Answering Dr. Randal Rauser's Objections to the OTF (Part 2)

Randal Rauser adequately sums up his objections to the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) in a recent comment at DC. Since this is my baby I'm gonna respond:

First he agrees “that the OTF aims for at least one specific intellectual virtue: objectivity.”


In a world where human beings woefully fail to be completely objective about much of anything, but especially when it comes to religious faith, as Eller, Tarico and Long have convincingly shown us in The Christian Delusion, objectivity is a great word to describe my OTF. One should be objective when it comes to all religious faiths by subjecting them all to the same level of skepticism. My claim is that if Christians do not do this they are not being objective about their faith, especially considering that their faith is overwhelmingly adopted by the accidents of birth. My claim is that by refusing to take the OTF believers have a double standard and must explain why such a double standard is justifiable.

The best place to stand when being objective is not to have a personal stake in the outcome. That’s why judges recuse themselves if they find out they have a conflict of interest in deciding a particular case.

But Rauser thinks the intellectual virtue of objectivity is somehow different than some other virtues like fairness and openmindedness, and that the OTF does not include these virtues in the quest for truth.


I see no reason why the OTF does not also include these virtues though. If a judge has a conflict of interest he is not likely to be fair. So to be objective is also to be fair in deciding his case. That’s why judges must take seriously an attorney’s charge that he recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, and why not doing so (if true) is considered an ethics violation by the American BAR Association.


Now what about openmidedness? Before we can say it’s an intellectual virtue we must know what it is. Does he? I suspect Rauser rejects Scientology, Mormonism, Militant Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the many other different religious entities and faiths around the globe, including all of the dead religions and gods and goddesses. I’ll bet he rejects most of them even though he has never given them much of a thought at all. Rauser, can you even tell me what Scientologists believe? Can you tell me why you do not believe the Mayan calendar is wrong when it says the world will come to an end on December 21st, 2012? Or can you do so for many other supposed religions and/or paranormal claims? Is that being openminded? Are you really openminded about astrology, tarot card readings, weeping statues of the virgin Mary, werewolves, vampires, alien abductions, or even cold fusion?

You see, being openminded is NOT an intellectual virtue if it means being gullible, or suspending my critical thinking capabilities, or taking someone’s word on an extraordinary claim (even if it’s on my mama’s knees), or relaxing my standards of evidence or proof.

Openmindedness is indeed an intellectual virtue associated with humility, since we must be humble enough to realize we accept things that are not true. We know we do it, all of us, most all of the time. It’s surmised that we accept most of what we think is true based upon authority, perhaps 95% of the time (but who knows about the exact percentage). So yes, we all must be humble to admit there are things we believe which are not true and so we must be openminded to conclusions we do not at the present time accept. But we cannot, nor should we be, openminded to any and every claim. It wouldn't be rational to do so. There must be a method that helps us determine what we will accept and what we won't.

But spelling out a method for how to be rationally openminded versus being merely gullible is something I have not seen yet from Rauser. It’s one thing to say we should embrace the intellectual virtue of openmindedness. It’s another thing to propose what we should be openminded about. There is no formal calculus to help us here, but I humbly suggest we should never abandon the intellectual virtue of objectivity that best expresses my OTF. My argument would be that if a Christian wants to avoid being gullible and wants to embrace a robust openmindedness based on the best and only way to be objective about religious faiths, then she should take the OTF. There is no other way to be objective in fairly judging her faith. Anything else is simply being gullible rather than openminded. For a great video on being openminded watch this one.

Now, should I be openminded that the OTF is not actually a fair one? Yes, I am. But I have not seen anything that calls it into question. Buttressing the OTF are the human sciences of anthropology, psychology and sociology, the three pillars that support it. Given the lack of a better method it is the only game in town. In order for me to openmindedly change my mind about the OTF someone must propose a better method even if there are some unresolved questions about it (of course, I deny there are any).

Additional Responses

With all of this being said in response I can easily agree with Rauser that these intellectual virtues (if they are different) should be maintained all of our lives. They are not considered one-night-stands. That’s one of the reasons I blog every day. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m continually testing what I think.

And I think these intellectual virtues should be embraced by everyone. Where does he get the notion I think being objective, fair-minded and openminded only apply to religious people of faith? I have not argued in that fashion at all. If he thinks I have, then he needs to provide an argument that shows this. My counter response will be 1) He fails to properly understand atheism, agnosticism and/or skepticism; and 2) To be objective, fair-minded, and openminded are the precise intellectual virtues that most people use in rejecting the extraordinary claims coming from religious faith and/or paranormal events.

That’s why I rejected my Christian faith. It was because of those virtues. But here’s the rub. This is what the evidence forced me to conclude even though I was an insider. My claim is that the Christian faith fails the Insider Test for Faith even though I presumed it was true and even though I was desperate to defend it from skeptical attacks as an apologist. At least, it did with me. So if the Christian faith does not even pass the Insider Test for Faith then a fortiori it doesn’t pass the Outsider Test for Faith either.

In another post I shared how a religion could pass the OTF, but unfortunately no presently known revealed religion can do so. The reason why is because there is probably no truth to religion at all.