Does The Outsider Test for Faith Unfairly Target Religion?

Here is the final section from chapter 8 of my book The Outsider Test for Faith (pp. 169-170). I summarize what is wrong with objections that the OTF unfairly targets religion.

My Response to All These Objections

Let’s just respond to all of these objections this way: Either the OTF is a fair way to assess the truth of religious faiths or it is not. If it is not a fair test, per the above objections, then why do believers use it to reasonably examine the religious faiths of others? That they do is clearly evident. When believers criticize the faiths they reject, they use reason and science to do so. They assume these other religions have the burden of proof when it comes to their extraordinary claims of miracles. They assume that their holy book(s) are written by human not divine authors. They assume a human not a divine origin of their faiths. Believers do this when rejecting other faiths. So this dispenses with all the red herrings about ethics, politics, science, and a material universe, for the OTF simply asks believers to do unto their own faith what they already do unto other faiths. All it asks of them is to be consistent. If there is any inconsistency at all, it is in how they assess truth claims. But if the OTF is a fair test, why do believers have a double standard, one for their own religious faith and a different standard for the religious faiths they reject? Let them use reason and science to examine their own faith. Let them assume their own faith has the burden of proof when it comes to their extraordinary claims of miracles. Let them assume human rather than divine authors of their holy book(s).

There is therefore something clearly wrong with these Christian objections to the OTF. Here’s what I think. The OTF is the name of an argument. The name I gave to this argument is not the argument itself. The word “outsider” in the argument is an example that illustrates a skeptic, a doubter, a nonbeliever. Such a person is an outsider because he or she is not an insider. An insider is a believer and an outsider is a nonbeliever. The insider believes in a particular religious sect. The outsider does not. The insider has faith. The outsider doubts. The insider makes extraordinary claims. The outsider makes no claims. The insider has a belief in search of data. The outsider is a doubter who is examining the data.

So one could just as easily substitute the word “skeptical” and call it the “Skeptical Test for Faith.” For that matter, it could be called the “Scientific Test for Faith” or the “Consistent Test for Faith” or the “Golden Rule Test for Faith” or the “Objective Test for Faith” or even the “Burden of Proof Test for Faith.” It could even be simply called “A Test for Faith.” But because of this misunderstanding, Christian defenders have constructed all kinds of wildly improbable outsider-type scenarios. They think of an outsider as a person who has a radical skepticism. Hey, why not be an outsider to love, too, or life, they might add. Who has that kind of radical skepticism? Not me, that’s for sure. And I doubt very much anyone does. So they end up rejecting the OTF because they falsely attribute to it a radical skepticism and then use that as an excuse for not being skeptical at all, which is one reason why I think Christianity is a delusion.

Almost all of the objections to the OTF are red herrings placed in the road to sidetrack us from getting at the truth. Christian apologists fail to understand the perspective of an outsider, or they grossly misrepresent it in favor of faith. The outsider perspective is not about being antiscientific, or some Martian, or a sociopath, or a lunatic, or a rapist. It is the perspective of science, which is the same standard believers use when rejecting other religions.

If Christians wish to avoid the charge of hypocrisy, they cannot reject the OTF while continuing to use it. They must either admit that they have a double standard for examining religious faiths, one for their own faith and a different one for others, or that their God did not make their faith to pass the OTF in the first place. The bottom line is that, given the facts that form the basis of the OTF, doubt is the adult attitude. One cannot subject this doubt to further testing. It is what makes testing our ideas possible in the first place. Doubt is a filter that strains out the wheat of what’s true from the chaff of what’s false. By contrast, all religions have the same faith-based foundation. When faith is the foundation anything can be believed. Science is the only antidote to an unexamined faith.


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. Thank you so much!