I have recently read the book by John Loftus called “Why I Rejected Christianity.” Unfortunately, it is definitely lacking. Seeing so much in here, I decided I’d start writing a review of it. This will take my time, but it is important that we learn to engage the ideas of the other side.
Now the book starts off with several autobiographical notes. However, I have decided for my own reasons to skip those parts. Instead, it’s better if we move right on to the argument. The first part that is given is the Outsider Test. This relies on what Loftus describes as one’s “Sociological and cultural background.” (P. 40)
The point for Loftus is that Christianity from the outside looks untrue. That is not the case from the inside though. From the inside, it seems entirely true. The question is though that how can one choose any religion if from the outside, they all seem to lack any plausibility.
Of course, it’s probably hoped you’ll run with that assumption…
Hmmm. Shall we name some names? Let’s see, the early church consisted of people from either a Jewish background or a pagan background or a God-fearing background. Apparently, 3,000 people were able to choose a new faith at Pentecost. Apparently, the apostles all chose a new faith and apparently, the churches founded all consisted of people that chose a new faith.
Could it be that maybe they found the faith plausible?
Oh! Well, that was then! How about now? The ancients might, but anyone else?
Frank Morrison converted after trying to disprove the resurrection. Simon Greenleaf converted after a student told him to test the gospels with all the legal skill he had. The famous illusionist Andre Kole converted after being challenged to disprove Christ’s miracles. J. Budziszewski converted because of the Problem of Evil. C.S. Lewis is one of the most famous conversion stories. Alister McGrath writes about converting in college.
All of these converted because they thought the faith gave the rational answers. Could it be that a faith can look plausible from the outside? Also, let us suppose that a faith was not plausible. Does that mean atheism by default? We’ll have to go through and see if the arguments for atheism hold up. After all, if you reject Christianity because it seems implausible, there is no sense holding to atheism if it is implausible.
We are also given the great line that believers are atheists to all other religions. Atheists just add one more religion.
It’s really saddening that people still use lines like this as if that says anything.
Oh. Let me guess. We hold that religion because it’s true? We reject the others because they’re false. Yeah. That’s it. (Ironically, I could say that believers are skeptics of all other worldviews. It doesn’t show that one religion is true or false. It’s just simply stating that if X is true, all non-X is false.)
Now we are told also that an outsider should come assuming that their religion is false and be like one with on intellectual affiliation with them at all.
Well, I suppose you could just forget everything you think is true about your religion and then approach it and ask if it is true. Or, you could just simply do what anyone else does and read all the arguments one can and make rational decisions and if you encounter a strong argument against your belief, then study it and see if it is true or not.
Excuse me then if I remain skeptical of the outsider test.
Now we have to show the bias supposedly the idea that if you are born in Saudi Arabia, you’ll be a Muslim and if in Thailand a Buddhist and if in America, it’s quite likely that you’ll be a Christian.
I get the feeling that this is supposed to prove something….
Interestingly, it seems to be only the atheists that are the exception. (John Hick is noted but I think we can find an akin relationship with pluralism.) It is the atheists who have risen as they have seen that all religions are false. In the same way, the Pluralist though has seen that all religions have a piece of the truth. (Without telling us how they know that.)
If only the rest of us were as great as the “brights.”
Now on page 41, we are told that if we were born in Saudi Arabia or Iran, we’d be Muslims.
Geez. Couldn’t be because that’s the law of the land could it? Ever heard what they do with apostates over there? Religious freedom is hardly a value. Now granted one might be more likely to hold to a worldview if born in another area, but it doesn’t speak of the truthfulness or lack thereof and it’s just as easy to investigate something that you believe is true.
Furthermore, from what I know of myself and fellow Christians, the hardest questions are the ones we think of. They are not the ones the skeptics give us.
Now we are told that if we lived in the first century, we would believe that God sent illnesses and disasters to punish people for their sins.
Even though Christ argued against such a view and the book of Job argues against such a belief. Where do these people come up with this stuff?
Of course, there’s the usual tirade about the Middle Ages with murdering witches, torturing heretics, and removing infidels from Jerusalem.
It makes me wonder how many works on history of that time period have actually been read….
It’s especially amusing when slavery is brought up. Hmmm. No mention about the Muslims with that one. No mention that Clovis II and his wife Bathilda were instrumental in ending it in the Christian Middle Ages due to the teaching that they found taught in the Bible.
Next on page 42, we are told of the DPT and the DVT. The DPT (Dependency Thesis) states that “Morality is not a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions.” The DVT (Diversity Thesis) states that “Moral practices and beliefs do in fact vary from culture to culture and at different times in history.”
Please note that this is said while all the while telling the biblical culture that they were wrong. This cultural relativism if held will only end in moral relativism. If moral relativism is held…
Well, no such thing as the Problem of Evil anymore….
Now the same is done to religion by Loftus. The RDVT (religious dependency) states “Religious faith does in fact vary from culture to culture and at different times in history.” and the RDPT (Religious Divesrity) states that “Religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree.”
Well, it obviously has to be because if rational judgment were being used, no one would choose a religion…
Now the outsider test is said to have a greater degree of force because there’s no empirical tests to determine if a religion is true.
Riiiiight. All Christians shun empirical facts about the world and think they have no value. Now I have nothing against empirical data. I’d use data like the fine-tuning of the universe and the resurrection of Christ. I’d also use philosophical data like the moral law and aesthetic value as well as the consistency of theism along with experiential data like how the Christian life can be lived out well and how it makes a difference when applied.
Loftus then tells us that we should forgo our presuppositions and approach the text. We should adopt the presupposition of skepticism.
Odd. I wanted to simply adopt the presupposition that I am skeptical of skepticism and see how well skepticism held up. He also suggests that believers should read books like his and have them read at church groups.
I suppose that’s one way of increasing sales.
However, I agree. Believers should read the other side. I think they should see just how weak opposing arguments are. I think they should be read at church groups so churches can discuss them and answer them together.
Now we are next told that our initial experiences should be questioned when coming to investigate our faith.
Odd. I don’t remember Heaven opening up when I converted. I’ll grant that while I came as a child, I later became an adult and investigated my faith. I wanted to see if my life meant anything and found that it did. I only got greater confirmation when bringing arguments to the other side and finding them lacking.
I love the quote from Michael Shermer about how we take the data and select that which conforms with what we believe and throw out the rest. He states that “all of us do this, of course, but smart people are better at it.”
Of course all of us do this! (I suppose that would include the atheists)….
Odd though. I don’t recall doing that.
I recall taking obstacles against my faith and looking at them and seeing if they hold up and if they don’t, what is the truth from the theistic perspective?
The next quote is from Robert McKim stating “We seem to have a remarkable capacity to find arguments that support positions which we antecedently hold. Reason is, to a great extent, the slave of prior commitment. Michael Shermer adds that smart people can give intellectual reasons for beliefs that they arrived at for nonintelligent reasons.
I’m sitting here wondering if I really need to comment. Why should I not think McKim and Shermer are really the ones committing what they’re guilty of? Of course, Loftus is clear on the presumption of skepticism since there are so many claims and no empirical foot can be found to match them as if in a Cinderella story.
I wonder if the skepticism foot fits or the atheism foot fits…
Of course, this assumes that no religious worldview fits. I do not take that. I see much evidence of the God I serve in the things I observe with my senses.
Now we are told we can’t use the Bible. We must remember that it comes from an ancient and superstitious people.
Let’s hear it for that cultural relativism eh?
We’re also to be skeptical of any miracle claims in the Bible just as we supposedly are of miracles in other faith traditions.
Ya know, maybe it’s just me, but I’m not skeptical of miracles happening in other religions. I don’t believe all of them, but it’s not because they’re in a different religion. Why should I be skeptical of miracles? Why not be skeptical of the position that says that miracles cannot happen?
Next we are told that if God is true, he will make a religion that can pass the Outsider Test.
Ah yes. If there is a God, he will meet the demands of the skeptics. It’s cute isn’t it?
Now Loftus wants an explanation for the rule of religious beliefs. Why do they dominate in some areas?
Well geez, I can explain Muslim nations quite easily.
I can also explain that most parents do teach their children what they believe and in America, these beliefs are commonly held and passed on without thought. (You know, like the belief that the ancients though the Earth was flat or that there’s a war between science and religion.)
I just invite people to investigate. If you have good reasons for holding the Bible is true, there’s no reason to just abandon them. Sure. Feel free to see if they hold up.
We are also told that the test is to overcome the luck of being born possibly in the right belief. Of course, the test between the faiths is based entirely on luck.
Seems strange to me, but when I argue with a Muslim or a Buddhist, it’s always about what we believe and how it corresponds to reality. It’s not about what we were born believing.
The last thing I wish to comment on is how we are told that the skepticism of all religions and metaphysical positions (Hmmm. All metaphysical positions? Would that include Sagan’s statement on the Cosmos?) leads to agnosticism and that in turn leads to atheism.
Thomas Huxley disagreed. There’s no reason why agnosticism should really lead to atheism and it requires a metaphysical leap to get there either way.
Well, that is the section on the Outsider Test. We shall continue more as time goes by.