Friday, 4 May 2012

The Outsider Test Of Faith

Faith - the sure and certain way to tell that all other faiths are wrong.

The Outsider Test Of Faith:

John W. Loftus' challenge to believers to apply the same test they use for other faiths to their own:

If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn't so? That is a cold hard fact. Dare you deny it? Since this is so, or at least 99% so, then the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism.

Test your beliefs as if you were an outsider to the faith you are evaluating. If your faith stands up under muster, then you can have your faith. If not, abandon it, for any God who requires you to believe correctly when we have this extremely strong tendency to believe what we were born into, surely should make the correct faith pass the outsider test. If your faith cannot do this, then the God of your faith is not worthy of being worshipped.

To this I would add:
  • If you were born in Madrid, New York, Rome or Kansas you would almost certainly be Christian.
  • If you had been born in first century BCE Jerusalem you would be Jewish.
  • If you had been born in fifth century BCE Greece you would believe in the Greek pantheon.
  • If you had been born in pre-WWII Japan you would be Shinto.

Wherever and whenever you were born you would almost certainly have the same faith as your parents.

Unless, that is, you had applied exactly the same standard to your parents' faith as you have to all the others. If you had, you are very unlikely to have any faith at all because, like every other faith, yours has no evidential basis and so would fail John W. Loftus' Outsider Test Of Faith.

In fact, if you were honest, you would admit that you have never really even thought about the other gods and other faiths, let alone applied any of the tests you just assume someone else must have made when they accepted your faith and rejected all the others.

If you disagree, please show your reasoning:

Hint: Arguing that all the other faiths must be wrong because yours is right won't work because that could be used with equal non-validity by all the others.

Debunking Christianity: The Outsider Test.....:

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  1. Oh, the Christian might ramble on that God has His countries while Satan has his. (It says so in the Bible!)

  2. There are exceptions, as in any sociological study. For example the huge swing to christianity in post war Korea. But it is largely true that even a previously non religious person if converted will convert to the prevailing religion of their native country.

  3. You statement, as a value for logical reasoning stands correct; inevitably, if you were born in the middle east, you are Muslim, as appose to being born in NYC, you would be Christian. The problem with your argument is this: you are assuming different central gods and associated messengers (Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and so on), where in reality (and this could be used loosely from your point of view i suppose) there is one god, but different ways of naming. This outsider test is a false test, since all three fundamental religions have the same father and idealistic theological standard, with minor exceptions. This test indicates that there is different gods,which is wrong, where any true peaceful believer of faith and faith alone will tell you, that as long as the 10 standard cardinal rules of the big 3 hold true, you are on your way up. If you are testing the "outsider test" than is can be measured, ergo can be scientifically proven. But this is false, much like dreams, how can you test a dream if the dream belong ONLY to the dreamer and no one else. The real outsider test should be this: which of these faiths better serves my needs and compliments me. To argue that GOD does not exist based on its lack of scientific proof, is no different than saying dreams dont exist, since no one else, other than the dreamer can actually say they dreamt.

    1. Anonymous.

      So, when you took John W Loftus's 'Outsider Test Of Faith', what was the result? Did you discover that you were actually a Muslim, a Hindu or a Buddhist, for example, or had no faith at all when it came to it?

      Or have you stuck with the one you were labelled as by your parents? If so, what convinced you it could not be dismissed with the same ease by which you dismissed all the others?

  4. I'm an atheist but this sort of reasoning rather misses the broader human need for spirituality (whatever *that* is) that is naturally codified in different ways by different societies at different points in history. it doesn't necessarily mean a given faith doesn't express a deeper spiritual truth - not that, as an atheist, I would necessarily argue that point of view, it just strikes me as a somewhat unsophisticated argument.

    1. So what of that would convince someone of one faith that their faith was wrong and another was right, please?

    2. If I've read the OTF right, and I expect I have since I've discussed it at length directly with John W. Loftus (and am mentioned in his upcoming book), the test is merely designed to reveal that the religions are not true. It is not designed to speak to the deeper psychosocial needs that people might have for states like transcendence, awe, wonder, divinity, extended kinship relations, etc. It's just trying to reveal that the religions themselves are not true. I think it does a remarkable job at achieving this goal.

      If the religions are not true, I would contend that seeking ways to achieve the same psychosocial goals without the untrue baggage should be easy to demonstrate as being preferable. Indeed, this is a point I frequently get attacked for, since I support a "spirituality" for atheists that attempts to speak to these real needs without the imaginary fluff. It seems atheists don't like the S word and get pretty reactionary about it, which I can hardly blame them for.

  5. I don't know but then I don't believe faith of any kind is rational. I just find myself increasingly bemused by much of the atheist rhetoric online - we all know that reasoned argument simply doesn't work.

    That man invented God and not vice versa, that the Bible is a bronze age manuscript and no more His word than Harry Potter is so obvious it is barely worth my consideration! I understand atheist polemic (and even practise it on occasion) but ultimately it feels like a waste of time and I'd rather learn some science instead.

    Anyway, I don't mean to be rude or needlessly provocative, you are completely correct of course and these probably are arguments worth having with the Faithful (truth is I was awake all night with a fever and twitter had gone quiet. If I'm not better tomorrow I'm going to get exorcised.)

    1. I think you're right here, in a sense: reasoned argument doesn't often work. What reasoned argument does, when it doesn't cause someone to dig in their heels, is a number of things. One is to cause more cognitive dissonance, the weight of which is increasingly hard to support. Another is to provide the kind of information that will seem vastly more weighty if something puts a crack in the beliefs. Another is to strengthen the resolve of onlookers (in public debates, e.g. online), which creates a social pressure that counters the social pressure that sustains the religious beliefs. I've seen all three of these in action, personally.

      Back to the OTF, one of the problems with belief is that it distorts how believers will evaluate evidence. By getting someone to consider their beliefs as an outsider would (which is admittedly hard to do), those cracks in belief can be opened, causing them to re-evaluate how they consider and treat evidence. In other words, the OTF, if taken honestly (which is hard to get someone to do), literally opens the door to allowing reasoned arguments to work when they wouldn't otherwise. Comparing against other faiths is one of the easiest and most superficial (and threatening to belief) methods to open this door a little bit, but it's hardly the entirety of the OTF. This social pressure thing, for what it is worth, IS what will turn the tide on the matter of widespread religious belief, just like it is what has maintained it until now.

      Now, like I said, it's hard to get someone to take the OTF in the first place, but Rosa has been good about showing how to deal with that (as is Loftus). Specifically, if someone won't honestly take it, the "why not? what are you afraid of?" that naturally follows trivializes their beliefs to some degree from the perspective of onlookers (in public debates). In private, it sows its own seeds of doubt: "what, really, am I afraid of?" I've personally seen this work as well.

      I don't think it's the knockout punch that maybe people are hoping for, nor is it entirely new except in the neatly synthesized form Loftus presents, but the OTF I think proves itself a pretty powerful tool in the evolving debate.


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