A Brief Review Of "The Loftus Delusion" Book

I’m honored that some college professors use my book Why I Became an Atheist (WIBA) in their college classes, like Dan Lambert at John Brown University, and Richard Knopp at Lincoln Christian University, as I mentioned earlier. I’m also honored that David Reuben Stone has decided to write a book against WIBA, called The Loftus Delusion. While I do not like the title of the book, which is misleading for a few reasons, including the fact that Stone does not deal at all with my most recent book, The Christian Delusion (TCD), Stone's book is a respectfully written one. But anyone who reads Jason Long’s chapter in TCD will see quite plainly what Stone is doing. He’s doing his best to gerrymander around my arguments in typical political redistricting fashion in order to maintain his faith. It’s a wonderful case study in cognitive dissonance reduction. Let me explain by briefly commenting on his book, which he graciously sent me.

Stone considers his book “the definitive critique of the anti-Biblical atheism of John W. Loftus” (seen on the back cover of his self-published book). [And to think, people don’t like my self-promotion ;-) ] Is he right? Not even close. He asks me for a response to his critique in the interests of a “charitable dialogue” that “could benefit us both in our search for truth" (p. 162). Okay. Here goes, very briefly.

Stone begins his book with a “newly discovered mathematical proof” of a critical component of the intelligent design (ID) thesis in chapter one (which can be seen on Amazon). Don’t get me wrong here. I can do the math. It’s just that it takes time to work through it; time that I must think is worthwhile if I’m going to want to do so. It’s just that I have lots of reasons for thinking it’s not worth it, so I didn’t. This chapter is the kingpin of his whole book. It’s Stone’s natural theology. If he’s right about it then he seems to indicate the rest of his case follows. If he’s wrong then his whole case fails. It’s that simple. It’s very interesting to me that Stone says later that even “a poor design is design nonetheless.” (p. 97). I’ve never heard that before in defense of theism, have you? It’s really too bad I didn’t even bother to follow it, as I think most readers won’t. For there is nothing about the ID thesis I find compelling at all, and it does not lead reasonable thinkers to conclude anything other than that some trickster god exists. I’ve written about natural theology before.

Apart from that opener this is not a well planned out book, but I won’t belabor this point. Let me instead focus in on a couple crucial parts related to my arguments.

He criticizes my “Outsider Test for Faith” (OTF) and proposes an alternative called “Stone’s Test Of Neutral Evidence” (STONE). He criticizes the OTF for arguing on behalf of skeptical agnosticism rather than for neutral agnosticism. He thinks we should be neutral agnostics rather than skeptical agnostics. Rather than starting our examination of the evidence “from above” with the assumption of God, or in starting “from below,” with the world, STONE argues we should start “from the middle,” even though he inconsistently admits that “utterly pure and complete neutrality may be impossible to attain with respect to all belief systems.” (p. 73) Now this is all high sounding rhetoric, but rhetoric it is. It’s the democratization of extraordinary miracle claims that Bob Price criticizes so effectively in TCD. Stone, just like Boyd and Eddy in The Jesus Legend, wants us to take seriously all claims no matter how bizarre or outlandish so they can smuggle in their own extraordinary Christian miracle claims. This so-called middle position of theirs is a strange land to stand on. They never started on this piece of ground in the first place. No, they were born into a Christian culture and accepted what they were taught to believe in this culture. There is no middle position. Human beings are not Spockian type creatures. We are given our religious worldviews. They are inherited; caught, not taught. The question the OTF asks us is how can we properly test the ones we were given. Given the fact that we are born into them, and given the fact that the odds are that ours is wrong from the geographical distribution of religious faiths, we should test our handed down faith with skepticism.

If Stone wants to argue we should test all faiths neutrally then this does not lead to faith anyway; it leads to agnosticism, what I call the default position. If someone were to actually treat religious faiths all the same then the proper attitude when considering them would be skepticism, not faith. Agnosticism by definition is being skeptical (a la Thomas Huxley). We cannot be so gullible to treat every bizarre claim seriously. And if we actually were to do so, then we could not conclude much of anything until we examined them all, which is practically impossible.

The most amazing thing about Stone’s book though, is that after he argues against my skeptical control beliefs he dismisses the second part of my book where I criticize the Bible and its foundational miracle claims and doctrines. He does so in ten pages (139-149). He says: “Loftus’ unjustified Biblical perspectives may be dismissed due to their logical grounding in those unjustified controls beliefs.” (p. 139). For instance, since he thinks he’s undermined my skeptical control beliefs, then without so much as trying to answer my arguments with regard to the atonement, he basically says that since my control beliefs have been shown wrong, I am unjustified in rejecting the doctrine of the atonement.

Wait just a minute, Stone. I was once an insider. The second half of the book describes why I could not remain a Christian GIVEN a believing set of control beliefs. It’s the considerations of the second half of WIBA that caused me to reject the Christian faith and led me to my skeptical control beliefs in the first place. So until or unless you actually deal with the arguments in the second half of my book, you have done nothing to support your natural theology project. And until you actually flesh out for us what it means to treat all religious truth claims “neutrally,” as you claim to do, then you must examine in detail the arguments in the second half of my book. You cannot merely say that with your neutral stance you would accept these biblical doctrines and claims. That’s NOT being neutral, you see, or very critical as a thinker. You need to show us from a neutral starting point why you would accept the claims of an incarnation, the atonement, or the resurrection, and you did no such thing.

There’s more to his book. It’s just more of the same thing. I do not recommend this book by Stone at all, except as a wonderful case of cognitive dissonance reduction by a gerrymanderer.

I'm sorry, David, but that's exactly what I think.

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