"I encourage every Christian to take the Outsider Test for Faith"

That's what Joe Staub, a Christian minister says on his Blog. He wrote: "I am an OTF graduate." Well, bully for him. Any others? Does anyone think he has really done so? An edited version of the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) can be found here, and my additional defense of it can be found here.

Staub also wrote:
Mr. Loftus’ book is a thorough and comprehensive critical look at Christianity. It’s better than the books by the Atheist Four Horsemen, because he deals with what Christians actually believe, having been one himself. It’s hard core and will force you to justify your belief system.
I'll add that to the other recommendations of my book, so thanks.

40 comments:

Joe Staub said...

I can be fair John. And, I give credit where it is due. Cheers to you for your thoughtful and intensive work.

But, you know and I know, as the researcher and philosopher that you are, everything is "questionable" and every hypothesis can be challenged.

Eternal Critic said...

I must say its refreshing to see someone not using the "no true scotsman" fallacy against an ex-christian.

guitarstrummr said...

"It’s hard core and will force you to justify your belief system. "

Bingo!

No interest in whether it is true or not, just in whether its justifiable.

Joe Staub said...

By the way, John. If you are going to add it to your book can you change Horseman to "Horsemen". Just to be grammatically correct.

Also, to all others reading this, by all means go to my blog to read the whole critique that I wrote about the OTF.

You realize that the reason I am advocating the test is that I trust that the truth will set you free. You and others in your shoes help us Christians to get to the truth by challenging us.

In a previous comment to one of your posts I said that when I was a preacher I refused to withold from my people information critical to Christianity. Why? For the reason stated above, but also because I want to be a purveyor of truth, not spin, indoctrination, or propoganda. Again, I think I am the norm, not the exception. How sad that some preachers and teachers feel they need to conceal information. But that says more about them than the veracity of the Christian message.

Jeff Carter said...

I have not only taken the OTF test but I am engaged in the entire Debunking Christianity challenge.

As I have noted before, the OTF doesn't go far enough in shedding the light on bias. There are not only social and cultural Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. but social / cultural atheists as well. Rational atheism-objectivism for the most part stems from the bias of Anglo-American philosophical culture. (I understand there are exceptions); it doesn't predominate in continental or French philosophy. If you're a rational atheist, it's likely because it's cool to be one in Anglo-American philosophical culture, not because you're a "free thinker."

So all the hoopla over an increase in atheism can be explained as a cultural bias. The atheism of G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and the Logical Positivists has finally trickled down to the masses - philosophical ideas trickle down slowly. You can expect the resurgence of theology found in the work of the likes of Ricoeur and Henry to eventually be reflected in culture as well.

As for the whole D.C test, I have finally completed my review of "Why I Became An Atheist" (in the form of some 25+ blogs), the centerpiece of which is a series on the limits of reason. That series demonstrates the failure of rationalism (and that failure, by the way is attested to by atheists, not Christians). I've posted a guide to the series and entire review on my website.

So, what's the next book in the D.C. challenge?

Raul said...

For Joe Staub:
Christianity is unique among world religions in its historically accounted for resurrection of a savior
1) Christianity is as "historical" as Mormonism,for example
2) "resurrection of a savior" is a typical story too
Christianity is a distinctively superior world view among other great religions
Why is it "distinctively superior"?
and Christianity has a compelling and incomparable gospel message among other world religions
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already" (John 3:18)
Or,maybe,you had something else in mind?

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff asked, So, what's the next book in the D.C. challenge? Take a look for yourself in the link on the sidebar, but I suspect it won't matter to you. You are a fideist or an existentialist. You denigrate reason and scientific thinking in favor of faith and that's something that I cannot debunk with reason and science. All I can do is to point out to you the double standards you must abide by when you reject other religions and when you basically live your life. How's it feel to live your mundune or secular life one way by means of reason and scientific thinking and then with a different standard adhering your faith? In my opinion you are one messed up person, but of that I cannot convince you so I won't try.

Brad Haggard said...

John: "in my opinion, you are one messed up person"

I think Jeff appreciates the unsolicited psychological examination.

socraticmammal said...

"... force you to justify your belief system."

This is what it comes down to. Believers do so because they need to. Rival positions exist for every part of tradition. Nothing truly solid exists. That's why there's faith. Chase the reason why and you will find a rejection of the problem of evil and the need for good to ultimately prevail. The very same foundational principal of all religious traditions.

Jeff Carter said...

John,
But let’s be clear about why you can’t debunk my position. It’s not because I arbitrarily choose faith over reason. I have systematically reviewed 300 years of western philosophy (does that sound like a denigrator of reason?) to demonstrate that philosophy itself cannot lay a foundation for reason other than assumptions. This isn’t just me saying it. The philosophers who wanted so badly to ground reason – Moore, Russell, Carnap, Neurath - admitted it couldn’t be done. I quote them stating as such in my blogs.

As I said in my post, “In the past Loftus has accused me of denigrating science when in fact I am simply pointing out that the foundation of reason is mere assumption and that reason has boundaries, on the other side of which is the spiritual. It’s not my fault the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”

that's something that I cannot debunk with reason and science.

Well, you could if you could do two things:

1. Establish the axiomatic grounds for reason / logic. (Good luck, since Russell and the Logical Positivists failed),

2. Show why the objective world should hold primacy over the subjective world.

All I can do is to point out to you the double standards…

The double standard is to lift up the virtues of reason, to accuse a person of denigrating reason, while at the same time refusing to admit the failures and limits of reason.

How's it feel to live your mundune or secular life one way by means of reason and scientific thinking and then with a different standard adhering your faith?

The truth is that we all operate by both faith and reason in both the subjective and objective worlds, it’s just that faith is primary. Reason must have grounding assumptions (read that as faith) to even operate. Geometry and logic must have their axioms. Science must assume there is an objective world. There’s no double standard.

you are one messed up person

Yeah, I know. The ad hominem attacks have to begin when reason fails and frustration sets in over one’s ability to defend his position. And if I’m messed up, so are a whole school of continental philosophers, phenomenologists and existentialists.

And as for socraticmammal:

This is what it comes down to. Believers do so because they need to.

This holds for rational atheism as well. Since philosophy has demonstrated that reason can't be grounded, their the rational atheist's belief in the virtues of reason is shown to be simply a bias.

eheffa said...

My "Outsider Test for Faith" took a while but ultimately led me to reject the Christian Faith.

Christianity rests or falls on the strength of its historical veracity. One would expect that the the history of God's interactions with man & his chosen people as recorded in the OT, prior to the coming of his Messiah should be generally accurate & true.

One would also expect that the history / biography of the Savior of all mankind, the one & only Son of God would also be recorded faithfully so as to prevent misunderstanding & error of belief. As a Christian, I set out to test whether the Bible could stand a careful examination and some honest scrutiny. I decided that if God exists as the source of all truth, he would surely not discourage a careful examination of his inspired writings or punish one who searches for honest truth.

My reading has ranged widely now but I have had to be honest with my findings. I have concluded the following (recognizing that this exploration will always be a work in progress subject to new or corrective data)...

It is now abundantly clear to me that the Bible is full of untruths & fabricated histories. The Pentateuch and its histories are clearly of late authorship and are not to be relied upon for any sort of literal history of God’s actions with either the creation of the universe or the history of his interactions with the people of Israel. Both science & archeology as well as written histories available to us from these ancient times firmly contradict the Biblical versions of the history of the Israelites.

Similarly, the New Testament gospels are fatally flawed in their supposed biographical documentation of the person of Jesus. These anonymously authored, probably late first century / early second century creations cannot be relied upon as independent history or biography when it is clear that Mark is written as a Midrashic allegory, heavily dependent on the Septuagint for its inspiration. The fulfilled “prophecies” are nothing more than a post hoc crafting of the tale to fit the older texts’ hints & themes. The other Gospel writers clearly had Mark available to them as a source & freely cribbed his work for their own purposes…

The total lack of any contemporaneous documentation of either this person of Jesus or even the movement he spawned until well after the fall of Jerusalem indicates to me that this movement was a later creation. The history of the early church as derived from the canonical Gospels & the book of Acts is clearly a later fiction - produced well after the fall of Jerusalem.

Anyways, it is now clear to me that the Bible is an entirely man-made collection of works. Christianity in its more Catholic orthodoxy appears to be most likely a second century creation ultimately refined & shaped for general consumption in the 4th century under Eusebius & company with the blessing of then emperor Constantine. To think that this ancient construct can still hold sway over our minds & beliefs in the 21st century is quite remarkable, but does not indicate any measure of veracity.


So, confronting these realizations as an outsiders' test of veracity, I could no longer remain a Christian. I am now unable to see any good evidence for a personal God who has communicated with the human race in any unequivocal fashion. I am not sure that there is any evidence for even the Deist version of God.

I miss having a god who knows my closest thoughts & desires but I am discovering that the pursuit of truth has its own rewards. It is liberating not to have to defend dogma over the facts. Delusional thinking takes lot of work & requires that you constantly monitor your thoughts, shepherding them into approved lines of thinking lest you stray too far into realizations that might reveal the glaring holes in the christian fantasy.

For Joe & other theists posting here,...surely an attempt to be objective with the data we have, will indicate to you that the Christian version of events is quite fragile & untenable. An unbiased observer is not going to be impressed that the history of this Jesus figure can be anything more than a religiously motivated fiction.

I would expect that an honest attempt to be objective & use the same skepticism you employ to keep the Mormon & Muslim doctrines at bay, would also cause you to reject this Christian faith you still protect so dearly.

-evan

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff Carter. The fact that you cannot find a foundation to reason means nothing to me at all. Did you really read that second to last chapter in my book? Did you?

If we evolved then there would be no ultimate grounding to reason. Do you understand? This makes much more sense and explains a whole lot more than leaping to faith. And the faith you leap to is way beyond what you're entitled to from the mere admission there is no ultimate grounding or foundation to reason. I cannot make you see this, but the only thing I can think of is that you are indeed brainwashed.

Hell, if there were an ultimate grounding to reason you would claim that God grounds it, even though I see nothing about the notion of God's existence that can ground it, either. I mean, really, there is nothing I could show you or tell you that would make you question your faith. Fine then. Have a nice life.

Or, you could tell me what must happen that if it happened you could no longer believe. What is it? Tell me. Something within the range of possibilites. If, for instance, you say little green men must appear to you and tell you God doesn't exist then I will see the lengths at which you go to maintain your faith, because such a possibility won't ever happen. So what could really happen for you to question your faith? What argument would do this? What experience must you or others have that would undermine your faith? Tell us. Without providing us with anything I'll let you go along your merry deluded way. But don't ever bother coming back here without some criteria as I've suggested.

Cheers.

Lee said...

"And the faith you leap to is way beyond what you're entitled to from the mere admission there is no ultimate grounding or foundation to reason."

Bingo. Christians who make similar comments about the limits of reason are not simply making an observation.

What they really mean is "There are limits to reason therefore talking snakes, talking donkeys, the big animal boat ride and Jesus Christ's magical undeadening are all true".

A slippery slope indeed.

socraticmammal said...

Jeff:

If your comment that “rational atheists [believe in rational atheism] because they need to” is intended to define an atheist as one who is sure there is no God then I absolutely agree with you. Disproving the existing of the metaphysical is another endeavor in which philosophy fails and is not the issue I was addressing.

To be of any subjective value, at some point an objective pragmatic approach has to be taken. The basis for the reasoning behind not sticking my hand in a hungry lion’s cage does not require absolute grounding for me to recognize it as something I shouldn’t do.

If you were to say, reason can’t be grounded, therefore there is no preferred position, therefore we don’t know, I would again agree with you. The point you failed to address however is why your own conception of the metaphysical should be preferred over that of any other? What if Marcion was right? What if all Christians have been duped by the archons? How would you know? You simply can’t. This is the point I was making.

Joe Staub said...

Raul, you said,

"1) Christianity is as "historical" as Mormonism,for example
2) "resurrection of a savior" is a typical story too
Christianity is a distinctively superior world view among other great religions
Why is it "distinctively superior"?
and Christianity has a compelling and incomparable gospel message among other world religions"

1) Biblical Christianity and Mormonism cannot be compared in their historicity. But, don't take my word for it, go to the scholars. There is no question about it.

2) The "copy cat" theory has been known to Christian theologians since the Patristic Fathers and they answered it. Additionally, I would suggest that the concept of a hero who dies and comes back to help people is a common theme in many cultures because of the human desire for reconciliation with the Divine. Even atheist Dawkins says that religion in an innate human drive. Karen Armstrong in her book, "The History of God" said in her book after studying the 4000 year history of God, "Like sexuality, religion is a human need that affects life at every level. If suppressed, the results are likely to be as explosive and destructive as any severe sexual repression."
3) I think the gospel message is uniquely compelling because it is a Divine atonement with a historical resurrection offering a free grace salvation by faith. There is no claim like it in any other religion. The gospels do not read as myth or legend, as do the stories of the Zoroastrian Mithras, or the Egyptian Horus. But, don't take my word for it. You're smart, so read up on it.

Raul said...

"Biblical Christianity and Mormonism cannot be compared in their historicity. "
Em,yes,they can. If you,f.e., consider gospels to be an historical account,you might as well go for the book of mormon or quran. Other then that,there are no historical sources for supposed miraculous events in all theese cases.
"But, don't take my word for it, go to the scholars. There is no question about it."
Oh,there's a huge question about it,sir. Otherwise there would be no "Jesus Seminar",f.e.
"The "copy cat" theory has been known to Christian theologians since the Patristic Fathers and they answered it"
By claiming it to be a work of devil or somehow else?
"Additionally, I would suggest that the concept of a hero who dies and comes back to help people is a common theme in many cultures because of the human desire for reconciliation with the Divine"
I am certain,that we can find reasons in human psychology,for why sometimes people develop similiar beliefs (cargo cults would make a nice example),though I would use a simpler explanation here:
People are afraid of death,so they invent heroes,who defeat this enemy.
Karen Armstrong in her book, "The History of God" said in her book after studying the 4000 year history of God"Like sexuality, religion is a human need that affects life at every level. If suppressed, the results are likely to be as explosive and destructive as any severe sexual repression."
Well,she defines "religion" in a rather interesting way (quote from wikipedia):
"I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It's about what you do. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.”
"I think the gospel message is uniquely compelling because it is a Divine atonement with a historical resurrection offering a free grace salvation by faith"
Well,I think,John 3:18,which I quoted earlier sums up this message rather nicely. And I've already expressed my thoughts on the "historical" part.
About this "free grace salvation by faith" thing... First,of all,that sounds a bit like "free gift by credit card" to me. If salvation comes at a price,it's not "free".
Secondly, what's this "salvation" thing all about anyway? Is it salvation from hell,when religion claims,that there is a scary monster and then tells you,what you must do to get "saved"?
There is no claim like it in any other religion.
Oh,please! If the claim is "you have to believe or else...",then it's most common. As for human sacrifice,which was thought to please the gods,it's a banal theme,too. And I don't think that by combining two banal themes we get a unique one.
"The gospels do not read as myth or legend, as do the stories of the Zoroastrian Mithras, or the Egyptian Horus."
Just because you don't read them that way. For you such things as people seeing angels,walking on water,turning water into wine e.t.c. "do not read as myth or legend" as long as the stories,in which theese things happen are a part of your religion. That's insiders perspective.

Lee said...

"The gospels do not read as myth or legend"

This statement is a monumental insult to the intellect of spider monkeys, much less homosapiens.

If the Gospels "read" as any less of a myth than do the Genesis accounts, it is not by much.

Elsewhere in your post you point out the uniquness of the Christian position.

Simply put, each religion is unique in its own way and at the same time, all religions are similar in certain ways too. Uniqueness proves nothing at all. Not a single, solitary thing.

Scientology is quite unique.

So is Mormonism. Mormonism is a damning near-contemporary example of how abhorrently stupid religious ideas can gain widespread followings.

The claims of the LDS are verifiably wrong and yet people, even very smart and otherwise "normal" people will argue for that side. Mormonism is a keen and facinating insite into the infancy and subsequent rise of religious idiocy. Its history and criticism is all right there form the start yet it still claims millions as followers.

Jeff Carter said...

Or, you could tell me what must happen that if it happened you could no longer believe. What is it? Tell me. Something within the range of possibilites…. But don't ever bother coming back here without some criteria as I've suggested.
I guess I have to answer this one first, since I’ve been asked so graciously to cut my own throat. To be consistent with my existentialist position, this thing “that must happen” would not be something that happens in the objective world. It would be something subjective, something that happens inwardly, something existential. It’s easy for me to see why people do not believe in Christ if they have never encountered him, for the world is ambiguous, meaningless and absurd without him. So this existential happening would be a complete and utter withdrawal of God’s voice, presence and spirit from me, a withdrawal of the meaning of my life. The world would need to again seem ambiguous and absurd to me, as it was before I encountered Christ. I’m sure I can take meaninglessness for quite a good long while, so it would have to be so overwhelming that I couldn’t endure it. Even then, I ‘m not sure if I would give in, but that’s my best understanding of what it would possibly take for me to stop believing in Christ.
Another thing that might work hinges on the fact that I am an existentialist. We believe that the subjective holds primacy over the objective (and if you will read below, I give good grounds for holding that belief). So, an adequate demonstration that the subjective is nothing more than physical in its essence might go a long way in dissuading me from my beliefs. This is certainly within the realm of possibility in the sense that Gilbert Ryle, Daniel Dennett and other physicalists hold that belief. Another way of putting this is that you could convince me, as Daniel Dennett asserts, that I really don’t exist.
So there, I have laid my head in the lap of Delilah. No one could figure out how to beat Samson so Samson had to tell them himself.
The fact that you cannot find a foundation to reason means nothing to me at all.
Then I’ll explain. The positivists were rational atheists who completely denied the metaphysical and said that philosophy was nothing more than the logic of science. They wanted everything scientifically based to the point where they asserted that no statement was true unless it could be scientifically verified. (So how does one scientifically verify that statement?) They wanted to ground science in an undeniable brute fact, “the universe exists”, just like you did. The problem with this is that “the universe exists” cannot be a brute fact. The brute fact is I believe or experience that the universe exists. Unfortunately for the positivists, the I is subjective and cannot be scientifically verified. At best, the world is filtered through my experience of it. This is just one example of how reason and science cannot be grounded.
Did you really read that second to last chapter in my book? Did you?

Yes, I did. In fact, I have read it several times, all with highlighter and pen in hand. And what I found were numerous passages such as “If we initially try to figure [the universe] out with reason, we cannot figure it out” which makes it all the more perplexing that you would want to guard the virtue of so poor a tool.
You also asserted that “it’s undeniable that something now exists” and you immediately assume that that something is the universe. This is exactly the mistake the positivists made, as I demonstrated above. A person cannot know undeniably that the universe exists. The only undeniable fact for a person is that he or she exists. You stated in that chapter in question that you had been an existentialist at one time, so I thought you would have understood that.
You ask the question, “Why must I resort to giving up on reason…?” but you never seem to be able to admit that human reason is simply inadequate for the task. You seem to believe that the human mind is capable of comprehending the universe if only the universe was comprehendible. Instead, your conclusion is that the universe if made up of blind chancistic events and “blind chancistic events cannot be figured out.” In other words, it’s the nature of the universe, not the nature of human reason, that makes the universe incomprehensible.
You give lip service to Kant but have overlooked what he was saying: the mind has limits to what it can do.
You go on to say in the chapter that the universe is ambiguous and absurd. Did you read my post “The Starting Point of All Inquiry is the Human Condition”? In that post I acknowledge that my initial existence and the world are ambiguous, meaningless and absurd. Yes, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it has to stay unless something from outside the system inserts itself into the universe to give it meaning. (Godel’s incompleteness theorem has demonstrated that no system can be proven from within itself – so it’s no surprise that the universe is absurd if you’re looking only within the universe for meaning – it must have information from the outside to prove itself). So the question is, have I received any information from outside the system?
And the faith you leap to is way beyond what you're entitled to from the mere admission there is no ultimate grounding or foundation to reason.
It’s not a leap, and you’re not justified in calling it a leap. Just because reason isn’t grounded doesn’t mean my faith isn’t. My faith is grounded in the only firm reality there is, my being. As I described above, my self is the only firm ground there is.

the only thing I can think of is that you are indeed brainwashed.
I’m curious. Who do you know of that thinks like this that could brainwash me so? Do I sound like the average Christian that comes to this site?
Lee,
What they really mean is "There are limits to reason therefore talking snakes, talking donkeys, the big animal boat ride and Jesus Christ's magical undeadening are all true".
So who’s doing the leaping here? You automatically put me in the same boat with other the Bible literalists when I have said repeatedly on this very website that a) the Bible is not the source of Christianity and b) the Bible is mythological. Understand what I’m saying before you try to put words in my mouth and say “what I really mean.”

To socraticmammal:
To be of any subjective value, at some point an objective pragmatic approach has to be taken..
No, it doesn’t. That’s just showing your rational empiricist bias. Learn about existentialism and phenomenology.
The basis for the reasoning behind not sticking my hand in a hungry lion’s cage does not require absolute grounding for me to recognize it as something I shouldn’t do.
Sticking one’s hand in a lion’s cage is an objective act. I have no qualms with saying that reason works well enough in the objective realm, since it was evolved to do so. What it has no business trying to do is what it can’t do and that is understand the metaphysical.
The point you failed to address however is why your own conception of the metaphysical should be preferred over that of any other?
I have explained above why the subjective holds ontological primacy over the objective. Go to my website and read my “response to loftus” section, especially the posts on the subjective. The concise answer to your question is that I don’t need reason to get to the metaphysical when I have an immediate, unfiltered subjective encounter with Christ.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff Carter, thanks for your explanation. It's irrational faith that you have. You have it because of when and where you were born. It's existentialism you love. If you were the thinker you are now you'd be a voodoo existentialist, or a Hindu existentialist, or a Mormon existentialist, if born elsewhere. You don't see this. You cannot see. Hell, as an existentialist you could just as well believe in the Egyptian god Hathor, and be a Hathorian existentialist. You don't have a reason to believe. As an existentialist neither did I, which was the point.

Furthermore, I see no good reason for why you even engage us here at DC unless it's merely to help yourself with your own faith. Why bother to reason with us if you think reason is helpless to help us? And if you succeed in showing us that reason is helpless (which you won't do unless you can explain why you hold to a double standard; one for how to live your life and the other for religious faith) then, hey, we could each go our own way at that point and choose to believe in a myriad of different gods and life-forces rather than in your existential Christianity.

The fact that you do not see this point amazes me, even if I was briefly there myself.

Cheers.

Hesiodos said...

"this existential happening would be a complete and utter withdrawal of God’s voice, presence and spirit from me, a withdrawal of the meaning of my life."

Interesting, as it was a variant of this sort of thing which assisted my loss of faith. God appears completely hidden, both in the world without and that within. How can such hiddenness be consonant with the nature of God? His goodness, power, etc must mean something entirely different than that meant by us humans, in which case the words mean nothing. The better answer is that the heavens and the earth and the human heart declare the absence of God, the non-existence of God.

Toby said...

Natural explanations are infinitely more probable than supernatural explanations. Consider this example:

Can David Blaine float?

Using this example nearly all theists reject Blaine's ability to perform a supernatural act?

When are supernatural explanations more probable than natural explanations?

Can you show me where and how I can observe a supernatural process?

Actually, if you can answer my last question I will drop my position as an atheist immediately.

ahswan said...

Toby, check out "Probability's Nature and Nature's Probability: A Call to Scientific Integrity" by Donald Johnson.

John, I think this is the most telling exchange (between you and Jeff C) that I've seen. I think you've shot yourself in the foot, and perhaps you even realize it.

John W. Loftus said...

ahswan, only you and Jeff would believe that, but then with you two who needs any evidence, right? All you need is a reason to not trust reason, don't you? And while that itself is paradoxical, based upon this you can feel free to claim, well, anything you were raised to believe. Do you understand what you're doing here? It's as clear as day to me.

You're both deluded.

John W. Loftus said...

ahswan, furthermore, if you think I somehow, well, whatever, then you do not understand the second to last chapter in my book.

Lee said...

Jeff, I apologize for my mistake. I is difficult keeping up with Christianities. At the very least what I said applies to your belief in Jesus as risen saviour and in the gospel accounts as true.

Like liberal apologist Metacrock, you seem ok with chalking any and everything in the Bible BUT the Jesus stuff as "myth". Of course once you acknowledge that the Gosepsl were myth you really don't have any Christianity left to speak of so I understand your quandry and subsequent position even if I do find such theolgical gymanstics pretty lame.

guitarstrummr said...

The farther I get from the faith the weirder and weirder it becomes.

Just watching this exchange between Joe, ahswan and John has helped me to clearly see that the Christianity these two men believe is so far-fetched compared to anything I ever read in the Bible that the two are basically mutually exclusive. One cannot be a Christian like Joe and still be in the same religion as the apostle Paul - except a claim to believe that an itinerant preacher rose from the dead.

Hell, why believe that? Oh, because its reasonable - or as Joe likes to say, its "justifiable". So he uses reason itself to justify his beliefs.

Then whenever reason begins to touch that faith he has already ascribed to, he throws out reason itself.

What a clever magicians trick.

All this philosophical rambling about existentialism seems utterly pointless to a person who literally believes that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Either his body did or it did not. If it did, then Jesus is in personal interaction with the entire universe today. If he is, then why the need for someone like Joe to "justify" their beliefs - as if there were no divine interaction to appeal to?

It all seems so clear now. They are deluded. They have willfully trapped themselves in a philosophical system that allows them to view the world through a conscious faith experience they enjoy and because they do not allow any external "hooks" by which to change their own minds, they are hopelessly and utterly trapped.

I'm so glad I got out when I did.

Lee said...

Interesting post guitarstrummer and I agree.

Furthermore, if Jesus was God of the entire Universe and perhaps even the mutliverse, what kind of huge sacrifice was it to come down for 30 or so years knowing that he could not possibly lose in his mission and that after he died he would resume his seat as king pin ruler over all of existance? Its all seems a cherade in that context. Not only that, given his infinite lifespan then his 30 years of suffering are mathmatically insignificant. Anyone with a finite lifespan who has ever suffered has then suffered more and any man with a finite lifespan who has sacrificed himself to others without the ultimate comfort of knowing he was God and could not possibly fail has then taken a more impressive risk!

To combat this you have Christians posit all sorts of weird things such as Jesus the son magically forgetting some of his "Godness", if you will while on Earth.

It is all just so bizaar.

Jeff Carter said...

The following comments are meant to be seen in the light of this thread, which is essentially about the impact that social and cultural bias has on our beliefs.

It's irrational faith that you have.

Yes, in the sense that an existentialist places a higher value on certain elements of man – his will, his decisions, his creativity – than he does on reason. William Barrett’s classic treatment of existentialism is indeed titled, “Irrational Man.” But the term “irrational” is now indicative of the bias toward rational atheism that enthralls our society. Its definition has now evolved to the pejorative, signaling that one is bordering on insanity. In the same way, the term “subjective” has been twisted by the rationalist to now mean “arbitrary and without consistency” when I mean the term to refer to the firm ground of my inner being.

You have it because of when and where you were born.

So you honestly believe I’m an existentialist because I was born in the late fifties Bible Belt South?

If you were the thinker you are now you'd be a voodoo existentialist, or a Hindu existentialist, or a Mormon existentialist, if born elsewhere. You don't see this. You cannot see.

A better case can be made for your rational atheism. It is not a coincidence that at the same time you embrace rational atheism, it is the pervading philosophy of the Anglo-American intellectual, which cannot be said of existentialism in the South or elsewhere in America. If I am merely a product of my environment, then your atheism is surely a product of yours, and that makes you as blind as I.

However, my life indicates otherwise. In my life I have been both an atheist – rejecting the religion of my parents – (and speaking of cultural bias, Simone de Beauvoir wrote an essay several years back describing how atheism can clear the cultural palette of bias) and a Baha’i, which asserts that all major religions are true – before making my radical decision for Christ. I can thus say that I have not only considered the major theological positions, I have also lived them. My decisions were thus consciously determined. Not everyone can be lumped into your box of bias, however much you wish to do so.

Hell, as an existentialist you could just as well believe in the Egyptian god Hathor, and be a Hathorian existentialist. You don't have a reason to believe. As an existentialist neither did I, which was the point.

Your term “reason” can be misleading here. It’s not a reference to logic but basis. You are misunderstanding existentialism if you think it’s just arbitrarily making a choice just for the hell of making a choice, without basis. First and foremost existentialism asserts the responsibility of the chooser in making the decision and that meaning, not reason, should be the primary criteria of choice. In the sense that decisions are based on meaning, but not logic, the chooser does indeed have a basis or “reason” for his decision.

Neither Kierkegaard, Nietzche or Sartre advocate making decisions on arbitrary whims or randomness, and neither do I. The basis for my decision is experience, however, not reason – a subjective encounter with Christ. My decision is not without basis or “reason.” In fact, my decision is based on firmer ground that someone who makes a decision based on rational objectivism, since my inner being ontologically precedes the world.

Furthermore, I see no good reason for why you even engage us here at DC unless it's merely to help yourself with your own faith. Why bother to reason with us if you think reason is helpless to help us?

I engage you because I believe that both parties have a sincere desire to know the truth. I try to point out where your arguments can be improved upon. I expect you to do the same with my arguments.

Case in point: I disagree with you that the starting point of inquiry is the world. You would have a much stronger case, in my opinion, if you started with your own existence. To say, “I know the world exists” is to leap from yourself to the world and is no better than a religious leap. You cannot prove that the world exists, therefore you have faith that the world exists. The foundation of both the rational atheist and the religious person is faith. The irony is that existentialism is more rationally tenable than rationalism. Another way of saying this is that if you really want to be rational, you should be an existentialist.

Another case in point: We agree that the existence of the universe is meaningless, absurd and ambiguous. It is impossible to move from such an absurd world to rational morality. You are on much firmer ground to accept the Nietzchean and Sartrean model: We make our own values and morality. That means all that stuff about animal suffering should go out the window.

Furthermore, I have never declared that reason was totally useless. It does have the power to speak to its own limitations and I have repeatedly said it works well in the objective realm – just not in the metaphysical or ethical.

Finally, are you saying that a rational empiricist can have no dialogue at all with an existentialist? That an Anglo-American philosopher cannot speak with a continental philosopher? For, at the heart, our disagreement is not about theism vs. Christianity, it is the conflict of the rationalist vs. the existentialist. What they discuss is whether the Self or the universe should be viewed as the “brute fact,” because that - and what follows from the brute fact - is the heart of their disagreement.

And if you succeed in showing us that reason is helpless (which you won't do unless you can explain why you hold to a double standard; one for how to live your life and the other for religious faith)

I think I have already explained that I use meaning and decision for the subjective realm; faith to bridge the self with the world; and reason to operate in the objective. There is no double standard, just a matter of using the right tool for the job.

then, hey, we could each go our own way at that point and choose to believe in a myriad of different gods and life-forces rather than in your existential Christianity. The fact that you do not see this point amazes me, even if I was briefly there myself.

What amazes me is that you think there is something wrong with this. In an ambiguous world we make our own values. Your inconsistency is that you expect to find a rational criteria for deciding between different gods in an ambiguous world. Short of an actual encounter with that god, there is no criteria. It’s an ambiguous world, after all.

To Hesiodos:
How can such hiddenness be consonant with the nature of God?

How can it be consonant with the nature of a woman that she will play hard to get?

To Toby:
Natural explanations are infinitely more probable than supernatural explanations….

….in the objective world.

Can you show me where and how I can observe a supernatural process?

In the subjective. Read what Heidegger and Sartre say about authentic existence.

ahswan said...

"If we evolved then there would be no ultimate grounding to reason."

John, based on this statement, it would seem that you and Jeff both agree that reason, on its own, lacks foundation, a point which Jeff also made.

I don't think it follows that we are Christians or you are an atheist because of where we were born. I do think it can be shown that you are a moderate rationalist because of where you were born.

I've been trying to apply an "outsider test" to this American modernism for a few years. It's difficult, as even that is subject to our modernism. However, as I've said before, I don't think you have gone deep enough in applying your outsider test; it's not sufficient to merely question religion.

Hesiodos said...

"How can it be consonant with the nature of a woman that she will play hard to get?"

Well hopefully even the hard to get woman would be visible, interact, and not just something other people talked and wrote about. Also, women are not omnipotent, all loving, all merciful, etc (although don't tell them I said that), and so I expect a different type of behavior from God, who created me to love and know him forever. Also, a more apropos analogy for the Christian God would be to have a man be playing hard to get- something that we don't commonly observe. In my opinion, God is a crappy lover. But more likely, it was unreasonable on my part to expect so much from an imaginary entity.

guitarstrummr said...

"If we evolved then there would be no ultimate grounding to reason."

Ok, I have to admit this does not make any sense at all. Period.

Lets posit that there is a sense of consistency in the universe and that evolutionary beings are composed of molecules and atoms that follow these same consistent patterns.

Those creatures who evolve with reasoning abilities in tune with the consistency of the universe would be most likely to survive.

Based on this, our reasoning ability can be trusted as long as it is as consistent as the universe that produced it.

So although our reason can never be trusted any more than the consistency we observe in the universe, we can trust our reason as long as its product is as consistent as that which we observe in the universe.

Reason is the harmonization of our minds with the universe (reality). Therefore, the more we learn and the more we observe the universe the greater we can trust our reason.

As I trust the universe, so I trust the reasoning invented by men to match that which is observed in the universe.

I think its just stupid to posit that reason cannot be trusted - and to explain it by a huge reason-based argument.

If a person can explain that reason cannot be trusted without using reason itself, I'll concede :) For if you must use reason to defend your view that reason cannot be trusted - you've got a problem.

The ultimate grounding for reason is the universe as observed over time.

At least that's what I think!

ahswan said...

guitarstrummr, you said, "we can trust our reason as long as its product is as consistent as that which we observe in the universe."

However, how are we to know if our observation is correct? Perhaps we are all raving lunatics, and our observations are nothing more than psychotic visions. (I realize I am leaving myself open to insult here, but so be it.)

guitarstrummr said...

"However, how are we to know if our observation is correct? Perhaps we are all raving lunatics, and our observations are nothing more than psychotic visions. (I realize I am leaving myself open to insult here, but so be it.)"

I'm not going to insult you :)

But think about it, inserting "God" into the equation to give us a reason to trust our reason is more foolish than just trusting our senses to guide us.

Saying "oh we can't trust our reason" is one thing, saying "oh we can't trust our reason unless it comes from God, therefore *poof* - God exists" is quite another.

If we cannot trust our senses, then we cannot trust any reasoning. So why trust any theism then?

We must start with the assumption our senses and reason are guiding us accurately - regardless of their source.

From there we can use them to guide us in determining what is true about the universe - including whether a religion is false or not.

If our senses and reason give us good reason to conclude that a deity does not exist, then so be it.

The only thing that holds most Christians back is that they believe our reason comes from God - so they believe that to remove God is to remove our ability to reason.

But how silly! Our reason only works when applied to things internal to the universe, because we know of nothing else. All we know is "internal" to the universe, and therefore all our reason only works when applied internal to the universe.

So the idea of even thinking about a God who is transcendent to the universe is basically absurd. For any though we could have about this deity would be subjecting it to the universe which it created.

So no matter what, you end up back at square one: our reason comes from our interaction with this universe. Therefore our reason can only be properly applied - and trusted - to determine truth internal to this universe.

Philip R Kreyche said...

Perhaps we are all raving lunatics, and our observations are nothing more than psychotic visions.

How would you prove that they were/weren't? How would you be able to differentiate between our perception and "true"/non-psychotic perception?

And in any case, even if do all happen (incredibly) to be psychotics suffering from visions, what can be said is that our visions are coherent, things can be predicted, cause-and-effect rules, and we can be successful in these "visions." In this way, I can't see how our delusions would meaningfully, be any different from how the universe is correctly perceived.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff and ahswan, your irrationality reminds me of a song in the “Sound of Music” about Maria, only I think it refers to your faith:

All: How do you solve a problem like Maria
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down
How do you find the word that means Maria
Catherine: A flibbertigibbet
Margaretta & Sophia: A willow the wisp
Berthe: A clown
All: Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
R. Mother: But how do you make her stay
Berthe: And listen to all you say
Margaretta: How do you keep a wave upon the sand
All: Oh how do you solve a problem like Maria…
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand

Gandolf said...

John Loftus said :"Why bother to reason with us if you think reason is helpless to help us?"

"The fact that you do not see this point amazes me, even if I was briefly there myself."

Yeah John i understand what you are saying,its a real head ache isnt it.On one hand this cookie Jeff reasons hard out about mans ability to reason etc,while on the other hand he has firm belief in God which is why he even bothers to visit DC :).

Talk about double dutch and the mans so lost if you suggest this (rather simple double standard) he just calls it a non argument.

He`s either quite mad or he doesnt actually believe that man cannot reason,other wise if he actually doubts mans ability to reason why then would he bother to discuss anything.Our reasoning might just be wrong mightn't it :)

Ahhh the world according to Jeff

Paddy: I tink i might be a little hungry Jeff!

Jeff: But what if our reasoning`s wrong Paddy, what do you base your thought of being hungry on?.

Paddy: Well ya see Jeff me tummy`s rumbling it tis.

Jeff:But Paddy how do you know that your reasonings actually right and that your tummy`s actually rumbling,what do you base this reasoning on?? :)

(While discussing such deep matters Jeff leads Paddy into walking into a concrete block wall.)

Paddy: Oh dear me Jeff! me tinks you and i just walked into a concrete wall we did.

Jeff:Oh no but Paddy what is your reasoning for this thought, how can you know you actually bumped into any wall??.What do you base this reasoning on?

Paddy:Oh well Jeff you see its because i can see the bloody ting wif me on two eyes i can ,and also see on account of this bloody great bump i haf here on me head!.

Jeff:But what do you base your reasoning on Paddy how do you know our reasoning evolved right for us humans.What if the walls not actually a wall and your heads not actually a head at all and that bump might not be a bump at all you see etc etc etc

:) Yet the same man happens to be reasoning about reasoning the whole time he is questioning it as well.

Whats the use of any of it Jeff if you really do (honestly wonder if humans reasoning has evolved any good at all?).You must surely think it must have developed good to some extent!!, otherwise why do you even bother saying anything at all?

I can understand those scientists or who ever they were just giving up and agreeing to agree with you.

After all whats the use?all our reasoning might not have developed/evolved any good.No use discussing anything is their then if you really think that it might honestly be the case.

Gandolf quickly writes a reminder note to himself."Beware when sailing,the world might actually still be flat and people could still might sail off it" :(

eheffa said...

Opposition to reason in Christian teaching has a long history.

"Martin Luther, that hero of anti-Church protest, was equally vitriolic about not just science but rationality. He called reason 'the devil's bride','a beautiful whore', 'God's worst enemy' and claimed that 'faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding'.

'There is' he opined, 'on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason' which 'must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed' (as quoted in David Eller's book, Atheism Advanced)

I remember as a child having to guard my thoughts from straying too far into the "what if" questions, lest my reason lead me away from the faith.

I think that it is a requirement of faith to suppress reason & rational inquiry.

-evan

Jeff Carter said...

Gandolf and Efheffa:
You are completely missing my point. Christians biased against reason aren't your problem. Rational atheists are.

The greatest and best rational atheist minds of the 20th century admit the limitations and inadequacies of reason. Don't take my word for it. Here they are, so you can check out what these "brights" - RATIONAL ATHEISTS - say, for yourself:

G.E. Moore - (held the Cambridge chair of mental philosophy and logic from 1925 to 1939)

Bertrand Russell (graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge; co-author of Principia Mathematica and "Why I Am Not a Christian")

Rudolph Carnap (a professor at the University of Vienna)

Otto Neurath - (coined the phrase and wrote the book on Physicalism)

Moritz Schlick (professor in the philosophy of inductive sciences at the University of Vienna)

Other notable atheists - including Nietzche and Sartre - agree with me that rationality can not provide a basis for morality.

My main source of information has been atheists, not Christians.

I have done everything that can reasonably be expected of a rationalist. I have examined the evidence - the very best that philosophy has to offer on reason - and followed where the evidence led.

I continue to be completely open minded about this. You point me to who has refuted these great minds and I will examine their work.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff, what about me? I agree and then I disagree with you. In that sense I am different than other rationalistic atheists. I maintain yu cannot drive a truckload of assumptions through a mere possibility.

Jeff Carter said...

John,
I posted my response under the thread you referenced.