Sep 24 2010

A little philosophical diversion: Why the Outsider Test for Faith fails

Okay, every once in a while I just have to comment on the ridiculous nature of certain atheists’ attempts to appear superior to people who don’t think “faith” is a bad word. I really should just unsubscribe to the Debunking Christianity blog, but it’s like a train wreck — as bad as it is, you just have to watch.

Today John once again promotes his outsider test for faith, “to test their own adopted religious faith from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism they use to evaluate other religious faiths.”

It’s an interesting challenge, to be sure. I don’t disagree that this proposal has some merit; too many Christians don’t understand why Christianity is a uniquely valid belief, and we should. As Peter wrote, we should be ready to give an answer for our faith (1 Pet. 3:15).

The problem is to do so without accepting without question another belief system in the process, which can potentially “stack the deck” against Christianity. As I’m certain I’ve mentioned before (I don’t have the energy or time to search the archives), it seems that many people who leave Christianity do so because they unquestionably accept certain facets of modernism.  Trying to make Christianity fit into a completely modernist worldview is like fitting the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

All of us in the western world have been raised breathing and eating modernism since we were born; we cannot really conceive of a different way of thinking, and accept without question that our worldview or paradigm is simply “the way things are.”  In reality, modernism is a grid developed through which to view the world. Prior to Descartes, it didn’t exist.  The Bible doesn’t conform to modernist thought, because it was not written by modernists.

This creates issues for doctrines like inerrancy, where writings from an ancient oriental culture are held to modernist standards; it is exactly like forcing a square peg into a round hole.

But, we in the west are all now modernists, whether we like it or not (even so-called post-modernists). What is frustrating for those of us who realize that modernism is not necessarily the way things are is that we can’t even analyze modernism without resorting to modernist methods.

The Problem With Modernism

This creates a problem, as explained by series of philosophers from Hume to Godel (and beyond). Hume began by challenging the core principle of causality. While we can predict based on past events that flipping a switch will turn on the lights, we can never guarantee that this will happen the next time, or prove that it was the switch which caused the lights to come on.

Kant explored this further, discovering that there must be limitations to reason itself, as reason must be limited by the limited categories of the mind. Skipping ahead, Godel showed mathematically that a system can only be substantiated by something outside the system. In other words, we can show that reason is limited and flawed, but we can never prove that it is not. So far, no one has been able to refute the basic challenge issued by Hume.

Modernism is essentially the worldview that says everything can be analyzed objectively and rationally, but cannot prove that it ever works. In other words, you must accept modernism and rationalism by faith.

The Failure of Loftus’ Outsider Test For Faith

The OTF fails because it requires someone to subject a non-modern belief system to a modernist analysis, which cannot be proven to have any validity whatsoever. The only thing it can do is to mislead someone into thinking that modernism is, in fact, the way it is.  Because the square peg cannot fit nicely into this imaginary round hole (a better analogy, perhaps, is trying to stuff the entire universe into a hat), people are left having to choose: a flawed faith in modernism, or Christianity.  It is, of course, a false dichotomy, but as we know, lies are the devil’s only real weapons.

But of course, Stephen Hawking, who has assured us that we no longer have any need to believe in God, also asserts that philosophy is dead. Obviously, Hawking’s reason has met its limitations.

Apr 9 2010

Atheists and dreamers

Today John Loftus posted this from Richard Carrier, writing about the new book, The Christian Delusion:

Most of all, taken together, its fifteen chapters are sufficient to establish that Christianity is a delusion. The Christian religion is so manifestly contrary to the facts, belief in it can only be held with the most delusional gerrymandering imaginable. That’s a bold statement. I wouldn’t have made it myself before reading this book, but now that I have seen it all in one place, I am forced to agree.

In response, I offer this, from those grand theologians, Supertramp:

Mar 20 2010

There Are Stupid Questions

From Debunking Christianity:

Tell us. What would you believe? THAT is the question. My claim is that biblical criticism is an undercutting defeater for what Christians believe such that without the Bible they would become agnostics and then afterward possibly atheists. At that point they would see the arguments for the existence of God as little more than a shell game.

How would you respond?

Mar 7 2009

A great discussion on Christianity vs Atheism

If you have any interest in the subject at all, I suggest you read JD Walters’ post Setting the record straight: the psychology of one ‘true believer’ at CADRE Comments.  Not only is the post a great response to the current state of atheist blogging (aside from folks like Brad Monton), but John Loftus responds in the following discussion.  In JD’s conclusion, he says:

But despite all this, when all is said and done I can reflect on my faith with satisfaction at its firmness, not a result of ignorance but precisely its opposite, a deeper understanding of my tradition and the disciplines which Loftus claims lead people away from faith (as Francis Bacon remarked long ago, a little learning inclines people to atheism, but more learning brings them back to theism).

With all of the “New Atheist” hoopla over the past couple of years, I would agree with Walters: the truth remains that atheism has been tried and found wanting.