The Outsider Test for Faith Visualized

[Written by John W. Loftus] I've argued for the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) but most believers just don't get it. For people like that I've made a playlist of five short videos so they can see what they refuse to see because they're blinded by faith.

Watch these videos below. Describe what you see. What is the difference between what you see? Describe these people. Do they look passionate in their beliefs? Are they sure of what they believe? Are they sincere believers? Do their prayers work? Why do they believe differently? Why is it that if you got them together to discuss religion they would NOT change their minds? There are about 4200 religions with a total of nearly 44,000 religious sects as passionate as they are about faith. How do you propose to evaluate them all objectively and fairly? If you consider their beliefs as outsiders they are all wrong to believe for the same reasons.

My contention is that most all of these believers already think they have evaluated their own religious faith objectively and fairly. So what to do? Tell them to examine their own adopted religious faith from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate the other religious faiths they reject. This expresses the OTF. And if they refuse? Have them justify their double standard. All of the logical gerrymandering believers are using to redistrict themselves out of taking this test reveals something significant: they know that they cannot objectively justify their own faith.


mud_rake said...

It is all a part of the World of Delusion in which they live. I've found that term, World of Delusion, a fitting description of the malady that i have observed for decades in 'religious' people.

They seek an escape from the real world and, like a child's dream world, concoct a place and a set of actions that will transport them above this real world do a place in their minds that is a dreamland.

Heaven was thusly created as an exo-planetary location where earth-like 'stuff' will no longer be able to spoil the perfection that they imagine.

Of course, in some religions, that place must be earned. A set of rules to follow, a list of righteous actions to perform will earn the right to liftoff at the end.

Walt Disney created such a world back in the 60'w: it was called Fantasyland.

Mark Plus said...

Gregory S. Paul has accumulated evidence from the social science literature that religious belief arises as a response to defective living conditions, like in Haiti, for example. Developed democratic countries, where people have to work at it to fall out of the middle class, have seen the spontaneous and unplanned implosion of religious belief, a trend which falsifies conjectures, even made by secularists themselves, that "human nature" dooms us to religiosity.

In other words, we apparently have a model and an implicit strategy for making our world considerably less god-haunted. Barring a civilizational collapse, christianity has probably entered its own late BC-like era; only a new religion won't supplant it, but rather a secular and ethical world view.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

This was written: "If you look at them as an outsider they are all wrong to believe for the same reasons."

To view diversity in humanity in order to judge whether they are right or wrong is different than looking at diverse humanity and seeing them as all loved by God.

By faith, I wonder --do people love God in response to the love He has offered or are they appeasing a god that incites territorial mindedness and scorn for those who do not conform to their own personal standard for acceptance?

At any rate, the outsider test is one that is spawned by human imagination, not God's. God's love is for all mankind and believers come from all nations. But not all mankind is willing to embrace and respect that. The fact that diversity exists is consistent with God's creativity and grace.


Exploring the Unknowable said...

MMM, please explain to me how God's love is manifested to all people. It's easy to just say that, because it feels good, but how exactly is God's love manifested to all people?

For example, here in America, I have it pretty damn good. I have a job, a place to live, and food to eat everyday, but it would improper of me to thank God for that. I should be thanking the soldiers of the American Revolution, Civil War, etc., since they are ones who fought for that right.

Is God's love manifested in simply creating us? How so? Is God's love manifested in abandoning us to the harsh realities of what otherwise looks like an arbitrary and indifferent nature? Is God's love manifested by allowing small children in extremely poor countries to starve throughout the entirety of their childhood (remembering that God created them with the need for nourishment)? Is God's love manifested by earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, sandstorms, volcanic eruptions, flash floods, forest fires, avalanches, lightning storms, disease, cancer, birth defects, wars, famines, droughts, competition for resources, slavery, mysoginy, child abuse, racism, class struggles, and my favorite, disparate religions in the world, all claiming exclusive truths about God, and quite generally, not showing an ounce of love to one another. This list could have been extremely longer, but I ask you, IS THIS LOVE???

If you say yes, which of course you won't say yes or no; you'll just go on some esoteric rant that won't make much sense at all; but, if you say yes, than it's quite clear that we shouldn't want God's love at all, and, in fact, we'd probably be much better off without His love.

The more obvious choice, as opposed to coming up with a thousand ad hoc rationalizations is that either God exists and doesn't love us or there is no God. I'm going to go with the latter.

MMM, it is becoming quite hard to even read your posts, since they generally offer nothing in the form of thought provoking responses to your outdated and transcendent sophistry, but more often just evoke ire and rage. Not only do you believe such things, but that you tell other people that there is undoubtedly a loving God, despite the fact that the suffering, death and calamity in the world that we witness is probably only a small fraction of the actual suffering and death that happens each day, and is nominal, even going so far as to be considered nil, when judged against the backdrop of all the death and suffering that took place during the evolution of life on this earth.

When people like you stop jabbering on about a loving God and people realize he doesn't exist, or just doesn't care about us, then we will realize, unlike the people in the videos above, that there is no salvation from above. Whatever good we can hope for on this planet will only be realized by our own efforts, making it absolutely necessary that we put away any and all separatist beliefs, and come to grips with the fact that we only have each other to whom we can turn for help. Unfortunately, more than anything, religion continues to put us at odds with one another, as it has done in the past for centuries, and will continue to do far beyond our deaths.

There is no loving God. In fact, if I were to be shown unassailable proof that God exists and intervenes in human life, I would bet everything I had on the fact that God absolutely detests us, and that he is quite cruel and malevolent.

I anticipate a rather useless response from you, MMM, as all your posts thus far have been just that. Useless.

Lazarus said...

Congratulations John, well done. Maybe this will make the concept clearer to some. We must, I suppose, however also remember that there are none so blind as those who are not allowed to see by their Jesus Glasses.

Anonymous said...

So who's right? MMM or Breckmin? Does he "manifest his 'love'" to all people, the implication being that all people should be able to recognize and thus accept it, and so those that do not accept it are simply choosing to reject that "love" which they apparently see in order to indulge their "sin" or whatever. Or is it that people only see the "logic" of christianity and thus see god's "love" once god opens their eyes to it? This of course, begs the question: why doesn't he just open everyone's eyes? Or are you saying Breckmin, that he does open everyone's eyes? If so, then you must assume as MMM seems to that those who reject christianity do so in spite of really, deep down, believing it to be true. Is that the case? Do you really believe that everyone that has ever lived has seen and understood your god's love and understood their need for salvation through christ alone, and that the billions that have never accepted christ did so in spite of that understanding and so rightfully deserve to be in hell forever? Is there any room at all for you to believe that many have lived and died w/o ever being aware of the claims of christianity, and that many, like myself, and have left their christian faith simply because it just doesn't make sense, because we got tired of living with so much cognitive dissonance. And likewise that many have never accepted it for the same reason: that it just doesn't make sense to them.

jwhendy said...

Great idea for a post, John. In watching these it seems far easier to perceive religious experiences as near universal human trait rather than something monopolized by those who happen to follow the "right god." Even this is skewed however, as followers of religion x will say that those of y, and z are "closer to truth" than the atheist as they are really experiencing "The One" even though they think it is god y or z...

Occam's razor would seem to suggest that we're dealing with a psychological phenomenon rather than an ad hoc interpretation of "god x in disguise"... especially when god x could have made it abundantly clear that only he/she was the true god.

I think even if I were a believer right now I would almost be angry at god nonetheless -- to believe in x (say Christianity) should make one furious that others believe in utter sh*t so easily and have no regard whatsoever for the evidence one supposes supports Christianity. Shouldn't that make believers fume? It upsets me as someone trying to seek truth -- if god is god, why make his true form so easily discarded in favor of some radically opposed, mutually exclusive, piece of crap image of god?

Anonymous said...

Hendy: exactly. It all comes back down to explaining why anyone will be in hell.

Christians typically fall into 2 camps: One camp asserts that god has made it abundantly clear to everyone that has ever lived that jesus christ is the only way to heaven, and so assume that everyone who goes to hell willingly chose to reject jesus in spite of being convinced of it. In other words they willingly chose hell over heaven. This view is generally referred to as arminianism.

The other camp asserts that only those whose eyes have been opened by god's spirit are able to choose christ and go to heaven. These are the chosen. The rest are doomed to hell with no hope. These are the reprobate. That is, god sovereignly chose whom he would save and whom he would not. This is known as calvinism or reformed theology.

When I was a christian i started out with the former view, until I could no longer live with it, which was my 1st major crises of faith. It was then that i "discovered" and embraced calvinism. But in the end I couldn't live with it either. Both notions are repugnant to me know. Both the arrogant assumption that billions of people would choose hell or heaven, and the deplorable idea that a loving god would not choose to save the entire helpless human race.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this should read: "the arrogant assumption that billions of people would choose hell over heaven..."

GearHedEd said...

In light of the old saw about "not able to be reasoned OUT of faith because they were never reasoned INTO it in the first place", I think it's reasonable to point out that the vast majority of the people in the videos have NEVER "...evaluated their own religious faith objectively and fairly."

These people are swept along by the tides of their respective geographically determined cultures, parentage, upbringing and level of exposure to the things they now believe on "faith", and have a huge likelihood of having never thought about why they believe let alone QUESTIONED their beliefs.

You've set yourself a noble and ambitious goal, John, but like the missionaries who ended up in the community cookpot, I don't think the vast majority of the "natives" will tolerate challenges to their faith.

But that doesn't mean you should stop, either.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

they know that they cannot objectively justify their own faith.

Well... if they can't, then please let me have the pleasure: Yogis can and have actually levitated, and some Buddhists are known to have gone for entire decades without any material food whatsoever. (How's this for starters?) -- Do you also want me to tell you the story of the Buddhist monk whom the Communists have thrown to starved dogs, and the beasts wouldn't touch him?

Abukrist said...

"We should apply to ourselves the standards we apply to others"

jwhendy said...


Agreed. I am just finishing up Dubay's Faith and Certitude which essentially amounts to 250+ pages of saying: "atheism is a choice. Anyone who loves truth will read Jesus' words and immediately know that he could not be an invention and that he is the most compelling man ever to have lived and will want to give their life over to him." Or at least something along those lines. That makes it very difficult for those who look for hard evidence rather than a presuppositional prophecy that only has two outcomes: 1) Jesus is Lord and hurray you acknowledge it... 2) you are stuck in your hard hearted sins, hate truth and god, and just don't want god to be real.

- kind of like THIS yogi levitating?
- or THESE amazing deeds?

I can't find any references to monks not eating much via google. Perhaps you can provide a link of some kind?

As I've stated with regard to the Jordan and descent of the holy fire... it would be child's play to establish some criteria to verify these miracles that more might believe. Without such criteria... who can know for sure.

Surely it says something that Jesus is never reported to deny anyone the miraculous but goes even further to say, "...but that you will believe more, let it be done" in several instances; however, modern "miracles" only work under the "right" circumstances.

It is the mark of a miracle to be open to any inspection and performed under any circumstance (Moses vs. Baal and the drenched pile of wood); to perform something seemingly amazing behind a veil or unexamined? Well that's just magic.

John said...

This was very good John. This is the very thing that bothers me about my faith. I can see that some people are really commited to their religion and they view my religion the same way I view theirs. The only way arround this for me is to say that God's grace is never owed to anybody. He's never obligated to be merciful to anyone. Therefore if He saves some and not others then He does nothing wrong. The fact remains that if Christianity is true then God indeed has a special people that He saves. He doesn't save everyone.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

I actually saw the second video in a documentary on Discovery Channel a few years back.

No, I'm not talking about people who put on an afore-prepared show or public spectacle [making sure to put a chair in the ground before anyone else get there, etc] -- let alone demand any money or payment for it; I mean people who practiced such things in groups in normal gym-halls or rented rooms or houses, and who saw others there experience them. (Some of them converted later to Orthodoxy, so there would be no point in them saying that they have witnessed such things happening to others in their former religion..)

Mastema said...

Inedia (latin for fasting) and breatharianism are related to people who claim to not need food to survive (the latter also claims that water is not needed).

Whenever these claims have been investigated, they have failed. Their practitioners become very adept at sneaking food and water when others aren't looking. Those that don't sneak food tend not to last long, as they die.

What's more likely? That someone

Mastema said...

Oops, I missed the last part of my comment.

What's more likely? That someone can actually survive decades without food, or that they are deceiving others?

jwhendy said...


When you say "...the only way around this for me...", doesn't it strike you as odd that you have to go "around" anything when it comes to the creator of the universe?

Picking and choosing cannot be universal love. 1 Tim 2:4 also disagrees with you.

I find it instructive to imagine ways that god could have done things better. I was just thinking about this today and pondered the idea of god leaving behind a mysterious glowing orb of no known material/composition which when anyone truly believed in god and asked to be healed, they would receive healing or perhaps some other non-materialist blessing (surreal peace for the rest of their lives, specific and actual prophetic abilities, etc.).

The sign would be so amazingly improved from what we have:

- available to all people in every time vs. coming in an obscure place and time only once

- repeatable and testable vs. mysterious and non-falsifiable

- truly unexplainable vs. being suspiciously in alignment with natural occurrences (like modern "healings" and such)

It still requires "true" belief, as only those who do so will be healed so there is no forcing of the will and still room for faith.

Anyway, I have no idea why all religions oddly have their hypothesized timeless, spaceless, disembodied mind completely cripple itself and intersect only one such place and time rather than demonstrating something truly timeless, spaceless, and powerful!

Even something as simple as instilling a strong impulse or sense that Christianity is the only true religion would be a start. This desire could be at least as strong as my desire to not kill or to avoid eating poop for surely these are signs of "natural law" and are supposedly planted directly by god or via evolution and they are not said to interfere with my free will.

If this is so, nothing prevents god from making Christianity very, very compelling and making other religions simply seem like rubbish in comparison. Or more so, providing an inner hunger specifically for Christianity rather than an inner hunger for wish fulfillment, eternal protection, assurance of death not really being death, etc. that seems to be equally satisfied by Christianity as any other religion that gets proposed before it.

John said...

"If this is so, nothing prevents god from making Christianity very, very compelling and making other religions simply seem like rubbish in comparison. Or more so, providing an inner hunger specifically for Christianity rather than an inner hunger for wish fulfillment, eternal protection, assurance of death not really being death, etc. that seems to be equally satisfied by Christianity as any other religion that gets proposed before it."


I would say God has done this for some people but He doesn't do it for others. Grace, being unmerrited favor, God is never obligated to be merciful to sinners. If He saves some and not others then He does nothing wrong.

1 Timothy 2:4 can be interpreted in a number of ways. One of them being that God desires all types of people to be saved regardless of age , race, or nationality. All people simply means all people groups. Not every single individual.

Anonymous said...

Cole, that is a common refrain of calvinists when trying to justify why god sovereignly chooses to save some and damn the rest.
But here's the thing: According to christianity none of us got a choice about being born into sin. The sin of adam and eve was imputed to all of humanity by god, which in and of itself makes no sense to me whatsoever. Surely god is not bound to some principal higher than himself of federal headship that forced him to impute the sin of adam onto the rest of humanity? It doesn't seem right to me, what about you? God could've made it otherwise no?
But even granting that we are all supposedly born "dead in our sins" as stated in Ephesians, then all of humanity is equally helpless to do anything about it apart from the regenerating grace of god. That being the case, why wouldn't god save everyone? I struggled with this question (among others) the whole time I was a calvinist, and never found an answer that satisfied my natural sense of decency and fairness. To say that god is merciful to save anyone at all just doesn't cut it, when no one had a choice about being born into sin to begin with.

John said...


I would say that most of us adults are responsible for most of our actions and that God judges us based on that. I think we are born with an inclination to sin but we can resist. The problem is that left to ourselves we don't want to resist and we end up sinning. We are the one's who are responsible when we sin and are held accountable when we do sin. Just so you know I don't believe in hell as a place of eternal concious punishment for humans. Only for Satan and his angels.

John Sfifer said...

The OTF does not have any influence at all at any of christianity's truth claims. It does not demonstrate anything; all the other religions may be false and the OTF can still fail.

Anonymous said...

"I think we are born with an inclination to sin but we can resist. The problem is that left to ourselves we don't want to resist and we end up sinning."

Cole, at 1st glance these two statements completely contradict each other. 1st you state that it is possible for us not to sin. Then you say it's not possible for us not to sin...left on our own. By this, I assume you to mean w/o the intervening grace of god.

Or are you simply saying that in theory it would be possible for us not to sin if we didn't have the "inclination" to do so? Well duh. That should be obvious shouldn't it?

If that's what you mean, then where does this "inclination" (desire, propensity, whatever) come from? It was imputed to all of humanity by god as a result of adam's disobedience. And since none of us can resist sinning due to this inclination to sin, we are all in need of salvation.

And so the question remains: why are some saved and others not?

By the way, I think you've greatly watered down the christian doctrine of original sin by merely calling it an "inclination". Like I said earlier, Paul asserts in Ephesians that we are all born "dead in our sins". Nevertheless your softening of it doesn't evade the core problem that we are all equally imputed with a sin nature from which we need salvation.

"Just so you know I don't believe in hell as a place of eternal concious punishment for humans. Only for Satan and his angels."

Then how do you explain this from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus?:

"and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame."

Or this:

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Maybe this will prove relevant to the discussion. (Or maybe it won't). Anyway...

John said...

Also Lee,

I don't know why God does it for some and not others. I just know that God is under no obligation to be merciful to sinners who supress the truth in unrighteousness. Grace is never owed. It's no longer grace if it is. Whether it's common grace or saving grace. If God witholds either then He does nothing wrong. If the Bible is true then we shouldn't expect the whole world to be Christian. God doesn't extend saving grace to everyone only common grace. And even when God witholds His common grace to allow evil and suffering He does nothing wrong. Not only because grace is never owed but because He has morally justifiable reasons for doing so.

napias said...

When Christians talk about miracles they use verses in the bible that says just ask God what you want in Jesus name and he said that he will do it. Why then when a person ask just that way nothing happens even though they would believe with their whole heart. People like Benny Hinn and Morris Cerullo, well known preachers talk about fantastic miracles but they are not shared with the whole world. They only talk about those fantastic miracles behind closed door meetings with their believers but proof is not given. Why doesn't Time, Newsweek, Life, or other well known magazines or even newspapers show them on front pages if they were real miracles? They would talk about how when they gave money to various ministries how God would miraculously give them such a huge amount of money and they would convince people to give so that they could get their miracles but it never happened to the average person. My own parents gave a lot to various ministries expecting a miracle to happen but nothing miraculous ever happened. It is all crock.

Anonymous said...


But again, why do "sinners (supposedly) suppress the truth in unrighteousness"?

According to christianity (one version at least), it's because they can't help it, because they've been born with a sin nature, dead in their sins, or as you put it, an inclination to sin. That being imputed to them by god because of what adam did.

If people could help it, if it was possible for anyone to ever live a perfectly sinless life, then salvation would not be necessary, but optional.

The point is, no one ever had a choice about being born with a sin nature from which they need salvation. All of humanity is born into the same boat, through no fault of their own.

Ah, but you'll continue to assert that we are responsible for our own actions (I agree btw, but not for religious reasons). And yet you'll also assert that no one can avoid sinning "on their own" because they are born with an inclination to sin.

All of that to say that we are just back to square one: Adam sinned, that sin was imputed to all of humanity, therefore all of humanity is in need of salvation to get to heaven. Those that are saved go to heaven, those that are not saved go to hell. Again the question: why are only some saved?

Would you really say to those destined for the torment of hell: "Sorry, I know you never had a choice about being born into sin by god's decree and thus doomed to hell, but god nevertheless doesn't owe you his grace. Sucks to be you."

That's basically what you are saying. These are your words:

"I think we are born with an inclination to sin but we can resist. The problem is that left to ourselves we don't want to resist and we end up sinning."

"The fact remains that if Christianity is true then God indeed has a special people that He saves. He doesn't save everyone."

But you're right about saying that if christianity is true (at least the calvinist version) then god chooses some and not others. In fact Paul himself goes beyond that to state that god actually creates some to be saved and others to be damned (from Romans 9):

"though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue,"

"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

"So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."

"You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—"

But then Paul supposedly (there is scholarly debate about whether Paul even wrote this letter) says in 1 Timothy 2:

"it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Then why the hell did he ever create "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction"?! It doesn't make sense. I know you've tried to explain away this verse already, but there's absolutely nothing in the text to indicate it's not to be taken at it's simple face value. I submit you've reinterpreted it to fit what you already believe.

I also submit that you've watered down the concepts of original sin and hell to make them seem more palatable, if only to yourself.

But let me ask you this: As a human being, who understands the experiences of pleasure and suffering, would you have ordered things this way?

John said...


People supress the truth in unrighteousness because they are sinners. Sinners left to themselves don't want to have anything to do with God. God is never obligated to be merciful to sinners who don't want to have anything to do with Him. He shows some people grace and passes over the vessels of destruction.

Those of us who are responsible for our actions and reject God in the end get destruction. (annihilation)

That's all I have time for right now.

Anonymous said...

That's fine Cole. You just keep reasserting the same thing anyway (people sin because they are sinners) and keep avoiding the underlying question and it's implications (why are people sinners?).

You've heard my understanding of what christianity teaches on this point, that people are sinners because the disobedience of adam and eve was imputed by god onto all of humanity. Therefore people can't help but to sin, because it's their nature to do so, and so need salvation from their sin and it's eternal consequence, which, according to your version of christianity, god offers to only some of those to whom he imputed the sin of adam and eve.

I think that's abhorrent, but you just keep asserting that whatever god does is good no matter how much it doesn't make sense or offends our sense of justice.

When god's "wisdom" and "goodness" can't be questioned, he can get away with anything.

John said...


I don't think that the main point is "Why are there sinners?"

The point is that there are sinners who are responsible for their actions. The wages of sin is death. Humans are thrown into the eternal punishment of Satan and His angels where they suffer for awhile and then go extinct. I don't see how this goes against justice. Are you saying the punishment doesn't fit the crime?