had related, in the story of the very founding of the Areopagus, that it was there declared that once a man has died "there is no resurrection." The ancient world knew its share of skepticism and denunciation of miracles. Luke writes that when Paul's address to the Areopagus brought him to the claim about Christ's resurrection, his audience could hardly be characterized by general gullibility and a predisposed willingness to affirm the miracle! Instead: "now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked," and others more politely put Paul off to another time (Acts 17:32). Ridicule of miracles did not begin in the modern world of enlightened science.

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.


The Truth Claims Of Christianity

This was so much the case that you will notice the apostle Peter felt it necessary to make this declaration in his second general epistle: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). Peter knew that it would be easy for people to "write off" the claims of Christians as just so much more idle chatter and story-telling; he knew that people in his own generation had dismissed the church's proclamation about Jesus because they would not believe such claims regarding miracles. Far from being stupid and gullible, Peter's contemporaries had to be assured that apostolic accounts of Jesus were not cunningly devised fables, but the eyewitness truth.

It was important for the Christian testimony in the midst of an unbelieving culture that followers of Jesus have a reputation for not "giving heed to fables" (1 Tim. 1:4) or entertaining "old wives' tales" (1 Tim. 4:7) - that is, fictitious accounts which are the very opposite of "the truth" of Christianity (2 Tim. 4:4). The hostile world of unregenerate men would only too gladly dismiss the claims of the gospel narrative as being of the same mythical nature - fabulous, unreliable, exaggerated.

The point here, very simply, is that contemporary critics of the Christian faith who automatically dismiss and ridicule the miracle-claims of the Bible because of the alleged widespread ignorance and gullibility of the ancient world only bring shame to themselves for their own ignorant prejudices and unwarranted generalizations. Like today, defenders of the faith in the ancient world encountered significant opposition and negativity about the alleged occurrence of miracles - hostility ranging from sophisticated philosophical repudiations to gut-level mockery. If people living in those days came to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, healed the sick and was raised from the dead, it was not because they categorically were weak-minded and ignorant fools, ready to believe any and every fable that came their way. (SOURCE)

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Getting back into TPYAOT we see a major difference. The first outsider test was phrased like this:

1) Don't assume belief.

2) Don't assume unbelief.

The new outsider test can be phrased like this"

1') Don't assume belief.

2') Assume skepticism.

We can see this in Loftus's prescription:


"The presumption of The Outsider Test would be that since there are so very many religions, and with so many people believing in a particular religion because of “when and where they were born,” that when examining any religious belief, skepticism would be warranted, since the odds are good that the one you are investigating is wrong."



This is nothing like the first outsider test. So, why even waste the time writing the first test? Why not be honest and admit that Loftus thinks we should start off by assuming that Christianity is false? Well, it's because it is blatantly prejudicial. Loftus tells believers that they cannot begin by assuming that their position is correct, but Loftus can begin by assuming that his is correct. He says that I cannot appeal to my ultimate authority (the Bible) to prove things but he gets to appeal to his (unaided human reason) to prove things. Why does Loftus get to take his autonomy for granted? Therefore we see that not only is the original outsider test impossible, but TPYAOT is a sham. It is just a veiled form of prejudice. It asks that we assume that the Bible is not the ultimate authority and hopes that we conclude that the Bible is not the ultimate authority. It's a "healthy skepticism" given to everything else, other than the view that we should be skeptical of everything else. That is, it refuses to come clean down to its own underwear, while at the same time asking that everyone else run around butt-naked!

Speaking of the original outsider test Loftus says that Christians should readily accept it. He writes, "So what's the problem here? Why aren't Christians posting by the droves and saying, 'Fine, I have no problem with The Outsider Test?'” Now, he says this before he tells us that the outsider test would be impossible, as well as before he offers TPYAOT. Loftus expects us to "have no problem" with a test that is impossible to administer. As I showed above, Loftus does not even follow his own original outsider test. So, he expects Christians to "have no problem" with a test that he is not even willing to live up to its own standards! This is pure hypocrisy and prejudice.

Now, if Loftus wants us to "have no problem" with TPYAOT then I maintain that he's off his rocker. As you recall, TPYAOT asks that you assume skepticism and assume your belief is false. Now, I'm a committed Christian. I think I have very good reason for believing Christianity is the case. On top of that, I think that to be skeptical of my position is to be skeptical of the very pre-conditions of reasoning and knowledge itself. I think atheism is absurd. On top of that, I believe that it is sinful for me to dishonor my Lord and Savior in the way Loftus requests. So, upon analysis, Loftus is asking me to go against my conscious, reason, common sense, beliefs, and my Lord and Savior who tells us, "He who is not with me is against me." So, Loftus asks committed Christians to be against Christ! And then he proposes that if you did this you might see that Christianity is false. But would a Christian do this? Basically Loftus assumes that there can be no good reason to believe and so, based on that, he thinks it should be no problem for us to adopt his outsider test. But what reason is there for someone who thinks he has all the reason in the world to believe, and unbelief is foolish, to drop what he considers most reasonable and adopt skepticism? Loftus would need to make a more compelling case than he has. To me it's like Loftus telling me to drop who I consider the most beautiful woman in the world (my fiancé) for someone who looks like Bo Diddley! He'd be off his rocker!


III. Loftus and the Rational/Irrational Dialectic.

More of the hypocrisy of Loftus (and his test) can be seen in his demand that Christians submit their views to the "test of reason." Before I show the dialectic allow me to make some comments on his vague notion he calls "the test of reason."

Now, I had asked Loftus to define 'reason' on many occasions, he never responded back to me. I told him that, for all I know, 'reason' may be, to him, when a pink fairy whispers sweet nothings into his ear, how would I know otherwise? Loftus never responded but said, "I see what you're getting at." Well, on this view I could not meet his demands for I do not think that is reasonable, let alone a definition of 'reason.' Maybe Loftus thinks that some form of empiricism is what 'reason' is? That is, I would need to empirically verify the existence of an immaterial being for it to be 'reasonable.' Well, this view has been refuted (e.g.,). What, precisely, is "the test of reason?" Until Loftus tells us what it is, how can I take his test?

Loftus seems to suggest that I must be able to give reasons for all of my beliefs. That is, I cannot hold any of my beliefs as basic, or at the presuppositional level. If we can, then why do they need to be submitted to a "test?" If we can, then presuppositions are what determine what counts as proof, evidence, and reasonableness. If we cannot, then can Loftus avoid an infinite regress? Does he have reasons for his belief that all beliefs need reasons? Then, can he give a reason for this reason, ad infinitum.

Lastly, the rational/irrational dialectic. Notice how Loftus expects Christians to act "reasonable" and "test" their beliefs by "reason." Christians are not allowed to be arbitrary, or believe things arbitrarily. Christians must suspend belief about miracles recorded in the Bible because they cast a critical eye on reports of the miraculous today. So we can see that Loftus expects us to be strictly rational. The demands on the Christian are tough. Loftus will not allow us to get away with believing things willy-nilly.

But when it comes to pressing Loftus's beliefs, the story is different. When pressed to justify his beliefs he tells us things like this:

  • "...logic and reason may have no ultimate foundation, much like morals do not have an ultimate foundation."
  • "Maybe reason has merely shown itself trustworthy by pragmatic verification based in the anthropic principle evidenced in the universe--it just works."
  • "... it may be that reason doesn't work as well as the presuppositionalist proclaims."
  • "If this universe took place by chance, then the fact that reason cannot figure it all out is exactly what we would expect. We would not be able to ultimately justify our use of reason..."
  • ..."reason is impotent to help decide between ultimacies..."
  • "I just prefer to accept as a brute fact the existence of this universe. It came without a cause, and it has no purpose."



Therefore we see two-mindsets at work within the one man, John Loftus. He has no problem being strictly rational when it comes to arguing with the Christian, but he, at the same time, has no problem capitulating to irrationality when his views are pressed. For us, there is to be "no more quoting the Bible to defend how Jesus' death on the cross saves us from sins. The Christian must now try to rationally explain it." But for him, he does not need to rationally explain his views but can just say, "reason and order are here, and that's just the way it is, it's a brute fact, I don't need to ultimately give an account for logic, morality, origins, and reason.... I just believe..." But what happens if the Christian tries to pull this? We are told that we have "blind faith." We are told that we can have our faith, but let's not try to pretend it can be justified, or is rational. We are even told that we need to give up our faith if we cannot pass "the test of reason." Is saying, "That’s just the way it is!" passing "the test of faith? If so, then Christianity is true, and that's just the way it is. If not, then Loftus must give up his worldview. Either way, Christianity: 1, John Loftus: 0.


IV. Christians do And do Not Need to Take The Outsider Test.

We can see that Debunking Christianity asks Christians to take the outsider test, saying that we should have "no problem" taking it, and Debunking Christianity says that if we are to be Christians, and from our perspective, they understand why we should not take it. Team member ex-Believer writes,

"...I said that contradictory statements about motion can both be true given certain spatio-temporal frameworks. I can both say that my Guiness [sic] is moving and that my Guiness [sic] is not moving understanding that one statement belongs to one spatio-temporal framework and the other belongs to another one. I imagined that no one would really disagree with this, that it is easy to see the truth of a statement from a particular framework."


The above was an example how it can both be true that we have to, and do not have to, take the outsider test. From "the Christian perspective" we do not, indeed should not, take this test. From "the atheist perspective" we should take the test. Now, the outsider test was originally set up as being something objective, but now it appears that it only has force within an atheist view of things. Ex-believer writes,

"...from our point of view, it is certainly suspicious that world religions dominate geographically and that it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography..."


But from our point of view it is not. It is not odd, given what I believe about human nature that people tend to want to be around other people who think and act like they do. So, when you have the languages confused at Babel, I assume that people wanted to hang around other people who spoke the same. When tribes with different religions migrated to certain regions well, other people who held similar beliefs tended to want to be around them. Furthermore, God is pleased to save through the preaching of the word. Well, the word was translated into western languages first. But as we make new translations for, say, China, we can see the emergence of believers there. We believe that God uses means and secondary causes to save. This involves placing people in positions were the Word can be heard more easily.

So, only by looking at the world with atheistic eyes does the outsider test have any force. So then, upon analysis, the atheist preference is to say, "Pretend that the God of the Bible isn't real, and that History is not going about as He has planned, and that evolutionary naturalism must be assumed - so we should look for natural causes of things, and then you can see how the outsider test makes sense to us." Sure! With that kind of guiding dogma who wouldn't like the outsider test, and who wouldn't think things "suspicious?"

Thus, all the outsider test boils down to saying is that if you look at the world with atheist eyes then you'll see things atheistically, and if you look at the world with Christian eyes, then you'll see things Christainly. Therefore the outsider test only works to convince if you're an atheist. Therefore, upon analysis, by asking us to take the outsider test Loftus -n- crew are just telling us to become atheists and then we'll see that atheism is more warranted!


V. The Outsider Test and Relativism.

We read the claim by ex-Believer above that,

"...from [the atheist] point of view, it is certainly suspicious that world religions dominate geographically and that it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography..."


and

"...from the perspective of the Christian, the Outsider Test is an unacceptable act of unfaithfulness to their god."


But what inquiring minds want to know is, whose view is true? Whose view corresponds to reality? From "my perspective" Quinine relieves malaria. From Mukinani's perspective, dancing to the jaguar god and having the witch doctor sprinkle chicken blood on him relieves "the bad body fire" (malaria). Well, who is right? Even though we can say that both views are true, in the sense that both people believe them to be true, we cannot say that, objectively, both views are true. Ex-believer's claims about contradictory statements both being true is really misleading. They are not contradictions in the "same sense and the same relationship." So, what we want to know is, is it objectively the case religion is merely the product of cultural invention, evolving as cultures evolve, or is it revealed from a transcendent God? To say that both are true in the same sense and relationship is relativism. Bottom line, it does not matter if the outsider test is simply a good one from an atheist’s perspective. For all I know, chocolate covered
cow dumplings are good from an atheist's perspective!


VI. The Outsider Test And The Genetic Fallacy.

We must note that the outsider test is supposed to be a test which determines if a religion is true. That is, to determine if the world is really the way the, say, Christian says it is.

Loftus writes,

"The presumption of The Outsider Test would be that since there are so very many religions, and with so many people believing in a particular religion because of “when and where they were born,” that when examining any religious belief, skepticism would be warranted, since the odds are good that the one you are investigating is wrong." (emphasis mine)


And Ex-Believer writes,

"But can the Christians, here, not also admit that, from our point of view, it is certainly suspicious that world religions dominate geographically and that it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography, not products of "truth" and "falsehood"?" (emphasis mine)


The above is subject to serious refutations. We can see that the outsider test argues from the fact that people believe different things to the conclusion that what they believe is false. More specifically, it argues that culture determines how and what people believe to the conclusion that the referent of the belief is false. Thus the outsider test seeks to undermine the views of Christians based on what shaped those views.

This is an example of the Genetic Fallacy:

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"The Genetic Fallacy is the most general fallacy of irrelevancy involving the origins or history of an idea. It is fallacious to either endorse or condemn an idea based on its past—rather than on its present—merits or demerits, unless its past in some way affects its present value. For instance, the origin of evidence can be quite relevant to its evaluation, especially in historical investigations. The origin of testimony—whether first hand, hearsay, or rumor—carries weight in evaluating it.

In contrast, the value of many scientific ideas can be objectively evaluated by established techniques, so that the origin or history of the idea is irrelevant to its value. For example, the chemist Kekulé claimed to have discovered the ring structure of the benzene molecule during a dream of a snake biting its own tail. While this fact is psychologically interesting, it is neither evidence for nor against the hypothesis that benzene has a ring structure, which had to be tested for correctness.

So, the Genetic Fallacy is committed whenever an idea is evaluated based upon irrelevant history. To offer Kekulé's dream as evidence either for or against the benzene ring hypothesis would be to commit the Genetic Fallacy."

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We see that Ex-believer makes use of interesting graphs in his post. But, one could make the same sort of graph separating people who believe that reality is real -vs- people who believe it is an illusion. So, since Ex-believer grew up in the west, is his belief that there is an objective reality just the product of culture and not truth? I mean, that's where it has its origins, therefore we shouldn't believe it. Or, take math. I learned 1+1=2 from parents, teachers, and society. Does this have any bearing on its truth? Does it follow that since its origins are from culture that the belief itself is false, or probably false? No.

Now, the atheist might retort, "But the majority of the world believes that!" If so, then not only is this an argumentum ad populum but it puts the atheist in a bind. That is, the majority of the world believes in a god!

Moreover, this proves that just because a culture believes something, does not make it wrong.


VII. The Outsider Test And The Nail in The Coffin.

If it is true that culture and external factors determine what we believe, and not truth, then the belief that culture and external factors determine what we believe is not the product of "truth or falsehood." So, the atheist's belief, from his perspective, is the "product of culture and geography, not products of 'truth' and falsehood.'" This is not to say that the belief is false, but to say that the atheist has no reason to think it is true. It may be true, but there is no rational reason for supposing it is true. Therefore, if the mere fact that culture determines belief is enough to get me to give up my belief, then the atheist must give up the belief that culture determines belief, since it was determined by culture! Put differently, he must drop the outsider test.

Now, some possible objections are:

i. "No, only religious beliefs are determined by culture."

This is false. Even Loftus writes,

"There are so very many things we believe because of when and where we were born that an argument is made by moral relativists based on it, which is known to ethicists as the "Dependency Thesis (DT)"


It would be totally ad hoc for a proponent of the outsider test to use this objection. It would be nothing but sheer prejudice.

ii. All beliefs except the belief that all beliefs are products culture, not truth or falsehood, are the products of culture.

This would have to be argued for. As it stands it looks like an attempt to save a defeated thesis. And, if we can transcend culture on this point, then why not on others? Because that doesn't go the way the atheist wants to go? Furthermore, many beliefs such as beliefs on logic, math, other minds, right and wrong, etc., would not be the product of truth but of culture. This is too high a price to pay. But if the atheist wishes to pay it to keep his atheism, then so be it. So much the worse for atheism, then. Indeed, if logic is not the product of truth how could the proponent defend this out?


VIII. Conclusion.

Despite the other considerations given against this test, we have seen that the outsider test is self-refuting, as it is not "the product" of truth but of culture.. If the atheist thinks he can transcend culture, then why can't we? If the majority of our beliefs are "products of culture," and not of "truth," then the atheist must give up many paradigms of rationality. Therefore I see no way around the above objections and I submit that Loftus -n- crew as been debunked, again.

9 comments:

  1. I noticed Paul posting here. I think we both posted on the same issue at about the same time. See here.

    While I have not yet read what he wrote, I probably already answered him, we'll see.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, you simply reiterated the same points which Paul has _already_ debunked in _this_ article.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1) Don't assume belief.
    2) Don't assume unbelief.
    1') Don't assume belief.
    2') Assume skepticism.

    So Paul, is unbelief the same as being skeptical about beliefs? To be neutral is not the same as choosing not to believe.

    Paul, approaching the Christian faith with skepticism doesn't initially show it to be false, and may not show it to be false in the end. I'm only making the case that you should approach it with skepticism.

    When I approach Christianity with skepticism it shows me that Christianity is false.

    It's an argument for approaching religious truth claims with skepticism, and that's all. What it may reveal about any particular faith will be up to the investigation.

    But skepticism actually becomes the favored position as a result of the initial presumption, a presumption which is justified by the religious diversity around the globe. To debate this initial presumption you have to debate with the observed religious diversity around the globe and the explanation of this diversity given by the Dependency Thesis.

    And when it comes to the ancient people being superstitious, I'll get to that. I can show this to be the case from the Bible itself. I'll probably start with Jonah and what his shipmates said, and what the Ninevites and he himself did. But isn't the test of a true prophet that what he says will come to pass? Then what about Jonah 3?

    ReplyDelete
  4. What about it? Are you suggesting that because God did not destroy Ninevah, this makes Jonah a false prophet.

    Hmm, let's see here:

    God says he will destroy Ninvevah for the wickedness of the people.

    They repent.

    God relents.

    What is the problem here? Jonah is not coming as predictor. He comes as a proclaimer of a lawsuit from God.

    Jer. 18:7-10 --
    If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

    Are you arguing that, since Jonah got angry that God did not destroy Ninevah this proves that since he perceived his words as a foretelling of the future and not as a conditional statement, this is proof that the prophecy is false?

    Hmmm, well the ending of Jonah highlights the contrast between the ways of God and the expectations of Jonah. Jonah's perception of his work was incorrect, ergo his disputation with God. There is nothing out of place here; that's the whole point of the narrative.

    Jonah announced the city would be overturned. This is a warning. If they repent, God will not overturn the city. The judgment has been made, but an implicit offer to relent is included. The promise is actually a salutary incentive. There is no exegetical presumption that all promises of this nature are not conditional, even if the condition is not explicitly stated, unless the warning/promise comes with an explicit statement to the contrary. In the text itself, we see the recipients assumed the conditional nature of Jonah's words.

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  5. So Paul, is unbelief the same as being skeptical about beliefs? To be neutral is not the same as choosing not to believe.

    To be supposedly "neutral" or "skeptical" is to not believe. If I am supposedly "neutral" towards Christianity, that also means that I am not a believer in Christianity. To supposedly lean neither way does not negate the fact that I am not leaning towards Christianity. And if I am not a believer of Christianity, then I am an unbeliever of Christianity. Your neutrality is a myth. It is very simple. Really, it is.

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  6. Paul,

    A few brief points:

    1) You wrote: "This argument has been used to imply that the religious adherents’ belief is false."

    This isn't what the "argument" is at all. John has stated all along that his argument demonstrates that "the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism."

    John's argument does not say anything about the validity of any religious belief. It is not an argument against Christianity. If John convinced you of his argument, you would not have to give up Christianity, you would only have to treat it skeptically.

    As I stated in the outset of my post that you quoted from, I am not convinced whether this argument is completely valid. While I obviously believe that it is best to be skeptical about religious beliefs, I am not sure that John's argument proves that one MUST evaluate their beliefs skeptically. I would hardly say that I have "taken up the cause" of the argument, but rather I have pointed out that the reasons he gives for his argument accurately relate my feelings about the issue personally.

    This is why I prefaced my views by saying, "From an atheist's perspective . . ." I did this because I'm not convinced that the argument proves one MUST be skeptical. The argument gives ME reason to be skeptical, but I don't have the same theological presuppositions that you do.

    2) You wrote: "Now, the outsider test was originally set up as being something objective, but now it appears that it only has force within an atheist view of things."

    No one is being duplicitous here. John said the test was objective, I say that it is relative. I don't speak for John, he doesn't speak for me. We have never met one another and have only exchanged a few emails. We have never discussed our differing views on the outsider test.

    Atheism is a "big tent." John and I will have different views on atheism. We will have different views about what arguments are effective. It isn't appropriate to use one of us against the other as if we were making the same argument.

    3) What it seems that you missed in my post is that I present the "outsider test" not as an objective test, but as an internal one. It is an internal method of justification for atheism. If there is no true God, then it makes sense that religions are cultural and psychological inventions attempting to make sense out of a senseless universe. The fact that these religions are geographically based supports the belief that religions are cultural and, therefore, supports the belief that there is no God.

    At the same time, I recognized that the test involves asking Christians to take on presuppostions that they see as sinful. That is why I have not endorsed the conclusion of John's argument--i.e. that "the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism." (emphasis added)

    4) You are incorrect to say, "We must note that the outsider test is supposed to be a test which determines if a religion is true," and you have misread my statement, "it is not unreasonable for us to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography, not products of 'truth' and 'falsehood'"

    John's argument is that "the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism."

    It is this skepticism that he believes will lead to the conclusion that Christianity is untrue. He believes (and I join him) that Christianity does not stand up under criticism. The only reason Christians continue to be Christians is because of their Kuhnsian tendencies to accomodate glaring anomalies [an assertion, not an argument].

    Further, my statement is simply that most people adopt his or her particular religion because of geographic and cultural influences, not because they have examined all of the other religions on the planet and have concluded that the one they believe is the best one. In other words, they aren't picking the religions because they are "true" or "false," but rather because they are there and culturally reinforced.

    Do you disagree that most people follow their religious beliefs because it is cultural and not because they have tested every other faith on the planet and have found theirs to be the best?

    5) Your "nail in the coffin" seems anything but. John addresses this concern in his latest post on the subject.

    It makes no difference if someone adopts atheism because their parents or their culture is atheistic. That doesn't affect the validity of the argument.

    6) To sum up: John believes that the fact that religions are divided geographically and culturally dictates that "the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism." exbeliever isn't sure he can say that this fact necessitates that the Christian adopts skepticism.

    Instead, exbeliever says, "Hey, while your doing your internal critique of my worldview, notice how well the absence of a true religion explains the geographic and cultural distribution of world religions." For exbeliever, this geographic and cultural distribution of world religions isn't necessarily a case against the Christian worldview, but rather a case for his [just like he believes his explanation of the foundations of laws of logic and morality are better explanations of the state of the world than the Christian's views]. The distribution of world religions geographically and culturally are best explained within an atheistic worldview.

    7) A question to leave you with: John and I have both expressed this thought. Isn't it true that Christians share our belief that most Hindu's become Hindu because of their culture? Isn't it true that Christians believe that most people of faith hold that faith because of their culture and not because they have tested every other religion on the planet?

    Given this shared belief, do you believe it is unreasonable for an unbeliever to be skeptical of any religion that asks that unbeliever to follow it? Isn't it reasonable for an unbeliever to be skeptical of the truth claims of any one religion when it seems that religions are cultural and geographic?

    John's point in his latest post is a good one. He states that atheists have only rejected one more god than the rest of you religious people. We agree with you in all of your criticisms of other gods. The only difference is that we agree with the critics of your god as well.

    ***

    Paul,

    I feel that you did not understand my post. Perhaps, I was unclear. From the way you quote me, it seems that you are attributing beliefs to me that I neither hold or argued for. I hope what I have written here helps you understand my original post better.

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  7. Exbeliever:

    So would I be fair in stating that with the "Outsider Test," Debunking Christianity has thus far yet to do anything but explain its own perspecitve on the world?

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  8. EM,

    You asked: "would I be fair in stating that with the 'Outsider Test,' Debunking Christianity has thus far yet to do anything but explain its own perspecitve on the world?"

    From my perspective, the Outsider Test has shown that the state of world religions is exactly the state one would imagine it to be if there were no "true" religion. In my understanding, the geographic and cultural distribution of religions is "more comfortable" in an atheistic worldview than it is from a Christian worldview. The geographic and cultural distribution of religions causes one to be cautious about one's own beliefs (religious or non-religious).

    But that is my perspective, which probably differs from John's as I mentioned above. John, I think, has a stronger idea in mind.

    I don't think the Outsider Test is a stinging indictment of religious belief, but it does show that the the world is how we would expect it to be if there was no true god.

    Christians approach every "new" belief skeptically. No one has studied every possible religion, but because of the Christian's commitments, they will naturally approach other religious beliefs skeptically.

    Atheists do the same thing, but for every religion. We are skeptical of every religion you are skeptical of plus one (yours).

    Many of us (i.e. atheists) are even skeptical of our own beliefs. We say that we have yet to be convinced if there is a god or not (I believe this, but refer to myself as an atheist and not an agnostic because I am "without a theistic belief," hence a ("without") theistic belief, hence "atheistic.")

    I do take a skeptical stance about my atheistic beliefs. It is, however, the position that best explains the world I live in--i.e. a world in which terrible things happen all the time; in which logic varies according to language, culture, and brain development; in which morals vary culturally and individually; in which things happen "chaotically"; in which the Christians I meet do not seem to manifest a SUPERNATURAL capacity for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (even though the Holy Spirit is supposed to be within them performing these acts through them); etc.

    To me, this world looks like a world would look if there were no god in control of it. I may be wrong. I am willing to be proven wrong. This would require, however, a lot of explanation about this world, and after having considered Christianity's explanations for almost my whole life, I have found them to be lacking.

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  9. evanmay:
    Do you Christians agree about everything? Exbeliever and I believe that "The distribution of world religions geographically and culturally are best explained within an atheistic worldview."

    What we may disagree about stems from him being a relativist, and me not willing to make that jump yet. I'm listening to him though, because he makes sense to me.

    GeneMBridges, stay tuned buddy. I'll make my arguments as I can. In my opinion, what you describe Jonah doing is all that any prophet did. But I'll get to that in time.

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