Refuting atheist John Loftus – Sociology & Christianity.


See part 3 – Jesus’ Resurrection & Gospel Reliability.
See part 5 – God, Suffering & Evil.

We shall briefly review Loftus’ argument against Christianity. His compilation of arguments can be accessed here.

1. Genetic Fallacy 101:

Loftus writes: “It is a simple sociological fact that particular religions dominate in distinguishable geographical regions…” and then he goes to quote John Hick in order to confirm his statement. Hick says that:

“[I]t is evident that in some ninety-nine percent of the cases the religion which an individual professes and to which he or she adheres depends upon the accidents of birth. Someone born to Buddhist parents in Thailand is very likely to be a Buddhist, someone born to Muslim parents in Saudi Arabia to be a Muslim, someone born to Christian parents in Mexico to be a Christian, and so on.”

Loftus then agrees by writing that “an individual’s religion is almost invariably determined by “when and where one was born.”

Before we get on to Loftus’ overwhelming obvious misrepresentation of an argument that the apologist William Lane Craig has made (that has nothing to do with Loftus’ claim) I shall answer this challenge. My first thought is that this is not a challenge, it is a fallacy.

To argue that somehow where one is geographically born, whether that be in China or Fiji, says absolutely nothing about that persons belief system whether that belief system be atheism, Christianity, or Hinduism. That a Middle Eastern boy is reared in an Islamic theocracy, and inevitably becomes a Muslim, says nothing about his Koran being the inspired word of God or not. It is an absolute category mistake to argue that it does.

What Loftus has merely done is tell us an unsurprising fact about human society (I may have my reservations about Hick’s alleged percentage but that is immaterial for now). He hasn’t told us anything about the religions of these societies and/or about their truth claims. That most people end up believing something they are brought up in is hardly a surprise. However, it is clearly mistaken to assume this is the case with all religious people because many have come to believe in religions based off personal investigations. I humbly claim to be one such person.

2. Misrepresentation of Crag:

I recall hearing (and reading) a particular argument made from WLC. The argument is a theoretical response to the question: “What about those people who haven’t heard the gospel? Will they go to hell?” Basically, Craig goes on to describe how God may have providentially planned things out in human history in the context of the salvation of human people, and so on and so forth. The details are irrelevant here because I am not defending Craig’s argument.

Rather, Loftus somehow thinks that this argument of Craig’s has something to do with how people come to believe what they do, namely by inheriting beliefs by the communities that they grow up in. So, Loftus has totally misread this argument and there isn’t much more to say than that.

3. Loftus’ “Oustider Test of Faith.”

Loftus proposes a challenge: “Because of this sociological fact, I propose “the outsider test for faith”: Test your religious beliefs as if you were an outsider, subjecting them to the same sort of skeptical evaluation that you would give to the beliefs of the followers of other religions. If you don’t approach your own religious beliefs with the same dose of skepticism that you apply to others’ religious beliefs, then you are using a double standard.”

This is just an appeal and not much more than that, yet I can’t help but wonder if Loftus actually applies his own challenge to his belief system. This “outsider test” does not only apply to religious people, it applies to atheists as well. Having reviewed what Loftus had to say on Jesus resurrection in our previous rebuttal, even if we are to assume for our purpose here that the resurrection is unhistorical, shows rather strikingly that Loftus does not apply the same standard to himself that he expects of others. I mean I could go on about how he doesn’t understand the nature of historical methodology (such as his claim about the suspect nature of 2nd hand testimony, the clear misreading of Paul’s Damascus experience in Acts, or manuscript transmission process etc.), and so forth. It would appear that loftus has hardly read any scholarship on these matters, yet one can’t help but notice how he brags on his blog about how many books on related subjects he claims that he has read in his life.

I apologize if I don’t take his challenge very seriously (and that assumes that I haven’t undergone my own challenges).

In concluding I don’t think there is really anything here in his challenge. It commits an elementary fallacy, it misreads Craig’s argument about the salvation of persons, and it also appears to be the case that Loftus does not apply his own challenge to his beliefs. That is a double standard.

To be continued…

7 responses to “Refuting atheist John Loftus – Sociology & Christianity.

  1. John isn’t arguing that religious beliefs are false because those beliefs have been passed down from parents/society. He is pointing out that religious convictions are not brought about by examining the evidence, but rather, by accepting tradition. He couples this with the OTF in order to showcase the bias baggage that these traditions come with. Often times people will treat other religions with a far more critical eye than they treat their own. The smallest contradiction within the Quran is a deal breaker. But the most incredible mental jumping jacks are blase when defending the Christian scriptures. The most Humean critical eye is given to Hindu miracles, while we applaud “heaven is for real” with barely a second look. You might not feel that you are biased in this way, but most everyone I know certainly is! The argument is in the epistemological challenge. John is certain that if someone employs this method they will abandon their faith. Honestly, he is probably right. 99% of the public has never given their faith a critical examination. If they ever bother to do so, they will immediately go to an apologist to give them ammo in defending their faith. John’s plea is fair. Ask yourself this question: if every single Christian on the planet went through this process rather than accept what mommy and daddy taught them, would the Christian population go down or stay the same?

    IMO it would clearly go down. Many people have examined the evidence and converted, but just as many if not more have examined the evidence and abandoned the faith. Biblical scholarship is littered with apostates. We see a strong correlation between internet access and abandoning religious traditions. The more information available, the less a tradition is passed on. It’s just the nature of the human mind. If we only have one option that’s comfortable we stick with it. If we have more than one we might change our minds. You might feel comfortable that christianity can pass the OTF, but it’s not clear that EVERYONE would reach that same conclusion. Hence, John’s book is a boon for secularists.

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