Another Response to Thomas Talbott, Informing Him Why Rape is Wrong

In a section titled “A Fundamental Inconsistency in the Loftus Approach,” Talbott says I have no reason to think rape is wrong based on the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), and claims Victor Reppert’s “previously expressed arguments are pretty decisive in my opinion.” (pp. 20-21) One of these so-called decisive arguments has to do with why we think there is a material world, something I've already addressed. If I'm harsh with Talbott and Reppert then let it be said I don't appreciate Talbott's demeaning attitude toward me. If he can dish it out he should be able to take it.

Talbott offers three counter-arguments to my replies to Reppert. So let’s first rehearse what I had argued for in The Christian Delusion (TCD) as a background, since what I had argued in that chapter forms the basis for my replies to Reppert:

On page 91:
The amount of skepticism warranted depends not only on 1) the number of rational people who disagree, but also 2) whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, 3) the nature of their beliefs, 4) how their beliefs originated, 5) under what circumstances their beliefs were personally adopted in the first place, and 5) the kinds of evidence that can possibly be used to decide between the differing beliefs. My claim is that when it comes to religious faiths, a high degree of skepticism is warranted precisely because of these factors. [Call these items with inserted numbers the “amount of skepticism warranted criteria”, or ASWC.]
On page 93:
I’m arguing that religious faiths warrant the same level of skepticism that other similar beliefs require, like beliefs in the elves of Iceland, the trolls of Norway, and the power of witches in Africa. They must all be subjected to the same levels of skepticism given both the extraordinary nature of these claims and how some of these beliefs were adopted in the first place.
Okay so far?

Talbott seems to be yet another brilliant Christian philosopher who is made to look, well, dumb, when it comes to defending his faith. No offense, but this is an argument I make in a chapter for The End of Christianity coming out in mid-July, something he should read. It’s like faith short-circuits the believer's brain process where they cannot see simple facts, to the point where they cannot even read. That’s exactly why I call their faith a delusion in the first place. It has the same brainwashing effects on otherwise smart people.

Talbott’s first criticism to my reply to Reppert on the rape issue is this:
“First, the issue is not whether some skeptical persons today (or some who mistakenly think they are skeptics) “would ever want to morally justify rape.” The issue is whether the belief that rape is morally wrong passes the Outsider Test; and if so, how.” (p. 20).
Here in parentheses Talbott is claiming that he is truly a skeptic because he is skeptical of skepticism, and that people like me are not. But this is utterly ignorant and utterly confused. One cannot be skeptical of skepticism for it is the basis for weeding out the wheat of true ideas from the chaff of false ones. Point. Get. The.

In any case, let’s make some important distinctions before proceeding. a) There are people who know rape is morally wrong and yet do it anyway. This describes most rapists and therefore irrelevant when assessing how the OTF might justify an anti-rape ethic. One way to find this out in the Western democratic civilized world is to conduct a poll and ask convicted rapists if they knew what they were doing was wrong. I suspect they all do. b) There are people who think God commands rape and have raped others because of this. I find this horrific and barbaric to the core and one of the reasons I am opposed to religious faith-based reasoning. c) There are an overwhelming number of decent civilized folk around the world who condemn a rape ethic. They outnumber by far the people in (a) and (b) above.

Now please refer to what I had said on page 91 of TCD. Given the ASWC how skeptical should I be of a non-rape ethic when compared to a rape ethic? Not much. Actually, given these differences the burden of proof is on a person who seeks to justify a rape ethic. Why this is not obvious to these Christian philosophers utterly escapes me. Do I need to spell this out? Rational civilized decent people all disagree with a rape ethic. Others know it’s wrong even if they do it anyway, or they do so as an act of war, such as is happening in Darfur right now. The condemnation of a rape ethic is embraced by all civilized people, and therefore is in a different category than religious faiths where there is so much disagreement (ASWC #1).

Next, please refer to what I had said on page 93 of TCD. An anti-rape ethic is not an extraordinary claim akin to believing in the elves of Iceland, the trolls of Norway, and the power of witches in Africa. The OTF calls upon people to be more skeptical of extraordinary claims. What, again, is so hard for Christian philosophers like Talbott and Reppert to understand about this? They will no doubt use what I call Definitional Apologetics to define this problem away by feigning that they do not know what an extraordinary claim is, when claims like virgin births, donkey's that talk, and resurrected bodies should crash these attempts like a car wreck.

Talbott says,
“Second, the number of irreligious soldiers who have thought it quite acceptable to rape the women of a conquered people probably numbers in the millions (if not tens of millions) over the course of human history.” (p. 21)
But come on now Talbott, we're not talking about times of war. In times of war soldiers rape women. The Christian Crusaders did that (something no doubt, both Thomas Talbott and Victor Reppert would deny they would have done if they were soldiers in one of these Crusades, because they are chronological snobs, as Reppert calls others--people who think they know better than people who were raised in a different era of the past). Again, we’re not talking about the circumstances of war. How do they apply to a modern nation of peaceful democratic civilized people? And we're most emphatically not comparing the ancient barbaric past with the present. Morality evolves. That's my claim. Try to show me otherwise, okay? I am arguing against the religious based nature of these crimes in a modern nation of peaceful democratic civilized people. Remove the religion and you remove a great deal of the violence, as Hector Avalos has argued in his book, Fighting Words.

Talbott also says “In addition to the fact that Loftus fails to cite a single example of an ancient religious text that, as he interprets it, justifies rape, he can hardly deny that many religions condemn it.” (p. 21)

Now this baffles me to no end. He either attributes to me ignorance of the Bible, or else he is the ignorant one. Does he read his Bible? Let me help him out:
“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house...” Deuteronomy 21:10-12
And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.” Numbers 31:15-18
For a detailed exegesis of these and other passages let me recommend Susanne Scholz’s Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible and the Women’s Bible Commentary for starters. I cannot believe how ignorant some Christian philosophers are, or feign to be, in order to defend their faith. They have, what Jaco Gericke calls, a Fundamentalism on Stilts. Come on Talbott and Reppert, come down off your stilts and wallow in the mire of the basis of your faith in scholarly biblical studies. At least touch the covers of these two books, please.

And it's irrelevant if some religions condemn rape. What does that prove when it can be shown that Judeo-Christianity approved it in the past? Again, morality evolves. Christians do not get their morality from the Bible. They read their morality back into the Bible.

Talbott ends with his third criticism by saying,
“And finally, one could easily appeal to cultural relativism and construct an argument that parallels exactly Loftus’ initial four step argument; and in this argument, the third step would read: “Loftus’ belief that rape is morally wrong is probably false.” (p. 21)
The form of my OTF argument does parallel one that cultural relativists use with regard to morality, but not in one important respect. Apparently Talbott’s faith blinds him from the reading skills necessary to see a relevant difference built into my argument. It’s as if he doesn’t even try to understand it. The first three premises go like this:
1) Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage. This is the religious diversity thesis.

2) Consequently, it seems very likely that adopting one’s religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree. This is the religious dependency thesis.

3) Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.
Notice the words "overwhelming" and “overwhelmingly.” I chose to use those words on purpose. I am not claiming cultural relativism--that all of our religious beliefs are culturally dependent--only that this is overwhelmingly the case. Does he deny this? Let him try. Does this lead to cultural relativism? I have purposely excluded that from the discussion. Talbott and Reppert claim that they are the exceptions to the rule, as do almost all believers I have ever discussed these issues with. WTF? That is impossible. This is a mark of a delusion. They all claim against the probabilities that they are the exceptions to the rule. Yeah, right. Then let them kick against the goads and explain away the rule.

Besides, Talbott doesn't even know what cultural relativism is. And he's a philosopher of religion? No wonder I claim he's giving the rest of us who appreciate the philosophical disciplines a bad name. He should be fired as incompetent if he's teaching an Introduction to Ethics class. One cannot say, given cultural relativism, that the dominant cultural opinion on an ethical issue is "probably false." Does he not understand this?

Talbott ends his discussion of rape by saying, “So I cannot think of anything beyond a sheer anti-religious prejudice that would lead him to trace every moral view he rejects, and no moral view he accepts, to some religious influence.” (p. 21)

I am anti-religious, that’s true. But I was not always this way. My faith was ripped from me against my preferences due to everything I had experienced and everything I had learned. So it’s not fair to dismiss my arguments because I am presently an anti-religious person when that’s a conclusion I reached over the decades based on everything I had experienced and learned. In my book Why I Became an Atheist, if he reads the first part, it justifies an anti-superstitious viewpoint more than sufficiently.

Now, can an anti-rape ethic be justified by the OTF? Yes, most assuredly. Why is rape wrong? 1) Because of the nature of the act itself. As an act of violence against another human being it harms people, mostly women. Harming people is wrong. 2) Because fathers, husbands, and brothers would kill us if they caught us. 3) Because of a social contract between rational people that allows us to raise our daughters and allows our wives and mothers to live in an environment where they will not fear walking home from work in the dark, which would create a great deal of social dysfunction. Who in their right mind would try to justify a rape ethic if he had daughters, a wife and a mother? That is insane, for he would be saying men could rape the women closest to him! This would be an utterly barbaric society if a rape ethic was accepted. What, do Talbott and Reppert actually think a non-religious society would be a barbaric one? What utter and complete rubbish based on utter and complete ignorance. Finally, but not exhaustively, 4) Because we should not treat people as means to an end, as Immanuel Kant argued.

If I were an outsider to a anti-rape ethic I would quickly embrace it, easily. It passes the skepticism of the OTF, even against any hedonistic preferences for wanting to embrace a rape ethic, since I want the women I love to be able to walk the streets unmolested, highlighting just one of the above arguments for a anti-rape ethic. And if I were a woman this would be an absolute no-brainer, duh, which represents more than half the population of the world.

For further reading on a non-religious skeptical scientific based morality I recommend Morality without God and Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

I have offered reasons for an anti-rape ethic that an overwhelming number of people accept and that is good enough. What if Talbott rejects these non-religious reasons? So what? Why should it be required that I need to convince a deluded person that he is wrong in order to have a anti-rape ethic? Why should it matter at all if people disagree with my anti-rape ethic? No ethical view is agreed upon by everyone. An argument does not have to convince someone for it to be a good one. I have offered a good anti-rape ethic. That should be sufficient.

One thing we know is that one of the main reasons there is moral diversity is because there is religious diversity. Likewise, one of the main reasons people have sought to justify a rape ethic is because of their religious views. Remove the religious diversity with the OTF and we remove one of the major reasons we cannot come to a global consensus about morality, and one of the main reasons people seek to justify rape.

More to come. I'm making an example of Talbott to warn others who wish to engage me.

Do not piss me off. ;-)