Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Victor Reppert. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Victor Reppert. Sort by date Show all posts

Victor Reppert Is Determined to Crack The Outsider Test for Faith, But Once Again Fails

Over the years no other Christian apologist has tried to find a fault with the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) as much as Victor Reppert has, even though I'm fairly convinced he has not read the book on it. I would think if a scholar wants to critique an idea he should read the book first, wouldn't you? Anyway, once again Victor Reppert is at it, with a bit of a different twist.
Isn't fear of religion at least a possible biasing factor? And if so, shouldn't any real test concerning religious belief have the capability of counteracting it. If the test only counteracts pro-religious biases but not anti-religious biases, then the test is faulty.
I find this to be a very self-serving. The mother of all biases is confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias), which is the strong tendency to search for and/or interpret information in ways that confirm one's biases. People of faith have this problem evaluating their own religion because faith itself is a cognitive bias that misjudges the probabilities in favor of faith. Faith gets in the way of dispassionately evaluating one's inherited faith. Surely Reppert cannot disagree with this. If nothing else, just think of the millions of people who have inherited a different faith, and ask what keeps them from leaving their faith. The OTF is meant to help people with faith overcome their faith bias precisely because they need it. Non-believers don't have it precisely because we are non-believers. Take for example a Hindu raised in a Hindu culture who accepts the Hindu religion but is evaluating Islam to see if it's true. What real concern (as opposed to a feigned concern in the service of an apologeticial Jedi mind trick) would Reppert actually have that such a Hindu might have a confirmation bias problem when it comes to Islam, since s/he is not a Muslim? None, none that I can see. Any confirmation bias s/he has would be for Hinduism.

When it comes to the fear of religion what is he talking about? From my experience, and the experience of countless ex-Christians, the fear of hell kept us in the fold much longer than we would have been if we didn't fear hell. Hell is the cradle to grave threat that keeps Christians in the fold. It's THAT fear, more than any possible fear of religion, that needs to be overcome by far, hands down, no iffs ands or buts about it.

But Reppert isn't done. He just used this as an example to introduce his main point.

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 1

"Gullible Person of the Day" is a new feature here at DC. Enjoy. I recently argued that differences between believers and nonbelievers are not primarily about worldviews. My contention is that believers are simply ignorant! I did so here and I mean it. To believe is to be ignorant to some degree. Our differences are not centered in disputes about the rules of logic either. We can all agree about them. They are centered in the accumulation of knowledge that in turn produces a reasonable/healthy skepticism. This skepticism leads knowledgeable people to apply the rules of logic consistently across the boards without any double standards, or special pleading on behalf of one's own particular religious faith. So believers are naively gullible. They aren't sufficiently skeptical people. Their subconscious brains are lying to their conscious brains about the quality and quantity of evidence for their faith. Their subconscious brains even lie to make their conscious brains see evidence where there isn't any at all.

Think of the saying, "It's as easy as taking candy from a baby." A gullible person is not sufficiently knowledgeable enough to be skeptical of the motives of someone else. So a gullible person can be taken advantage of easily. We can see it in recognized defenders of faith, like Victor Reppert, who is today's Gullible Person of the Day. I intend nothing personal here. Yet I maintain Reppert is ignorant. Like the baby in the aforementioned aphorism, he's but an intellectual babe. No matter how much knowledge he may have or retain, and regardless of whether he knows more than I do, Reppert lacks the knowledge to be skeptical of his inherited religious faith. Like the Sophists in the days of Socrates he's pretending to know what he doesn't know. As an intellectual babe he's playing a childish pretend fantasy game of faith, one that in my book is indeed a dangerous idea.

Dr. Victor Reppert On Why He Doesn't Read Any Book I've Recommended

I don't think there is another blog where so many educated evangelicals and atheists converge for debate but here at Debunking Christianity. I like this very much and admire these Christians who wish to engage the opposition even though at times it gets a bit rough. Some of the best evangelical scholars visit and comment here like "The Big Four": Victor Reppert (ranked about 18th in all-time comments), David Marshall, Randal Rauser, and Matthew Flannagan (although Matt only comments when I write about him). I have even allowed guest posts by several other Christian scholars, like James Sennett, Doug Groothuis, Craig Blomberg, Kenneth Howell, John F. Haught, and even one by William Lane Craig (posted by proxy), all of which can be read here. Few of them however, have ever acknowledged that my arguments are any good (Sennett, Howell and Haught are the exceptions, but then they aren't evangelicals). Probably none of them have ever heard any really good faith-damaging atheist argument (the ones they acknowledge don't actually provide an under-cutting defeater to their Christian faith). Perhaps because I have interacted the most with "The Big Four" I've become convinced Christian apologetics is rank sophistry, or just plain blind willful ignorance. By sophistry I mean "a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning," or rather, "subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation."

For the record, Reppert seems to be the most biblically ignorant of the "Four" (because he focuses on his specialty, the Argument from Reason). Randal Rauser is biblically literate but is also almost pure sophistry. Vic is the most cool, calm, and dispassionate commenter, willing to take the heat without responding in kind, and the most willing to learn from his opponents (but as you'll see that doesn't mean much). Marshall is the wittiest and the most biblically literate (although that too doesn't mean much). Rauser loves to communicate in hypothetical stories which I find very interesting (although most of them utterly miss the point). Flannagan pretty much argues like I do although with a great deal of sophistry. Now for my case in point of the day, Dr. Reppert's ignorance.

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 3

This is the final post of three on Victor Reppert, our ignorant gullible person of the day. [See the "Gullible" tag below.] Reppert again, about the gaps to god argument:
Look, when I raise this kind of question, I mean show us by providing evidence. Yes, God could sovereignly perform the act of causing Loftus to believe by going "Loftus, believe," and the next Sunday, Loftus will show up in church on his knees praying to God. But providing evidence is by definition not coercive. Of course God could shove belief in his existence down your throat if he wanted to. But could he give us a good reason to believe in his existence, such that no matter how disinclined we were to want to believe in a being greater than ourselves (so that we would have to admit we were not the supreme beings) whose commandments to us are our moral duties (however much we would like to avoid performing them). Wouldn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did?
Reppert says he has reservations about coercive belief, that his god only wants non-coercive belief. For one thing I don't see anyone refusing to believe in Reppert's god because he's bigger than they are. What utter indoctrinated ignorance that is!! Would Reppert say he rejects the existence of Allah due to the fact Allah is bigger than he is? I do however, see a good reason to disbelieve in any god that has commanded and taught the kinds of morality ISIS does, which can also be found in this religion. Any god that allows or commands or regulates slavery, or allows or commands or regulates how that women are to be treated as chattel, is not one I could stomach, much less believe.

Perhaps more to the point of non-coercive belief, if Reppert's god coerced belief in Moses, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Gideon, doubting Thomas, or Paul on the Damascus Road, which the Bible says he did without abrogating their free wills, then he could do it again and again. Surely Reppert knows of Theodore Drange's argument (from memory) that if there are people who want to know the truth it's not coercive to provide them with what they want. I find it extremely difficult to accept the faith-based claim that only a small number of people want to know the truth, such that only evangelicals like Reppert receive the needed evidence to believe.

On Ridiculing the Ridiculous Ridicule Deniers

The saying at left is an example of ridicule, in case it isn't obvious. The same goes for this post of mine. The saying was submitted by a person named Chris to a committee of three seeking permission to use it on his Facebook page. The members of the committee include Victor Reppert, Jeff Lowder and John Loftus. Reppert demanded this committee should exist and wanted to be on it. He argued that a person who uses ridicule must be able to defend the basis of the ridicule before using it. Lowder cannot recognize some kinds of ridicule and argued it isn't as effective at changing minds as a reasoned debate. Loftus didn't want on this committee but in order to break any deadlock, he begrudgingly agreed under protest.

Let's listen in as they discuss this submitted piece of ridicule.

Answering Dr. Reppert's Criticisms of The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF)

Victor Reppert offers some criticisms of the OTF, which I plan on answering here.Victor said:
First, it would be good if the argument could be formulated with premises and a conclusion. Exactly what is he arguing for, and what is the basis for his argument.
Okay, here it 'tis:
1. Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage. This is the religious diversity thesis.

2. Consequently, it seems highly likely that adopting one’s religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree. This is the religious dependency thesis.

3. Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.

4. So the best way to test one’s adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate other religious faiths. This ex-presses the OTF.
People in distinct geographical locations around the globe adopt and defend the religion of their upbringing and culture. This is an undeniable sociological fact. Anthropology shows us that human beings are locked inside their own cultures and cannot, without the greatest of difficulty, transcend their culturally adopted beliefs. Psychology shows us that human beings do not examine their beliefs dispassionately but rather seek to confirm that which they already believe. And unlike scientific, political and moral beliefs there are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religious faith is true. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that the religion a person adopts and defends is overwhelmingly dependent upon the “accidents of birth” rather than on a rational assessment of the case based upon the available evidence. Since this is so we should be just as skeptical of our own religious upbringing as we are with the other religious faiths we reject. The odds are that we’re wrong. We should be skeptical of our religiously inherited faih with the same amount of skepticism as we use to judge the other religious faiths that we reject. Here we have the notion of being “outsiders” to the religious faith in question, and as such it’s called “The Outsider Test for Faith.”

Victor said:
Second, it would be cheating to have a test and just mark our religious beliefs as the beliefs to be tested. Keith Parsons once asked, "Tell me, do you really think that, had you been born Vijay instead of Victor, and if you were from Bangalore rather than Phoenix, AZ, that you would not now be as devoted to Brahma as you are to God?" And the answer is I don't know. If Keith had grown up in the United Methodist church that I did, and had he discovered Plantinga or Lewis before leaving the fold, as opposed to converting briefly to West Rome Baptist Church and hearing weekly hellfire threats as an undergraduate, would he now be a Christian philosopher instead of an atheist? The "what if" game is far harder than it looks to play.
I don’t mean to single out religious beliefs here, although that is indeed my focus. They are just more assuredly determined by one’s cultural upbringing than anything else we can predict. Some things would surely be hard to predict if events had turned out differently. I admit that we are all strongly influenced by the people and circumstances around us. This is what psychological studies show us. With different influences Keith Parsons could've ended up as a Christian philosopher, yes. That’s indeed how malleable the human mind is, his, mine, and Reppert's too. With different influences Reppert could've been an atheist philosopher! This is who we are as human beings. What we think and believe is molded and shaped by all of our experiences and influences, including everyone we talk to or study with, and everything we have ever read or witnessed. We know this even if we may not be able to predict what would’ve happened had something different taken place in someone’s life. I do know that had something different taken place then a particular person would be different in some ways, depending on the event and the impact that event had on him or her. But there are some things that are easier to predict, and one thing seems clearly to be the case that if we were born in different culture and with a different upbringing we would adopt the faith of our upbringing.

Victor said:
But I happen to know something about Vijay. Keith and I agree that there is an independently existing physical world. Vijay does not. If either of us had been born Vijay, we would think of the world of experience as maya, or illusion, and we would not see it as ultimately real. So it looks as if external world realism fails the outsider test. Yet I see no reason to be accept external world skepticism because if I had been born in India, I might have been brought up to reject external world realism.
In this case Vijay would have to subject his own religious upbringing to the same kind of skepticism he uses to evaluate Christianity, the most materialistic of religions, as C.S. Lewis claimed. I think if Vijay did this he would end up being a skeptic about his prior held belief that the world is an illusion, or maya, which is a belief of his that goes against all the available evidence. Again, Vijay needs to subject that culturally adopted religious belief to skepticism. And in this regard Reppert is missing the point. Vijay’s views would not represent skepticism at all. His Eastern views are based in his religious faith, and as such I’m asking him to be skeptical of them. With regard to Reppert I'm not asking him to subject his knowledge that there is a real world with the religious faith of a Vijay that the world is an illusion. If Reppert wants to instead talk about some kind of extreme type of Cartesian skepticism which might lead someone to solipsism then he’s attributing to me a kind of skepticism of which I do not embrace at all, which no one can be that skeptical anyway. The OTF does not ask for complete and utter skepticism. It merely asks us to be as skeptical of our own culturally adopted religious faith as we are of the others we reject.

Victor said:
What about moral beliefs? I think that rape is wrong. If I had been brought up in a certain culture, I'm told, I would believe that rape is OK if you do it in the evening, because a woman's place is at home under her husband's protection, and if she is gone she's asking for it. So my belief that rape is wrong flunks the outsider test. This gives me no basis whatsoever for doubting that rape is wrong.
There is a difference between moral and religious beliefs, although they are indeed intertwined in many religions. The OTF is a test to examine religious faiths, not moral or political beliefs. When I refer to religious faith, I’m referring to beliefs that are essential for a member to be accepted in a particular religious community of faith who worship together and/or accept the same divinely inspired prophetic/revelations and/or those beliefs whereby one’s position in the afterlife depends. The reason for this definition is clear, since the outsider test is primarily a challenge about the religious faith of communities of people. It also applies secondarily in lesser degrees to individual philosophers espousing metaphysical, political, and/or ethical viewpoints who are not guided primarily by communal religious experiences but who are still influenced by the cultural milieu in which they live. Hence the OTF will have a much greater degree of force against religious faiths of religious communities than on individual philosophers not involved in a religious community.

So can we apply this same skepticism to moral beliefs? Should I be as skeptical that rape is wrong as I am that rape is morally acceptable? No. Absolutely not. Again, look at the specific criteria I provided. I said:
The amount of skepticism warranted depends on the number of rational people who disagree, whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, the nature of those beliefs, how they originated, how they were personally adopted in the first place, and the kinds of evidence that can possibly be used to decide between them. My claim is that when it comes to religious beliefs a high degree of skepticism is warranted because of these factors.
That’s what I said, and so in this instance as with many other moral beliefs they do not suffer the same consequences from applying the OTF. Beliefs like the acceptability of rape are based on religious beliefs anyway, so they are subject to the outsider test precisely because of the nature and origin of those beliefs, as I said. I know of no non-believer who would ever want to defend the morality of rape, for instance, unlike believers in the past and present who do because of some so-called inspired text. We know rape is wrong, and we also know that this kind of behavior is sanctioned by religious beliefs, as is honor killing. The religious person who thinks rape is morally acceptable should subject that belief to skepticism as an outsider. And when he does this he will begin to doubt his previously held religious/moral beliefs, as I’ve argued. When it comes to Reppert, I think his moral belief that rape is wrong will survive his own skepticism, for there is evidence that as a father of a daughter he would want to help maintain a free society where she can go about her business free from being accosted. If Reppert wants to provide an argument where he can defend the morality of rape I’d like to see this. I would find it very strange if in order to escape the OTF Reppert must defend the morality of rape. That seems too high of a price to pay, but if that’s what he wants to do, then I’m all ears. [Speaking of morality, let me remind the reader that I’ve argued elsewhere that morality has evolved].

Victor said:
What about political beliefs? I think that representative democracy is a better form of government than monarchy. If I lived in 16th Century Europe, or in other parts of the globe, I probably would not believe that. So my belief in democratic government flunks the outsider test. However, this gives me no reason to have the least doubt that democracy is better than monarchy.
The same things can be said about political beliefs as I said about moral beliefs. Listen, there are a great many political and moral beliefs which we think are essential to a human society but which are not necessary at all. Democracy is one of them. People have done fine without democracy from the beginning when a dominant male lion or ape ruled the others and had free reign with a harem of females. That being said I think there is evidence that supports the fact that as rational animals we are happier when we have a say in how a country is run. And we have also found ways to include minority thinking too, with some proper checks and balances. And when people around the world vote with their feet they sail, fly and run to a democratic government. Further evidence for this is the crumbling of dictatorial socialist communist governments. But once again, I would find it very strange if in order to escape the OTF Reppert must deny that democracy is a better form of government than a monarchy or dictatorship. That seems too high of a price to pay, but if that’s what he wants to do, then I’m all ears.

Victor said:
What about scientific beliefs? If I had been born in the Islamic world, or in some Christian churches, I would have been taught to reject the theory of evolution in its entirety. So it looks like the theory of evolution fails the outsider test. Nevertheless, this in itself is insufficient grounds for the slightest doubt about evolution.
Here it becomes obvious that Reppert does not know what the OTF is about. Scientific thinking is in a different category altogether from religious faiths (see the specific criteria mentioned above). We do not learn about science merely from our parents, although hopefully we do. We can personally do the experiments ourselves. So scientific testing is independent of what someone tells us to believe and so it does not require the same level of skepticism about its conclusions. There are mathematical and experimental results that are independently verified time and again. But when it comes to religious faiths there are no mutually agreed upon reliable tests to decide between them, and this makes all of the difference in the world. With regard to Reppert’s example, the OTF requires religious believers to subject their creationist theories to the skepticism of the scientist, theories which were learned on their Mama’s knee and tenaciously defended because some ancient superstitious pre-scientific set of writings say so. Science and scientific thinking is the best and probably only antidote to these creationist religious myths, myths which other religions differ about.

Victor said:
Finally, a certain natural conservatism with respect to changing our minds about matters of world-view, or any other issue for that matter, is both natural and rational. I thought the lesson of things like Cartesian foundationalism is that if you throw out all sort of beliefs as unjustified and load the burden of proof onto those beliefs, it's hard to stop and have anything left. Most people thought that Descartes had to cheat to get his world back. If we have to be skeptics about all of our sociologically conditioned beliefs, I am afraid we are going to be skeptics about a lot more than just religion.
Well, it’s certainly the case that conservatism is natural with respect to people not wanting to change their beliefs. It’s so natural to us that we as human beings will go to some extreme lengths to defend what we want to believe. So I see nothing about this conservatism which is justified, otherwise, at some extreme level we’d still believe in Santa Claus, or that our fathers can do anything, or patriots would still defend America “whether right or wrong” in their later years. This also undercuts the whole notion that such conservatism is rational as well. The rational thing to do, which we humans are not too good at, is to grow and learn and think and investigate and follow the arguments and evidence wherever they lead. That's the rational thing to do despite wanting to hold on to beliefs which cannot be reasonably justified.

Besides, I see no reason at all for thinking the OTF should lead us to complete and utter skepticism. None. It’s merely a test to critically evaluate one’s culturally adopted religious faith with the same type of skepticism s/he uses to evaluate other religious faiths. As I have argued, the kind of skepticism involved here is a reasonable one and something we should all adopt about religious faith, especially one’s own. The more outlandish and extraordinary the claim is then the more evidence we should require to support such a claim. This is very reasonable and I see no reason to think otherwise at all.

When it comes to skepticism in general though, it should be thought of as resting on a continuum, anyway. Some claims we should be extremely skeptical about (“I saw a pink elephant;” “the CIA is dogging my steps”), while others on the opposite side will not require much skepticism at all (“there is a material world;” “if you drop a book it will fall to the ground;” “George Washington was the first President of America”). I do indeed think we should have a healthy amount of skepticism toward all of our beliefs on this continuum. Skepticism is virtue. What's wrong with that?

The Problem of Evil, Alvin Plantinga & Victor Reppert


I saw through Plantinga's initial assumptions regarding his "solution" to the problem of evil twenty years ago while reading Plantinga's book that a Calvinist friend loaned me. I phoned Plantinga years later. He didn't answer my question.

Here's my question...

A free-willed
All powerful
All knowing
All good
All perfect
All blissful God

creates something SOLELY out of His own will, power, knowledge, goodness, perfection, and what room is there for anything less?

...but out of infinite perfection comes a cosmos where everything dies, where bliss is fleeting, where minds and hearts grow confused, damaged, sometimes even shattered via the process of struggling to earn a living and/or raise a family, or whittled down via repressive labor, or bored to death. Where human development is difficult and perilous, where communication is difficult, even perilous, for both people and nations, where ignorance (inherent in each culture, family and individual) and stubborness about one's ignorance is rife (the latter perhaps due to increasing inflexibility of the brain/mind once it has assumed a "system"--or been "assumed by" a system--because we not only "have beliefs," but there is also evidence that "beliefs have us" as well). A cosmos where we cannot "see" what's "behind it," where "God" and "heaven" and the "afterlife" (or even the "before birth") remains "hidden" to the vast majority of the earth's inhabitants throughout time. A cosmos where consciousness does not appear to pop out fully grown all at once, but has to develop just as the brain/mind develops in the womb and during the time of infancy, childhood, adolescent impulsivness and finally adulthood. A cosmos where we continue to struggled against a world of nature that kills with cold, wind, fire, water, earth, desert heat, lava, predators, poisons, diseases, parasites. A cosmos where we strive to lessen the painful effects of, or eliminate, nature's dangers and pains that haunt not only us, but every other living organism on this planet. So we fighting the cold weather that kills to the desert heat that withers, and we strive to discern early warning signs of natural disasters and epidemics. A cosmos where we also strive to eliminate barriers of communication, or blow each other up trying.

Christian apologists like Plantinga ADD to the above mix of confusion and dangers their PRESUMPTION that this cosmos is all for the greater good, and PRESUME that besides all of the above confusion imperfection and dangers--from the death of everything we see--to insufferable boredom--to daily pains--passions--miscommunications--the ignorance inherent in each culture, family and individual--the inflexibility and intertia inherent in each brain/mind as it develops from youth--or degenerates with age--besides all that--Christian apologists insist everyone MUST believe in a particular holy book written by true believers (even in a particular INTERPRETATION of that holy book), or we will not only continue to suffer as on earth, but suffer relentlessly for eternity, without mercy.

And Plantinga presents it all like it's the most "rational" view possible.

Christian philosopher Victor Reppert at his blog, "C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea," seems at least doubtful that Plantinga's view is the most rational and suggests that it might made a bit more sense if people received "another chance" after they had died to "convert." I assume Vic believes that the ignorant limited brain/minds, and confused or debilitated characteristics of people's brain/minds from living in this imperfect cosmos will be healed following death (otherwise they might misperceive even the afterlife based on past limited experiences or imperfect brain/mind constitutions). So Vic suggests non-Christians will all be given another chance to "believe" after they have seen God and heaven and had time to investigate and ponder matters on the "other" side of this cosmos. But Vic also realizes I suppose that this is a rationalization on Vic's part. (What other of Vic's beliefs might not also be "rationalizations to believe" as he does, i.e., rather than "reasons to believe?") At the very least Vic does not appear to think that Plantinga has "solved" all the problems regarding this cosmos and the Christian view of salvation, since Vic recognizes the need to try and go "further" than Plantinga via Vic's "second chance" scenario/rationalization.

Victor Reppert remains uncomfortable, has more questions than most orthodox Christian apologists on the internet. (Welcome to my mind/brain world, Vic, filled with more questions than answers.)

I have rational difficulties conceiving of a perfectly good and perfectly powerful being squeezing out a cosmos such as this. Furthermore, the experience of this cosmos in which all things die (and stuggle not to) with such daily persistance is a shared experience of everyone on the planet.

I have even GREATER difficulty imagining that humanity (and every other organism on earth) have been placed in such a universally deadly situation in order that human beings might "hear the Word of the Christian God" and either choose to believe a book written by true believers, or die an everlasting death.

P.S., Since I'm agnostic, let me play around with a philosophical suggestion or two, a rationalization here, a guess there, concerning God. What if "God," being a perfect eternal being, got omni-bored and tried to surprise Himself/Herself/They/Itself by playing "hide and seek" with Him/Her/They/Itself in a panentheistic fashion? Not that I even know what "panentheism" is, except to say that some say it refers to a view of "God" as the flame of all reality with everything else being flamelets proceedings from the one great flame, a lot like pantheism, but with each flamelet having a slightly greater degree of individuality. (I won't argue whether such a conception of "degrees of individuality" is "true or not" in a philosophical sense, which will obviously get us no where, since how could one prove any of my assumptions above at all)? At any rate the "Hide and Seek" playing panehtheistic God who gets omnibored and then tries to generate "Surprise," might help explain a cosmos in which life arises yet everything dies, and it might help explain humanity as well, including the "hiddenness" of God. But again, I admit I'm only dealing with analogies from "fire," or from basic human emotions such as "boredom" and "surprise," and ways in which we understand such matters, and thus I am bending the wax nose of philosphical ideas and words in ways I cannot prove and that prove nothing. Though if someone wished to follow up on this little suggestion they could do worse than read Alan Watts's BOOK OF THE TABOO (Against Knowing Who You Really Are); or his Christian version of the same view in an earlier work he wrote while still an Anglican priest, BEHOLD THE SPIRIT. I am not however suggesting one must read anything of the sort.

Another guess concerns the views of universalist Christians who believe that God and time are the best teachers, hence they don't fear what comes next for anyone, and merely seek to blow on the spark of eternal salvation already lying inside us all, to inspire and uplift.

I'm not saying any philosophocal suggestion of mine, or Plantinga's, or Reppert's, is easy to maintain however, not if pains or diseases of body and/or mind grow excruciating. People suffering a "ringing in the ears" have been known to leap to their deaths because the ringing kept them up till they had gone nearly mad. Sleep deprivation, even just dream deprivation (waking up a person whenever they go into rapid eye movement (or REM) mode to prevent them from dreaming) can apparently kill a person faster than depriving them of food. During times of intense pain, disease, or deprivation neither philosophy nor theology seem to help the person who is being forced to suffer greatly. Even in the Bible, though Job didn't curse God, he sought answers. "WHY?" Even Jesus is portrayed as shouting out "WHY" in a despairing line from a psalm before his death, "My God, My God WHY have you forsaken me?" C.S.Lewis admitted a year before he died that he "dreaded most" the thought that he may have been "deceiving himself" concerning the kind of "God" who would give his wife cancer and then himself cancer. Or as in the case of a conversation Mother Teresa had (she didn't believe in pain killers) with a man suffering intense pain from cancer, "Jesus is kissing you," to which the man replied, "Then I wish he'd stop." That's the problem of pain in a nutshell. The "dread" of C.S. Lewis. The "Whys" of Job and Jesus. Not to mention Victor Reppert's "second chance."

Victor Reppert asked what it would take for his god to convince us

OK you tell God (just in case he exists) what it would take for him to give you sufficient evidence of his existence, so that you would be on your knees at your local church this Sunday. The stipulation here is that he has to use evidence to get you there, so he can't just fix your brain and make you a believer. We know an omnipotent being can do that. But what you would be asking him to do would be to give you sufficient evidence of his existence.

Conclusion Driven Philosophy of Religion: Victor Reppert's God of the Gaps Argument

I wrote the book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. Christian apologist Reppert has not read it, and I don't expect him to, even after reading this post of mine where I explain why he should. Maybe others will. He recently put forth a God of the gaps argument which begins by acknowledging some sort of puzzling phenomenon that science cannot explain, which is supposed to lead to the existence of his sect-specific god. This argument is one example among many of conclusion driven philosophy of religion used in defense of Christian faith. It's Christian apologetics plain and simple, something taught by him as an instructor at two of Arizona's secular colleges, Arizona State University and Glendale Community College. Today's lesson, boys and girls, is to present this concrete example of what I mean when I say philosophy of religion must end.

Victor Reppert Now Claims He's a "Graduate of the OTF"

Reppert has been thinking and responding to the OTF longer than any other informed believer I know of, so if you are a believer and you object to the OTF then learn from him. When first confronted with the OTF Reppert criticized it as embracing too radical of a skepticism. Then over the years as I explained it to him further he now says he's a graduate of the OTF and wants a diploma. Cute. As far as I can tell most believers criticize the OTF when they first hear of it. Then they go through the same stages Reppert has gone though, by subsequently embracing it in the face of my arguments, basically wanting their diplomas too. Should I start printing them off and signing them just because they say so? First, here is what Reppert recently admitted:

Another Response to Thomas Talbott, Informing Him Why Rape is Wrong

In a section titled “A Fundamental Inconsistency in the Loftus Approach,” Talbott says I have no reason to think rape is wrong based on the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), and claims Victor Reppert’s “previously expressed arguments are pretty decisive in my opinion.” (pp. 20-21) One of these so-called decisive arguments has to do with why we think there is a material world, something I've already addressed. If I'm harsh with Talbott and Reppert then let it be said I don't appreciate Talbott's demeaning attitude toward me. If he can dish it out he should be able to take it.

On How Easily We Can Be Fooled: Victor Reppert Again

Victor, an evangelical philosopher (no surprise!) tells us about a paranormal event in his life:
When I was in the seventh grade, I won the District Spelling Bee. The defending champion, somewhat to my surprise, went out when there were six people left, stomped off the stage, and went crying to his mother. After winning the Bee (and qualifying for the state finals), I was asked to provide a picture for the newspaper. As it happened, my violin teacher had a Polaroid camera, and my parents and I knew this, so we visited him. He told me that he had been thinking about my spelling bee, and at one point had an awareness that my rival had gone down, and that he was very upset about it. He had this awareness at about the time when my rival went down. He said that he had sometimes had episodes of clairvoyance. Link

Victor Reppert and finding it tough to love your enemy

I was perusing Victor Reppert’s blog in order to catch a feeling of what apologists around are saying, in response to the feedback the other week. Something that Reppert was talking about over on his blog dangerous idea the other day struck me as slightly nonsensical. Reppert was dealing with Keith Parsons talking about the commandment to love thy enemies, and how far this should be taken. Parsons gives examples of really terrible actions of certain people and Reppert counters that loving these people is “above his pay grade”:
Parsons: A further issue I have always had with Christianity is the one you express as follows:

"Christians are enjoined by their faith to love others, and I take it that means that regardless of how badly a person has gone wrong, we think that, by the grace of God, that they could someday be brought to disconnect themselves from their sin by repentance."

Taken literally, this means that Christians are enjoined to love, say, people who throw acid into the faces of little girls to keep them from going to school. Indeed, Christians are enjoined to love tyrants, serial killers, traffickers in sexual slavery, drug cartel thugs, terrorists, fanatics, con men who cheat the elderly out of their life savings, etc.

An Excellent Example of Ridicule!

James Lindsay said theism is done, won't last into the future. Victor Reppert responded by saying a bit sarcastically: "Oh yeah, theism is losing adherents, it's down to 74% in the latest Harris poll." Then Lindsay, well, ya gotta read this short play:

Moral Objectivity, C. S. Lewis, Victor Reppert, Edward T. Babinski

Dear Vic (Victor Reppert for the sake of blog search engines *smile*),

I enjoyed reading your discussion at your blog on moral objectivity, along with comments left by others.

Is it me, or are you asking more philosophical questions concerning moral objectivity than you have in the past? Asking questions and analyzing the answers (interminably so, especially when such questions are large overarching ones) appears to be what philosophy does best.

On the question of "moral objectivity," I think that the most objective thing any of us can say with anything near certainty as fellow philosophical debaters is that we each like being liked and hate being hated.

We certainly like having our particular thoughts appreciated by others. And we are a bit perturbed when others don't "get" what we're saying, so we continue trying to communicate our views in ways we hope others might understand.

I also assume each of us generally prefers not having lives nor property taken from them, and generally prefer not being abused either psychologically nor physically.

I also assume that when one person has something in common with another, be it a love of a game (chess, golf, soccer), a song, the sight of a sunset/sunrise, a philosophical point of view concerning the big questions, or a religion, that liking the same thing tends to bring people together and increase their joys.

Therefore, I'm not sure that "objectivity" is necessarily what I am primarily after, nor what most people are primarily after.

But I will say that there is a marvelous article in this week's Discover about animals with feelings. One anecdote...

...from the article involved a magpie (freshly deceased from an accident with a car) that lay by the side of the road surruonded by four live magpies that went up and pecked gently at it, then two flew off and came back with some tufts of grass in their beaks and laid it beside the dead magpie. Then they stood beside it for a while until one by one the four magpies flew off.

This anecdote sparked my own memory of another one that I read in a turn of the century book titled Mutual Aid by the Russian evolutionist, Kropotkin (his theory of evolution emphasized the benefits of mutual aid & cooperation). Kropotkin cited Australian naturalists and farmers who observed the way parrots cooperated to denude a farmer's field of crops. The parrots sent out scouts, then rallied the other birds, and they would swoop down quickly and devour the crops, but sometimes some of them got shot, and rather than simply fly off altogether the birds "comrades" (remember, this is a russian biologist speaking) would squawk in a fashion of bereavement, trying to remain as long as possible fluttering near the fallen friend and group member.

I also have read stories about the intelligence of crows, even their sense of humor. One naturalist mentioned seeing three crows on a wire, and one of them slipped, seemingly intentionally, and held himself upside down by one claw, which apparently amused the others. (I'd also read about experiments and anedcotes involving birds with amazing memories and vocabularies, even speaking and acting in ways one would consider appropriate for brief human-to-human exchanges.)

Elephants and llamas were some of the other animals mentioned in the Discover piece that reacted strongly to the death of members of their own species. Elephants have come back a year later to the spot where another elephant has died (as seen on Animal Planet) and they react strongly to the bones. I also recall reading in a Jan Goodall book about a young chimp (fully grown, not a baby) reacting so strongly to the death of his mother, that he simply climbed a tree and wouldn't come down and eat until he himself had died, apparently of grief.

The works of Frans de Waal (a famed primatologist), contain some touching stories about the compassionate behaviors of primates, notably of the most peace loving chimp species, the bonobo. When Frans took his own baby son (who was sitting in a forward facing harness strapped round Frans's chest) to visit some chimps at a zoo where Frans had gotten to know the chimps well, a mother chimp with her own young one saw Frans holding his baby up to the viewing glass, and the mother took her own baby's arms and twisted her baby around in a single movement so it was facing outward, and held her baby up to the glass so that the two babys could eye each other. Frans and the mother chimp also exchanged glances. Frans mentioned a case of a female photographing chimps on their little chimp island that had a moat around it. They were bonobos, a female dominated society, and food had just been given them, and they were portioning it out amongst themselves. The photographer wanted to get a shot but the chimps had their backs to the camera and were facing the food that had been delivered instead of facing the moat with the photographer on the other side, so the photographer started to wave her hands and scream and jump up and down to get the attention of the chimps. The other chimps looked round, except one who was suspicious and didn't turn around. So the female photographer continued waving her hands and shouting until finally that last female chimp turned around, and tossed the photographer a handful of food! The chimp apparently thought she was being asked to share her food! And well, she did.

In another case I've read about, Washoe the chimp was on a chimp island with other chimps, one of which climbed the fence and started wadding out into the moat surrounding the island (chimps can't swim, they sink, their bodies are denser than human beings since they have far less body fat). This chimp started to flail around in the water, drowning. Washoe saw this, clambored over the fence, and held onto some tall grass with one hand while extending the other to the drowning chimp, who was saved.

Meanwhile Robert Hauser (Harvard prof and author of Moral Minds) has asked a lot of people a lot of tough moral questions and found out how similar their responses were across the board regardless of whether the person was religious or not.

I have responded to the question of "moral objectivity" elsewhere on Victor Reppert's Dangerous Idea blog, and cited statements by philosophers and primatologists from Mary Midgley to Frans de Waal to Einstein. Anyone can view my responses by clicking here and here and here and here.
Ed (Edward T. Babinski for the sake of blog search engines *smile*)

Don't Be Fooled on April Fool's Day: Take the Outsider Test for Faith

The Outsider Test for Faith argument can be found in my book, or online in an edited version right here. I've recently defended it from some of Dr. Victor Reppert's criticisms. One Christian minister encourages believers to take the test! I also provided an example of what it means to take the test. So let me just say on this April Fool's Day that taking this test is the best and probably the only way to know the truth about what you believe. And here's why...

It's because of who we are. When it comes to the religious faiths we were raised to accept, it's not just that they may be false, which seems obvious, given their proliferation around the globe into geographically distinct locations. It's much worse than that. It's that, well, if Christian philosopher Victor Reppert was raised in a different home, and had different experiences, and read different books, and studied under different professors, and got a teaching appointment in a different place, then he could be an atheist philosopher right now, just as atheist philosopher Keith Parsons could be a Christian philosopher right now if he had led the life that Reppert did and his experiences were likewise reversed.

Deny this if you think you can.

That's how bad it is when it comes to anyone who claims to know the truth about these issues, and that's how bad it is when it comes to the claim that we as human beings can think outside the box and reason correctly, objectively, and dispassionately, without prejudices or preconceived notions. We can't, or at least, if we can, the only thing we can and should trust is the empirical sciences. That's our only hope. Science is the best we've got, and even science has it's problems.

We believe what we were raised to believe, and we defend what we want to believe for the most part. It's really bad. It's terrible. We humans are illogical creatures, especially when it comes to these issues. All of us.

Let me put it to you this way, if you read everything that I have read and experienced everything that I have experienced, then you would think on these issues exactly the same way I do.

Deny this if you can.

So there is only one way to deal with a particular whole way of looking at these looking at it as a whole. And the best way to do so is from the outside, from the perspective of skepticism. If the opposite is being gullible then skepticism is favored by far, given who we are as human beings and what we learned to believe on our Mama's knees.

Therein lies the dilemna and I think I have a handle on this better than most anyone I've seen argue on the web about these types of issues. We are not the rational creatures we want to appear to be. As human beings we are in terrible shape on these kinds of issues. And since we know this to be true we should be skeptical about that which we were raised to believe. And we should be skeptical about that which we want to believe. It's that simple.


Christian, no, don't say I should be skeptical about that which I believe too. In some sense when it comes to that which I affirm, I already am! I affirm an agnostic atheism. Join me. Will you say the same thing? Will you affirm that you are an agnostic believer (but isn't that an oxymoron)? In any case, if this is my problem I embrace it. Although, someone will need to explain to me how a skeptic can be skeptical about beliefs he doesn't have! A skeptic affirms no religious beliefs but merely says to the believer, "show me." Why should we consider non-beliefs as equivalent to beliefs? [Examples of non-beliefs: do you believe in the Eastern ONE, do you have a belief about ilks who might live in the stratosphere?].

Besides, it'll do you absolutely no good at all to pass the buck back to me. Whether I am skeptical of my agnostic atheism or not should mean nothing with regard to what you need to do, believer. Even if I am inconsistent you still need to subject your own beliefs to the outsider test. You still need to be skeptical about them. You still need to embrace the scientific method. It's the only antidote to the fallibility of the human mind.

Victor Reppert Against Calvinism

Christian philosopher Victor Reppert has made the same argument I have repeatedly made against Calvinism. He wrote:
God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God.
In the comments section below this post I wrote:
We agree about this Vic, very much so. The difference is that when I make this same argument Hayes and company ask me where my standard for objective morality comes from. Funny, the argument seems to stand on its own, for surely (without reading their comments) they cannot say that of you.

Which should they believe, that they have properly interpreted a historical conditioned book, or that the logic you present indicates that they have misinterpreted it?

Like you I'd go with logic every time, and they cannot say you don't have a standard for logic either. Yes, the divine decree is indeed "horrible" but those who accept that it is a divine decree are made to be horrible.

Oh, I'm sorry, I cannot make that same argument, can I? LOL
So the question I have is this one. What difference does it make who makes a particular argument? Why does it matter whether I make it or Reppert does? It's the same one.

I think it's foolish to say there is a difference at all.

On the So-Called Failure of the Outsider Test for Faith

I will offer a brief response to Thrasymachus who claims that the Outsider Test is a failure.

Are the New Atheists Suffering From the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

That's the question Philip Jensen asks. Jensen opines regarding Richard Dawkins:
[T]he less competent you are the more confident you are likely to be. To launch out on a world-wide campaign on subjects over which you know little and have researched less – to say nothing of intentionally not studying because you do not believe – is less than acceptable as genuine public debate or academic discussion, to say nothing of failing in the art of war.
Victor Reppert links to this and said, "Oh, I forgot. It's just believers who suffer from cognitive pathologies." Sarcasm with a point, right? Well then, what does Vic say about the real impact of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

John Loftus Takes On Christian Apologists Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, Dave Hunt, Ben Witherington III, Victor Reppert, Gregory Ganssel, Craig Evans, Stewart Goetz, Daniel Wallace, Plus Others for the Win, and Guess Who Won?

I did! Here's the story.

A former Christian named ToonForever described why he no longer believes:
I decided that in order to avoid prejudicing myself toward my doubts, something I always accused T of doing when she left the faith, I would find a well-recommended apologetics book and give God the first and best chance of answering my questions and calming my fears.

For the Pro side of the argument, I downloaded to my Kindle Norman Geisler’s [and Frank Turek's] I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

I already knew what book I would choose for the Con side of the conversation. I wanted to read the book that made me the most afraid, because that would be the greatest challenge. If I could get through that with my faith intact, I could set aside my doubts and at least approach the meditation question with the confidence that would come from overcoming what to me was the sternest challenge I could find. So I downloaded Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist (Revised & Expanded).

I got a blank steno pad and started reading Geisler.