CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In a recent post at Debunking Christianity ("I've Changed My Mind Many Times, Especially About Religion") John Loftus argued that his deconversion from Christianity to atheism was the result of his own laudable open-mindedness:
 
I am now a strong atheist who has come to the conclusion there is no need to take the obfuscations of Christian philosophers seriously because all philosophical apologetics is special pleading, all of it. Philosophy itself is used to obfuscate the Bible and the theology based on it not to clarify them, because if they were truly clarified believers would see clearly the Christian emperor has no clothes on. Clarifying the Bible and the theology based on it rather than obfuscating them would strip away the blinders from the eyes of believers. Then believers could see the evidence-based truth. They would see their faith is a delusion on a par with Mormonism, Hinduism, Orthodox Judaism and even Scientology, as well as seeing they’ve been indoctrinated and/or brainwashed to believe.
 
You should take the fact that I've changed my mind as evidence I'm open-minded enough to consider different views. I have a lot to teach my atheist critics precisely because I have changed my views. For at one time I rejected the views of Dawkins and the subsequent Courtier's Reply as philosophically naive, but I now value them. My atheist critics are playing a pretend game when they take the obfuscations of Christian pseudo-philosophers seriously. They do so because they enjoy an intellectually challenging game, much like chess. While it may be fun and interesting to play the game called "Christian" and want to win at it, by playing the game they grant intellectual respectability to that which is bizarre and absurd.
 
As a one-time philosophical apologist himself and now a professing "strong atheist," Loftus here suggests that philosophical apologetics is just so much preposterous special pleading proceeding from the washed but underdeveloped brains of believers. Of course this claim sounds somewhat doctrinaire and unreasonable in its own right. So he calls attention to his own track record of openness to alternative viewpoints – that is, with the implicit proviso that he is clearly no longer open to one particular viewpoint, Christianity, being true. But how exactly is a brainwashed Christian given over completely to absurdity and obfuscation supposed to ever bathe in the pure light of atheism? Given the premise that Christian apologists are intellectually so far gone that they cannot recognize truth even when it slaps them square in the face, it makes no sense for atheists like Loftus to turn around and claim that they once fit that selfsame description perfectly.
 
Atheists may forswear belief in miracles generally, but if Christians truly cannot change their minds any more than a leopard can change his spots, deconversion events would have to qualify as bona fide miracles. Moreover, unlike most miracles, deconversion miracles occur routinely. Indeed, atheists have been known to boast that the Christian-to-atheist deconversion rate is much higher these days than the atheist-to-Christian conversion rate. Naturally the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds doesn't comport well with the whole "freethinker" narrative.
 
Now in principle it's certainly possible that atheists remain atheists because of what Loftus calls the "evidence-based truth" – although it's not clear just what that truth is, if atheism is no more a "belief" than bald is a hair color. But let's assume that he's right, and atheists remain atheists on purely evidential grounds. In that case refusing to budge from a certain view of the world presumably may be perfectly defensible and respectable, given that such a view is rationally and evidentially grounded. But then the argument that Christians are closed-minded and brainwashed loses its force. It may be that Christians remain Christians on the basis of reason and evidence. Absent from John's discourse meanwhile is any indication of what this "evidence" is and exactly why it favors atheism rather than Christianity.
 
Perhaps Loftus would suggest that like himself, many former Christians became atheists gradually; they picked up a book like The Outsider Test for Faith, and as a result of reading it, truth ever so slowly began to dawn upon their darkened psyches. The problem here is that the deconversion to atheism cannot be gradual. Unbelief can't simply evolve, like the first trilobite from some mysterious, misty prehistoric precursor, because we know the precursor to deconversion – it's the same dull-witted, closed-minded, blind faith in nonexistent beings that supposedly prevents intellectual evolution in the first place. No one fitting the Christian stereotype suggested by its author would, or could, ever pick up The Outsider Test for Faith, let alone understand or consider its contents for long enough to feel the first warming effects of deconversion. It seems that either Loftus is deliberately exaggerating the closed-mindedness of Christians for rhetorical effect, or he's compensating for something. Probably a little of both.

33 comments:

"Loftus here suggests that philosophical apologetics is just so much preposterous special pleading proceeding from the washed but underdeveloped brains of believers. "

he should know he' an expert on special pleading. great to see you posting again Don Good post

HAHA! Thanks for the comments Joe.

I did an article for CRI on a couple of these "deconverts" including one of Loftus' buddies, Valerie Tarico:

http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAA244.pdf

But Lenaire and Tarico are just typical of the whole brood. I have found without exception that they're just as dumb as they were when they were Christians.

John has always had a notable tendency to... um... let's say "mimic" certain popular Christian behaviors as a staunch atheist. It isn't unusual even among educated apologists (especially if they're Calvinistic, for reasons unique to their soteriology) to claim that when people don't convert to Christianity after (what the apologist judges to be) enough evangelical effort, that can only be because the non-Christians are just too hardhearted stubborn brainwashed and/or indoctrinated to ever believe it... not without a positive miracle from God!

J'oftus (as typical among the New Atheism movement) is just turning it around: sour grapes for the goose is sour grapes for the gander.

At least he's being equal opportunity in his common "I have a lot to teach you/them" sales pitch! {g!}

JRP

Of course, charges of philosophical obscurantism are funny coming from someone who couldn't be bothered to read a single word in a seven word title, and so refused to read or comment on the article based on a perceived insult that not only never existed but on which respect of him the article depended instead. (Don't ever tell John he is not a Socratic cabbage!)

But I must take some of the credit, or blame, for his stated approach, which I first saw from him several years ago when he finally (after several years of me saying so) figured out I'm a Christian universalist: he wrote an article complaining that Christians like me, and those sympathetic to it like Victor Reppert, were the very worst sorts of Christians because... well... in effect because we made it seem so reasonable that we deceived people even harder about how unreasonable it really is!

One doesn't have to agree that Christian universalism is more reasonable than alternatives, though, to observe the point: as a principle, John will never accept anything he thinks would be more reasonable in favor of Christianity. Any such thing is not and cannot be evidence in favor of Christianity being true; it can only be evidence against the Christian apologist personally somehow.

(Which again mimics some perfervid attitudes among Christians to sceptics. Also, I have at last remembered to use the word "perfervid" in a sentence somewhere, and so can go to my reward someday slightly more content. {g!})

JRP

I will however say in his favor that he has a whole website and books and posts in various places on what he considers evidence that favors atheism over Christianity. I think he can be granted a pass if he doesn't happen to mention it in a particular article.

JRP

Interesting article JP. I really appreciate the closing remarks about we (Christians) "getting our own house in order." We cannot keep people from becoming atheists if they choose, but we can certainly keep ourselves from tempting them to atheism with hypocrisy, indifference and lazy exegesis.

Agreed, well put from JPH. {g}

(Also, good OP Don, forgot to add that somewhere upthread.)

JRP

"Perfervid." Use in a sentence.

"Some people like to read text, but I still perfervid."

LOL. It was worth a shot.

John has always had a notable tendency to... um... let's say "mimic" certain popular Christian behaviors as a staunch atheist.

I've heard it said, "You become what you hate."

Naturally the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds doesn't comport well with the whole "freethinker" narrative.

I think it would be worth checking your logic on conversions and deconversions. It is a fact that more Christians become atheists than atheists become Christians. Now consider that a significantly larger proportion of current atheists have already changed their minds than current Christians. That tells us that they are willing to consider the arguments and change their minds. It just so happens that they have already done that.

Q: What do you call a theist who is willing to objectively evaluate the arguments?
A: An atheist.

im-skeptical said...
Q: What do you call a theist who is willing to objectively evaluate the arguments?
A: An atheist.

my self

m-skeptical said...
Naturally the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds doesn't comport well with the whole "freethinker" narrative.

I think it would be worth checking your logic on conversions and deconversions. It is a fact that more Christians become atheists than atheists become Christians. Now consider that a significantly larger proportion of current atheists have already changed their minds than current Christians. That tells us that they are willing to consider the arguments and change their minds. It just so happens that they have already done that.

6/29/2016 10:23:00 PM Delete


where are you getting your facts obi that? you are basing it on what atheists say on message boards, they based it on anecdote on people they see they see on boards; don't you know message boards attract a highly selective audience? not at all representative, think about it. with 3% of rhe country atheist how could more of then switch than go the other way? atheists are so fond of inflating their numbers.

It is a fact that more Christians become atheists than atheists become Christians. Now consider that a significantly larger proportion of current atheists have already changed their minds than current Christians. That tells us that they are willing to consider the arguments and change their minds. It just so happens that they have already done that.

I'm not following you here. If X becomes Y but Y does not become X, X undergoes a change and Y does not. The people in this scenario who most often change their minds are Christians, who only afterward may rightly be considered atheists. Christians cannot be atheists before they become atheists. Once they do become atheists, however, they do not change their minds.

Therefore Christians are more open-minded than atheists... for whatever that's worth.

Nice post. The only problem with it is that you use the psuedo-thoughts of John Loftus as the basis for making your point. When Loftus used to comment here (a lot), it became apparent to me that Loftus is about one thing -- promoting himself. It felt like every other comment he wrote was "you should read my book." So, by referencing him, you only appease his ego. I think that we would be better off declaring the CADRE site a Loftus-free zone. He has nothing to add, and any mention of him is what he wants.

where are you getting your facts obi that? you are basing it on what atheists say on message boards, they based it on anecdote on people they see they see on boards; don't you know message boards attract a highly selective audience? not at all representative, think about it.
- No, dude. Real numbers. See this chart. You will notice that it shows both affiliation at birth and current affiliation. And it shows that the "none" group at birth contains the highest proportion of people who eventually change their minds, and also the current "none" group contains the highest proportion of people who have changed their minds. This blows the argument of the OP away.

I'm not following you here
- Just look at the chart. It confirms what I said. More than half of "nones" at birth convert, and well more than half of current "nones" have converted. That is not true of any other religious group. This is clear evidence that they are more willing to change their minds.

Interesting chart, IMS.

BTW, what are your opinions on Feminism and Gamergate?

im-skeptical said...
where are you getting your facts obi that? you are basing it on what atheists say on message boards, they based it on anecdote on people they see they see on boards; don't you know message boards attract a highly selective audience? not at all representative, think about it.


- No, dude. Real numbers. See this chart. You will notice that it shows both affiliation at birth and current affiliation.

man you nothing about stats. there are no numbers on the chart, that makes it worthless



And it shows that the "none" group at birth contains the highest proportion of people who eventually change their minds, and also the current "none" group contains the highest proportion of people who have changed their minds. This blows the argument of the OP away.


that's BS too. first of all non is not atheist, 50% of nons. believe im God. Secondly,none is clearly not the highest group at birth because there are only 16% none and 25% catholicity. None is not out producing Catholics with a size differential like that.

I'm not following you here
- Just look at the chart. It confirms what I said. More than half of "nones" at birth convert, and well more than half of current "nones" have converted. That is not true of any other religious group. This is clear evidence that they are more willing to change their minds.

you can't show it;s half because there are no numbers on the chart I see just a line, that tells me nothing. Non's are not atheists, they starting out not atheists their interchange minds to still not be not atheists, you said atheists convert;

dig it man. the original issue was that more people convert from Christian to atheist than ice versa. So how many are born in the non column is irrelevant. To make good on your claim you have to show more people going from Christian column to atheist you are not showing that by talking nons because they are not atheists.

What do I think about feminism? I am a feminist. That means equal rights for all women. Nothing more, and nothing less.

What do I think about Gamergate? I know practically nothing about it. No opinion.

For your information, I am a liberal. I am not an SJW or part of the regressive left. I see no need for "safe spaces" at the cost of free speech, and I have no use for the A+ crowd. They may be left, but they're not liberal.

man you nothing about stats. there are no numbers on the chart, that makes it worthless
- The chart is useful to give you a feel for the proportions. It is based on numbers from polls. It would be still more useful if they had put the numbers on it.

none is clearly not the highest group at birth because there are only 16% none and 25% catholicity. None is not out producing Catholics with a size differential like that.
- We are not talking about absolute numbers. Yes, there are more religious people than atheists, but we are talking about which group is more likely to change their mind. The graph clearly shows that people in the religious groups are less likely to switch.

you can't show it;s half because there are no numbers on the chart I see just a line, that tells me nothing.
- It tells you nothing if you don't understand it (which seems to be the case). If you want to see the numbers, use your superior research skills and look them up.

Non's are not atheists, they starting out not atheists their interchange minds to still not be not atheists, you said atheists convert;
- You don't even know what you're saying. The "none" group includes atheists and others who are not religiously affiliated.

the original issue was that more people convert from Christian to atheist than ice versa.
- No. The original issue was Don's claim about "the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds".

Think of it this way (hypothetical): Group A contains 100 people, and 75 of them change their minds at some time. Group R contains 1000 people and 150 of them change their minds at some time. There are twice as many Group R people who change as Group A people. So your argument is that the Group R people change much more than the Group A people. But that's simplistic bullshit. Statistically, a Group B person has a 15% probability of changing, and a Group A person has 75% probability. The Group A person is much more likely to change.

m-skeptical said...
What do I think about feminism? I am a feminist. That means equal rights for all women. Nothing more, and nothing less.

What do I think about Gamergate? I know practically nothing about it. No opinion.

For your information, I am a liberal. I am not an SJW or part of the regressive left. I see no need for "safe spaces" at the cost of free speech, and I have no use for the A+ crowd. They may be left, but they're not liberal.

6/30/2016 02:25:00 PM Delete


Skepical I agree with you om those isssues

m-skeptical said...
man you nothing about stats. there are no numbers on the chart, that makes it worthless
- The chart is useful to give you a feel for the proportions. It is based on numbers from polls. It would be still more useful if they had put the numbers on it.

better feel if it had Numbers also it totally obscures the problems I pointed out.

none is clearly not the highest group at birth because there are only 16% none and 25% catholicity. None is not out producing Catholics with a size differential like that.

- We are not talking about absolute numbers. Yes, there are more religious people than atheists, but we are talking about which group is more likely to change their mind. The graph clearly shows that people in the religious groups are less likely to switch.

(1) I'm not sure if people are born into nun category, (2) non are coming from something they are not leaving to be something, I'm sue that does happen but not often., (3) nons believe in God at least 50%.



you can't show it;s half because there are no numbers on the chart I see just a line, that tells me nothing.

- It tells you nothing if you don't understand it (which seems to be the case). If you want to see the numbers, use your superior research skills and look them up.

already have, the trend is to shed labels and be a non not the other way around,
btw who did the study? People's committee to destroy Christianity? Achyra S little gray men?

Non's are not atheists, they starting out not atheists their interchange minds to still not be not atheists, you said atheists convert;

- You don't even know what you're saying. The "none" group includes atheists and others who are not religiously affiliated.

the original issue was that more people convert from Christian to atheist than ice versa.
- No. The original issue was Don's claim about "the fact that atheists scarcely, if ever, actually change their minds".

O well that's not the issue as it evolved with my post



Think of it this way (hypothetical): Group A contains 100 people, and 75 of them change their minds at some time. Group R contains 1000 people and 150 of them change their minds at some time. There are twice as many Group R people who change as Group A people. So your argument is that the Group R people change much more than the Group A people. But that's simplistic bullshit. Statistically, a Group B person has a 15% probability of changing, and a Group A person has 75% probability. The Group A person is much more likely to change.

I fer that. but when group A as 2 million and group B has 224 m people...


Skeptical look at it this way. if we were dealing with 1-0 people v. 1 milliom, oi of the 10 changed, only 20 million of B changed, yes the rate of aching for A iksmuvh higher even though the bnun is much lower, buit because the bumberv isvso low i'tnot importnt

even so It it behooves us to arguments the issues ad nothing nore.

yes the rate of aching for A iksmuvh higher even though the bnun is much lower, buit because the bumberv isvso low i'tnot importnt

Translation: Yes, the rate of changing for A is much higher even though the number is much lower, but because the number is so low it's not important.

Well, that really depends on what is being argued. Your point might be "most people are members of religious groups, so I don't care about what the few atheists out there believe." And that would be a good argument, based on the numbers. But Don was saying that atheists hardly ever change their minds. That is a claim about atheists that is either independent of the number of religious, or it is intended to be a comparison to the religious. In either case, the absolute number of religious or of atheists in not relevant to the claim. If one shows that atheists do indeed change their minds, then the claim is refuted. If the claim is made about atheists, then to say that they are few in number so we only need to consider the religious is pretty dumb.

This comment has been removed by the author.

I m starting my own Peanuts wanna be comic strip.




Skeptocal: Atheists have converted from a previous position moer than Christians have converted from atheism or other faiths,

Don: why are atheists so flighty and dis-satisfied?


skep: atheists remain atheists longer than any other group

Don: why are atheists so stubborn?


man I', practically ready for the peanuts special can't you just hear Linus saying those Don lines? the final "good grief"

Just look at the chart. It confirms what I said. More than half of "nones" at birth convert, and well more than half of current "nones" have converted. That is not true of any other religious group. This is clear evidence that they are more willing to change their minds.

That chart is a mess, and so is your argument. If the conversion of nones to believers is evidence of the openness of nones, the conversion of believers to nones is evidence of the openness of believers.

But more importantly, my argument is not that one group is more open than another. My argument is that any number of Christians becoming atheists falsifies the claim that Christians are "closed minded." More importantly still, comparative degrees of openness are completely irrelevant to the arguments and evidence offered in support of the two positions. Loftus argues that when he changes his mind it's because he's open-minded, but when he doesn't change his mind it's because he's committed to the position that is more evidence-based. But Christians could easily say the same thing. Apart from accompanying arguments and evidence the claim appears completely arbitrary and self-serving.

Don,

If you insist that atheists make the claim that no Christians ever convert, then that claim is obviously not true, because we know that some Christians do convert. But I don't think that atheists make such a claim. Did Loftus ever say it? I doubt it because he's one of those who did convert. As a matter of fact, the majority of atheists are former religious believers, and atheists are well aware of that. Therefore, your statement is a straw man.

But there remains the question of changing one's belief based on evidence and reason. In the case of Loftus, that's what he did when he became an atheist. If it was evidence and reason that led him to make that decision, then it would be unreasonable to flip again, because the logic that he used leads in one direction, not two. That would be like saying 2 + 2 = 4 one one day, but 2 + 2 = 5 on another day. It doesn't work like that.

Now, you may say that the logical process of someone who converts to Christianity is better than that of someone like Loftus. That is a legitimate question to be examined. And as it happens, I have read dozens of conversion accounts - both atheist-to-Christian and Christian-to-atheist. There is a clear difference in what they say about their thinking process. Take a look at this.

BK,

You may be right that Loftus self-promotes too much, and that such behavior should not be encouraged. But he well represents a larger school of thought that loudly asserts both the absurdity of Christianity and the rationality of atheism while consistently failing to rationally justify the claim. The way I see it, touting ones’ own greatness, or open-mindedness, book sales, etc., is one of a quite limited number of alternative rhetorical strategies to actually providing sound arguments.

Should we give him attention, if indeed that’s what he really wants? No, strictly speaking. But in giving him what he wants in the short term we also give him what he does not want in the long term. We use his own rhetoric to point out the larger failure of atheist rhetoric generally, in this case the attempt to bolster unbelief with the use of a demonstrably false antichristian stereotype. My faith tells me that God will ultimately be glorified through each of us – John Loftus included – whether we like it or not.

As a matter of fact, the majority of atheists are former religious believers, and atheists are well aware of that. Therefore, your statement is a straw man.

No, it does not follow from the observation that Loftus’ argument is incoherent, that my argument is a straw man. He claims that philosophical apologists are incapable of deconversion, and claims that he knows all about the psychology of philosophical apologists because he used to be one. Blame Loftus if this particular argument of his is easy to dismantle.

Now, you may say that the logical process of someone who converts to Christianity is better than that of someone like Loftus. That is a legitimate question to be examined. And as it happens, I have read dozens of conversion accounts - both atheist-to-Christian and Christian-to-atheist. There is a clear difference in what they say about their thinking process. Take a look at this.

I think the “rational vs. emotional” dilemma you’ve suggested here is simply false. Atheists may typically describe their conversion as a purely intellectual process, but they also typically describe God in the Bible as a capricious but all powerful tyrant. Now if I initially believed that God were a capricious tyrant (evil), my only choices would be to resentfully (angrily) submit to his evil will, to rebel against his evil will on principle and thus invite the (fearful) prospect of eternal judgment upon myself, or to convince myself that God simply does not exist in an attempt to reduce the emotional tension brought on by a perceived lose-lose predicament. On this view deconversion is first emotional, and only then intellectual.

No, it does not follow from the observation that Loftus’ argument is incoherent, that my argument is a straw man.
- I made my statement based on what you claimed about the unwillingness of atheists to consider the arguments and convert, not based on anything you said about Loftus or his arguments.

I think the “rational vs. emotional” dilemma you’ve suggested here is simply false.
- In my post on that topic, I urged the reader to try an experiment for himself. Read various conversion stories, as I have done. See for yourself how people describe their own process and state of mind and what leads then to decide one way or the other. My conclusion was based on just that. It wasn't just an empty claim "we're more rational than you are".

Now if I initially believed that God were a capricious tyrant (evil), my only choices would be to resentfully (angrily) submit to his evil will, to rebel against his evil will on principle and thus invite the (fearful) prospect of eternal judgment upon myself, or to convince myself that God simply does not exist in an attempt to reduce the emotional tension brought on by a perceived lose-lose predicament. On this view deconversion is first emotional, and only then intellectual.
- This is a false choice, and it doesn't match any of the accounts that I have read. All three of your alternatives presume that God actually exists, and that the atheist is inn a predicament that causes mental anguish, no matter which of those alternatives he chooses. Read a real deconversion story. You will never see that. What you will often find is a realization that the bible stories can't possibly be true, or that they don't make logical sense. This is not an emotional conflict. It is an intellectual understanding that alleviates the cognitive dissonance that invariably results from a combination of belief and an intellectual desire to understand.

- I made my statement based on what you claimed about the unwillingness of atheists to consider the arguments and convert, not based on anything you said about Loftus or his arguments.

*sigh* Your charge that my statement was a "straw man" was based on the supposition that somehow I have been insisting "that atheists make the claim that no Christians ever convert." I do not claim that atheists make that claim.

Therefore your argument is a straw man. ;-)

But seriously, I think you're missing what I'm trying to say. Again my argument basically is:

1. One particular atheist (not all atheists), John Loftus, has argued that his deconversion experience demonstrates that as a former Christian he is open-minded (unlike Christians who have not followed his example).

2. Since becoming an atheist, John has not reconverted, or converted to a non-Christian religion.

3. Given John's implied premise that conversion, or deconversion, or reconversion, is a reliable criterion for open-mindedness, if follows that John was open-minded as a Christian (since he was willing to deconvert to atheism), but is not open-minded as an atheist (since he is not willing to convert to Christianity or any other religion).

- In my post on that topic, I urged the reader to try an experiment for himself. Read various conversion stories, as I have done.

I've read numerous conversion (and deconversion) stories, but I don't believe everything I read any more than you do. I do agree that the stories read generally, as you have described them. What I doubt is the accuracy of many atheists' self-descriptions in those stories as exceptionally honest, rational, brave, impartial, truth-seeking intellectuals. From everything I've seen atheists are as emotional, sometimes given to believing things on sparse evidence, susceptible to confirmation bias, etc., as I am.

Anyway, I'm ready to move on to something else. Thanks for your various comments here.

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