The Conclusion Driven Arguments of Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Regarding The Outsider Test for Faith, Part 1

It doesn't take much for people in the pew to mindlessly quote mine from the Bible and/or the apologetics based on it. But upon thinking just below the surface we find it's all a ruse, a sham. Christian apologists have a hidden agenda. Instead of getting better at arguing for their faith they are getting better at obfuscating (or obscuring) it from view. They have become experts in conclusion driven arguments. That's all they have. It's called special pleading, and it's all special pleading. It's special pleading all the way down. That means they base their arguments on double standards, one for their faith and a different one for other faiths. It's double standards all the way down since they would never allow other people of faith to do the same. It's faith-based apologetics, never reasoned-based apologetics; no matter what they say. It's always their faith seeking reasons, never reasons leading to their faith. It's all based on assumptions, all the way down. They never argue to their faith. They always assume it and argue based on it. All apologetics is therefore presuppositional. It's presuppositional all the way down.

Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" seems to be a good enough guy. He's a wannabe Christian apologist though, who has goaded me a bit to deal with his three part disputation of The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). He honestly admits he hasn't read my book on it, LINK, but that's where the intellectual honesty ends. In the Introduction to it I said it's "my final understanding" of the test up until it was published. He still hasn't read it, preferring instead what I wrote before I wrote my book.

The OTF can be stated quite simply as follows:
The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject.
I am arguing for a test to help believers examine their own faith fairly and honestly, without any special pleading or double standards. I am not specifically arguing any particular faith is false, hence no rebutting defeater. Nor am I specifically arguing on behalf of a different religious faith, hence no undercutting defeater either. How, for instance, does a fair test for religious truth argue for or against anything?

I do think the test leads to unbelief, but that's a separate discussion. I can't even help most believers agree to this fair test, much less help them to abandon their faith.

The outsider test is designed to help believers see the need for requiring sufficient objective evidence. Believers can play lip service to this requirement by saying they accept it. But what is meant isn't always readily apparent. So the test also helps them see what is meant by sufficient objective evidence. That's it. In other words, the outsider test helps believers twice-over. It's both a test and a teaching tool. The test helps believers to accept the requirement for sufficient objective evidence (all by itself a hard task!). But it goes on to teach believers what it means by forcing them to consider how they reasonably examine the other religious faiths they reject. It teaches them to apply the same single standard across the board to their own religious faith.

If you want to read from the first chapter then here ya go. I guarantee Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" never read what I wrote before writing his critique. His was almost certainly a knee-jerk reaction due to the perceived threat the OTF poses for his faith. So his series of posts contain nothing more than conclusion driven arguments. If Bertuzzi decides to respond further let him show he read what I wrote in that link. All of it!

I have three important points to make before I proceed.

First) Bertuzzi doesn't see the problem of religious diversity so he doesn't see the need for a solution. LINK. The problem I'm addressing is widespread global religious diversity down through history and in today's world. I'm trying to solve it, if it can be solved at all, by offering a self-diagnostic test based in an objective standard for believers to know which religion is true, if there is one. The fact that Bertuzzi doesn't see the need for a solution means he doesn't see a problem. This is quite telling. He doesn't see widespread global religious diversity as a problem, not a serious one anyway. This tells you all you need to know. He knows what he believes is true and that's all there is to it. Perhaps he believes there are no honest intelligent doubters. All non-Christians are wrong and only need to be confronted by the gospel claims of truth. People who refuse to believe are deceived by the Devil and/or rebelling against his god. They deserve to die a million deaths in hell, and that's that!

It's not that believers like Bertuzzi don't address the problem of religious diversity from time to time, as one of many problems for faith. It's that when he does so the thought never crosses his mind that his own faith is an example of the problem, that his faith may have the same origins and justifications as all religious faiths in the imaginations of men, and that he's locked inside the bubble of religious diversity, not looking at it from the outside, as he perceives himself doing, the one who has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Second) Since Bertuzzi doesn't see the problem he cannot even acknowledge we need a test like the OTF. It's needed if we honestly desire to know the truth about our religious cultural upbringing, or indoctrination. What if you were raised to believe in the wrong religion? What if you will face a future final judgment for not believing the true religion, if there is one? Wouldn't you want to know now if you are wrong, not later after you die? These questions never entered Bertuzzi's head while writing his critique of the OTF. So he doesn't see a need for a test for religious faith that really works, one with teeth in it, one that forces him to be honest regardless of how it might threaten his faith. A milquetoast test will not do. Just imagine how the 9/11 suicide bombers considered whether or not their faith was the correct one. Since they were giving up their lives for what they believed, don't you think they considered the possibility they were wrong? How do you think they did that? Well, whatever they did you should not do the same things. No, subjective feelings don't count. No, looking for and receiving favorable providential circumstances don't count either. No, reading their Scriptures and praying over them don't count, nor does reading Muslim defenses and/or listening to Muslim podcasts and videos. Period!

So let me briefly rehearse a few reasons why the OTF is needed.

1) We are all raised as believers. As children we believed whatever our parents told us, all of us.

2) We were raised in our respective families and cultures to believe what our parents told us about religion.

3) Psychological studies have shown that people have a very strong tendency to believe what they prefer to believe, and we prefer to believe what our parents and culture have taught us. Cognitive Bias studies show this.

4) Psychological studies have shown that most of us, most of the time, look for that which confirms what we believe rather than that which disconfirms it, even though the latter is the best way to get at the truth. This is known as Confirmation Bias. If nothing else the OTF helps believers overcome confirmation bias, which Michael Shermer calls "the mother of all cognitive biases." This is the single most valuable function of the OTF.

There are a lot of books on these subjects. This data is undeniable, noncontroversial and obvious. We must think about the implications of what these undeniable facts tell us about who we are as human beings. If we were raised as Christians then we seek to confirm what we were raised to believe because we prefer that which we were raised to believe. If we were raised as Muslims then we seek to confirm what we were raised to believe because we prefer that which we were raised to believe. If we were raised as Orthodox Jews then we seek to confirm what we were raised to believe because we prefer that which we were raised to believe. If we were raised as Scientologists then we seek to confirm what we were raised to believe because we prefer that which we were raised to believe. If we were raised as Hindu's then we seek to confirm what we were raised to believe because we prefer that which we were raised to believe.

5) This strong tendency to prefer what we wish to believe and to confirm it are so strong The brain treats questions about beliefs like physical threats. Guy P. Harrison put the problem this way. If a skeptic disputes a psychic’s readings, then “the believer’s brain is likely to instinctively go into siege mode. The drawbridge is raised, crocodiles are released into the mote, and defenders man the walls.” He goes on to explain, “The worst part of all this is that the believer usually doesn’t recognize how biased and close-minded he is being. He likely feels that he is completely rational and fair. It doesn’t happen just with fans of psychics. We are all vulnerable to this distorted way of thinking.” [Think: Why You Should Question Everything, 2013), p. 67.] This process happens whenever the brain feels threatened by contrary data. The brain feels physically attacked when confronted with ideas that challenge it, and will do what it takes to deflect that attack.

To overcome this strong propensity of the brain honest seekers of the truth should see this as a very serious problem. Anyone who does not see it as very serious problem is not interested in knowing the truth. Period. That's the primary indicator one's brain is up in arms over facts that bring it discomfort. To honestly seek the truth we must determine to disarm the brain. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to recovery is to recognize we have a problem. The problem is the brain won't allow us to entertain facts that disrupt our comfort zone, so it will do everything it can to reject them. We know this from multiple scientific studies. That's the problem. So to honestly seek the truth we must determine to disarm the brain. It will deceive us.

6) Neurological studies have shown that people have a sense of certainty about the beliefs they have unrelated to the strength of the actual evidence, as Robert Burton argues in On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not. Certainty is a question stopper. It eliminates all doubt and stops all serious inquiry, which is the antithesis of seeking to test what one was raised to believe.

7) Skepticism is not usually an inherited characteristic. We must acquire the capacity to doubt what we are raised to believe. Skepticism is the adult attitude. After having been raised to believe, a right of passage into adulthood should be to doubt, to question everything, to test and critically examine everything, especially one's religion. Since so many people are raised to believe so many mutually inconsistent religious faiths on Mamas knees, so to speak, we know learning one's religion on Mamas knees is a proven unreliable way to know the truth about religion.

8) When there are billions of people who are certain of an inherited faith they all learned in the same manner, who live in separate geographical locations around the globe, who all prefer to believe what they were raised to believe, and who all seek to confirm that which they were raised to believe, and so many certain about it, this should cause them all to doubt what they were raised to believe. What is there not to understand about this? Doubt, or agnosticism, becomes the default attitude until such time as one religious faith above others passes intellectual muster, if any of them can.

9) It should only take a moment’s thought to realize that if there is a God who wants people born into different religious cultures to believe, who are outsiders, then that religious faith SHOULD pass the OTF. Otherwise, God did not offer enough evidence to convince reasonable non-Christians who were raised in different religious or nonreligious cultures. But if Christianity cannot pass the OTF God will send people to hell based on when and where they were born, and by whom they were raised from birth. It means there isn't sufficient objective evidence to believe. Period.

Third, Bertuzzi never proposes a better alternative for honestly testing one's own culturally indoctrinated faith. It would appear from his writings and podcast interviews that his method of testing faith is to be done subjectively based on double standards and special pleading, the way Christians have always done it. That's because he hasn't honestly faced the biggest need for the OTF, which is number 10) Nothing has worked so far to potentially solve the problem religious diversity. After millennia of religious answers and arguments we still have widespread global religious diversity. We need something that can solve it, if it can be solved at all. That's where the OTF comes in.

In chapter 4 of my book I show why the only other alternatives to the OTF all fail, sometimes miserably. I wrote about these six:

1. The Gamaliel Test for Faith
2. Stone’s Test of Neutral Evidence (STONE)
3. Thomas Talbott’s Test of Suspended Belief
4. Randal Rauser’s Intellectual Virtues Test
5. The Critical-Stance Alternative of Robert McKim
6. Keith Yandell’s Axioms of Appraisal
[7. After my book was published I wrote a three part detailed refutation of David Marshall's tests for faith right here.]

These tests do not honestly help believers examine their faiths, because they were devised to bolster or support one's faith to begin with. This is typical obfucationism. None of them honestly attempts to deal with the problem of religious indoctrination and the diversity it produces, or helps finds a way to know which religion is true, if there is one.

The whole problem is that Cameron Bertuzzi, and others who object to the fair standards of the OTF, simply do not like the perceived conclusion, since the result leads them to the rejection of Christianity and all other faith-based religions. Since he doesn't like the perceived conclusion he has concocted a conclusion driven set of arguments against the OTF, which are obfuscationist smoke screens to avoid being honest with his faith.

In his defense, Bertuzzi has a four part series defending Christianity where he quote mines Alvin Plantinga's obfucationist arguments without thinking through them. Plantinga's conclusion after all he's said and done comes down to this, and I quote: "Christian belief can be warranted and likely is warranted if Christianity is true." [Emphasis mine]. LINK. Neither Plantinga nor Bertuzzi are aware that the same types of arguments for a different religion could end up saying the same thing:

"Muslim belief can be warranted and likely is warranted if Islam is true."
"Hindu belief can be warranted and likely is warranted if Hinduism is true."
"Orthodox Judaism belief can be warranted and likely is warranted if Orthodox Judaism is true.'

And it could be said for all the different sects of these religions too. The reason Plantinga and Bertuzzi are too obtuse to see the obviousness of it it all is because faith blinds people. They don't realize that this just means it's possible Christianity is true. Okay, okay, it's possible Christianity is true! Is that it? Look at how easily apologists skirt the real question. It's whether or not Christianity is probably true. That they don't get it and tout Plantinga's arguments as if he said something significant is exhibit "A" showing why faith blinds people from the truth. Anyone who thinks Plantinga and Bertuzzi aren't merely stating something obvious, is blind as a bat can be.

The obvious conclusion is that Christian apologists are allowing themselves to be deceived by their brains to continue believing because that's the job of our evolved human brains (which also helps prove we truly did evolve from a common ancestor). The job of the human brain is not primarily to get at the truth. It's primary job is to protect us from harm. The brain's job is to keep us in a socially acceptable caring tribal grouping with whom we feel support, and can turn to for help in times of need. It has little to do with the truth. Yep, you read that right. Little. It must be taught from birth to care about the truth. [Instead, parents indoctrinate their children AND put the fear of hell on top to reinforce the brain's goal of keeping them inside their social prison (reminding me of Pink Floyd's lyrics, "Hey, teacher leave those kids alone")]. The brain must be convinced that the truth is better than lies. It must personally experience that the truth is helpful and is better than accepting lies. That's how evolution worked to get us here, by accepting lies in order to stay protected within a particular tribe in tribal societies!

Since the brain will deceive its host to conform to a social tribal grouping, the biggest barrier to honestly desiring the truth is other people in our tribal grouping. You want to know the truth? You may have to love the truth more than your own tribe. That's where the OTF can help, if you're honest enough to accept it in the first place.

Apologists will respond that they can eliminate other religious faiths due to negative apologetics, by showing why their objections are wrong, their faith internally inconsistent, that they don't answer the same questions or they don't provide better answers to the questions they agree upon. But they use double standards here. Other religions likewise have good objections to their faith. It's just that when practicing negative apologetics they all do so selectively and inconsistently by using double standards. None of them examine their own faith with the same type of honesty when they're examining the faiths they reject.

I think religions debunk other religions, that their criticisms of each other are very good indeed. They do the work for me. All I need to do is listen in then report the results, which is what I have done. Just consider the arguments of Michael Alter, a Jew, against the resurrection of Jesus right here. Interesting eh? See what religious people do to each other's arguments? They do the work of negative apologetics for me. That's because when doing so they're treating the other religions honestly as outsiders. They never treat their own religion with the same hard nosed honesty. Believers should be experts in negative apologetics across the board. Not only should they do so against the religions they reject. They should be consistent and do so as honest outsiders against their own religion. That's what outsiders do. And until a better alternative method is proposed, it's the only way to test whether one's inherited faith is true or not.

Cheers! Part 2 is found here.