Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Assessing Loftus's Assessment of Triablogue's Review of "The Christian Delusion"

John Loftus's hasty assessment of our review of his book, The Christian Delusion TCD, is ironic for its instancing the psychological and emotional character traits supposedly owned by Christians per chapter 1 - 3 of TCD. If having those traits means your beliefs are deluded, then his co-authors ought to next write, The Loftus Delusion. I'll interact with a few of Loftus's comments in his "assessment" of our review.

"After all, if their God has foreordained me to hell then they have the right to heap additional abuse on me, and they have done so"

I As Jason Engwer noted about terms Loftus and Carrier have used of Christians:
He [Carrier] referred to Christians as "delusional", referred to "mowing them down", and told us that he's going to "be mean", among other things. In the same thread, John Loftus referred to another commenter as "deluded" and "brainwashed". That's one thread. They've made similar comments in other places.

In TCD, Christians have abuse heaped on them in just about every chapter. They are called: irrational, deluded, dishonest, blind, and fools. In one place, Loftus calls the God of the Bible, "stupid." None of the rhetoric in our response to TCD reached that level of vindictiveness. At times, sure, I laughed a little. I mean, we're talking about a book in which a "serious" criticism of Christianity is that God should have made us birds or plants.

"I contacted the contributors of TCD to see if any of them would like to respond to this hatchet job of an online book."

Right, because we are assumed to be wrong from the start. The book says Christians are the ones who act like this. The book said that Christians think that no argument against their faith is good because if it contradicts God's authoritative say-so, then it must be wrong. Here we see Loftus exhibit the same traits chapters 1-3 said were indicative of Christians and the cause for being called deluded.

"Most of us have better things to do than respond to such drivel. If their arguments are considered good ones then it goes to show you that when it comes to faith any argument will do."

"Such drivel?" I thought Calvinists like us were the disrespectful ones.

This is just a way to get off a shot. If Loftus et al. really didn't think our review worth responding to, then they wouldn't.

"What strikes me as a common criticism of TCD is that there are fifteen chapters in "the space of 419 pages," and as such, it isn't as in-depth as whole books written on each of the topics we cover. Well I'm here to tell you that this is simply not an informed way to judge anthologies especially since each chapter in TCD has plenty of footnotes for further reading (did they not notice them?).... Each chapter serves as an introduction to each topic. Get it? ... To criticize any chapter because of the limited space available to the author without exploring the works in the footnotes is, well, not reading it thoroughly or engaging it very deeply."

This scaled-back claim is odd. Reading Carrier, you wouldn't think TCD was just an "introduction." According to Michael Martin, it couldn't be "just an introduction." Loftus is disagreeing with the over-the-top claims made by some atheists about TCD.

Furthermore, we did notice the utter reliance on footnotes in lieu of arguments. Much of the book was made up of naked assertion after naked assertion followed up by "the footnote refutation," i.e., "go see my footnote."

"Over and over we read where atheists have no right to make moral judgments if there are no absolute objective morals. This is simply false. They are ignorant to say otherwise. But this is true of most Christians."

That claim was argued for in the book.

"They cannot assert, for instance, that an atheist cannot make this or that kind of argument because he has no standard for morality, since ... Arminians like Christian philosopher Victor Reppert (which they have repeatedly attacked) [make the same arguments]"

Really? Victor Reppert denies objective morality?

Anyway, here's the relevant argument that Victor Reppert can make and Loftus et al. cannot make:

1. [There are objective moral facts] "Calvinism is objectively morally wrong."

2. [There are no objective moral facts] "Calvinism is objectively morally wrong."

Doesn't John see the difference between (1) and (2)?

Now, that's not to say that some who holds the bracketed belief in (2) cannot offer a moral argument. They could offer an internal critique. But TCD doesn't do that.

"On page 9 Paul Manata faults the book because our claim is that there is no such thing as Christianity (singular), only Christianities (plural), and yet we also claim Christianity (singular) is a delusion. But the fact is that precisely because Christianity is a cultural phenomenon we think all Christianities are a delusion."

If Loftus had read the review before reacting he'd note that I consider this interpretation (i.e., that there are numerous Christianities and no Christianity just is a Christian delusion) and respond to it. Nevertheless, the fact still remains. If Loftus is right, then all the claims that X refutes Christianity are false. If they are not false, then Loftus et al. are admitting that there are common features to Christianity that make for a singular religion.

"On that same page Manata claims “the last two chapters have no bearing on whether Christianity is a delusion.” Really? Surely whether Christianity is beneficial to society bears some relationship to whether it’s true."

Really? How would that argument go. X isn't beneficial to Y, therefore, X isn't true? That is obviously false.

Also, "beneficial" is quite obviously hopelessly vague, so I doubt John will be able to make a good argument here.

"I mean, you really wouldn’t want to hold to something as true from a perfectly good God if it wasn’t beneficial to society, or would you?"

Besides the vagueness of "beneficial", Christians are truth seekers. We hold to things because they are true. If holding true beliefs is "beneficial to society", then Christianity would be "beneficial to society." But that view of "beneficial to society" wasn't considered in TCD.

Furthermore, here's another way Christianity is "beneficial to society." It provides (through the person of Jesus, of course) the only hope man has. The only way to be right before God. The only way to escape the destruction of Babylon (i.e., society). Is that beneficial?

Christianity is a unique religion concerned with saving men's souls, from which various effects follow--like neighbor loving, etc. It's not about making "Christian" music, movies, or video games. It isn't a political party. It is concerned with far more profound things than that.

So Christianity is beneficial to society, but it defines what it means to be beneficial. It is more profound than getting strip clubs off the street, or making "Christian" pop-music knock-offs. John Loftus doesn't understand the faith he critiques. John Loftus attacks a Christianity of his understanding. He thinks the mundane and common is the unique, relevant and interesting.

I hold to Christianity because it is true and there is no hope without it, without the life and death of Jesus Christ. I don't hold to it if it is "beneficial to society." Maybe that's what you think of atheism? It is, isn't it? Why would you "hold to atheism" if it wasn't "beneficial to society?" John wants atheist politics, atheist music, atheist movies, atheist clothing lines, atheist bumper stickers, and the all the rest. Christianity wants to save the souls of politicians, musicians, movie producers, and t-shirt and bumper sticker makers. From there they can go on to engage in politics, make music, movies, t-shirts, and bumper stickers.


  1. I wrote a review of their book on my blog a couple of months back. Yesterday I wrote a more detailed review of one chapter in particular (Tobin's).

    You are right when you say that the editor of the book acts in the same way which Christians are accused of acting, that is, acting as if their beliefs (or book) can never be overthrown.

  2. Diglot,

    I enjoyed your review of Tobin, even though you and I would disagree on some particular passages of Scripture.

  3. I really like how Loftus claimed you guys "do not know how to write a book review," linking to a post of his in which he gives his tasteless opinion of how to "properly" write a book review. Honestly, this guy is just full of himself.

  4. Full of himself? That's putting it mildly.

    Loftus is one of those morons that you watch in amusement. He does our side more favors every time he opens his mouth.