Friday, August 06, 2010

The appeal of atheism

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 ( 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).


  1. I read or heard somewhere (wish I could recall the source) that a good way to show if an opponent is disingenuous is to ask them to summarize your argument. The idea was, as I recall it, that if your opponent is able/willing to accurately do so, that they are truly engaged in the discussion... Or something to that effect. Have you run into this before and do you recall where?

    I have noticed that you guys (TB bloggers) summarize a lot of your opponent's arguments, then deal directly with them, and leave channels open for response. I haven't seen a the atheist meta commenters doing this. Why is that, do you think? Are they doing it on their own blogs and I'm just not seeing it?

  2. Loftus is not interested in engaging in discussion. He only posts comments from critics when he thinks he can answer them. When I pointed out to him that his psycho-analyzing committed the genetic fallacy and gave him a little ribbing over his ego he now no longer posts any of my comments. That's fine, he can do whatever he wants, but it demonstrates that he is an intellectual coward and can't take what he dishes out.

    He also regularly employs double-standards as pointed out on this blog which he attempts to deflect criticism of by crying "tu quoque!" But Loftus as a moral relativist feels no obligation to submit himself to any rules of argument, so it is not surprising. Double standards are perfectly acceptable to a sophist like him.

    He is one of the most dishonest debaters I have ever encountered and apparently has even gone so far as to create sock-puppet blogs in order for him to "notice" that "others" agree with him.

    That thread is very illuminating into the psychology of this man. (he posts in that thread under the name "Doubting John")

  3. "Atheism emancipates us from the shackles of religion."

    I hear this from some atheists I have blogged with.

    They tell me they have been set free, and live life to the fullest now; things like that.

    I say, "Perhpas you have a happy life. But if you ever come to Christ, and hear the voice of the risen Lord and Savior of the universe, then your happiness will turn to joy beyond comparison, you will have peace that is different than the world's peace, and you will love with a deeper love than you could imagine. Also, you will know genuine sorrow and pain, that is deep, but unselfish."

    Keep up the good work in the Lord. Have a terrific Lord's day.

  4. Neal,

    I'm not sure how to describe how I feel about that thread. Appalled, disappointed, amazed, amused... Really runs the gamut.

    Very educational.