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.

21 comments:

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

So, not even worth a used copy?

John W. Loftus said...

I said it's "a wonderful case of cognitive dissonance reduction by a gerrymander." You decide if you want it and at what price.

Brenda said...

It might be interesting to know what his mathematical proof is. Modus Tollens can be tricksy.

"Human beings are not Spockian type creatures."

True.

"We are given our religious worldviews."

Also true. We humans do not come into the world fully formed. We have to be installed into the local symbolic system.

"He criticizes the OTF for arguing on behalf of skeptical agnosticism rather than for neutral agnosticism."

Meh... I don't know ends at I don't know.

MKR said...

This business of titles using the word "delusion" is really getting old -- as I will prove in my forthcoming book, The Delusion Delusion. :P

Jeff said...

gerrymanderER

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

John,

Well, I am interested in mapping lame typical Christian reactions to your book...so, I'll think about it.

MKR,

lmao, omg.

Ben

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brenda said...

mmmmm... spam

Jacob said...

Maybe send that mathematical proof to Jeffrey Shallit, if possible?

He eats that sort of sophistry for breakfast (and in the vanishingly unlikely event there's anything of worth actually there you can be sure he'll spot it.)

MKR said...

DM, are you for real?

Supposing -- contrary to all evidence -- that atheists start believing in God when they are facing death: is that supposed to strengthen the case for belief in God? Surely it is rather evidence that such belief is a product of desperation and fear, as contrasted with sound judgment. If you have to be scared out of your wits to believe in God, surely that is reason to conclude that belief in God is a superstition, not that it is true.

You take Einstein as an example of a theistic believer? Einstein, who said, “I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings”? Try again, wacko.

Nostradamus is your model of enlightened understanding?

Who is "Markuze" supposed to be? The only figure known to me with a name close to that is Herbert Marcuse, a neo-Marxist philosopher of the twentieth century.

You may not have been joking, but you are a joke.

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MKR said...

Wow -- DM spammed my blog with the same demented text that he posted here! I feel honored! Has anyone else here been similarly favored?

Cafeeine Addicted said...

@MKR

Someone beat you to it.

MKR said...

@Caffeine Addicted: Indeed -- and by almost two years! Thanks for the correction. Well, I enjoyed my joke while I thought it was mine.

Winston Smith said...

John, I had a horrible dream last night!

I dreamed that starting late Tuesday, upcoming, one and two star reviews were posted about your book EVERY DAY for EIGHT DAYS!!!

Am I Psychic, or was it just a dream?

John W. Loftus said...

In case Winston deletes his comment here it is:

John, I had a horrible dream last night!

I dreamed that starting late Tuesday, upcoming, one and two star reviews were posted about your book EVERY DAY for EIGHT DAYS!!!

Am I Psychic, or was it just a dream?


How pathetic.

MKR said...

John, I am pretty sure that "Winston Smith" is the same person as "DM," who posted here earlier. "DM," a.k.a. "Dave Mabus," is Dennis Markuze of Montreal, a mentally unbalanced person who has made death threats against P. Z. Myers. He has been posting his demented ravings about atheism all over the Web since at least 2008. (Do a Web search for the name "Dennis Markuze" or the phrase "the really sharp end of Occam's razor" and you will see.) I learned these things only after my reply to his first posting here drew the attention of this serial disrupter to my blog, where he has been trying to post the same garbage. After I had deleted it a couple of times, I got a comment from "Winston Smith." It seems to me a safe bet that they are the same person.

pink_monkey said...

^^ he spams jason's "the evolution blog" as dmabus or dmab. he leaves his drivel up. someone actually acknowledged him once...i found it amusing...here's the response:
"Yah, I know it's troll-feeding, but couldn't resist a little tweak:

dmab writes -

Atheists,

but you have NO ANSWER TO DEATH

I'd say atheists would see a belief in eternal life as not even having the courage to ask the question, let alone claim an answer."

Posted by: Jud | April 16, 2010 3:56 PM

John said...

John Loftus is inspiring to me on so many levels. The sheer honesty he presents in his books and the thoroughness and in depth analysis he provides on every topic he undertakes.

I suspect that the reason so many Christians are deeply disturbed by his books is if they read it (which I would surmise only a few have) it has shaken their faith so much they are angry about it. I felt the same way when I first read "Atheism: The Case Against God". Exactly the same way, so I "understand". But there comes a point where you really have to be honest with yourself. I could no longer obey the adage "If you can't reconcile the bible with something, cling to the bible and await further light". It came to a point where I was being dishonest by believing. So I reluctantly started to embrace atheism.

But having been an atheist for many years I am more fulfilled and have grown more intellectually then I ever have. And I have to thank people like Loftus who gets you "thinking" and challenges you.

I encourage all Christians to challenge their faith by reading John Loftus and others. If you walk away from it unconvinced then at the very least followed the biblical admonition to "Prove all things".

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks John, I appreciate your kind comments so much.

davidtbeason said...

have come to the conclusion that David Reuben Stone is a habitual liars, on Amazon he has commented over and Over again that John Loftus doesn't reply to critics and this is a out and out lie John Pointed out to him more then once and posted the link to the rebuttal that John did on Stones attack on johns books but it hasn't stopped Stone from saying that John hasn't. wth