Review of the Introduction of The End of Christianity

In the introduction to The End of Christianity, John W. Loftus once again comments on his outsider test for faith (OTF). According to Loftus, the OTF is so hotly contested because it is so successful at undermining religious faith (p. 9). He claims that the OTF asks religious believers to abandon double standards they have about (other) religious faiths, nothing more (p. 10). Speaking for myself, I do not object to evaluating all religions (or all beliefs for that matter) in an unbiased fashion. What I objected to, in my review of chapter 4 of The Christian Delusion, was: (1) methodological naturalism, (2) scientism, (3) the downplaying of people converting to Christianity after critically examining the evidence, and (4) Loftus’ failure to assess his own beliefs as skeptically as he demands that Christians assess their beliefs.

In response to criticism that no one can step entirely outside of their worldview, Loftus states that believers should evaluate one tenet of their faith at a time. He notes that many former believers have discarded certain religious beliefs but kept their beliefs about love, family, history, and the like (p. 11). Unfortunately he does not provide any examples on how this would be done in practice. What counts as a single tenet? What if the tenet I am currently evaluating is strongly supported by tenets I am not currently evaluating? What if my religious beliefs are a logical outgrowth of non-religious beliefs? Then there is the fact that apostates may hold incompatible beliefs. In reviews of The Christian Delusion, Loftus and company were routinely criticized for making moral pronouncements while embracing moral relativism. This struck many (most?) reviewers as evidence that Loftus’ own beliefs are not fully compatible with each other. In other words, the mere fact that Loftus still holds many of the beliefs he had when he was a Christian does not guarantee that his currently held beliefs are consistent with each other.

In response to criticism that the OTF undermines atheism just as much as it undermines religion, Loftus states that atheists do not have a viewpoint, they simply do not believe in the supernatural because there is not enough evidence for such a belief (p. 13). I do not buy this claim. Atheists hold the viewpoint that God does not exist. An agnostic is someone who lacks a viewpoint on the question of God’s existence. Loftus admits as much on p. 15. He also writes that he cannot subject non-belief to non-belief and that not accepting that fact will lead to gullibility. But this is not true. Certainly Loftus could evaluate, say, a cosmological argument for God’s existence in an unbiased fashion without becoming a gullible fool.

Loftus goes on to claim that there is no outsider perspective for non-believers to view their own beliefs from (p. 14). He asks: how is the non-believer to decide whether to view his beliefs from the Jewish perspective, the Christian perspective, the Muslim perspective, and so on. First, doesn’t the Christian face the same problem? Why should I evaluate my faith from the atheist perspective and not from the Buddhist perspective? Second, it seems to me that any and all of those perspectives would provide an outsider perspective to atheism. It is because Loftus engages in dodgy behavior like this that he and the OTF get so much criticism. I have not seen anyone object to applying the same level of skepticism to all religions (beliefs). They largely object to Loftus trying to set up a wall around his own beliefs and implying others should accept his epistemological standards.

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2 thoughts on “Review of the Introduction of The End of Christianity

  1. Pingback: Index to My Partial Review of The End of Christianity | Biblical Scholarship

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