Rev. Philip Brown's Criticisms of the Outsider Test for Faith

Anybody want to help me out with this one? I can't always respond. Does anyone, and I mean anyone, think his criticisms are on target and applicable?

He writes:
Mr. Loftus does not even tackle the Bibles very prediction of this phenomenon in Romans 10:14-17. The apostle Paul states that faith comes from hearing, and hearing from preaching. Consequently one would suspect little Christian faith in a country where it is illegal to preach Christianity. Such is what we find at the moment giving rise to geographically placed Christianity specifically.
Mr. Loftus argues from the general to the particular. However there is no discussion about comparative religion and cultural heritage....For Mr Loftus’ argument to carry the weight he will need to define what one considers as part of the culture and what ones considers as a legitimate religion. Of course this will only weaken Mr Loftus’ case as it will become evidently clear that many of the examples given under the guise or religion are actually just cultural throw backs to antiquity,
if Mr Loftus wants the Christian to take ‘The Outside Test of Faith’ then surely he must ask the Christian to take the 'Insider Test of Atheism', or ITA. Meaning, showing why atheism makes sense and why people should not adopt skepticism towards atheism as appose to Christianity. Such a test would include proving miracles do not exists, beyond a shadow of a doubt; a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe, and the undeniable reasons why all religions (not just Christianity) should be disregarded. Indeed ITA would prove rather interesting placed alongside OTF, something Mr. Loftus fails to do in his book and on his blog.
An edited version of the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) can be found here, and my additional defense of it can be found here.

33 comments:

Dane Eidson said...

John,
Do you think he is skipping over what is probable and sticking with what is possible? An example is what you ask in your book. Borrying from your argument:
A person is rqaised up in the dominant religion of his region.
He dares to question his religion's faith statements for evidence.
He over a course of time learns what is probable always leads to the evidence and what it shows.
You can find folks like us is all cultures no matter the religion that is dominant.
If your critic were honest he would concluse his insider atheist test is assuming we atheists think like the special appeals crowd to what is possible insterad of probable.
I bet ya he would not run his business of the "what is possible" question would he?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

What Brown is missing is that the Outsider Test for Faith doesn't necessarily lead to atheism, it can lead to religious pluralism too.

Also, he assumes all atheists are making an argument for atheism when many of us are not so why would we feel compelled to take his ITA?

George Hasara said...

Brown's assertion that Christianity's acceptance is correlated to the opportunity to "hear" the message is absurd. Mormons account for about 2 percent of the US population, yet, in Utah the percentage is about 60 percent. Is the "true" gospel being suppressed in the Beehive State or are most people simply following a belief system that is culturally ingrained?

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

HI Mike aka Monolith TMA,

You said,

What Brown is missing is that the Outsider Test for Faith doesn't necessarily lead to atheism, it can lead to religious pluralism too.

My Reply,

Sorry, I don't think so. I am writing specifically towards Mr. Loftus and his claims found within his book.

You said,

Also, he assumes all atheists are making an argument for atheism when many of us are not so why would we feel compelled to take his ITA?

My Reply,

Again this is directed at Mr. Loftus, not all atheists.

Regards, Rev. Phil.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi George,

Thanks for the point.

I have a problem with your example. Do Mormons asserts the same religion as Christianity? If so then you make a point, otherwise I think this is superfluous and not really making a point.

Regards, Rev. Phil.

John W. Loftus said...

As I said Rev. Philip, your criticisms are way off the mark, all of them.

Cheers.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Me -- "What Brown is missing is that the Outsider Test for Faith doesn't necessarily lead to atheism, it can lead to religious pluralism too."


Rev. Brown -- "Sorry, I don't think so. I am writing specifically towards Mr. Loftus and his claims found within his book."

Your target audience matters not. Are you saying that the OTF's only 2 conclusions are Christianity and atheism? Please explain to me how religious pluralism is not a possible conclusion as well.

Me -- "Also, he assumes all atheists are making an argument for atheism when many of us are not so why would we feel compelled to take his ITA?"


Rev. Brown -- "Again this is directed at Mr. Loftus, not all atheists."

Ok, why should John feel compelled to ask us to take your ITA?

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi John,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog. I'm sorry you find my criticism of your OTF off the mark. Perhaps you could show me where it is off the mark? Or is there any criticism that is on the mark? It is rather unhelpful in dialogue to say 'off the mark' and give no reason why. But I understand you are very busy. I do not wish you to feel like you are wasting your time where it is not need but since you can say something perhaps you can say more.

Cheers, Rev. Phil.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi Mike,

You said,

Your target audience matters not. Are you saying that the OTF's only 2 conclusions are Christianity and atheism? Please explain to me how religious pluralism is not a possible conclusion as well.

My Reply,

No I not, I'm just responding from the Christian perspective. If one is skeptic of one religion based on cultural factors then the logical progression, from a denial of theism perspective, (which is where OTF comes from and which I address in my blog, [have you read the entire blog?]) is a denial of all religions. A pluralistic religion framework would leave no room for the atheist, which is where the OTF originated from.

You said,

Ok, why should John feel compelled to ask us to take your ITA?

My Reply,

Yes I think so. If John wants skepticism directed at religion based upon the observation that culture tends to breed specific religions, then we must turn the same test in reverse, otherwise the argument is simply a straw-man rhetoric exercise. But I fear John thinks this criticism is 'way off.' I fear I may be too small a fish to fry.

Regards, Rev. Phil.

John W. Loftus said...

Rev. Philip, I understand and I'm a bit sorry about that. Others can chime in.

I quoted three paragraphs from what you wrote.

par 1 is trivial and does not explain religious diversity. Such an excuse would fail the outsider test itself, for other believers could use that same explanation for why their faith is not represented in other parts of the globe too. And Christianity did have it's multiple century long Inquisition, remember?

par 2 is a bit incoherent, I think, but it shows you do not actually understand the OTF, regardless of whether or not I write about comparative religion and cultural heritage. If anything, the progress of history is causing religions to merge into the least common denominator. When and if that happens, if it does at all, there will only be one religion, and while it's true that there will no longer be such a things as the OTF, your particular faith will be dead.

par 3 has nothing to do with the test at all. Whether I take your so-called ITA or not doesn't say anything at all about the OTF.

There's more I could say, especially if you clarify par 2, but as you can see there's no need for me to do so.

Cheers.

Hail Crom said...

Rev Phil,

It seems to me you are engaging in cognitive dissonance reduction. No reasonable person would disagree with the idea that a person should objetively consider the evidence for the claims made about their religion, especially a religion that declares that all other religions, miracle claims, and holy books are false.

Christianity claims their scriptures contain the word of god

Christianity claims that a person that lived 2000 could perform miracles and was raised from the dead

Most importantly Christianity claims they have evidence for these beliefs and that this evidence makes their claims more probable and the best explanation for their claims

Christianity asks/demands people to submit to this lord who makes demands on how they speak, how they think, who they marry, who they are friends with, how they dress, etc

Thus no reasonable person would submit every aspect of their life to something before objectively considering whether it can verified, or even if it is probable, especially in light of the christian claims of having evidence and being probable.

All this arguing about the OTF shows the fear and insecurity christians have about their religion.

openlyatheist said...

You've created a new trend, John Loftus, and I hope you're not surprised at the new species of denials that will now evolve.

Some will say the OTF is faulty, others say their faith easily passes it. I can't say I take any of them seriously yet.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Rev. Brown -- "If John wants skepticism directed at religion based upon the observation that culture tends to breed specific religions, then we must turn the same test in reverse, otherwise the argument is simply a straw-man rhetoric exercise."

I re-read the OTF this morning and John addresses this very issue within it.

Russ said...

Over at Atheism: Proving the Negative, blogger Matt McCormick, in the post titled, "I was raised religious, . . . .," urges the OTF approach, without actually using the phrase.(http://atheismblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/i-was-raised-religious.html)

In part he says,

a person will be respected more if you take the belief seriously and try to understand why it is true (or false) or reasonable (or unreasonable), and not be satisfied merely with "I was just raised that way. . . ." We shouldn't let that go in ourselves or in others. These matters are too important.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks openlyatheist, I agree. It's interesting, very interesting, to see believers turn every which way but loose. :-)

John W. Loftus said...

Russ, did you know Dr. Matt McCormick has been using my book this semester in his class on atheism? It's no surprise he teaches about the OTF. He helped me a bit with the version I read for the EPS recently too!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

I know it's not election year but I vote for the ITA also... good one Rev. Brown.

They act as if Christian are stumped by these introductry questions...Pleazzze

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi John,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I see your points now.

You said,

par 1 is trivial and does not explain religious diversity. Such an excuse would fail the outsider test itself, for other believers could use that same explanation for why their faith is not represented in other parts of the globe too. And Christianity did have it's multiple century long Inquisition, remember?

My Reply,

I think there is some ambiguity in how you have presented you OTF in you book. I read you defence of it again stated and there does seem to be a difference. In your book it appears you are not asking about religious diversity but rather religious adherence. My First paragraph demonstrated that as a Christian one would expect no Christian adoption unless it was preached.

So whether religious diversity or atheism is predicted by Christianity in places where it is not preached, this explains in part religious diversity from a Christian perspective.

Furthermore, you asked in your book for the 'christian' to explain the rule, [religious diversity or religious geographical adherence] as clearly there were exceptions to the rule, Muslims who are taught to hate Jesus having visions of him, Buddhists who are taught that hope is not worthwhile finding hope in Jesus...etc.

My point was about religious geographical adherence, which Christianity predicted and therefore this really showed that it was not an outside test of faith. To explain religious diversity perhaps I will post another blog.

You said,

par 2 is a bit incoherent, I think, but it shows you do not actually understand the OTF, regardless of whether or not I write about comparative religion and cultural heritage. If anything, the progress of history is causing religions to merge into the least common denominator. When and if that happens, if it does at all, there will only be one religion, and while it's true that there will no longer be such a things as the OTF, your particular faith will be dead.

My Reply,

Sorry you found it incoherent. I will endeavor to do better. ;-)

John I think this is a little naive. I live in Australia and my particular brand of Christianity is on the rise nationally, and internationally but not in America. You lessons from history do not seem applicable to me in my context though globally they might be correct. What I find interesting is how do you make such assertions? This was the point in my second paragraph. You make global statements and now historic ones but do not give data to support your claim or evidence that you even have data, in your book or here.

You said,

par 3 has nothing to do with the test at all. Whether I take your so-called ITA or not doesn't say anything at all about the OTF.

My Reply,

Correct, I agree, this was rather to show something about the arguments style of the book and you claim to 'become an Atheist.' To argue that the OTF is a big part is one-sided unless you and others take the ITA.

Thanks, John. It seems you have been arguing from cross purposes. I will attempt (time willing) to post the OTF on religious diversity as oppose to religious adherence.

Regards, Rev. Phil.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi Hail,

Thanks for the comment. I agree wholeheartedly with you most emphatically.

You said,

No reasonable person would disagree with the idea that a person should objetively consider the evidence for the claims made about their religion, especially a religion that declares that all other religions, miracle claims, and holy books are false.

My Reply,

And I'm not asking them to. I agree.

I'm seeking however for the best test to decipher these things you point out? I am not convinced the OTF in its present form and in isolation is the correct one.

;-)

Regards, Rev. Phil.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hey Harvey,

Long time no hear good to see you still at it.

I think the ITA should be worked up fully also the more I think about it the more I like it. Your confidence gives me motivation.

Rev, P.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi Mike,

You said,

I re-read the OTF this morning and John addresses this very issue within it.

My Reply,

Where?

Regards, Rev. Phil.

brad said...

excuse me; where is there a "prediction" here?

Romans

{10:14} How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher? {10:15} And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! {10:16} But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? {10:17} So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi Brad,

If you cannot come to faith without hearing then countries that do not have preachers will not eb Christian?

Was that so Hard?

Regards, Rev. P.

Steven said...

Rev. Phil,

Regarding the ITA:

As I just wrote in a different thread. The question of the current state of the universe and how and why it came to be the way it is, is irrelevant to the question of the existence of gods.

Proving that miracles can't happen, "beyond a shadow of doubt" or any of the other "tests" you propose, would not be evidence against the existence of any god. It *might* be evidence against the idea that god interferes in the affairs of the universe, but that's about it. All you're really doing is just trying to ply the god of the gaps argument here.

I don't need to know every piece of minutia about the origin of the universe to know that I am a thinking, feeling, and reasonable person, and that I can draw conclusions that are good enough to be useful (even if they aren't beyond a shadow of doubt). And on that basis, the burden of proof is on you to bring forth evidence for your god. The ITA isn't really a test of anything other than to show how gullible one might be in believing in things that have no reliable evidence to support them.

Brad Haggard said...

openlyatheist: "I can't take any of them serious yet."

I know, I haven't been serious about anything for the last 26 years.

Jeff said...

Rev. Phil,

I leave the critiques of your other paragraphs to others, but if I remember correctly, John does essentially mention in his book why the "Insider Test for Atheism" is not necessary. He portrays atheism as sort of a "last step" if you will, after you've crossed out every other option. Certainly I don't think anyone would disagree that we should always be aware and skeptical of our own beliefs, but considering John's "beliefs" entail skepticism, are you saying he should be skeptical of his skepticism?

Certainly if atheism is incoherent or internally inconsistent then atheists have some thinking to do. But considering atheism in large part is similar to naturalism, if something is incoherent or inconsistent, then something is obviously fundamentally wrong with the universe itself - all of humanity has some serious thinking to do...

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Rev. Brown -- "Where?"

Here: The Outsider Test for Faith

Objections 4 and 6.

___________________________ said...

Well, first, the ITA seems ridiculous. The only way for the ITA to exist is if there are no such things as intelligent atheists, but once there are, the position can be relatively fleshed out, some criticisms overlooked, others rebutted. I think that intelligent atheists have generally done this to their satisfaction. Perhaps an OTA would be better though.

Secondly, your criticism based upon a lack of hearing seems questionable because atheism grew faster than Christianity.
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=95
(near the bottom) This leads to question about the validity of your theological argument.

In any case, using Romans 10:14-17 does not undermine the OTF so much as it undermines a basis for using an OTF.

As for the cultural issues, well, the OTF acts without regard to that, as the OTF is meant to evaluate positions with truth-claims. Essentially *any* position. What it is testing for is self-reinforcing positions, where the original acceptance is unjustified. As such, this excludes almost anything purely cultural, but can even extend to other philosophical views. One could even argue an OT for atheism, but people here don't think that would be effective.

Toby said...

The ITA in it's current form is lacking.

Statement 1: "miracles do not exists"

Atheism doesn't have to posit this. It can merely hypothesize that there currently is no proof that miracles happen or have ever happened. The laws of physics would strongly support my claim.

Statement 2: "[provide] a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe"

Atheism's primary assumption is that there is no god and that we shouldn't make up crap for stuff we know nothing about. We don't know where matter/energy came from. Making up crap about some supernatural being and saying he made it is not superior to saying, "I don't know how it happened."

Statement 3: "and the undeniable reasons why all religions (not just Christianity) should be disregarded."

I think this statement actually supports the OTF. Here is the one undeniable reason why all religions should be disregarded: "No one knows a single thing about god." We don't know if god exists, if god is material or purely spiritual (BS), if he created the uni/multiverse (maybe a creation of his created it?)... To say you know a single damn thing about god is completely unprovable. There is no objective evidence that undeniably proves god or even suggests that "god" is a reasonably hypothesis for anything.

Jack said...

A large part of the miscommunication that's happening between John and Rev. Phil (and between theists and atheists more generally) is a common misunderstanding of logic.

Say Person A makes a claim P and a progession of arguments S = {s1, s2, ..., si, ... sn} leading to a conclusion C.

Person B comes along and notices that some si is a fallacy. Person B concludes that C is an invalid conclusion.

Person A, who has invested quite a bit of his ego in his argument, accuses Person B of stating that C is actually false. This is a mistake. (Of course, if Person B actually does think that C is false at this point, they are making a mistake.) All Person B can say at this point is that this line of reasoning from P through S fails to establish C, NOT that C is false (that would require a completely different argument). C could still be true, but certainly not for the reasons given. Perhaps Person A just needs to patch up the fallacious si, or they could try a different progression of arguments from P, or they could try a different starting point Q, or they might give up on the project of trying to establish C altogether - it's not clear from an abstraction what the proper course of action is.

For example, when atheists say they do not believe in miracles because they are too improbable, they are not (and should not be) saying that there's no such thing as miracles, or that miracles can't happen. They should be saying that there's insufficient evidence to believe that scientifically established laws of physics/chemistry/biology/etc have been violated to such an extreme degree. The proper position here is to withhold belief pending really good evidence (much better than the mere testimony of a bunch of superstitious ancients).

On a related note, withholding belief in the Christian God does not entail a belief that none of the "miraculous" events in the Bible happened - one could maintain that some of them may be explainable by natural means or that our current understanding of science is inadequate (that is, that they weren't proper miracles). Conversly, withholding belief in the "miraculous" events in the Bible does not entail a belief that the Christian God doesn't exist - one could maintain that these events aren't really important for faith anyway (a subjective statement). What I'm getting at here is twofold: the atheist, in asserting atheism, is not committed to showing that miracles do not exist; the Christian, in asserting Christianity, is not committed to showing that miracles do exist.

feeno said...

Jack

huh?

Peace, feeno

Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi John,

By the way your have spelt my name wrong.

Cheers,,

Regards, Rev, Phillip Brown.

Jack said...

Basically what I'm getting at, and may not have done a good job of explaining, is the Fallacy of Argument from Fallacy. It's really common and easy to slip into if one isn't careful. It's the difference between withholding belief due to lack of evidence and actively disagreeing due to lack of evidence - the difference between saying "I don't believe in any god because none of the arguments I've heard in support of such belief are convincing" and saying "I believe there is no god because none of the arguments I've heard in support of such belief are convincing".

I gather from reading his book that the former is John's position, and that the latter is a mischaracterization of John's position. (Please correct me if I'm mistaken.)

Rev. Phil seems to think that John is Arguing from Fallacy when he applies the OTF to Christianity. He isn't. (Why not?) Many atheists do. Such is the nature of atheism, and any other line of reasoning arguing that we should default to skepticism.

Rev. Phil might simply be mistaken about John's position. Perhaps he came to a hasty conclusion without giving John's arguments enough thought. But it might be that Rev. Phil is intentionally twisting John's position into a nice Straw Man that he can much more easily challenge. Since we don't know what's going on in Rev. Phil's head, Hanlon's Razor guides us to assume that he's just mistaken until we have some evidence that he intends malice.

Regardless of why Rev. Phil is mistaken about John's position, it is because he is arguing against a mischaracterization that he proposes the ITA. (I'm sure he takes himself to be rather clever for inverting the language of the OTF and claiming that it should be taken just as seriously. :P) Since he's arguing against a mischaracterization of John instead of against John himself, this particular argument of his isn't worth much beyond a bit of intellectual sparring.

Of course, it would be wrong for me to conclude that the ITA is false, since I've only been talking about Rev. Phil (that would be a mere Ad Hominem). Rather, the conclusion is that it's not interesting to argue against a position that fails to meet its opponent head-on. Let Don Quixote charge at his windmills until he tires himself out.