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.”

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.

Fairness

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.

Openmidedness

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.

Cheers.

16 comments:

EssEff said...

Rauser is completely incapable of applying honest examination of his faith from an outsider's point of view. He has much too much invested in his belief to risk doing this exercise. I think he finds your book extremely threatening, as his sarcastic tone reveals. Methinks he doth protest too much. When he isn't being sarcastic he resorts to some variety of an ad hominem. I'd respect his opinion more if he showed that he's really reading each chapter carefully and taking its ideas seriously.

Randal Rauser said...

Thanks for your response John.

I am glad to see you're on board with intellectual virtues. As I have been saying, if we seek to cultivate these virtues everyday a single OTF will become otiose for we should always be evaluating what we believe.

The opposite of being openminded is being dogmatic. It is typified by the story of the cardinal who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. It is typified by those who go through their day without seriously asking "could I be wrong?"

You write: "But spelling out a method for how to be rationally openminded versus being merely gullible is something I have not seen yet from Rauser."

My book "Your not as crazy as I think" provides a good overview of intellectual virtue as well as intellectual dogmatism from atheists and Christians.

So to sum up, despite our significant agreement I still see no reason to think that there is some special test of faith beholden to religious people which adds anything to the intellectual virtues we all must cultivate on a daily basis.

John W. Loftus said...

RR: The opposite of being openminded is being dogmatic. It is typified by the story of the cardinal who refused to look through Galileo's telescope.

Okay then, why do you refuse to look through my telescope?

You think all other religions are man-made and yet think yours is not. All of the others walk like ducks, look like ducks, and smell like ducks, so you conclude they are all ducks. You refuse to see that your religion is a duck even though it has all of the same signs. Why aren't you as skeptical about your own religion as you are about all others? It's because you were born into yours and you cannot see it for the inhibiting box that it is.

RR: So to sum up, despite our significant agreement I still see no reason to think that there is some special test of faith beholden to religious people which adds anything to the intellectual virtues we all must cultivate on a daily basis.

Here is your cognitive dissonance coming out. Isn't it just too bad that your faith doesn't pass the OTF? If it did you would be crowing about it, but because you know it won't you refuse to be as skeptical of your religious faith as you presently are about all the others you reject.

And who says this is a one time test, anyway? That's not the deal. Apply it and then revisit it all you want to. Revisit it every year if you want, or every day like I do here. Maybe you missed something? Maybe there is something new that defends your former faith? No one is saying otherwise.

Randal Rauser said...

"Okay then, why do you refuse to look through my telescope?"

John your method seems to be this: "If you haven't come to agree with me yet then you haven't thought hard enough because clearly everyone who thinks hard enough agrees with me." Sorry, that's a little bit silly. As I have noted repeatedly, it is my bread and butter to look through the telescope and I have changed my views on many issues as a result. But why would you think that honest inequiry requires me to come into agreement with you?

You repeatedly assert: no religion can pass my OTF test. Don't you see how ridiculous that would look in other areas of enquiry? Imagine an anarchist composing an outsider test for politics and then declaring that no political system can pass it and if you don't agree with him, then you haven't thought hard enough.

Yeah, pretty heady stuff, right?

John W. Loftus said...

Randal, thanks for the continued responses. You really need to take seriously what I've argued. I have argued for a way to objectively examine your faith as best as possible in the OTF. That's my telescope. Look through it or else 1) defend your double standard since you DO look through it when examining other religions, or 2) provide me a better telescope. While I can certainly embrace the intellectual virtues you see through I think you need to actually do what you claim you do with regard to objectivity.

Today an anchor man for our local news show was back anchoring the news after a failed bid for the republican seat that former congressman Mark Souder resigned from for sexual infidelity. He said he was no longer allowed to cover the political beat. Why? Because we all know he is a Republican partisan, that's why. Just as judges recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest so also is this anchor man reused himself when it comes to political stories.

Why are you unwilling to see this and recuse yourself in examining your faith just as you do when examining the faiths you reject? That's being objective as best as possible, correct?

The test itself does not say in advance what you will conclude. So while I conclude that no revealed religion passes the test that is MY judgment. What's yours?

I do think a religion could pass this test but if no religion can pass the test it is not a fault with the test itself. Its a fault with religious faiths.

Did you read what I wrote right here?

Please do so.

Cheers.

Russ said...

Randal,
This is a modified version of my last comment to you on Part 1 of this OTF discussion.

Concerning the OTF you said,

I haven't seen you address my claim that the OTF is properly embedded in a pursuit of intellectual virtue and when one does so, special appeal to OTF becomes otiose.

Randal, I agree with the statement as it stands, but appeal to OTF is quite necessary since the "pursuit of intellectual virtue," you, me and perhaps, what? three or four others, idealistically esteem does in fact have almost no advocates in most areas of human concern. In interpersonal relationships, business, government, academia, and religion, intellectual virtues occasionally receive a look, maybe a nod, but they are never expected to constitute standard conduct. Christianity in no way encourages "pursuit of intellectual virtue," and in fact it does quite the opposite. John's Outsider's Test of Faith is an appeal for the faithful, Christians in particular, to exercise the virtues of intellectual honesty and integrity they appear to have abandoned to intellectually make room for their Jesus and their God.

You might like to make it appear as though you embrace laudable intellectual desirables like justice, empathy, intellectual courage, honesty and integrity, confidence in reason, autonomy and perseverance, but if you're practicing these virtues, you know full well that only the tiniest sliver of those in the Christian pie ever give these ideas a second thought. At the typical Christian church you will find arguments from tradition, ignorance, guilt, revelation, emotion, authority, and, of course, the ever-popular, fear. While intellectual virtue might be the cream, it almost never makes it to the top, and among the faithful, it's not recognized as a valuable commodity.

Fact is, anti-intellectualism is a mainstay among the vast majority of Christians, including the Roman Catholic half of Christianity and nealy all fundamentalist and evangelical Protestantisms. John's OTF is offered as an antidote to the poison of Christian intellectual dishonesty. A course in comparative Christianities would compare and contrast their intellectual dishonesties. Can all Christianities be right? No, they can't. So, if it's not possible for all Christianities to be correct, given their many mutual contradictions, is it reasonable, is it intellectually honest, to think that all non-Christians must be wrong? Is it possible to determine which Christianity is the right one? Is it intellectually honest to think there to be a necessity for any Christianity to be right? No, it's not. Over human history tens of thousands of gods have been allowed to die away with none of the feared adverse effects from failing to believe. Is there any reason to think that the conceptions of gods among the Christianities can really carry out their brutal claims? Again, intellectual honesty demands that the answer be no.

Listen to that theological paragon, the Pope. Listen to Pat Robertson. Listen to the Falwells, Haggards, Warrens, Osteens and Creflo Dollars. Among these loud and influential Christian leaders and those they appeal to, the absence of intellectual virtue which justifies John's OTF is held up as a mark of faith. Peruse the comments on this blog sometime and soak up what comes out of the fundamentalist contingent of COGIC preachers together with literalist seminary students and teachers, Roman Catholic layman and would-be priests. Little in the way of intellectual virtue, much in the way of stereotypical street preacher conversion tactics and cringe-inducing Christian theologies and doctrines. Still, if Christianity lived up to its claims, such dishonorable approaches would be unnecessary; we would see its worth.

Russ said...

Randal,
Christians claim to be moral exemplars, but the data show they are far from it. Christians claim to experience medical miracles and answered prayers as gifts from their gods, but research demonstrates they are no better off than atheists and other non-Christians. The intellectual honesty and integrity that John's OTF strives to coax believers into practicing would permit them to recognize these observed facts about themselves. The intellectual honesty urged by John's OTF reflected from the pulpit could turn the daydreaming and uncomfortable napping in the sanctuary into clearheaded discussions of how people everywhere, working together, can and do help each other. Gods do nothing. People help people, and the virtue of honesty would see Christians recognizing that fact and giving credit where credit is due.

Randal, do you actually think that the exchanges taking place in your classrooms are common among the Christian laity? Or even the clergy? Do you truly think them to be so common that the OTF is otiose? If you do, then take some time to go to Christian churches, not as Randal Rauser, esteemed and much sought after Christian apologetic speaker, but as Randal Rauser, fly on the wall. You'll learn that a vast intellectual abyss separates your Ivory Tower Christianity from crude praxis of Christianity.

Religions rose to being the predominant means of explanation - for everything - only because reliable empirical results were rare, and, when they were available, they were often suppressed in favor of religious explanation.

Today we live, not only in an Age of Reason, but more importantly in an Age of Empiricism. Reason is no longer the only means at our disposal to wrestle with gnarly propositions. When Christians make silly claims of miracles and answered prayers, we can ignore them since empirical results show that, if a god exists, he's doing as much or more for the atheists of Sweden as he does for the Christians of the US. If a god was at work we'd see it.

You said you "reject doctrines like eternal conscious torment and divinely commanded genocide." Realize that you must have thought them true at one time to have now changed your mind about what your god really meant. Realize further that it was you who decided what your god really meant while other Christians see it differently and still others more different yet. Now, your personal version of Christianity, the purest distillation of which is in your head, has a different god than the one you have decided is wrong. That god which promised to send the seventeenth century ten year old to hell for having missed one mass, is rather different from the god which would say no such thing. While apologetics would invent a soothing work around for it, intellectual honesty would demand that you see it and recognize it.

John's OTF is a fine intellectual challenge for anyone willing to openly undergo it, while at its core, it's a call for the intellectual virtues you admire, with a plea that the intellectual honesty, so feared among the Christianities, to be held above the intellectual mockery called faith. Honest assessment of religious claims in the past were often accepted, provided the end result of keeping the faith was assured. Today, you might not be set ablaze for critically evaluating religious claims, well at least in the First World, but loss of family and friends for perceived affronts to Christianity, even when being virtuously intellectually honest, can be devastating. For Christianity to survive, intellectual virtues must go by the wayside. Intellectual honesty demands that this be recognized.

Randal Rauser said...

John Loftus: "You really need to take seriously what I've argued. I have argued for a way to objectively examine your faith as best as possible in the OTF. That's my telescope. Look through it or else ..."

I hope you don't mind my breaking off your quote where I did. It adds a pleasingly ominous tone.

Let me quote myself as well because your response illustrates this point further:

"John your method seems to be this: 'If you haven't come to agree with me yet then you haven't thought hard enough because clearly everyone who thinks hard enough agrees with me.'"

I meet the challenges of your OTF on a daily basis and I retain my beliefs. It is a bit pandering, and certainly counterproductive, for a person to keep insisting "No you haven't thought critically about x until you agree with me about x." And yet that's all you offer: bald assertion that those who don't agree with you haven't thought critically about their beliefs.

Well that street goes both ways. You haven't thought hard enough because you don't agree with me.

See what you've done? Now we're both ignoramuses!

Randal Rauser said...

Russ: "Christians claim to be moral exemplars...."

Maybe the Christians you talk to do. The Christians I hang out with talk alot about grace, doubt, failure and forgiveness.

Maybe you drove a Hyundai Pony twenty years ago and it broke down on you. But there are other Hyundais. You should check out the Genesis Coupe.

Russ: "Randal, do you actually think that the exchanges taking place in your classrooms are common among the Christian laity? Or even the clergy? Do you truly think them to be so common that the OTF is otiose?"

I think you're confusing things here Russ. I didn't say that Christians always (or even regularly) exhibit intellectual virtues. But I did argue that if they, and indeed if we all, exhibited such virtues THEN an OTF would be otiose.

So the point stands. I have iPod and blue tooth connectivity in my car. John wants me to remove them and put in a cassette player instead. Sorry, that's the wrong direction to be moving. Instead, let's put iPod and blue tooth connectivity in all the cars and then there's no need for cassette players.

Russ said...

John,

In the book you're co-writing with a Christian scholar, I hope you address the anemic objections to the OTF put up by Randal Rauser, who is also held to be a Christian scholar. Rauser's feeble criticisms of OTF expose an ironically poor understanding of Christianity as the diverse whole that it is, especially so given his many years spent studying Christianity.

Randal's observation that OTF is a proper subset of a broader "pursuit of intellectual virtue" I think is trivially valid: the various isolated forms of intellectual analysis are a proper subset of all intellectual analyses. But, so what? Are we expected to think that because he imagines that there to be a long-standing tradition of "pursuit of intellectual virtue" among Christians that his meretricious observation tacitly carries the weight of valid argument? It does not.

As I've pointed out elsewhere in relation to the OTF, "pursuit of intellectual virtue" is largely absent from most human endeavors, and in Christianity itself only the appearance of the truly honest "pursuit of intellectual virtue" has been allowed to live. If he does not realize this then he is much over-schooled since the same apparent understanding and approaches to argument can be found in the absolute certainties of the self-ordained. Education isn't needed to arrive where his own words tell us he is.

Much of what Rauser writes underscores your argument that the ignorant, regardless of the number of years of school they might have had, do not recognize their own ignorance. Notice his nonchalant dismissal of David Eller. Had Randal been born to the Phelps clan, he would screaming their Christian theological anthem, "God Hates Fags," just as loudly as the rest of them. If he entered the Roman Catholic priesthood he would follow the time-honored de facto Roman Catholic theology of raping children, protecting those who had, and vilifying the innocent victims. Had he instead been misfortunate enough to be a mere Roman Catholic pew warmer, he would be inculcated to be of the moral mindset that regardless of the gangrapes, tortured psyches, and ruined lives and families you debase the child who makes a truthful accusation, and most importantly you keep paying the bills. That's where two thousand years of well-formulated theology has landed Roman Catholicism. If he was a Nigerian COGIC or other Pentecostalist, he might be one of the what now runs into the thousands of parents who have murdered or maimed their children for reasons of Christian theology. I fail to see how he can be considered objective or how intellectual virtue plays into his thinking. He's a smarmy apologist, nothing more.

Russ said...

Is Randal really one of those Christian "intellectuals" who simply waves off all thought, all argument, and all data that casts doubt on Christianity? If so, what are we to think are his true beliefs related to the "pursuit of intellectual virtue?" It seems he can't even be honest about them. It seems they are to only be dusted off to defend the faith or reject other faiths, but are never to be used for assessing the veracity of one's own religion.

I get the sense that Rauser, like almost all other Christians, believes that any response, however dully or glibly meritless, constitutes a refutation. Mocking, sarcastic, cute, derisive, witty, parodying, debasing, or funny, it seems he accepts anything he himself says as refuting whatever someone else says.

Randal is truly an ideal target for the OTF. Christianity pays his rent. Christianity feeds his family. Christianity buys his cars. Christianity will send his children to college. Christianity has convinced him that out of all human beings, Randal Rauser has special significance to the creator of the universe. And, of course, the living that Christianity provides him comes with no accountability other than throwing up mock defenses to the faith which only makes a mockery of "pursuit of intellectual virtue." Would he not be a fool to elevate truth over the sheer indolent comfort and certainty that the Christian social infrastructure and cash-flow machines afford him? What would motivate him to be as honest as you have been, John? What is it that keeps him and those like him from living out the "pursuit of intellectual virtue."

I think Michael Shermer is one who's expressed the idea that smart people are better at defending positions they adopted for non-smart reasons. Sadly, Rauser does not impress me as being any smarter than Harvey or Marcus, as his defenses of Christianity are no more sophisticated and his criticisms of The Christian Delusion no more compelling. He cites Bibles, theology and philosophy as reliable "data," turns to the Discovery Institute for confirmation bias rather than going to the Royal Society or the National Academies of Science for actual science and boldly displays the deep arrogance of living out The Christian Delusion.

Russ said...

Randal Rauser

In response to my saying "Christians claim to be moral exemplars, but the data show they are far from it," you said,

Maybe the Christians you talk to do. The Christians I hang out with talk alot about grace, doubt, failure and forgiveness.

So? What you've said is a trite, easy predictable deflection from the point, but that in no way means that Christians do not also consider themselves moral exemplars. According to studies at Christian universities, like Princeton Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity, Baylor and Notre Dame, sect by sect Christians do indeed consider themselves to be moral exemplars, morally superior to Christians outside their preferred sect, and of course to every non-Christian. By the lights of the current Pope, all human beings are morally obligated to be Roman Catholic, as he's publically stated many times, you, Randal Rauser, are hell-bound for the moral failure of not being Roman Catholic. According to Catholic Digest and America, ol' Benedict was very serious, but what that highly-influential Christian theologian has to say does not effect you any more than it does me. You don't believe him anymore than I do. You live your life just as I do with the certain conviction that he's wrong. Christian theology, whether yours, his, or anyone else's is useless. It's all make believe.

You know the Pope's theology is not true, so, I wonder can your self-imagined version of Christian theology be any closer to true? What is the use of theology when Roman Catholic parents are so morally compromised that they can't leave the church in defense of their own children?

Randal, which Christians do you talk to about grace, doubt, failure and forgiveness? Well it's the one's you talk to, of course. You're paid to formally discuss those topics in class, and to say nice things about them in your public lectures, but these are not general or common topics of conversation among workaday Christians of any variety. If the pew-dwelling nickel-plunkers of Christianity have anything to say about grace or doubt or failure or forgiveness, it's only by way of regurgitating what you or some other minister has told them is their theology. They did not decide it on their own and they do not continue in it for other than social reasons. They give far more consideration to hat tricks and power plays than they do to the theology you will tell us determines whether their god - also a thing some minister or theologist has conceptualized for them - gives them a post mortem thumbs up or thumbs down. Have them write an essay and you'll find their ignorance on these topics impressive. While you all say many of the same words, your semantics ain't their semantics, and your Christianity ain't their Christianity. Hell, according to canadianchristianity.com only about 30 percent of Canadian Christians can find a church once a month anyway. Christianity ain't even important to Christians.

Words are fine little playthings and even most three-year-olds can say grace, doubt, failure and forgiveness. If you smile down from the pulpit and bleat on about any of these topics, the difference in understanding between the adults and the toddlers will be very little. The adults might have a slight edge only for having heard the words more often. These things are supposed to be of eternal importance, but even clergy don't act as though they are.

Russ said...

Randal,
When I asked the questions, "Randal, do you actually think that the exchanges taking place in your classrooms are common among the Christian laity? Or even the clergy? Do you truly think them to be so common that the OTF is otiose?" you replied,

I think you're confusing things here Russ. I didn't say that Christians always (or even regularly) exhibit intellectual virtues. But I did argue that if they, and indeed if we all, exhibited such virtues THEN an OTF would be otiose.

So, by your own if-then's, the OTF is not otiose to you.

Sorry, but I'm not confusing things, Randal. Asking questions is an effort to avoid confusion.

If, according to your words, Christians do, in fact, not regularly exhibit intellectual virtues, what could possibly be undesirable about encouraging them to exercise them as John does with his OTF? If Christianity is true, you know, like gravity is true, then could Christians be harmed, or led astray, by taking the OTF? Wouldn't the path to truth always lead back to Christianity if it were actually true? Or, is it actually as it appears, that becoming unstuck from Christian social convention, and finding and immersing oneself in another just as desirable, changes one's revelations about what is "truth." Born Hindu, you'd not be uttering the platitude, "Jesus is truth."

Clearly, you want to waft about a smokescreen about pursuing intellectual virtues, while you simultaneously want to corral the smoke into the form you wish it to take. The OTF won't guarantee that one will always be led back to Christian theism, OTF takers might get too skeptical don'tcha know, so the OTF must be rejected in favor of intellectual virtues Christians don't practice and are not encouraged to. Kinda catchy way to say, "We Christians don't exercise intellectual virtues, and we need to keep it that way."

John's OTF is a call to Christians to give themselves the gift of intellectual freedom such as you exercised when you were free to "reject doctrines like eternal conscious torment and divinely commanded genocide." You transmogrified your Christian god from one which would impose eternal conscious torment to one that would not, and in so doing invented another version of a Christian god. You stepped outside your old god's Christianity, abandoned your faith in that version of a Christian god and made your own anew. John's OTF claims that that same freedom should open to all persons of faith, not just King's College PhD's.

You said,

So the point stands.

No it doesn't. Your technology analogy is a fail, Randal. John isn't asking anyone to regress.

You said,

I have iPod and blue tooth connectivity in my car. John wants me to remove them and put in a cassette player instead. Sorry, that's the wrong direction to be moving. Instead, let's put iPod and blue tooth connectivity in all the cars and then there's no need for cassette players.

You really do avoid those intellectual virtues, don't you? Is your approach really one of expounding something that's not there and never will be? Does that insure the faith?

Your words, "I didn't say that Christians always (or even regularly) exhibit intellectual virtues," translated into your metaphor is saying: "very few Christians have iPod or Blue Tooth." John's OTF, less concerned about any particular technology, says, Hey everybody! Listen to the music! Then, just like Randal Rauser, you can remix it to tell it like you see it.

Hendy said...

Wow - quite the series of threads.

Randal, I think the main point would be, then, for you to provide a brief summary of what evidence upholds your beliefs. I think you skew John's point a bit.

The point of the OTF isn't simply to look at one's religion and ask, 'Is it too ridiculous to believe?' (though he's right that this is probably the lens you use to view several other religious traditions... we all do) but to look at the claims and see if there is good enough supporting evidence to warrant them.

If you cannot find any more evidence to support:
- A virgin birth
- The gospels as reliable historical accounts
- How Yahweh's immoral commands work given an inspired/inerrant scripture
- The fall given evolution
- Miracles/prayer given that failed answers are the majority
- An omni-max god given evil and suffering
- Etc.

Than you can to support:
- Mohammed flying on a donkey
- Alien spirits of Xenu inhabiting us
- Thinking something will happen will make it happen
- Karma

Then you should drop those extraordinary beliefs. The point of the OTF, as I see it anyway, is to realize that we mostly inherit the beliefs passed down from parents and also tend to keep those beliefs/really believe they are true. It would be quite different if we dropped them very easily, but we don't. We really do believe what we're taught as kids. So, given that, it's healthy to compare evidence for our beliefs against evidence for what all the other kids' parents across the world were teaching them.

Though I would actually gander that Christianity has better evidence than most other historical religions, the true question is whether the evidence verifies the claims sufficiently.

John's point is not that one needs to agree with him, but that if one is going to shout to the world that they passed the OTF, they should present something akin to an antidote to WIBA. Without providing the evidence that the OTF asks you to look for you really are refusing to look through his telescope while shouting, 'I've seen what you want me to see! Honest! But I still believe in geocentricism!'

Also, I would support the OTF for atheists who are atheists by parental training. You've alluded to this and I have not problem with it. After being horrified that my former faith had such poor evidence, I would not wish a deconversion like I'm going through on anyone. It's absolute crap. Everyone should do this so they know what they going to stand on before they stand on it. It's utter crap to stand on air for so long and not know it and have to plummet as a result.

GearHedEd said...

Russ asked,

"...If Christianity is true, you know, like gravity is true, then could Christians be harmed, or led astray, by taking the OTF? Wouldn't the path to truth always lead back to Christianity if it were actually true?"

Absolutely.

But do you seriously expect someone whose livelihood depends on maintaining the myth could be even tempted to throw a bomb into his wallet?

He'll just formulate another objection that "proves" that objectively taking the test isn't fair, as it doesn't apply to atheists as well.

Here's a question:

How many atheists make a living from "preaching" atheism? A few I've heard of, mostly through writing books no one is required to either read or believe. Compare that to the numbers who earn their sole means of support through adhereing to Christian dogma.

'Nuff said.

Russ said...

GearHedEd,
You said,

He'll just formulate another objection that "proves" that objectively taking the test isn't fair, as it doesn't apply to atheists as well.

Yep. So much for the generalized pursuit of intellectual virtues Rauser would have us believe he supports.

Rauser's Christian evangelicalism is all about gaining converts by forcing the OTF on other's way of life. The strategies and tactics of Christian missionization all aim to force persons to step outside their cultures, outside their traditions and outside their religions in order to replace them with Christianity-compatible parallels. Rauser seeks to make others apply the OTF to the beliefs their mothers and fathers taught them, for the express purpose of dishonoring those mothers and fathers by rejecting their cherished traditions. Perhaps, in his mind, parents are only to be honored if they are some variety of Christian.

For all his blather, Rauser glowingly espouses the OTF for bilking people into Christianity, but he clearly wants it to be a one-way no-outlet cul-de-sac. His support of intellectual virtue is an intentional sham, a con game he expects to work only to the Christian advantage.

Read the post [] on his blog to see the depths to which this dishonorable man will sink in attempting to discredit the intellectual virtue encapsulated in the OTF. It's a case study in strawmen, non-sequiturs, misrepresentation, tu quoque, other fallacies, stupid analogies and metaphors, and, of course, per the way of the Christian apologist, outright lies.

To show just how dishonorable Rauser is, he has himself employed the OTF and decided to "reject doctrines like eternal conscious torment and divinely commanded genocide." Think of it. From an outsider's perspective he felt comfortable redacting the mind of his Christian god into something his likes more. That is, he made up his own Christian god by adapting John's OTF. Then, as if only he is to be permitted such freedom, he drags the OTF through the mud in as blatant a show of intellectual dishonorability as one might expect to find among one espousing the "pursuit of intellectual virtue."

Randal Rauser exemplifies the moral and intellectual failures of the Christianities. Sadly, he has a large social group who pay him and otherwise support him to play the shill for Jesus.