Wednesday, May 06, 2015

To hell and back

Predictably, John Loftus tries to make hay of David Wood's conversion story. This begins with feigning shock. He's shocked! Or so he says (twice!). Is Loftus really that naive about the ways of the world?

He descends into the subway as he tells his dark past. Then he emerges topside when describing his conversion.

That plays on Plato's allegory of the cave as well as Dante's Inferno. In addition, Victor Reppert thinks the subway is based on the Green Witch incident in the Lewis's Silver Chair

For anyone who thinks my deconversion story away from faith is a bit shocking (it isn't much at all) just compare David's conversion story towards faith, as seen in the video link below. If someone wants to discount my deconversion story due to my personal experiences, then how much more should they discount David's conversion story due to his personal experiences. After all, if personal experiences led us each to adopt different conclusions about God, then the personal experiences leading me to change my mind pale by comparison to his. 

That's such a simpleminded contention. Who says experience has no bearing on truth-claims? What about the argument from religious experience? 

There's no uniform principle here. It depends on the nature of the experiences and the inferences we draw from that experience. 

If David adopted his faith due to the experiences he describes in the video--experiences which show him to be an irrational angry young man--then how rational could this irrational angry young man have been when he adopting his faith at that time?

i) To the contrary, David explains that he was striving to be a rationally consistent atheist. Since atheism entails moral and existential nihilism, that implicates a behavioral counterpart.

At the same time, David explains that atheism generates an insoluble dilemma. How can you be a rationally consistent atheist when atheism is irrational at rock bottom?

ii) There's also the question of mental illness. David mentions, at the time, his mom's abusive boyfriend and a dad who was living out of town (or out of state). If I were going to play armchair psychologist, I'd suggest his social alienation and imaginary social life (e.g. communicating with animals) was a defense mechanism which took the form of dissociation. 

iii) BTW, some abilities he said he thought he had at the time (telepathic communication with animals, controlling the weather) are things I've read about in connection with witchcraft among Eskimos and Africans. He may have been off his rocker, but there may also be an occultic element to it. That's not the first explanation I'd reach for in his case, but I know next to nothing about his childhood. 

iv) Another question is how representative "sociopathology"  is in the general population. For instance, Vikings is a popular TV drama. Yet the characters do on a regular basis what David did on one occasion. Hacking old men, women, and children to death. 

And even though that's fictional, throughout history you have many men who get a thrill out of killing people. They kill people for fun. And not just killing, but doing so in the most brutal ways they can imagine or devise. 

Fact is, a sociopathic streak lies just beneath the sociable facade of many humans–especially men. It doesn't take much provocation to bring that to the surface. It's a question of whether people think they can get away with it. Look at warrior cultures. Look at all the atrocities committed around the world, past and present. 

A Christian can chalk that up to original sin. A Darwinist can chalk that up to our predatory animal ancestry. 

If atheists succeed in secularizing our culture, we may well revert to the unbridled savagery of our pre-Christian forebears. There will no longer be a moral or spiritual restraint on our baser impulses. 

Aside from what I've said above, consider three more sets of questions: 1) With such a past how damaged of a person do you think David is? Would you like to be married to him (or work with him) and have a fight that most close people do?

I've never felt the slightest inclination to marry another man. 

2) How likely is it David would return to his former hatred and behavior if he rejected his faith now at a later age?

In other words, if David reverted to atheism, with its moral and existential nihilism, would he take that more seriously than Loftus?


  1. One other hugely important difference is David Wood presented an apologetic for years, and only just recently mentioned his own conversion experience. In other words, David's story is secondary to his arguments. In Loftus's case, his story is all he's got.

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  3. In a recent Trinity Channel broadcast David Wood played his testimony and later commented on it. He admitted that he was a diagnosed sociopath and that it was only after he became a Christian that he started caring about people. Evidently, regeneration and sanctification made him more empathic.

    Loftus said:
    If someone wants to discount my deconversion story due to my personal experiences, then how much more should they discount David's conversion story due to his personal experiences.

    As if the two experiences are comparable. David initially didn't want to become a Christian. It was trying to be consistently rational that drove him to consider it. Even then, David told God that he couldn't change (near the end of video). That he couldn't switch from not caring about other people to caring, and that if it's going to happen God had to change him miraculously.

    Whereas John (apparently) became an atheist primarily for emotional reasons. He was embarrassed by the discovery of his sins. He didn't find Christians to be as sympathetic as he wished (or as they should have been). He "sensed" the absence or abandonment of God. Then he started looking for reasons why Christianity is false to justify his rejection of God. Even though by his CURRENT admission 1. Christianity cannot be absolutely refuted/disproved or proven false; and 2. despite all that he knows and all the arguments against Christianity he's encountered or offered, it's still possible that Christianity is true.

    It seems to me that David Wood was more rationally and behaviorally consistent in his atheism than John Loftus was in the past as a Christian, or as an atheist in the present. Were Loftus consistent with his atheism, he should conclude that his current atheism and David's current Christianity are equally meaningless and irrational (or non-rational at the very least). Along with the choices to be such.

    Also, Loftus' deconversion seems to naturally follow psychologically like water flowing downhill or downstream. Given his understandable motivations to deconvert. While Wood's conversion seems to flow uphill or upstream. David's experience is consistent with supernatural Divine intervention that changed his will and progressively improving his character.

    Finally, David is willing to examine both conversion and deconversion stories. Whereas John seems to merely cite David's conversion story to distract and divert attention from his own deconversion story. Apparently, his deconversion story is still a source of embarrassment to him. And I'm not talking about the exposed sin. I'm talking about the emotion based decisions he made in his deconversion process. It wasn't for primarily rational reasons.

    Hopefully, one day John Loftus will repent of his self-righteousness and self-justification/self-vindication and just admit he was wrong morally, RATIONALLY and EMOTIONALLY. The more he tries to justify himself, the more he looks bad in the eyes of a watching world AND more importantly in "the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Heb. 4:13).

    1. Though, I don't want to psychoanalyze Loftus any more than I have, I can't help but wonder if his zeal to undermine Christianity is an attempt to "get back at God" who allowed him to be so humiliated for his sins and indiscretions. Ironically, the more he attempts to undermine the Kingdom of God, the more he piles up future embarrassment for himself on Judgment Day. If John really wants vindication, the he should repent and trust in Christ. God's forgiveness removes final embarrassment even if it involves minor present embarrassment. Better to be a little embarrassed now, and be finally vindicated then. Than, to attempt (but inevitably fail) to vindicate oneself in the present, and finally be condemned then in the end.

      no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
      and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
      This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
      and their vindication from me, declares the LORD."- Isa. 54:17