My Prometheus Books Interview

The Promethean should be sent out this month to Prometheus Books subscribers via email. It'll include an interview from yours truly about my new book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True.I was asked to answer the following questions in two to five sentences. Here they are, along with my wisdom for the day:
Why is it important that religious and non-religious people have a dialogue?

The need for dialogue is best seen by the fact that there is so much ignorance about atheism by believers that it’s astounding to me. My book attempts to open up a significant dialogue with Christians, the likes of which hasn’t been accomplished before. Prior to accepting this non-double standard for testing religious faith we were just talking past each other. But with an acceptance of this test by all parties we can now have a productive dialogue. All future debates should be based on it too.

Your book aims to reach out to those who consider themselves religious. You are open about being an atheist. How do you convince religious people to consider your arguments?

I point out a problem believers cannot deny, the fact that there are thousands of religions separated into distinct regions over the globe by people who were raised to believe them. Then I go on to argue how this problem can be solved, if it can be solved at all. No other test has worked before, so why should we keep on doing the same things? If we merely asked believers to critically examine their faith they would all say they have done so, and that their faith is sure. But ask them instead to critically examine their own faith with the same standard they use when rejecting other faiths and that will get their attention like nothing else can.

Faith has a lot of different meanings, depending on who you ask. What is your definition of faith?

I offer several of them in my book. Faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities. I like this one best: “Faith is a cognitive bias leading people to overestimate the confirming evidence and to discount the disconfirming evidence.”

You've written several books on religious faith from a critical perspective. What makes this book different?

Atheists have been claiming for centuries that we just reject one more religion than believers do for the same reason, the lack of sufficient evidence. I argue extensively on behalf of this claim. It's the first book length treatment ever written on the subject, as far as I know. Christian intellectuals have argued against my defense of this claim for several years now. What the reader will find are what I consider to be death blows to all important objections in a more detailed way than anywhere else.

The questions in your book are designed to help the reader look at his or her faith from a different, outside perspective. How did you come up with these questions?

I came up with the questions and arguments in this book by dialoguing with Christian apologists and philosophers daily for over seven years on my blog. It’s a great testing ground for developing good arguments in response to real objections, rather than contrived ones.

Not included in the interview but something I find quite flattering is what Richard Carrier says of it:
Though this idea has been voiced before, Loftus is the first to name it, rigorize it, and give it an extensive philosophical defense; moreover, by doing so, he is the first to cause a concerted apologetic to arise attempting to dodge it, to which he could then respond. The end result is one of the most effective and powerful arguments for atheism there is. It is, in effect, a covering argument that subsumes all other arguments for atheism into a common framework.