Test Your Beliefs As If You Were An Outsider!

Here's a video expressing my thoughts on The Outsider Test for Faith, although I don't make some of the exaggerated claims that are made in the video itself.

12 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Here's the short version of my argument. It begins with these four propositions:

1) Religious diversity around the globe is a fact—many religions can be found in distinct geographical locations in the world.

2) There are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religion is true.

3) Religious apologists all claim they are correct and they reject all other distinctive religious beliefs but their own.

4) All religions seek to answer life’s most important questions in a believing communal social environment where the adherent is encouraged to believe and discouraged to doubt.

These four facts form the basis of the argument. Okay so far? I think these facts are undeniable.

So if you want a deductive argument expressing this inductive argument of mine, here it is:

p -> q:
If 1-4 is true, then it’s probable that people adopt their religion based upon “when and where they were born.”

p:
1-4.

.: q:
Therefore, it’s probable that people adopt their religion based upon “when and where they were born.”

Based upon 1-4, it's highly probable religious adherents will not investigate their faith dispassionately. They will use reason to solidify and support religious beliefs arrived at prior to rationally examining them. And because there isn’t a mutually agreed upon scientific test to determine the truth of any religion, therefore social/political and geographical factors heavily influence what religion one adopts.

This conclusion is the strongest in those communally shared religions where doubt places the adherent in danger of hell, as well as the fear of losing the friendship of the religious community he or she is involved in.

This conclusion leads to the presumption of skepticism when investigating any religious faith, including one’s own religious faith; for it’s probable that the adherents merely adopted their faith based upon “when and where they were born.”

Anonymous said...

1) Religious diversity around the globe is a fact—many religions can be found in distinct geographical locations in the world. (John)

True.

2) There are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religion is true. (John)

Not a mutual agreement - no - except that 'a higher power' related something to these human beings - which is the core of these faiths - the cornerstone (I would say) - which they all mtutally agree happened in their culture.

3) Religious apologists all claim they are correct and they reject all other distinctive religious beliefs but their own. (John)

This isn't exactly true for 'all' religions found world-wide. It may be true for the main 3 (or 4 as some might count) but a lot of the smaller ones do not hold to the dis-harmony as suggested (as far as out-right rejection of some values).

4) All religions seek to answer life’s most important questions in a believing communal social environment where the adherent is encouraged to believe and discouraged to doubt. (John)

I would say there is credence to this, religion wide - but in many cultures not believing the religion of the people doesn't drive you out from the group (or from family).

I just find some of this is vague or generic and paces these values upon all religions - which is not totally true. But of by all you mean the Protestant, Muslim, and Catholic - there is some truth to it - I won;t deny that - I also won't deny that this is changing in some regards (so again this becomes 'general').

There are a lot of things Christians believe that I don't adhere to - I actually stand against a lot of it - and I still call myself a 'Christian' of some sort. The 4 points you even give come of as generalizations and I don't hold to points 3 and 4 in some regards. But I don't mind the video and the idea that this faith I am in is full of it - it's a perspective and I find no problem with someone beliving that - to each their right to believe or think something (freedom of religion or non-religion in this sense). Thanks.

Craig said...

The producer of this video seems to be over exuberant in his use of the terms 'delusional', 'irrational' and 'superstition,' underscoring the argument with statements like 'scientific studies prove that your religion cannot be true' and worse still, that there is absolutely no empirical evidence for a being named 'god.' This video in no way supports any evidence to the contrary about God, in fact quite the opposite. The rational human being (using the producer's term) who has half a brain (using the producer's tone) can easily establish for his or her own self the reality of this supposedly 'unknown God.' It is my understanding that God reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him (either athiest or otherwise). I do not believe in fairy tales and would never base my life on one and I take exception to the effort made in this video to build a discreditable case attempting to prove otherwise. Let it be known also that the "bubble" of Christianity is a figment of his over exagerated efforts to debunk Christianity in a demeaning way. There is no "bubble." God wants real people living relevant lives in a real world likewise helping real people in whichever way they can. Fairytales can stay at home on the children's bookstand where they belong. I don't mind making strong statements to the contrary as I'm doing now against an argument, however would never go out of my way to defraud anyone's belief as this producer takes pride in doing. Lastly, the 'god' he cannot prove empirically is in fact The One who put in place all structured scientific order in the first place. God is provable both evidentially AND experientially and for anyone who seeks Him diligently and graciously there is NO doubt he will draw near to that one and change their lives forever. Making statements that sound "scientifically authenticated" and providing comparisons with fairy tales doesn't prove to an intelligent person that God does not exist, it merely proves that that person has been very creative in his vain attempt to disprove and discredit God Himself. Lastly, to blatantly suggest that what I believe is "harming us as a species" considering all the good that Christianity has brought to this earth (hospitals, education, orphanages, shelters for the homeless, aged care, provision of food to the hungry, poor and destitute, and the list is endless...) I would ask that he takes a good long hard look in the mirror and ask himself what harm is he bringing by producing such a video in the first place (and furthermore, what good has he done and what difference is he making to a suffering world?). Thanks for sharing this staggeringly simplistic video, it has certainly helped strengthen my faith and has served to remind me that people will go to extraordinary lengths to deny provable truth if they fervently believe in the power of their own opinion to the exception of others. He may deny God, but thankfully God's nature is so faithful that He can never deny him and to this I am eternally grateful.

Adam said...

So, then how do you explain the fact that most non-Mormons do in fact think Mormons are delusional, and that most non-Muslims think Muslims are delusional, and that most non-Christians (at least 2/3's of the world's population I might add) do think Christians are delusional? How also do you account for the fact that the largest and most well-funded prayer study to date had only negative results? While you might say that God did not want to be put to the test, at least as far as the science so far is concerned, we have no reason to think that prayer works.

Furthermore, suppose I grant that due to the order in the universe and due to your personal religious experiences, God exists. How then do you know that Christianity alone is true? Unless your personal religious experience contained explicit doctrinal content, I'm not sure how you reach this conclusion. People have profound religious experience in many traditions. Perhaps, as you say, God does reveal Himself to those you desire Him. Then it would follow that God would reveal Himself to Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike. How then do you that your particular version of God is correct?

[Besides, there are other ways to explain the order we see. Natural selection for biological organisms and potentially multiverse selection for ordered universes. The arguments you cite in favor of God which I earlier granted are not slam dunks.]

Adam said...

Um, I don't know why my comment isn't showing up. Here I go again.

So, then how do you explain the fact that most non-Mormons do in fact think Mormons are delusional, and that most non-Muslims think Muslims are delusional, and that most non-Christians (at least 2/3's of the world's population I might add) do think Christians are delusional? How also do you account for the fact that the largest and most well-funded prayer study to date had only negative results? While you might say that God did not want to be put to the test, at least as far as the science so far is concerned, we have no reason to think that prayer works.

Furthermore, suppose I grant that due to the order in the universe and due to your personal religious experiences, God exists. How then do you know that Christianity alone is true? Unless your personal religious experience contained explicit doctrinal content, I'm not sure how you reach this conclusion. People have profound religious experience in many traditions. Perhaps, as you say, God does reveal Himself to those you desire Him. Then it would follow that God would reveal Himself to Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike. How then do you that your particular version of God is correct?

[Besides, there are other ways to explain the order we see. Natural selection for biological organisms and potentially multiverse selection for ordered universes. The arguments you cite in favor of God which I earlier granted are not slam dunks.]

Craig said...

Hi Adam, great questions.
Adam: "So, then how do you explain the fact that most non-Mormons do in fact think Mormons are delusional, and that most non-Muslims think Muslims are delusional, and that most non-Christians (at least 2/3's of the world's population I might add) do think Christians are delusional?"
Craig: Absolute truth (the kind that will set you free) is never a matter of personal opinion. eg: in scientific terms the laws of physics are constant and readily provable beyond just theory. So too I contend are the physiological factors behind creation (which are bound to the laws of physics), behind which is the existence, in plain terms, of the 'intelligence' who put it all together that way so you and I could marvel at it. Evolution is errant to explain the unfathomable intricacies behind that design and absolute accuracy of order. (but this argument is not the core logic behind my statement). Truth being truth simply demands its identity be made known in absolutes, not multiple versions attempting to explain away the same thing. ie: You're parentage can't be explained away from multiple sources, there is only one source, no matter how zealous the explaination of your origin. Likewise the Mormon and Muslim explaination, if you study them, not only leave huge questions but are also not testable through evidence from antiquity, leaving disparities beyond measure. Discover this for yourself, and I say this with all respect to people of these beliefs.
Adam: "How also do you account for the fact that the largest and most well-funded prayer study to date had only negative results? While you might say that God did not want to be put to the test, at least as far as the science so far is concerned, we have no reason to think that prayer works."
Craig: Hey, I need to point out the obvious here. Prayer, of the kind you describe is uniquely based within a spiritual dimension set aside for those who believe and have faith in the God of the Bible, and is not founded or provable on a scientific study, with particular motivation to discredit the effectiveness of prayer. (this requires honesty on your part to acknowledge the basis and motivation behind this research). That aside, I'll cut the jargon by attesting that prayer absolutely works and is accessible to anyone who is courageous enough to place their trust in Him for that particular need. This blog wouldn't have the room to testify to you the answers to prayer that people I personally know have had from God who cares deeply for His people. You see, prayer is a bi-directional experience. Incredibly, this God who so many deny, actually answers those who seek him with their whole heart. (as hard as that is to swallow for some. Put Him to the test and discover for yourself.)
Adam: "How then do you know that Christianity alone is true? Unless your personal religious experience contained explicit doctrinal content, I'm not sure how you reach this conclusion."
Craig: In so far as my religious experience containing explicit doctrinal content, then please hear me when I say even if I had a persona;l religious experience it would be remiss of me to create some form of "explicit doctrinal content" as you put forward. This would only serve to lead others down my path, when God reveals His ways to each of us in specific and extremely personal ways. however the one constant in all of this which provides absolute grounding and clarity to that 'personal experience' are the undeniably accurate records passed down faithfully from antiquity called The Bible. Like it or not Adam there is NO book, or series of books, that comes anywhere close to preserving such textual content from ages past with such astounding accuracy and preserved order. When you stop to consider some of the most treasured works; such as Homer’s “Iliad”, which was composed in approx. 800 BC, incredibly, the copies have come down to us from the second and third century and following. That’s a gap of some thousand years, yet it is viewed as a legitimate work. (There are some 650 Greek manuscripts of this work in existence today. Many are quite fragmentary.) It is actually quite common that in the case of other ancient texts, five, eight or ten centuries could have elapsed between the original and the earliest surviving copies. The biography of “Alexander the Great” (Approx. 400 BC) recorded as a copy on papyrus was written some 300 years on from the life of the man himself. This leaves a lot of room for error and for stories over the years to become embellished, distorted and for legend to take over. You must at that point consider that there would surely be vast inaccuracies from the original. A great advantage the Bible has over literally all other ancient works is that there are copies commencing from within a couple of generations (and closer) from the writing of the originals. In addition to that there are copies in many other languages besides Greek from a very early time. Eg: Latin, Syriac and Coptic as well as slightly later translations such as Armenian, Gothic, Georgian, Ethiopic and other varieties. This great multiplicity of manuscripts along with preserved letters, sermons and commentaries from early church fathers have become foundational to preserving the integrity of the trusted word of the Bible throughout the ages. I have merely scrapped the iceberg when chatting about the Bible's utmost integrity and veracity.
Adam: "Then it would follow that God would reveal Himself to Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike. How then do you that your particular version of God is correct?" Yes, you are right, God IS revealing Himself to these ones you mention in rather profound circumstances, right now as we speak throughout the middle east and beyond. When He does reveal Himself, as they seek after the truth, they soon understand just who He is. That's God's responsibility however Adam and is open to anyone who is brave enough to ask Him to reveal Himself to them. (simplistic, yet life altering when you discover the truth, and when you do, it will set you free). Sorry to say it (and I am not trying to sound bigoted) but you know that your particular version of God is correct in the same way that you know who your father or mother is. Your heart testifies and confirms that truth to you in no uncertain way and the same comfort you 'should' get from your parents you will get from your heavenly father. You also discover very soon down the track that you are in fact a tri-une being yourself. ie: You have a body, you have a soul and you have a spirit, which has been dorment all these years and is now ready to begin communing with God Himself, just as He planned all along. Imagine having a relationship with the God of the Universe! (yeah right you say..! But I can categorically assure you He Himeslf desires this as much as you deep down do too).
Adam: "[Besides, there are other ways to explain the order we see. Natural selection for biological organisms and potentially multiverse selection for ordered universes. The arguments you cite in favor of God which I earlier granted are not slam dunks.]"
Craig: There are a multiplicity of ways to explain the order in which we see. You and I could quite easily get together Adam and concoct a new one tomorrow that potentially demonstrates sound biological and historical content delivering solid argument based on grounded and well reseached 'scientific fact.' However it wouldn't be the truth though would it. I've seriously been on the other side of the argument adam and have concluded beyond measure that not only does God exist, but this entity has all the traits of an incredibly forgiving and wonderfully loving and restoring person who has a plan for us as individuals beyond description, however you must ask Him, you must be brave enough to knock on His door, becuase one thing is for sure, He will not impose Himself on you if you are not willing. he does not want a robotically controlled humanity which is controlled remotely. He wants us to love Him just like He loves us......unconditionally. That is why He sent His Son.
Best Regards Adam. Seek the truth mate. (Craig - Australia)

Adam said...

Craig,

I'm not sure how the textual fidelity of the NT proves anything other than it was a popular book. Our many copies also allow us to see how the text was altered, sometimes significantly, through time. But even without these alterations, I don't see why the multiplicity of copies is supposed to prove anything. I'm pretty sure the Koran would do at least as well on this count, and the Book of Mormon even better.

Second, the scientists in question actually were sincerely interested in whether prayer works. Most atheists thought it was a waste of money and so the study should not have been done.

Third, do realize that people of other faiths could have responded in a similar way as you did -- namely with bold and exuberant proclamations that their religion was the truth. They also will claim that the difference between their religion and yours is that theirs is the truth. You must admit that you were just as heavy on the use of terms like "proof" and "truth" as the atheist was with "scientific fact."

Again, what proof do you have for the virgin birth besides the testimony of one book that was well copied? Many books contain a mixture of fact and fiction; I'm not sure why you're sure your book doesn't fall under that category. Sure it's possible that your book doesn't, but how do you know other than a feeling of deep conviction that you're right, a feeling that surely pious Muslims and Jews experience as well.

Thanks for responding,
Adam

Craig said...

Hey there Adam (and Crew),

There is a huge difference between the bible's claim to its authenticity vs the two other religions you mentioned. (with all respect to the other religions). One of the most stunningly compelling reasons is that it is not based on tales passed down through the ages with the obvious danger of creating legends and leading to nil accuracy. On the contrary you need to understand someting that is pivotal to this argument and that is that the bible's records are in fact records of eye witness testimony. This is not conjecture, this is undiluted truth. Look, the reason for my 'strong emphasis' is that IF you are TRULY interested in delving deeper and really setting about to seek out the truth in this most important of matters, then you need to look at what was written, by whom, when it was written, what were the time gaps in the copies, how the copies were written and preserved and by whom, etc. You will discover that the case for the bible's veracity is truly based not on hearsay evidence, not on legend passed down, not on cultural beliefs and certainly not on mythology, but on actual eye witness testimony, the kind that holds the greatest weight in any court of law. When you begin to discover that, as I did after much digging, then it will change your life. You see at that point blind faith is taken out of the equation and truth hits you like a bombshell. As I said, I have no time for fairytales Adam, I'm too methodical and thorough for that. I want the truth and nothing less. Upon searching you will find that the people in the NT (you mentioned this section of the bible) who wrote these things were recording what they saw, not what they heard or what they "believed." That's just one of the stunning differences between the bible and all other ancient records from antiquity. Not only did the authors see these things and record these things in their time but there were many others with them recorded in the bible who also saw and heard with their own eyes and ears. The testimonies therefore are verified by a multiplicity of eye witnesses.
Once again Adam, there is NO book, or series of books, which comes anywhere close to preserving such textual content from ages past with such astounding accuracy and preserved order.
I really hope this assists you Adam. Thanks heaps mate. Regards,
Craig (Australia)

Anonymous said...

Craig,

By using your own criteria for a holy book's veracity, the Koran would be right up there with the Bible in terms of credibility. If you have ever bothered to read the Koran, you will find that it is much more internally consistent than the Bible ever could be. Its entire contents were written with a few years after Mohammad's death making its pieces fit together much more elegantly than the Bible does. Furthermore, the Koran was written by eye witnesses who saw and heard what he had to say. Should not this make the Koran as credible or even more credible than the Bible? But because the Koran...or the Bible for that matter....were written by so call eyewitnesses, does not make it true.

If you think the Bible is not conjecture or a bunch of fairy tails handed down from the past and the Koran is.......then prove it. Prove to us here that the Koran is false and the Bible is true. You make a lot of assertions and statements of faith about the Bible's veracity that you did not or cannot back up in your post. I think you are merely stating a case where you believe your holy book is better than anybody else’s just because you believe it to be so.

If I talk to my Muslim friends at work, they will be strong case that the Koran is the truth and the Bible is false. So who should I believe? Just because you (or my Muslim friends) believe their holy book to be the truth....does not make it so. You should get together with them and determine whose holy book is the truth and nothing but the truth. Once you have done that please get back to us here with your answer.

Rich said...

Just another food for thought here. The Book of Morman doesn't every claim that the bible is false. Instead it is meant to add another testimony of the truths taught in the bible, especially of Christ. Also written from eyewitness acounts, ect... I think that is the biggest misunderstanding there is about the BofM. You'll never get anywhere trying to tell people how wrong they are, it kind of tends to put up the walls of defense.

Adam said...

Craig,

Many fine scholars would deny that the gospels were composed by eyewitnesses. After all, Jesus' disciples most likely did not speak Greek, and the gospels are written in, sometimes, highly educated Greek.

Furthermore, Paul, a major source of Christian teaching, was not an eyewitness to the life and death of Jesus. In addition, eyewitness testimony is in fact NOT all that reliable. The research of prominent cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus shows this. Her findings have changed how American courts handle eyewitness testimony. Memory is not nearly as reliable as we often suppose. You should examine her research and see what you think of it.

Finally, look at how quickly false rumors and urban legends spread. While it is true that technology allows lies to spread more rapidly than previously, technology also allows for an unprecedented level of fact-checking unavailable in the ancient world. As Churchill said [paraphrasing]: "A lie has gotten half-way around the world before the truth has even got a chance to get its pants on." Answer me this: "Which do you think is more likely to spread: juicy gossip or boring mundane facts?" Likewise, stories of miracles are much more interesting and more likely to spread rapidly than any facts that might cast doubt on the accuracy of those purported "miracles."

My only point is that honest, sincere people who have carefully studied the issues can differ. That's all.

Thanks for responding,
Adam

openlyatheist said...

...stories of miracles are much more interesting and more likely to spread rapidly than any facts that might cast doubt on the accuracy of those purported "miracles."
As I do everywhere, I'll take the opportunity to plug "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer.

In it, he shows how the human brain is more able to focus on and retain certain counter-intuitive inputs - such as those found in myths like: talking trees, or statues that answer prayers, etc.

This is why all religions contain the types of information that they do and why those religious ideas spread so well. Great book.