A Response to Rev. Phillip Brown’s Objections to the OTF

Okay, Okay, some people think that if I don't respond directly to their specific objections that I can't. Such stupidity... So because Rev. Brown has linked to his objections to the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) as if they're more important than other ones, here goes:

I won't be dealing with everything he wrote for various reasons.

I'll blockquote his words.
Mr. Loftus’ fourth chapter is without a doubt his most compelling in his book, Why I Became An Atheist. The attack on Christianity and religion in this chapter goes by stating that the biggest factor in accepting religion in general and Christianity in particular is the sociological factors, which are the influence behind all humanities decision to follow religion.
Thanks for the compliment, Rev.
The argument goes in whatever may be the dominant religion in a country or culture a person is born into, that will naturally be the religion that is adopted. Henceforth Mr. Loftus argues that this simple observation should entail scepticism of religion.
Yes, this is what I argue.
But before we progress further there is an epistemological problem with this evidence for skepticism in the Outsider Test of Faith. The reasons being is that the ‘The Outsider Test of Faith’ or OTF is powerful as an outsider however not as an insider.
Two things; 1) I maintain Christianity also fails the insider test with the presumption that it is true. It did for me and many others. We assumed it was true and found it was false even with that assumption. Why would so many people jump ship once they have been insiders? That is also a problem for you. 2) If the OTF is as powerful as you admit it is, then this is probably the reason you refuse to adopt it against your own faith even though you do use it against all other faiths. Why the double standard, Rev?
Furthermore Mr Loftus again relies on the assumption that the Christian has the burden of proof in this example and indeed in this test.
I’m not singling out Christianity. All religious faiths must deal with the same test for faith. Why should you and Christianity have a free ride when com[pared to all other religious faiths? Why should you not have the burden of proof given the wide diversity of religious faiths and sects within your own religion? Why shouldn't you have to show your faith is the one true one? That's what the OTF is all about. The one true faith should show to the others that it is true.
For example, Mr. Loftus does not even tackle the Bibles very prediction of this phenomenon in Romans 10:14-17. The apostle Paul states that faith comes from hearing, and hearing from preaching. Consequently one would suspect little Christian faith in a country where it is illegal to preach Christianity.
You mean the Bible contains some psychology? I don’t deny this, since it was written by people who understood people. Yes, from repeated exposure to some ideas there are many people, perhaps most of us, who will embrace them. Mormons say the same thing that if you will read their scriptures and pray you will believe. This isn’t unusual at all. It's pop psychology, Rev. It’s what we would expect knowing psychology as we do. The question the OTF asks of you is why you think Paul’s words are God’s words, just like it asks the Muslim why Mohammad's words are believed to be Allah’s words.
Lastly however there is the most problematic position that if Mr Loftus wants the Christian to take ‘The Outside Test of Faith’ then surely he must ask the Christian to take the 'Insider Test of Atheism', or ITA. Meaning, showing why atheism makes sense and why people should not adopt skepticism towards atheism as appose to Christianity. Such a test would include proving miracles do not exists, beyond a shadow of a doubt; a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe, and the undeniable reasons why all religions (not just Christianity) should be disregarded. Indeed ITA would prove rather interesting placed alongside OTF, something Mr. Loftus fails to do in his book and on his blog.
My atheism is not a set of beliefs I hold to. Atheism for me is equivalent to skepticism. It’s a filter I use to strain out well-founded beliefs from ill-founded ones. As such, whatever I examine and subsequently accept as true has already passed through my skeptical filter (to the best of my ability) and doesn’t need to pass through it again (only as new information might require me to re-examine it). This has got to be one of the most ignorant things that a believer does not understand. Also let it be noted the extremely high standard the Rev. has for atheists. We must “prove” miracles don’t exist. This unreasonable standard has got to be the second most ignorant thing a believer does not understand. In no other area but with faith is it required that we must prove something false before it’s recognized as such. The standard is, was, and always shall be what is most probable rather than what is impossible. If Christianity is not proved impossible but very improbable that’s never good enough for the believer and is what I consider delusional double standard thinking.
'The Outsider Test of Faith' demonstrates a weak case (a case nonetheless) for skepticism but not a strong of even any case for atheism. Mr Loftus simply leaves this out. Which seems bizarre considering his book is titled 'Why I Became An Atheist.' Why would he rarely give one. I would suggest a more honest title for his book, 'Why I am not a Christian' as oppose to 'Why I am an Atheist.' Is it possible that Mr. Loftus is actually seeking justification for Atheism as oppose to reasons for adoption of Atheism?
I did not choose the title to this book. I had all but insisted that the title should be Why I Rejected Christianity, or something similar. So why is that my fault? This is no criticism of the case I make in that book itself, especially since titles are attention grabbers, most all of them. They’re chosen to sell books. But in the end, if no religion can pass the OTF then no religion can pass through the skeptical filter I have for accepting a belief as true, and that's it. And if no religious faith can pass through that filer then my skepticism allows me to accept the label atheist because I am a non-believer, an a-theist.


In a second post on the OTF Brown offers some other objections.
The first critique I have of this position is the simplicity of the parameters that the Test requires. The person taking the test is asked to pit every set religious belief with no matter how many internal contradictions and oppositions are present, with each set belief. The Buddhists (in which Buddha never claimed to be God) is lumped with Moses (who never claimed to be Yahweh) who is lumped with Muhammad (who never claimed to be Allah) who is also lumped with Zoroaster (who never claimed to be the Ahura Mazda). Just because there are labels in the world which we have categorized as ‘religion’ and rational people defend them does not mean they should be lumped together or it is rational to do so. This is a simplistic generalisation used to support the argument. In addition just because rational people defend their set beliefs does not mean their defence of them is rational. The same test could be applied to sport. Because rational people adopt and defend a certain sport based on their geographical location we therefore should be sceptical of the one in our culture when we decide to participate?
We’re not talking about sports but if we were then yes, if we really want to know which sports team is the best one then we need to look at the actual statistics and calculate the math. What we don’t do is to defend our team because we like them or prefer them over others.

Just like other religionists the Rev. Brown utterly fails to understand that there are rational people out there who judge the cases for their own religions as superior to all others. They all think that they are the rational ones and that they are right. This ignorance utterly dumbfounds me. All one needs to do is to talk to people of other faiths. If he gets a chance talk to Tom Cruise or John Travolta about Scientology. Come on now. the Rev. simply cannot dismiss the views of others on evidential merit when all religionists share a faith based reasoning. This is the common denominator which I’ve hammered on before. They can all be lumped together because they all take a leap beyond what the evidence calls for, even if we grant them their so-called evidence, which I don’t.
Furthermore Mr. Loftus gives no working definition of what he considers religion to be. Does Mr. Loftus use the term with the various dictionary definitions available on hand? And if so which on or does he mean all of them. Or is the person taking the test meant to assume the Latin root of the word came from ‘lig’ or ‘leg’. Either way the generic use or religion by Mr. Loftus’ axiom causes his inference for scepticism to appear causally linked. However the is no clarity in what Mr. Loftus means by religious or religion, hence the inference should be treated dubiously. Moreover, because there is a lack of clarity in the preposition then the most logical inference should be to investigation, not scepticism: that is of course unless scepticism leads to investigation.
By my lights a necessary condition for having a religion is one in which there are supernatural beings or forces or processes at work in the world. Even Buddhism qualifies as a religion here because there is a supernatural force at work called karma and one that causes the soul to transmigrate from one incarnation into the next life. This definition easily works and excludes the non-believing atheist as having a religion.
My Second point of critique follows on form the first. If Mr. Loftus defines religion consistently across the board, then the mere fact should propel us to consider globaly why most people are religious and what should that count for? Universal/global rules are consistently adopted as set norms, why should religion be different? It would appear that Mr. Loftus’ strength of inference to scepticism lies solely from arguing in religious diversity, which as argued previously should not lead to scepticism but rather investigation.
I see no reason why a scientist should ever accept what the majority of people believe as counting for anything when experiments prove otherwise. Just because people believe means nothing if we adopt a science based rather than faith based reasoning. The reason people believe is because we’ve inherited from our animal ancestors an agency detector type of brain, as I’ve explained before. We see persons and faces in phenomena, so it’s natural to assign divine persons or faces to natural events like dreams, the birth of boys, and thunderstorms and so on.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, ‘The Outsider Test Of Faith’ does not account for the purely anthropic nature of religion. Again Mr. Loftus’ strength lies in the diversity amongst humans in geographical locations but not the isolation of religion to one specific biological life on earth. Why should diversity of human adherence be played off against isolation in biological expression on earth's known history? This view alone should lend us to a sympathetic view of religion not a sceptical one.
I have no clue what the Rev. means here. Perhaps all I can do is to quote Xenophanes:
But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
horses like horses and cattle like cattle
also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies
of such a sort as the form they themselves have.

Ethiopians say that their gods are snubnosed and black
Thracians that they are pale and red-haired.