I was emailed the following question and I responded to it. See what you think:
I just read your book and, like others, really think your "Outsider Test Of Faith" is one of the best recent contributions to the literature. The best thing about it is that it is non-coercive and honest. As such, it is a challenge that is far less threatening than perhaps might be posed by other atheists/agnostics/skeptics. I have one quick question:I responded as follows:
To me, the OTF makes perfect sense. I don't really see how one cannot deny the validity without blatantly exposing their own bias. But as you know, religious believers are dealing with an entirely different set of biases, issues, and concerns. Have you had much success in getting them to at least consider it? If so, what approach have you seen as most fruitful? In other words, how the heck do you get through to people that it matters? :)
Here is an example. I have a friend that is Mormon. We had a chance to discuss her faith and she said that, given a hypothetical choice between knowing that Joseph Smith lied about the divine origin of the Book of Mormon or just living on as she is, she would rather live on. She said she just had too much comfort. Of course, she backtracked by saying she already knew it was true anyways. But what is the best way to show someone like this that there is more at stake than just comfort? It's quite interesting because in this specific case (and with many other intelligent Mormons I know) there is an amazing display of compartmentalizing going on. But when it comes to their religious beliefs the mind turns off.
I have always felt that the skeptic is at a disadvantage in these discussions because, to the believer, they seem to be offering nothing but the loss of their dear, comforting, beliefs. How would you go about presenting the case so that it is more clear what is at stake, what they have to gain (or what they have to lose by devoting their life to a lie)? I have always felt that getting a person to honestly and critically examine their beliefs is THE key. Once they are ready to be honest and objective the rest of the arguments can't really be stopped. But bridging that gap can be tough.
Thanks for writing. In my opinion it is extremely difficult to argue Christians out of their faith because they were not argued into it in the first place. We swim in a Christian culture. And as you say, we have nothing to offer believers when compared to the hope for God's help and heaven in the afterlife.
That's why I wrote my book. It takes a cumulative case like I offer in it to make them see that they are wrong. If you cannot get them to read it then all you have is an argument here or there, and they can usually escape the force of any one argument by punting to other background factors not on the chopping block at the moment. We either present a whole cumulative case or it will be extremely difficult. It's even difficult when we do that, like I did in my book. We must provoke enough doubt that a Christian will want to read a skeptical book like mine. So the goal would be to do that, I think. Make enough headway such that they will want to read it. That's a big enough chore in and of itself! But again it is very difficult to argue Christians out of their faith because they were not argued into it in the first place.
In my next book there are four chapters that hammer home the OTF. Don't miss it. All you can do is argue for it.
Since you mentioned a Mormon see this post of mine. I used this post in my next book.