June 02, 2023

Daniel Mocsny, On The Need Not to Test One's Faith Lest it Fails

A lot of intelligent and thoughtful people comment here at DC. On this thread Daniel Mocsny offers a good comment. He responded to an aspiring apologist named David Pallmann, who has probably not seriously considered any alternative religion given his education. [See Pic] He said, "John W. Loftus hardly. We all try to rationalize our own belief systems first and seldom try to rationalize belief systems which we seldom (if ever) encounter. That's not a double standard."

Daniel Mocsny: [The highlighting is mine]

It's only not a double standard (or special pleading) if Pallman has, until now, never learned that other religions exist. If we assume the interlocutor is mentally competent, then he does know they exist; and with a little investigation, he'd find that they all use similar arguments to "prove" the truth of vastly different "revelations." Thus his retort is a conspicuous false dichotomy - he's trying to pretend there are only two possibilities, belief and unbelief. But at least the apologist honestly admits that his only answer to the argument from inconsistent revelations / Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is to ignore it.

I'll take this to mean that the OTF is as impactful as I think it is. To me it looks like a slam-dunk against any particular religion's arguments. Since the only response from religion is to pretend other religions do not exist, it must be unanswerable.

Of course historically other religions have sometimes been impossible to ignore. When Christians were Christianizing the formerly Pagan Europe, they used the tactic of demonization. How they fooled anybody that way (since it works just as well in reverse) is a mystery to me.

Note the telling assertion: "We all try to rationalize our own belief systems first...". I.e., he's claiming everybody is ruled by confirmation bias. While confirmation bias is very widespread, it is not entirely universal. If by "all" he means everybody does that (and not just people like him), then he commits a psychologist's fallacy, i.e. assuming everybody else thinks and operates the way he does. He seems unaware, for example, of the following serious people trying to do serious things:

1. Scientists who deliberately try to falsify their own theories, by thinking of every possible objection and testing each one.
2. Political operatives who do "oppo" research, i.e. investigate their own candidates to dig up any dirt that political opponents are likely to find and use against them.
3. Candidates who prepare for public political debates by practicing against consultants who imitate their opponents.
4. Attorneys prepping their clients to testify, by doing mock cross examinations just as opposing counsel will do.
5. Military commanders who "war game" against mock opponents.
6. Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.
7. Sports teams that practice against scout teams.
8. Any corporation that stress-tests its products to failure.
All of the above people try to expose their own weaknesses before facing the real opponent, or the real world, or the scientific community, or the market.

Religions work the opposite way, primarily within their own protective bubbles, where the goal is not to stress-test one's beliefs, but to shield believers from contrary facts. So if you attend a church of one denomination, it probably won't invite guest speakers from another denomination, let alone from different religions or no religion. Religion needs monologue, not dialogue or multi-logue.

Serious people acknowledge the possibility that they can be wrong, that they can lose the game, the war, the court case, or have a bad theory or a bad product. Religious people assume they are correct from the get-go, so why would they need to subject their beliefs to any kind of test? They deny that their beliefs can fail.

But religious belief is contrary to reality, or at least contrary to probability as the OTF shows. A common method to prevent faith from failing is to prevent it from being tested.

This is probably why a personal crisis is a common way out of faith. It's easy to ignore John W. Loftus talking about the OTF, but harder to ignore your child dying.

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