Wednesday, March 9, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #66 - Debunking Christianity: The Ten Marks of a Deluded Person

John Loftus posted the following list of characteristic he believes that makes a person "deluded" by his/her faith. I've bolded his comments and mine are in normal text.

Below in no particular order are what I consider the ten marks (or characteristics) of a deluded person. I think even educated Christians will agree with most of them. You might want to consider from this checklist how many of them apply to you. To the degree that more of them apply then the more likely you are deluded by your faith. Now it's quite possible that Christians can be deluded and yet their faith is true, in the same sense that a person might be brainwashed or indoctrinated into believing the truth. But the point is that if you're deluded then you have no reason to believe.

The thing is I think that many of these can apply to atheists. Let's see if his list makes sense.

A deluded person is more likely than not one who...

1) Was born and raised into his or her religious faith. Just taking the odds at face value this is non-controversial and undeniable given the number of religions propagated around the globe and adhered to with utter and complete confidence as the one true faith.

Not all Christians accepts odds at face value nor deny that there are things we don't know. The things all of the various religions Loftus refers cannot, in no way or shape or form, can be true simultaneously. Christianity is either true or it isn't. If any of the other religions are true then Christianity cannot be true. This is the bottom line. The other possibility is that none of them is wrong. I don't think that there is enough evidence pointing to Christianity being wrong. Better minds than John Loftus have tried to prove the Bible wrong and failed.

2) As an adult never adopts nor cultivates the adult attitude of doubt. All adults must revisit the religious faith taught to them by their parents since #1 above is undeniably true. That means they must doubt. Doubt is the adult attitude.

#1 is not true. Loftus cannot prove it to be true either. I'd like to know why he does not apply the "adult attitude" to his conclusions in #1? The Bible invites us to test our faith - to check it out. If you don't examine your presuppositions and your beliefs than you are disobeying the commands given by God through the Bible. If you don't believe that the Bible is the word of God, I sure would like to see you prove it.

3) Never reads widely or is exposed to other points of view in the media. I'm talking about non-fiction works about the sciences, different cultures, different faiths, and those written by skeptics or non-believers. To escape from being deluded, believers should read books that are written by people within different cultures and faith communities, and watch programs on the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, 60 Minutes, Dateline, and yes, YouTube.

I'd like to know why Loftus thinks that if one exposes themselves to other viewpoints, cultures, and religions they will come to the same conclusions they do. I have spent considerable amount of time looking at other viewpoints throughout my life but I don't see things the same way he does.

4) Does not travel widely including travel into different cultures. A deluded person only experiences a small slice of the pie. One must experience the world to see how others live. The more the better. Such a person basically stays within the social confines of like-minded religious people. The Amish are the extreme examples of this. Many believers only have believing friends. Even if believers cannot travel the world they can still step outside their social grouping to meet other people who think differently. Most believers do not trust people of different faiths or non-believers. Seek them out. Attend a freethinker's group meeting. Get to know them. Become friends with them.

I have been blessed to grow up in and continue to live in one of the most diverse places on earth at any given time - varying beliefs, lifestyle, culture, and viewpoints. I have had peers and classmates from all over the world and learned how to get along with all of them. I learned that just because they think differently doesn't make them more evil than people who agree with me. I do see the allure of compromise. It may seem unfair to think of people one knows who are nice, kind, and trustworthy (according to your standard) will go to hell because they reject Jesus. I keep coming back to the fact that if the Bible is right than that mean anyone who disagrees is wrong. The Bible does not give us the leeway to conclude anything else. This is why people like John Loftus must reject it if they are going to to continue what they are doing.

5) Never studies deeply into the nature of his or her adopted faith. The more you know the less you believe, the less confident you become, and the more you doubt.

I'd like to know what "deeply" means here. It usually seems to mean, rejecting traditions understanding, and assuming that the Bible is wrong and then try to find evidence for why it's wrong. I have studied math, science, and engineering for my whole life and the more I learn the more I see God the way Isaac Newton and Kepler saw God. The more I live and seek after God, the more I get to know God and the more my confidence in him grow and my confidence in me lessens because I see me more clearly. My faith grows.

6) Lies in order to defend one's faith. There are plenty of examples of this, from faking stories about finding Noah's Ark, to fudging the truth when there is no reasonable response, to making up personal healing stories, to claiming a conversion from a position of intellectual atheism (versus a practical atheism) to Evangelical Christianity like Lee Strobel and David Wood, to personal and unjustified attacks on anyone who questions one's faith in order to poison the well against them, to debate tactics like the ones used by Bill Craig and Dinesh D'Souza who as debaters, just like boxers in a ring, are out to win the debate no matter what must be said in order to win it. These are liars for Jesus to various degrees. If you have to lie to defend your faith then you need help.

I think here, Loftus protests too much. He likes to believe that all Christians are Christians because they were raised up as Christians. Although I was raised in a church under believing parents who fully committed themselves to God, my story is not the norm in my generation. Fewer and fewer people are being raised the way I was. It is for his pet theory for the origin of religious faith being a function of where and when you grew up that he has to accuse people like Lee Strobel and David Wood of not being real atheists. It's okay for him to discount their testimony but not not okay for his testimony to have been a born-again Christian at one point to be questioned? Sounds fishy to me. His complaining about William Lane Craig's and Dinesh D'Souza's debate tactics seems real self-serving. I have not seen any evidence that they lied to win debates at any time. Loftus offers no proof to these stupid allegations. I think it's self-serving on John Loftus' part because he lost his debates against David Wood and Dinesh D'Souza and it wasn't just because they are better debaters - they're arguments were better - and he feels the need to explain the lost. Additionally, he's below William Lane Craig's notice so he won't debate Loftus. That's not a bad thing but it really must wound his pride, being he was once his student and didn't finish his education.

7) Preaches to people who think differently rather than rationally engaging them. I am constantly amazed, bewildered, frustrated, and bored with the kind of responses I see from believers who comment here at DC. They come here preaching. They pontificate. They quote mine from the Bible. They even say we're going to hell with glee. Many of them merely mouth the words of the creeds and affirm what they believe, rather than actually engaging us with a rational discussion about the basis for believing in the first place. They come here preaching to us from an ancient superstitious set of texts rather than showing us why we should believe them in the first place.

I don't think anyone who is born again and loves God wants to see anyone go to hell. We want what God wants. It doesn't make me glad that people are going to go to hell because they opposed God. Why should quoting the Bible be offensive? Why should it be a problem? It's been said many times that you should first prove the Bible is worthy to be believed before using it. I think it's good to discuss why we should believe it, but I find that people have already made up their minds to reject it. If you truly have an attitude of doubt and skepticism you should be equally open to either viewpoint. Otherwise, you are biased and might as well admit it and be prepared to prove why you have come to that conclusion. I have studied the issues and looked at evidence and I have come to the conclusion that God not only exists but has revealed himself through scripture. Therefore anything or anyone that contradicts it can't be taken as authority.

8) Claims he or she does not need evidence to believe. Take notice Alvin Plantinga and Bill Craig! This is utterly delusional thinking especially when we consider all of the things they must take as properly basic beliefs coming from the witness of the Holy Spirit. As someone said, "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." Anyone who claims his or her faith does not need evidence, even if true, ought to take a reality check.

I disagree that we should take the attitude that we don't need evidence to believe. Every Christian I know who is born-again had some evidence that lead them to accept Jesus - they know what God did for them. There is plenty evidence, but people do deny and ignore what God has graciously given to us.

9) Must be convinced that his or her faith is impossible before seeing it as improbable. Time after time believers will claim I have not proved that their faith is impossible, and so lacking this kind of proof they still claim to have a reason to believe. However, we're always talking about probabilities. So even if it's still possible to believe in light of a number of problems for faith, it's still an improbable faith and that should be good enough.

Improbability is not enough. There are too many things that we know are both improbable and true. I would agree if we knew that all things that true is also probable. Since we know that does not work something improbable does not by definition can be tossed out. This point is often used to deny miracles. If something is probable it cannot be a miracle. For example - not all cancers probably go into remission. Impossibility is a lot stronger. If you argue that there is no such thing as impossibility then you have to allow for miracles. Sounds like a dilemma.

10) Must denigrate the sciences in order to have faith. This is what I see time after time. Believers denigrate the sciences in a number of ways in order to believe. That's because faith demands it. Some believers don't even know what I'm talking about. Since science tells us prayer doesn't work then it doesn't work. It tells us the universe is 13.7 billion years old. It tells us we evolved. It tells us there was no Israelite Exodus from Egypt. It tells us the Nativity stories in the Gospels could not be true. It tells us virgins do not have babies. It tells us that dead people do not bodily rise from the grave. Christians must denigrate science in order to believe. Science or Faith? Science has a track record. Faith flies planes into buildings. Science all the way, hands down. End of story.

Far from the end of the story. Faith is always misdefined by people like John Loftus. And there is no reason to think believers must denigrate science any more than science needs to denigrate religion. It doesn't take science or faith to understand reality. We need science and faith. They are not mutually exclusive but can help flesh out what is real. Loftus makes all kinds of assertions that prayer does not work, people evolved from one-celled organism, and no Israelite exodus, but seems to neglect that there very intelligent and educated people (who actually finished their PH.D.'s in a wide range of disciplines) who would disagree with him and come to opposite conclusions. He also asserts that the miracles of the incarnation and Resurrection could not have happened because...? They are impossible? You can't come to that conclusion and still claim to be objective and open-minded. You can say that we don't have any scientific data for them. You can say that you don't find any evidence that you would accept. But you can't deny them and write them off as impossible because you can't prove that they are impossible. The best you, as a skeptic, can truly and honestly conclude is that they are improbable and rare - maybe occurring once. Isn't that the definition of a miracle? Yes, it is, which is what Christianity has claimed for 2000 years.

Debunking Christianity: The Ten Marks of a Deluded Person

My Common Sense is Tingling - Debunking Christianity: Quote of the Day, by Jon Jeremy

Someone named Jon Jeremy made the following observation, as posted by John Loftus on his blog:

There is a fairly simple diagnostic test for delusion: before starting any debate, just ask: "What kind of evidence would cause you to change your mind?" If the answer is 'none' then you've caught one of the deluded. Go on with the debate by all means, but treat it as a spectator sport rather than an attempt to convince your opponent.

I think that this a fair test that everyone should take before asking anyone else to change their mind on any subject. It seems like to me Jeremy does not think that the point of the debate is not to attempt to convince the opposes person(s) to change their minds and agree with them. If I understand what he said, then I must ask what is the purpose of debate and discussion between people who hold opposing opinions if not to convince the opposition to change their mind? I would actually say that convincing others to change their minds is only part of the goal of a debate. The other part is improving your own argument by seeing where it's weak or abandoning them altogether if they are not up to snuff. Grant it, this only works if both sides consider the question Jeremy asks. I find it amazing that many atheists seem to think that no one can consider and scrutinize their religion and honestly come up with the opposite answer they do. And when I follow their logic and thought processes I find so many ways that their arguments fail I am amazed that they can't see it. Truth is it should not be a surprise, the Bible clearly explains why.

Additionally, John Loftus has been very clear in his purpose: To discredit Christianity and inspire Evangelicals to leave their religions and become atheists like himself. How can he argue that he is open-minded and willing to argue as a "spectator"?

Debunking Christianity: Quote of the Day, by Jon Jeremy