Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Reply To John Loftus On Chapter 4 Of The Christian Delusion

John Loftus has replied to our critique of chapter 4 of The Christian Delusion. I have some other things to do this evening, so for now I'll just briefly respond to a few sections of his post directed at me.

He writes:

Hays (and later Jason Engwer) takes issue with my saying they evaluate other religious faiths using just David Hume‘s evidentiary standards along with a methodological naturalist viewpoint. Any reading of Christian literature on the so-called “cults” will show this statistically. They claim to evaluate these other religious faiths and miracles as if they are demon produced. Really? How is that anything by way of an objective standard? Yep, demons can account for these other faiths and their miracles. Demons are everywhere. Hays and Engwer can even demonize their opponents, even most other Christians. Such a view is scary to me for certainly they think I am possessed of demons. Yeah, that solves everything when you cannot answer a man’s arguments. Demonize him. Demonize them all. This is such a barbaric view to me.

He's misrepresenting my argument. I didn't say that Christians "evaluate these other religious faiths and miracles as if they are demon produced". Rather, I referred to conclusions that are reached about non-Christian individuals and belief systems. See page 47 of The Infidel Delusion. I referred to arguing for something like demonic influence in another religion. I didn't say that we should begin with an assumption of demonic involvement. I didn't suggest that "Demons are everywhere." And I mentioned supernatural possibilities other than demonic involvement. For example, I cited the healing of Naaman and Caiaphas' prophesying in John 11. Were those cases of demonic influence? No, they weren't. What about Cornelius in Acts 10? There were supernatural events in his life before he became a Christian. Do Christians consider those supernatural events demonic? No. In a recent thread here, I discussed some of the paranormal phenomena documented by researchers like Stephen Braude, and I specifically made the point that I don't think all of it is demonic. In the past, when discussing near-death experiences, I've acknowledged that we have convincing evidence for the experiences of some non-Christians, and I didn't argue that they're all demonic in nature.

But even if I had argued that every supernatural element of a non-Christian individual's life or a non-Christian belief system is demonic, the fact would remain that Loftus was wrong in what he argued in The Christian Delusion. I and many other Christians don't take the sort of presuppositional or Humean approach toward non-Christian systems that Loftus suggested we do.

Do I think Loftus is possessed by demons? No. And I never suggested it.

He writes:

If God exists then he can do this by other means besides using objective argumentation. But how likely is it that there is a God who does this in the first place? The evidence of billions of non-Christians who have adopted what they believe based on where they were born speaks like a megaphone against his existence or of him doing just this.

How so? I was arguing for one means among others that God could use. I didn't suggest that He only or always uses that means. And where people are born is something within God's sovereignty (Acts 17:26-27).

Loftus continues:

He just doesn’t get it, does he? How do we know that we have eyewitness testimony? There is a huge difference between seeing a miracle take place before our very eyes in which we can determine it was not a trick of the eyes, from hearing a story that stems from one source which is repeated told by different people for decades across different lands in a ancient pre-scientific culture.

I was commenting on the value of eyewitness testimony during the initial stages of examining a belief system. Read what I wrote on pages 47-48 of The Infidel Delusion. As I said there, I was addressing "initial observations", since Loftus had referred to things we note when we first examine a belief system. If Loftus now wants to appeal to later observations that can overturn what our initial observations suggested to us, then I can respond the same way to Loftus' initial observations. Does it initially seem unlikely that my worldview is the correct one out of the many that exist? Later observations can help me weed out other belief systems. If Loftus is going to appeal to later observations, after we consider eyewitness testimony in more depth, then I can appeal to later observations as well in order to weaken the force of Loftus' initial observations.

Since Loftus missed my point, and since I've already addressed objections to eyewitness testimony like the ones Loftus has raised in previous discussions with him and elsewhere in The Infidel Delusion, I won't get into that here.


  1. Why do you guys engage guys like Loftus? He's not a serious guy; I can see why there needs to be a response to someone like him --- because of his popular appeal --- but unfortunately it gives his sort a greater platform, which is his telos in life (finding purpose in a purposeless world).

    I guess being an ostrich doesn't work all that great either; I just think tit-for-tat with Spongs and Loftus's can become an enormous waste of time though.

  2. EC,

    I've had thoughts similar to yours, especially given Loftus' track record in the honesty department (the whole thing with the fake blog alone should throw up warning signs to people.) I actually think the guys here made a good move - they responded to his book not only with deep, fierce criticisms, but freely available ones. They're reacting to his reactions right now, but in this case, every reaction John has just draws more attention to TID.

    In other words, who is feeding whose telos in this case? John tends to make blunders in situations like this.

  3. Crude,

    Good point. It's just that these kind of debates get so tiresome so times; repeated so often since at least the enlightenment. It's certainly a necessary evil to have to engage in this kind of stuff, but tiresome to me (I guess that's why there's guys like the Triabloguers).

  4. I agree with that much. As I said, normally I'd think "Why bother?", but I think this particular incident is being handled splendidly. Just my view though.

  5. Over at Loftus' blog a person named Michael said the following

    Michael said...

    In a previous post [], John Loftus challenges ‘wannabe apologists’ to write a critique of his book. Well it appears that a ‘wannabe apologist’ has risen to the challenge. So what does John do? Contradict himself and agree with Ken Pulliam that these non-scholars are just wasting their time responding to the challenge he himself set! If the issues in your book are too complicated for non-scholars to understand then why are you marketing it towards a non-scholarly audience?

    I wasn’t going to read the Infidel Delusion but having seen how bad John’s response to it is I thought I’d give it a whirl. Having read the first couple of chapters it looks like you’ve done an excellent job in destroying The Christian Delusion. I can see why John is trying to put his readers off reading it!

    I found that hilarious.


    I also noticed that some were referring to "The Infidel Delusion" as "ID" while at the same time referring to Loftus' book "The Christian Delusion" as "TCD". I think we all should agree to call the review "TID", other wise it'll confuse some people into thinking it's a reference to Intelligent Design (which if often referred to as "ID").

    Though, I suspect that there might be the intention (consciously or unconsciously) to attach the negative connotations which atheists have with Intelligent Design to the book review The Infidel Delusion.


    "Why do you guys engage guys like Loftus? He's not a serious guy; I can see why there needs to be a response to someone like him --- because of his popular appeal --- but unfortunately it gives his sort a greater platform, which is his telos in life (finding purpose in a purposeless world)."

    In general, I think it's better to respond to objections than leaving them hanging out there unanswered.

    Whenever you respond to an objection, there's a danger of defection. But I don't think there's anything to lose, really. If someone's faith was going to fall apart the minute he became acquainted with the "new atheism," then his faith was always a house of cards. It was just a default faith, because that's all he knew. Frankly, it's more dangerous to go through life with an untested faith that will let you down at the last minute.

    In addition, there are Christians that lack the resources to respond to certain objections. If we have resources which they lack, then we should share what we have for their benefit.

  7. As I said the other day, the appearance of TIF made my month.

    Our group is making to have it available at our book table in the Student Center, the atheists will be right across the walkway, when the semester starts up next month.

    Its great to have some well done material to respond to the Loftus Propaganda Mill.

  8. Steve,

    I appreciate that. I guess I was just voicing how tiring some of this stuff can get (or tedious). This is why we're a "body" though and not just an "eye" or something. Glad you guys enjoy dealing with this; it is necessary, esp. for college students being bombarded with this crap (and who need a reasoned response and way to think this through).

    Good work!