The Introduction to "The Outsider Test for Faith"

I'm progressing on my new book well enough to write my introduction to it. Here it is below:

The Outsider Test for Faith problem this book addresses is the massive amount of worldwide religious diversity, why it exists, and how to solve it, if it can be solved at all. The goal is to help readers know how to tell which religion is true, if any of them are. My claim is that if we keep on doing the same things, we will get the same results. So far nothing has worked because believers have not considered what their faith looks like to an outsider, a nonbeliever in their particular religion. So why keep on doing the same things? I see no reason why we should.

This book presents a sustained case that the only way to settle this problem is with the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is just one of several arguments I use in my books to demonstrate that the predisposition of skepticism is warranted when examining the evidence for a religious set of beliefs. I argue that skepticism offers the only way for believers to rationally test their faith. There is overwhelming, undeniable, and noncontroversial evidence for the basis of the test in extant sociological, neurological, anthropological, and psychological data.

My focus in this book is on Christianity, especially evangelicalism, best represented by the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. This is my target audience. The OTF does not just apply to my target audience though. It applies to anyone with religious faith. I am pleased to note that Thomas Riskas utilizes the OTF quite heavily in his book Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press, 2011). I’d like to see more books like this written—books that critically examine other religious faiths with the OTF just as I have done with Christianity.

I have been hammered from all sides by Christian apologists about the outsider test for several years. On the one hand, there are Christians who reject the test as faulty or unfair in some way. I suspect their initial gut reaction is to argue against it because the person proposing this test is an atheist. Since anything an atheist proposes to test religion must be “wrong,” they try to find fault with it. However, as we shall see, the great Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton proposed something like it before I ever did. Or perhaps believers just realize their faith won’t pass the test. If their faith could pass the test, they would be the first ones pushing it on everyone else.

On the other hand, there are Christians, like Chesterton, who assert that their faith passes the test. Why can’t they agree? Against believers who think the test is unfair or faulty, I argue that they fail to understand what it is. Against believers who think their faith passes the test, I argue that they don’t really understand what it demands of them. But in the end I thank them, for they have helped me fine-tune the test for this book.

Inside these pages is my final understanding about the test. If someone finds any inconsistency with something I say in this book when compared with my previous writings or blog posts, then I have either learned from my critics how to better express myself or I have changed my mind, and that’s a good thing. I’ve written this book as if it is the only one my readers have ever read from me, just in case that’s the case. So sometimes you’ll find me using the exact words I used in my previous books.

In the first chapter I offer my argument on behalf of the Outsider Test for Faith. It includes all the essential ingredients of my case. I have written the first chapter in such a way that it could be included in any future relevant college-level anthology for discussion purposes, should an editor think it worthy. If this happens, then the present book can help instructors present the pro and con arguments in class discussion. In later chapters I expand and defend the argument presented in the first chapter, so there will be some repetition. In chapter 2, I look at the fact of religious diversity and argue that it entails that one’s culturally adopted religious faith is probably false because of the sociological (or demographic) facts alone. In chapter 3, I argue for religious dependency, that one’s culturally adopted religious faith is overwhelmingly dependent on brain biology, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns, and that it is therefore probably false. In chapter 4, I share in greater detail what the outsider perspective requires, and I also consider some alternative tests for faith. In chapter 5, I answer objections to the fact of religious dependency, which is largely the crucial premise in my case. In chapters 6 through 8, I answer objections that the outsider test is selfdefeating, that it has hidden faith assumptions, and that it unfairly targets religion. In the last two chapters, I argue that Christianity fails the outsider test and that the real problem of religious diversity is faith itself.

For illustrative purposes Adam Smith created the maps showing the distributions of modern science and world religions included in the appendix of this book, for which I am grateful. To see these maps in color, do a search on my blog for “World Distribution of Religion and Science” (

John W. Loftus
I know people get tired of me requesting financial assistance, but as I work on this book I'm not focused on earning a living, so please consider supporting my efforts. Christian professors get paid to do what I must do as an independent scholar. I've received a few hundred dollars so far and I am very grateful to the people who think well enough of my work to contribute. If you haven't donated yet may I suggest now is the time to do so. Thanks so very much, and thanks for reading what I write!