An Open Letter to Jeffery Jay Lowder

Lowder and I are at odds with each other. I don't like it. He may not either. But we are. Perhaps he's liking the attention. I, however, don't need it. People who don't blog have no idea how that by using Ads it increases the desire for more hits, but it does. In a few recent posts and comments I have repeatedly said I respect Lowder. Not once has he said that of me. So let me use Lowder as a potential example of how badly people reason, all of us, and how that ulterior motivations can cloud our judgments. Then I'll issue a challenge to him.

We all have a perception of ourselves that we seek to live up to. Lowder views himself as an objective and impartial debate judge of the issues that separate believers and non-believers, so he'll argue against anyone who doesn't have a good argument. His is a war on error, and he calls them as he sees them. He has no allies. Truth alone is his ally. He is not a partisan to anyone. He's only a partisan to the truth. Such lofty goals aren't they?

Contrary to this perception of his, no one is completely objective or impartial. No one. We all have biases. Peer pressure affects us all to some degree, as does the power of suggestion. No one thinks in a vacuum. His goal is probably to be as impartial and objective as possible, okay, but most all of us think of ourselves more superior to others, and surely he's no exception. We all want the approval of our peers too. The question might be who we consider our peers. I'm writing for college educated people, but in the process I'm gaining quite a following from others, as can be seen from the captured graphic to the left of a poll I conducted not too long ago.

So I'm an easy target for someone who writes for scholars. Christians do not like me, my arguments, or my influence, and Lowder hangs out in the worst Christian circles on the web who tear me apart at least once a week (his other peers?). I have also written on average 1.5 posts a day for seven years straight, usually some of them are only a few paragraphs long, leaving plenty of room for further reflection, debate and needed distinctions. Furthermore, I have long ago basically abandoned the discipline of the Philosophy of Religion as not much more than empty rhetoric, something Lowder is an expert in.

That's right. I'm an easy target if an expert in empty rhetoric wants to pick apart what amounts to a few lines out of the hundreds of thousands I have written on the college level. So what motivates him? Why me? Is it because he scours the internet looking for error wherever he finds it, no matter where it's found? Or is it because he wants to maintain the perception of being a fair and impartial debate judge in the minds of others, especially Christians, who are eating this up as a reason to discount me, my books and my arguments?

Potential Motivations

I'm going to suggest a few of his motivations, which he will deny and claim they are also irrelevant. All I can do is suggest them even though I know what his response will be.

Peer pressure. I've already suggested that Lowder hangs out in the wrong Christian circles (not exclusively of course). In fact, almost all of his defenders are Christians with the exception of three atheists, two of whom stopped defending him after I responded, and the third one just threw out a one line ad hominem attack at me, which required no response. One of the Christians who defends him is Steve Hays, who should be condemned by all civilized people, such that if he ever defended me it would be a red-light warning to re-think what I was doing.

I also wonder if Lowder was upset that I wrote a really nice blurb for a "rival" book by an atheist on the resurrection of Jesus. So to compensate for that blurb I wrote an explanation for it.

When it comes to our specific disagreement, whether the size and scale of the universe leads to atheism or not, I think he's emotionally attached to it. Paul Draper is a giant of an atheist philosopher who told him it doesn't have much force. So he's taken up the charge. I bet Draper is pleased Jeff.

Is there a jealously factor involved? I don't know what he would be jealous about of course.

Then there is also the desire for more hits to get ad revenue.

He will deny all of this, and claim any such motivations, even if true, are irrelevant to the issue itself. Well, I agree they're irrelevant to the issue itself. But just like he commented on Vincent Torley's post, I hadn't yet written much on this present topic either, just one post, and I don't feel like writing anything more at this point on the scale of the universe, but I could. For what it's worth, Richard Carrier agrees with me. So why should I write any more? I don't like arguing with other atheists.

My Challenge

Which brings me to my challenge that can best be seen in my response to Bradley Bowen found here at the Secular Outpost. Bradley had said the difference between us is basically a difference in temperaments:
There is enough room in this world for both District Attorneys and Judges. Jeff has a judicial temperament. John would make a good DA. I want a DA that will make a strong case for conviction, and I also want a Judge who cares deeply about giving the defendant a fair trial. The world is a better place with both types of people.

One way out of Christianity is to become a partisan supporter of Naturalism or Secular Humanism or Marxism or....But another way out of Christianity is to become a skeptic, that is, to distance one's emotions from one's own beliefs, to follow a Buddhist-like path away from attachment to one's own beliefs and towards a detached objectivity that allows one to 'play' with beliefs and points of view. This latter sort of escape from faith can be just as effective and just as liberating as the former. Both are valid ways of escaping from Christianity and from other religious forms of life.

I suspect that all of us unbelievers lean one direction or the other on this matter. I'm more of a Judge than a DA, and I think I'm more like Jeff than John. But we all take a stand at times and argue passionately for a specific point or point of view. There is a bit of DA in most of us.
My response:
Bradley, I agree that we need these two approaches. That's why I said I have a great amount of respect for Lowder, and I do. I'm not upset with him either. I'm merely arguing for my case given the harms of religion and the irrationality of faith in our world. A fair judge would already have ruled in this case years ago because the evidence is overwhelming. Why hasn't Lowder made his ruling yet? There is no need for a discussion for discussion's sake, no more evidence needed, no time to delay the ruling. The case is closed, slammed shut by the overwhelming evidence. So nitpicking about this or that argument, as if they matter to the case as a whole, is like helping to rearranging chairs on the Titanic. Why bother doing this? Why waste any time with it? Why not make the ruling and then focus on ramming home at every opportunity the arguments that matter? Any judge who has not yet made a ruling in these matters would be considered derelict in his duty, someone who is playing intellectual games while the world in which he lives is going to hell in a hand-basket. Jeff just does not think religious faith is harmful. He just does not see that faith is always irrational. I have made a sustained case for this in the last chapter of my book, "The Outsider Test for Faith." If he reads it and still fails to make his ruling then I think he should recuse himself from the case for a conflict of interest.
Victor Reppert *surprise* showed up who said:
So, let me get this straight. You think that there is something wrong with an atheist arguing that a fellow atheist's argument doesn't work, since religion harms people and faith-based processes are unreliable? What makes science work is the mutual accountability that the scientific community has. Quality control, you know. You want to take that away from atheists?
Vic, I would no more spend time arguing against an ineffective atheist argument than I would spend time baking cookies I had no intention of doing anything with. Why bother? I'm not interested in a discussion for discussion's sake. I have a warranted properly basic belief that there is no God, so all that's left is to persuade believers otherwise, along the same lines as Stephen Law recently argued.

;-)

Let's put this into perspective. Let's say we stepped back in time when people believed in Molech, the god who lived in the sky who accepted child sacrifice (much like Yahweh did). What would we think if Lowder defended Molech against a non-believer who argued Molech couldn't live in the sky? What if Lowder argued there is nothing incoherent about the concept of Molech living in the sky given a description of Molech as an embodied god and given the fact that the sky was considered the end of the universe? This is, after all, what pre-scientific people believed about their gods. Why should Lowder ever grant what he shouldn't grant for the sake of argument? THAT'S what I'm talking about. Children were being sacrificed to Molech. That some arguments might not hold too much water is irrelevant when children are being killed. There would be so many reasons to deny the existence of Molech it would be a waste of time to defend anything a believer in Molech said against a non-believer. So why should any of us grant for the sake of argument anything a believer says at all? Why Jeff?

For the record, I no longer consider Lowder to be objective about me, my books (should he ever review them), my arguments, or any debates I've had. He is a partisan to people he should not be partisan to. So he has failed as an impartial judge. He has succumbed to peer pressure despite his denials. He is much too willing to grant for the sake of argument things he should not possibly grant. That is, unless he takes up my challenge to make his long delayed ruling and join in the fight against the harms of religion and the irrationality of faith. This is not personal with me. I didn't pick this fight. The fight found me.

Now, I have more important things to do, most notably I'm producing an Index for my book this week.

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Edit: To see Jeff Lowder's response and my reactions read through this thread..

Cheers.

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