The Outsider Test for Faith is the Antidote to Confirmation Bias

First let's define confirmation bias from Wikipedia, which... a tendency for people to prefer information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses, independently of whether they are true. People tend to test hypotheses in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and neglecting alternatives. This strategy is not necessarily a bias, but combined with other effects it can reinforce existing beliefs. The biases appear in particular for issues that are emotionally significant (including some personal and political topics) and for established beliefs that shape the individual's expectations.

It's granted that we all have this bias, all of us, to certain degrees. It's part of the human condition.

Speaking specifically about religious faiths, let me contrast this with The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) which calls upon believers to test their own geographically inherited faith with the same level of skepticism they use to test the religious faiths they reject. I argue that adopting this test is the best and probably the only way to overcoming any confirming bias when it comes to one's inherited religious faith.

It is being argued by Professor Randal Rauser that ex-Christians like Dan Barker and others who have written chapters for The Christian Delusion are basically no different when they argue for non-belief. He sums up a recent post by asking and answering a question:
[A]re any of us motivated simply by a burning desire for actual facts, an intense craving to truly fill in the blanks of knowledge? I doubt it. But then if atheists are no better off on this count, neither can we say they are categorically any worse off. And with that, let's all concede that we begin on the same ground, a self-interested desire to know, more or less. Link.
In the first comment after his post SilverBullet wrote:
Critical thinking is specifically about eliminating self interest. Loftus' outsider test of faith is specifically about eliminating self interest. [This comment is the last one on the page--you read them in order from the bottom up].
I agree. Continue reading upward for the other responses, including mine.

One of my points is that it appears to me confirmation bias is what we do when it comes to beliefs we hold dearly and want to be true. When I was a believer I was infected with it, deeply, as was Dan Barker and others. We wanted it to be true. We had invested a great deal of time and effort into defending our faith. But we were shocked and dismayed that even with this bias our faith was a sham. It was heart-breaking and completely contrary to what we had expected. I have not heard from any former Christian who describes it any other way. We did not want to conclude what we did. We went kicking and screaming into unbelief.

Now it might be claimed that as atheists we too are infected with a confirmation bias to defend what we have concluded. Okay, since all human beings suffer from this to some extent. But it was emphatically NOT how we arrived at our current positions. We wanted Christianity to be true. We preferred it. We were immersed in it. Our lives were wrapped up in it. We were also extremely bothered and even scared of being wrong, since we did not want to go into everlasting punishment.

Testimonies of conversion or deconversion coming from both sides of the fence, whether it's Christians who leave the fold, or atheists who join the fold, have only a limited amount of persuasive weight. The weight of them depends on who it is, how much he or she was immersed in their former views, how many people switch their views from one side to the other, what their stated reasons are for switching, and the consequences that these fence switchers must face in terms of social benefits and eternal threats. As such, I think deconversions away from the fold have much more weight because of each and every one of these factors.

Take just one of these factors as an example. What does an atheist have to gain if he switches sides and joins the Christian fold? He gains many social benefits and eternal rewards (that's the promise anyway). Now consider what a Christian has to gain if he or she leaves the fold. Apostates face a great deal of social approbation along with the threat of eternal punishment. Under which set of conditions will confirmation bias be more intense for which group of fence switchers?

Answer: Deconverts away from the fold, hands down.

Listen to what Dan Barker said about leaving the fold: was like tearing my whole frame of reality to pieces, ripping to shreds the fabric of meaning and hope, betraying the values of existence...It was like spitting on my mother, or like throwing one of my children out a window. It was sacrilege
Right that.

Is there anything comparable for this when an atheist becomes a Christian? I think not. Not by a long shot. Look at the social benefits for an atheist to convert to Christianity for instance.

C.S. Lewis was an atheist who converted to Christianity through a long process, even though he was no fundamentalist. He is such a hero to Christian believers his books still top the charts in the apologetics category over at Amazon.

The most famous recent atheist who became a deist, Antony Flew, was showered with attention by Christians, parading him around like he was a hero, even helping write his last book which surely will sell more than any other book he's ever written. I wonder what kind of advance they gave him?

Lee Strobel became a believer to keep his marriage together, and look at him now. He too is a hero among Christians, making more money off his books then he ever dreamed of doing.

J. Budziszewski is another one who was an atheist-turned-Christian, and his name is also bandied about as a hero. [It seems as though Christians have so few heroes who left atheism that if one switches sides they will be treated as heroes].

David Wood is another self-proclaimed atheist who turned Christian and he too touts that as a significant fact. But his conversion came out of juvenile delinquency and serious mental/physical problems, so can his conversion really significantly count when he was not the intellectual atheist that I am?

I have been asked to come back to the faith as well, with promises of having a large church, a number of speaking engagements, and/or superior books sales when I write about my re-conversion. They would love to parade me around as a hero. [The problem here is that I cannot answer my own arguments expressed in my books, so the first question they would ask me is to argue with my former self and I couldn't do it].

But what social benefits await a Christian who leaves the fold for atheism in comparison? Little or nothing. What eternal reward is promised? Nothing but non-existence.